Look what came in the mail…

Image

It’s becoming a lot more real now! (by the way, I am really impressed by how organized the Boston Athletic Association is. Information about the race has been coming regularly ever since I registered in September; they keep you informed and up-to-date, not to mention super pumped!)

Yesterday I went to my family doctor to get his opinion on running Boston injured. In addition to being an Ironman triathlete, he runs the Boston Marathon every year so it’s safe to say he speaks from experience! He checked out my groin and quad, manipulated my leg through some stretches, then gave me his advice:

– Run Boston.

Whew. SO glad he gave me the green light on this, although to be honest I’ve got my heart set on running it no matter who says what. But it’s still nice to have a doctor on board with my decision to run the world’s most prestigious marathon with a pulled groin and no long training runs done…that being said…

– It’s going to hurt. A lot.

Okay. Considering that my marathon last year was the most pain I have ever experienced, and I was in peak training and health condition, this freaks me out. But in a “it’s still far enough away not to worry about right now” kind of way. The doc said core shorts, cortisone shots, KT tape, etc. wouldn’t really help much. What counts now are the three weeks leading up to the big day. When I cross the starting line at 10:25 a.m. on Patriot’s Day, what will come will come. All I can do is prepare for it.

Image

My doctor has posters of the different Bostons he’s raced over the years around his office.

This one’s from 1999.

– But it’s also going to be incredibly fun, moving and emotional.

He shared this story from last year’s marathon (he had already finished when the bombs went off): “My friend was at the 20 mile point, so the police formed a barricade and told everyone, ‘your race ends here, buses are coming to pick you up’. It started to get really congested with runners and emotions were running high, everyone was worried, upset and confused. And then this woman comes out of her house right by where the police set up their barricade and she goes, ‘does anyone want a sandwich?” And she started passing out sandwiches she had made. That’s what the city is like, that’s what the people are like. This is everyone’s day, everyone’s race.”

Wow. The big reason why I am so determined to run Boston despite being injured is because of this. When the bombing happened last year, I was one week out from running my first marathon ever. I had trained all winter with the secret dream of getting a BQ, and as I stood glued to the television screen watching the horror unfold in Boston, I promised myself I would give everything I had in Gettysburg to get that BQ so I could go to Boston in 2014. Boston has never been “just a race”, as any runner will tell you, and this year isn’t any ordinary year.

Image

As my doctor talked about Boston, I could tell how moved he was. “I’m getting chills just hearing the word Wellesley,” he said after I asked him about the legendary Wellesley College “Scream Tunnel”, a wall of sound that hits you two miles out before you actually pass by the screaming students and faculty of the college.

“Ride the emotions of the crowd and they will help you get through the tough parts,” he told me, and I fully plan on doing just that. I can’t wait!

Image

– Come to terms with the fact you’re not going to PR and that people will pass you.

I’ve already accepted, at least in my head, that I won’t PR. The problem is that once you’re in a race, it’s so hard to not feel demoralized as everyone shoots past you. I’m going to be in a speedy corral and wave, so it will be particularly difficult to ignore the people around me and run slow and steady. I’ve just got to remember the mantra, “run your own race.” Take my time, because if my leg holds up I can always pick up the pace at the end. I’d rather have a strong finish and a weak start – even if that means a weak 42 kilometers and a strong .2! – than the opposite and have to crawl/limp across the finish line.

Not going to lie though – it’s definitely going to suck at the beginning seeing everyone pass me. The sulky toddler side of my personality will probably be tempted to yell, “I’m injured FYI!” because clearly, everyone cares and is wondering, “WTF is this slow girl doing here?” 😉

Image

In terms of medical advice, the doc told me he’s had this same injury before and the only thing that really cures it is…yep, you guessed it – time. UGH. I’m an impatient millenial, I freak out when my internet signal goes out for a minute. I’m culturally conditioned to not do well with waiting!

He recommended rubbing Voltaren cream on my muscle four times a day and avoiding flutter kick when swimming because in his experience, it only made his injury worse. Drat. Arms only with a pull buoy or dolphin kick are fine, but avoid the flutter.

