Monday, November 12, 2018

Don't Fall, Just Run 5k, Bridgewater, NJ. 11/10/18

Oh, what a journey. You can skip down to the section about Today's Race if you just want to read about that. But I use this as my journal so I want to share some thoughts about what happened first. 

I have been running since I was 9 years old. Never have I had an injury that has lasted this long. In fact, I am still not even 100% sure what it is.  After going to Physical Therapy until my insurance refused to continue to pay for sessions, I was diagnosed with a myriad of problems all working together to keep me from training and racing. 

Initially, it was clear I had severe bursitis. Once that started to resolve, I was left with such significant hamstring weakness (could not move even 5lbs of weight) that a tear of the lateral hamstring was diagnosed. Based upon my radiating pain (down to my ankle at times) and limited to my ROM as well, sciatic impingement was also diagnosed. 

Today it has been more than 6 months and I still feel pain when moving in just a few specific ways that really challenge the flexibility of my hamstring. I can't lift as much with my left as I can with my right still.  I can do more than I could months ago.  For there to be pain this long after an injury is baffling. It is also baffling that running slow and flat did ever and does not hurt or leave me in pain later. Sitting, Bending, Lifting, Stretching, or trying to up the pace my left leg was excruciating. Jogging was not a problem.  

I did a lot of jogging over the last 6 months. I also did a lot of hiking and that seemed to help.  I also joined a gym and started doing 2-hour full body strength training sessions 3 times per week where I included all the personalized exercises my PT assigned for me.  I have relearned how much I LOVE the gym.  

So What Happened?  I suspect Overuse from a marathon that was very hard on my body, and then one week later I raced a Master's Women's Team Championship 10k race before I was actually healed from the Marathon. I felt obligated to show up to run for my road racing team. and I felt obligated to run as fast as I could. I ran HARD that day and had a great result, but I left that race feeling worse than after the marathon. Any other race effort, I would have just slowed down if I felt something was wrong, but when racing for a team, I felt that I needed to power through. 

Still, I did not actually realize how bad the inflammation and injury was. During the week I took training so easy and stuck to the flat bouncy treadmill. I felt the hamstring was much improved by that Friday and there was a local 5k I wanted to try to run that weekend, which ended up being the last race I ran before this one. I ran an 8M warm-up, felt a little stiffer than I would have liked to feel, but I was not in pain. I didn't even think about not racing. I just assumed I would run slow if something was too tight. BUT the race has a weird false-start, followed by too fast of a  restart before runners were back behind the line.  As I was walking backward to the get back behind the start, the started yells "GO!" and the rapid shift from stepping backward to then trying to push off forward with my left leg, was the final straw.  Again, I did not recognize the severity of the problem until after the run when I stopped and then tried to start my cool down.  I just couldn't run without pain by then. The damage was done.   

So again what happened? I broke a basic rule, week after week after week... I failed to listen to my body and I ran when I was in actual pain but I just didn't recognize it as pain.  I should have been more conservative. I know myself better. But I wanted to get myself back on track. I wanted to race hard in the Fall.  I wanted to resume my training I tend to have trouble recognizing pain. I broke my arm when I was about 6 years old and went to gymnastics class for a full week (complaining only that it hurt to twist my arm it into my leotard) before we realized it was actually broken and I needed in a cast. I used to have 13 piercing (just ears) but all of those except the first two, I just pierced myself with a stud, no ice, whenever I felt like I wanted another piercing and it would feel just a little sore but not painful. Once, I had a needle biopsy on my thyroid without any Novacane. Five times in a row this doctor shoved a needle into my neck without a numbing agent and all I could do was ask him if he was trying to save some money. To which he told to me "Cut it out, it is a thin needle!" (He was correct. It was and it really didn't hurt). 

So maybe what others would feel as pain I register as tightness? This is scary.  This makes me not trust my own judgment. As a result, I have spent the last 6 months missing a part of my soul because I have been too afraid to push myself. I did a LOT of damage and I needed those months to ensure that when I did try to run fast again, I would not retear my hamstring and have to start healing all over again.

This setback was hard. I dropped from 3 marathons. I was hoping to run a BQ at one of those races. For the first year of my life as a marathoner, I have not qualified for Boston. (I have mixed feelings about this. My brain needs a rest from the stress of Boston for me. I feel a sense of freedom now that I haven't felt since I raced the year of the bombings.  A break from the race will be good for me.)