What I can do is cycle, and he told me to bike for as long as I’d be running if following my training plan. So if I have a 2.5 hour run scheduled, then hit the bike for 2.5 hours. Done – today I basically biked all over town for 2 hours until my feet and butt lost all feeling. On the bright side – my groin and quad felt totally fine! And at every hill I puffed up I just kept telling myself, “heart – break, heart – gasp – break…” Heartbreak Hill, here I come!

Image

Advertisements

Running advice from Krista DuChene and Refridgee-Eighter 8 mile recap

Okay, time for something completely different…I’m done moaning and feeling down in the dumps. If I can’t run right now, I will at least look back on my last race with nostalgia and happiness! It was a pretty terrific day (not only because Canada beat the US in the men’s Olympic gold medal hockey game) but also because…

I got to share the podium with KRISTA DUCHENE!

Krista is an incredible runner and a huge inspiration to me. Not to mention, oh, the SECOND FASTEST CANADIAN FEMALE MARATHONER EVER. She ran the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront marathon in 2:28:32. This girl is FAST. Not to mention, she’s a registered dietician and mom of three and has such a positive outlook on running, racing and life. Faith is the cornerstone of her running and I love that.

A few weeks before the Re-fridgee-eighter 8 mile race, my colleague J.P. mentioned that he had written about Krista a few times before when he worked at the paper in Brantford, where Krista lives. “She’s really, really nice,” he told me. “I could see if she could talk to you about running and Boston if you want.”

If I wanted?!? I jumped at the chance. J.P. gave me her email address and I wrote her an email asking for any advice about running Boston, staying motivated while winter training, and pre-long run nutrition. I wasn’t sure what – if any – kind of response I’d get because, hello, she’s a professional runner. And a mom. Free time to write random strangers back probably isn’t high on her list of priorities.

So I was shocked – and so, so happy – to receive a lengthy, chatty, wonderful email from her a couple days later. Here’s some of the advice she shared:

1) Believe in your “wildest dreams”. They DO come true and I am living my own.
2) You can PR in Boston, regardless of the hills. I did by 9 minutes. I ran 3:00:46. Many said, “Oh, don’t you wish you broke 3 hrs?”. Nope, I knew I would eventually! Love this attitude! I have to keep this in mind when I think about how badly I was hoping to PR at Boston this year.
3) Krista stays motivated in the winter by thinking of how great she’ll feel afterwards with a hot shower, oatmeal and coffee. She also knows that too many variables later on in the day could interfere with her getting the run in, so it’s best to do it first thing.

4) When it comes to pre-long run nutrition, she sticks to what she knows works. As Krista says, “We’ve all had those awkward run-to-the-bush moments with our running buddies!” For her, what works is a plate of 1/2 veg, 1/4 lean protein and 1/4 whole grain at a decent time (5 – 6 p.m.) Race day fuel is a bagel, coffee and e-load. “Try to figure out the problem by writing it down. You may find a pattern,” she says.

5) Krista’s a big fan of cross-training. She runs daily and cross trains either before or after, with three pool sessions a week (laps and pool running) and 5 – 15 minutes of biking the other three days.

Krista was running the Refridgee-Eighter 8 mile race RunWaterloo was putting on Feb. 23, the same race I had signed up for. My friend Emily ended up deciding not to run it, but she and Kelly came as my “cheerleaders”:

Image

I felt so lucky! They were terrific cheerleaders – they had mapped out the route beforehand and kept popping up at different points on the course (the sign of the truly prepared and committed spectator – thank you!). Having them there definitely gave me an extra pep in my step.

Image

The race itself was great – most of all it was just really, really FUN. The whole time I kept grinning to myself and thinking, “Yep, this is why I run. This is AWESOME.” (writing this now with the memories of my painful 5km on Friday is making me so sad, but also even more determined to recover and get back out there). Racing is so much fun and I loved chatting with some of the people I was running with.

The race was very well-organized and there were plenty of volunteers out there marshaling the course. I was initially worried because there was an 8km and 8 mile option, and I didn’t know how clearly the 8 mile route would be marked. I’m kind of hopeless at directions and I have somewhat of a history of getting confused/lost during races, but thankfully there were lots of signs and some very friendly volunteers to also point the way…

The weather was definitely a little on the cold side but the 10 a.m. start time was definitely appreciated. Gave the sun a bit more time to come out…

Image

The day before the race I had flipped around my long run and did 28 km so my legs were definitely feeling it. But racing on not-so-fresh legs is a great training tool. I had also done a killer run up in Collingwood on Thursday, where I basically ran two kilometers straight up a hill/mountain of death and STILL couldn’t see the top! It was actually the 2 km downhill that shot my quads and hamstrings – I think I spent all of Friday either sitting in the car or lying down in bed resting up for the weekend!

I ended up placing 16th overall, 3rd women overall and 1st in females 25-29 with a time of 56:40. Do I need to even mention that Krista smoked me (and everyone else!) 🙂 Her time was 44:57, and that was with a hamstring injury!!

This is probably my favourite photo ever:

Image

Just me and Krista, talking about runner’s trots. Keepin’ it real.

Image

Overall I would definitely recommend the Refridgee-Eighter as a fun winter race that breaks up the February blahs. The course is pretty flat with one major hill, the organizers are very helpful and friendly (I had a race question the night before and emailed the race director Jordan Schmidt and he emailed me back right away – very impressed!), and there’s a mini-expo after with running clothes, shoes and equipment on sale. Post-race fuel included the usual standards of grapes, bananas and bagels – and hot dogs if you’re so inclined, although to me personally the thought of scarfing a hot dog after running 8 miles makes me want to hurl.

Best part hands down was getting to meet Krista after her inspiring email. She somehow managed to be even nicer and friendlier in person and I’m really excited to keep following her career.

Low point

I want to cut off my thigh and replace it with a new, working one that lets me run and run and not feel any pain.

I am so over this injury.

Not that I was ever the opposite of “over it”, whatever that is. But I was trying to look at it positively and see my forced time off from running as a period where I could concentrate on mental preparation, strength training and cross-training.

But yesterday marked a month until Boston and I’m not looking any better and honestly? I’m not doing okay with this. It’s all I can think about until I start crying and then I tell myself I’m not allowed to think about it but that never works for long.

I was given the go-ahead to try a 5km run on the treadmill at the physiotherapist’s office yesterday. I was SO worried about this, and all along the walk to physio I kept stressing about how it would go, until I got on the treadmill itself. You know how I feel about treadmills, but this was the first time in my life when I was just…overjoyed to use one. As soon as my music came on and the treadmill started to pick up speed, I just felt ALIVE. So cheesy but that Celine Dion song “It’s all coming back to me now” came to mind and it was like my legs remembered just what to do. I was so happy and all the stupid things I’ve been worrying about lately floated off and I just ran.

For the first two kilometers. Then my groin/quad/hip flexor started nagging at me. It wasn’t outright pain, so I didn’t stop. Maybe I should have? It just felt sore, so I kept going for the last three kilometers although it wasn’t the same as those first two blissful ones. When I finished I walked back to my apartment sloooowwwlly, because already my muscle was starting to go from sore to DYING. At home I assumed my old familiar position on the floor with a bag of frozen peas and alternated icing and foam rolling for probably an hour. My leg was killing, but nothing was working. By last night, I couldn’t walk again. Today, I can kind of shuffle around but walking anywhere longer than 2 minutes away is impossible.

So where am I??? Back to square one??? How is this possible – I’ve done EVERYTHING right. I took over 3 weeks off of running, completely. I iced, I foam rolled, I stretched every day, I went to physio three times a week where I got deep tissue muscle massages, acupuncture and ultrasounds. I strength trained and went swimming, my leg was feeling great, and now 5 little kilometers completely knocked me out. Oh yeah and AROUND THE BAY 30K IS IN A WEEK. Safe to say I won’t be running that.