Now for Today's Race: 

When I tried to restart my training in Spring 2019, I ran a "Check-In" 5k in 7:24 pace. That day back in March felt very hard and I felt sluggish. I expected the same feeling for this race, and because I am not actually back to 100%, I expected to be slower.  So for today’s race, I set a soft goal to just try to break 7:30, but My Job for this race was to find the fastest pace I felt was sustainable, just try to hold a "fast" pace for the entire way without hitting the wall or getting hurt.  

Today I did my job and it felt wonderful at the end but I was very worried about racing from the start. 

During my warm-up, I felt heavy, slow, and very concerned that this would a very very bad decision. I had a low sense of self-efficacy during those warm-up miles. I was afraid I would retear my hamstring. But training was going well lately and I have done some speed sessions at a fast pace.  I knew I needed just to run something to regain a realistic perspective. My last race was hard on my body and soul.  This race, if I do well, could reset my psyche.

This race was very small. But I wasn't racing people. I was there to challenge myself. I ran by myself the entire way, with 4 guys pulling ahead of me. I started entirely too fast and by 0.1M I was running 5:00 pace! I got swept away with the lead guy at first who ran a 16:39.  It took me most of M1 to burn off that speed and get down to a pace I felt I could hold for 20 minutes. To be honest, when I glanced down and saw how fast I was moving, my self-efficacy skyrocketed! "OMG, I CAN run! I can run FAST and my butt is OK!  I got this... now slow the F' down!'   M1 - 6:44

And then we turned into the wind, ugh. About halfway into Mile 2, despite the wind, I continued to feel strong and my confidence builds. "Ok, I can do this. I AM doing this!" A few spectators cheered us on and one confirmed that I was the First Female. This triggered me to think about placement. I wasn’t sure where the second place female was and I surely not going to look. Instead, I imagined she was chasing me and I ran as if there was someone right on my heels. 

In the middle of Mile 2, I start to realize I may actually win this race but immediately shook that thought away. "Stop that! Who cares what place you are in? This is not competitive! Your job is to manage your pacing today. Your job is to not fade at the end. Your job is to not get hurt. Your job is to run the mile you are in and stay focused on the now. It is way too early to think about the finish. Save that type of thinking for later." And I refocused on my pacing and effort. M2- 6:53 (I am ok with this fade because the mile was into the wind. My effort was even and I don't feel like I was getting myself into a hole I could not get out of)

With just 1.1M left, we turn out of the headwind and this helps. I started to feel strong again. I was still running away from my imaginary competitor, running as fast as I could run, pushing myself to keep the pace and effort as even as I could. 

And then I found myself thinking about a few people who love me and believe in me and how I know they will understand why running this race this well is a big deal for me.  And I thought about how many single leg squats I have done in the last month and how that has to mean something.  M3 - 6:48

As we turned back INTO the wind for the last 0.1(3) miles, I tried to find a kick but I felt I  was at my red line. I was not fading but I had no other gears. This was ok. Admittedly, I lost a little motivation to really dig deep and push hard once I saw where the 2nd place female runner really was. And since I had already achieved my goal (even pacing as fast as I could hold, ideally under 7:30 pace, without hurting myself) I did not want to actually force a kick that could re-injure my hamstring, glute, bursa, sciatica or whatever hurts me. Last 0.13 in 6:43 pace

I finished just as Lynyrd Skynyrd came on the loudspeaker. This made me smile. As an aside, today I wore a tech shirt with birds on it because one year ago today we were able to capture the beautiful stray parakeet who was flying into our yard for 7 months. Sadly, he was not well. He survived only 2 months longer (even with Board Certified Avian Vet care, a safe and healthy environment, and nutritious food :( ). The song felt special as if I could let a little of the grief I still carry with me at times go. I realize it may sound silly for a person to get so attached to a small stray parakeet, but I did and Skynyrd changed me for the better. Animals do that to people.

Final Time: 21:17 (6:49) 
OA Place: 5th
Gender Place 1st

This is a good start. My left side is still stiff, but it did not hold me back. I am starting to accept this as my new normal. But I do have an MRI scheduled to rule out any issues that might need more medical treatment in addition to the weeks of PT I already did to try to treat this problem.