Boston is in less than a month. Seriously, what am I supposed to do??? Please someone tell me it’s going to be alright and I’ll recover in time. I don’t even care what my time is at Boston. When I think back to a month ago when I was all confidently dreaming about PR-ing at Boston I just want to laugh/cry even harder. All that matters now is that I’m able to run it but after yesterday I don’t even know what to think.

Does a 3km swim = 12km run?

That was the question on my mind Saturday. Since I can’t run right now, I’m sticking to swimming until I can get back to the road.

I want to use swimming as physical and mental preparation for Boston, so now that my leg is feeling stronger I want to challenge myself with some tougher pool workouts.

Everything I found online suggested that the rule of equating swimming distance to running distance is 1:4. So if you swim 1km, that’s the equivalent of a 4km run, give or take. Other sites said it was more of a 1:5 ratio. Obviously it depends on your level of exertion and even on what type of stroke you do, seeing as butterfly or free requires more effort than breast stroke (at least, for me! But then my version of butterfly is basically flopping around in the water and heaving my head and arms up every few seconds for a gargled gulp of air).

I have to admit, hearing that an entire 40 lengths of swimming translates to a measly 4 km run was, frankly, demoralizing. Since I had to skip my planned 30km run on Sunday, did that mean I’d have to swim 7 km – 280 lengths?!?!?! – to make up for it?

(This only increased the massive amount of respect and awe I have for long-distance swimmers. I’ve mentioned Annaleise Carr on this blog before – she swam 52 km across Lake Ontario in 2012, and plans to swim across Lake Erie this summer. Wow!)

Here are my two issues with swimming really long distances:

– it gets boring. I never get bored on long runs because even if I run out of things to think about, I can look around at the scenery, traffic, people watch, talk to other runners if I’m racing or with a friend, etc. I can also listen to music or podcasts on my iPod shuffle, which I can’t do in the water. And when you’re in the pool your view is pretty much limited to the tiles underneath you, the odd creepy floating bandaid or clump of hair, a quick side-angle flash of the lifeguard on deck as your head pivots for a breath, or a sliver of thigh or arm belonging to the swimmer in the lane next to you. Riveting stuff.

– pool sessions aren’t usually long enough. The pool I’m swimming at now only offers length swimming at certain times of the day and only for an hour (max 1.5 hours) at a time. Luckily my work schedule is flexible, but with only an hour of swimming available I find I can’t do anything past 2.5 km. before the whistle is blown and the lifeguards are throwing tot docks in the shallow end for the upcoming swimming lessons.

So I didn’t think I could do 7 km in the pool. I still wanted to challenge myself by swimming my longest distance yet. And I did! 3 km, or 120 lengths, and I included speed intervals which, I have to admit, made me feel super hardcore haha. Personally, it felt a little harder than a 12 km run to me, but who knows. Swimming has always felt like more a workout for me. I’m just hoping swimming will help me both recover from the strain AND pick up where I left off when I get the all-clear from my physiotherapist to lace up my shoes again.

Questions: anyone know why the cute, colourful Speedo suits have to cost an extra $25 than the boring basic black/blue ones? I bit the bullet and bought a new suit last weekend because I’ve been in constant danger of flashing pool patrons for quite awhile now (I’ve had the same Speedo Endurance+ suit since 2007, and it has gotten me through three years of lifeguarding, swimming and a triathlon, so even if the prices are awful the quality isn’t!). I KNOW the cool printed suits don’t make you faster, but still…

– and what do you think about the 1:4 ratio of swimming to running? Does it make sense? What sport is harder for you?

 

Beating the no-running blues

Today my physiotherapist asked me: “how are you doing with the mental side of this? I know a lot of athletes have difficulty resting and taking time off from their sport.”

It was a good question and one that I was thinking about over the weekend. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic (which I never, ever do), I had a bit of an epiphany while swimming at the local Y back home.

The hardest part about this injury isn’t going to be physical. It will be mental.

I WILL run Boston in six weeks. No matter what happens with my groin/hip flexor, I will make it across that finish line. But as confident as I’m trying to be, I’m also really, really scared. I’m kind of doing a “na na na na naaaaa not listening”, hands-over-my-ears, looking away, immature-toddler thing right now where I’m not letting myself even think about the possibility my leg won’t be healed before the marathon.

Maybe this isn’t the realistic, grown-up thing to do. But I like to think it’s me staying positive. And as difficult as my “comeback” to running may be physically, once I get the all-clear from my physio to start running again (right now it’s no running until Friday at the earliest, then re-assess), I know the biggest struggle is going to be getting over that mental block. The voice in my head freaking out and saying, “You won’t be able to do this, your leg is going to start hurting, you haven’t trained enough,” etc etc…basically, that stupid voice that tells pretty much ALL of us we’re not “enough” at whatever it is we dream of doing. The voice otherwise known as fear.

So my challenge is going to be telling that voice to shut up, and then going out there and running 42.2 kilometers, drawing upon every bit of mental strength I can summon.

That’s maybe why I’m not struggling so much with not running right now. I know I need to use this time away from running to build up my mental strength, and one major way to do that is by focusing on recovery. I’ve extolled the virtues of stretching, massaging, icing and foam rolling already on here, but there’s something to be said for just relaxing and taking it easy too.

Yesterday was not my “usual” Sunday – I didn’t do my long run, obviously, but that opened up time for sleeping in and then going shopping with my mom. Then in the afternoon, the two of us did some strength training (I modified a lot of the moves and mostly just focused on arms, deadlifts and glute bridges) and then we joined my dad on the couch to watch a movie. It was a perfect Sunday! And honestly? Probably (definitely) wouldn’t have happened if I had been off running 30 kilometers around Cambridge.

So my answer to the physiotherapist when she asked me how I was dealing with not running was, “Pretty well.” I think it helps too that I have running goals I want to achieve, and I realize the only way I’m going to achieve those goals is if I’m smart about recovery now. My last running injury was back in 2008 and happened because I was a) stupid and stubborn and b) obsessed with running every day, no matter what. The ironic thing is that back then I wasn’t racing or training, and I was actually a lot slower than I am now. I ran only because…well, because that was just what I did. It was a way for me to clear my head and de-stress, it was part of my routine, and to be completely honest it was a tried-and-true way to burn calories and to feel “in control”. So when I ended up in a cast, I mentally couldn’t handle it because suddenly my “coping” method was taken away from me.

Now, my attitude towards my injury is completely different. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have my moments of panic, frustration and “why me???” fist-shaking at the universe type of melodrama. But truly? Getting back into racing has helped me SO much. It’s given me something to work towards rather than just endless, exhausting running for no reason other than “because”. It’s given me satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment and pride. It’s given me (finally! because I’m a slow learner) the knowledge to back down, slow down and take REAL rest days because those are important parts of any training plan.

Simply put, my attitude towards recovery and injury is radically healthier than it was six years ago. I’m so grateful for that and I really credit getting back into racing for this change.

And as for my running goals? Here they are:

– Run the Boston Marathon in – gulp – six weeks

– Run the Great Wall Marathon in China by the time I’m 30

– Get my half-marathon PR down to 1:30 (current PR is 1:37)

– Run for as long as I love it. Always be able to say “I’m going out for a run!” on a gorgeous sunny spring day, whether I’m 26 or 86.

And how will I accomplish those goals? By being smart now and doing everything I can to recover from this injury. It’s those four goals listed above that are helping me beat the no-running blues right now, because I know this too shall pass and soon enough I’ll be back out on the road.

A humbling and hurting 1km (!) run

I made it one kilometer today before I had to stop running from the pain and walk slowly back to my apartment.

So discouraging. The physiotherapist’s optimism yesterday about me trying running again was infectious. I woke up this morning to clear, sunny skies and thought, maybe I can do this. Maybe a week off and all that icing and massaging has worked and I’ll just do a nice, slow 5 km run.

Nope. Definitely not. (And 5km?!? Laughably ambitious of me. Right now that’s seeming like an endless stretch of hell. How did I run 28 km just 12 days ago? That’s what makes me so sad, that just prior to pulling my groin I was feeling on top of the world after a few terrific runs, long distances and good times. Pride before the fall and all that, I guess.)

I’m trying not to panic or cry but it’s really, really hard.

Not back on the horse yet

After the BEST deep tissue massage and acupuncture at physio today, I went swimming. Yay for Warm Water Wednesdays – the 82 degree temperature felt sooo relaxing on my muscles, which were already nice and warmed up from physio.

Here’s the workout I did:

500 m freestyle

200 m dolphin kick

200 m arms only, alternating free and backstroke

500 m freestyle

200 m dolphin kick

10 minutes water running with flotation belt

It felt good – mostly just to move finally after four days on the floor! But I definitely felt soreness while swimming freestyle. Not pain, but definitely tight and stiff. The dolphin kick felt really, really good though. I pictured in my head the adductor and quadricep muscles getting nice and stretched out from the motion. And the water running felt good too – I visualized crossing the finish line at Boston and it helped 🙂 I wish there were some tethers at the pool to create extra resistance though. In one of my aquafit training classes back in my lifeguarding days, we did a water running class with bungee ropes hooked to the pool wall and attached to our flotation belts, and it was SO tough!

I’m still on the fence about getting back to running in the next couple days. I’ve gotten the all-clear from the physio to run as long as there’s no pain, but I’m…afraid, I guess? I know I wasn’t knocked off a horse here, but I’m still freaked out that if I try running too soon, I’ll only make the strain worse. But the clock is ticking…

If you’ve come back from a running or sports-related injury, please share advice!

Also, my friend Rhea and I have decided that “groin” is one of the worst words in the English language. Possibly worse than “moist” (or maybe MOIST GROIN is the absolute, hands-down grossest?!? Sorry for just making you throw up)

Injury update

I spent the last four days doing this:

Image

Mum’s homemade tomato sauce FTW!

15 minutes on, 15 minutes off. Massage, foam roll, try not to cry, repeat. To keep from going insane I read all 600 pages of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden (loved it), numerous episodes of Friday Night Lights and The Americans, and the Oscars (meh). I also wrote up a bunch of articles for work and had some lovely visitors save me from loneliness and teach me how to work my television (thanks Mum, Dad, and G & G!)

Yesterday I went to see a physiotherapist at a sports medicine clinic here in town. If there is a silver lining to this injury, it’s that it occurred AFTER January 1, when I finished my probation period at work. Now I have full benefits and my health care package includes pretty generous physiotherapy coverage. So grateful!

The physio confirmed the bad news though: it’s a groin strain. She seemed optimistic though that I will run Boston (and I WILL! Positive thinking!!) IF I’m smart and listen to my body. In the past, that’d be a pretty big “if” because I likely would have tried to run through the pain and I never would have taken those four days to just completely rest. Thankfully I’ve gotten a little wiser in the last few years!

She did acupuncture on my leg and gave me a deep tissue massage, then sent me home with a list of stretches to do every day. I’m supposed to go swimming a couple times this week (focus on flutter kick and dolphin kick, NO whip kick) and two short walks on flat surfaces. I also have two more appointments with her this week, tomorrow and Friday.

My muscle is still sore and I’m really nervous about doing any kind of activity. I’m terrified I’ll just make it worse, but I’m also more than ready to actually step outside and get some fresh air, so the walking might be nice.

There are seven weeks left until Boston. Aghhhhh. Thinking about how close it is makes me so scared. Ironic I guess because before Thursday’s injury, I was scared about other things to do with the race (namely, the whole running 42 km thing). But at least in my mind I knew (or blissfully expected) that I’d physically be able to do it as long as I kept up my training. Now it feels almost like my body is betraying my mind, if that makes any sense. I got into this sense of security where I could make my body do what I wanted, and now it suddenly hurts to make the smallest movement.

I don’t really recognize myself, it’s frustrating and weird and now I’m realizing I just wrote paragraphs about my groin and that’s just as weird and definitely more than a little obnoxious.