Where I Stand With Running

When I was in the height of marathon training, I would often envision what role running would play in my life come December. I figured I would still be in the glow of a successful marathon and feel rather quite accomplished. I would no doubt still be running, but there would be a smugness about my daily workouts. I had accomplished my goals, and the rest would be extra.

This has been an excellent year for me and running—me pushing myself harder than ever and feeling more and more like a real runner because of it, but not so for racing. I had two smaller races that were mostly for fun, and the two that I really cared about, a half and a full, were tainted with big expectations and big blow ups. In both the Chicago Spring Half and the Twin Cities Marathon, I knew my fitness was greater than what the time indicates, but both were huge disappointments. In each race, I felt like my mind gave up on me way before my body did.

After TC, I was eager to race again. I had thought about doing something this year yet, but with school and work, I decided to take the rest of the season to reset. I would definitely be back for a spring marathon and who knows what else.

As the weeks have passed since the marathon, I am running pretty consistently. I try to get at least 25 miles in a week and fit in runs the best I can. Mostly, I try to run with my neighborhood running group, specifically during long run Sundays. I haven’t done any speed work, but I’ve run with some faster people at times that helps get my heart going.

I am registered for the F3 Half Marathon, and which will only be my third ever. At times, I get excited and amped about going hard in that race and hopefully breaking two hours. Other times, though, I think about what kind of pacing strategy that would take, and the subsequent work, and I just don’t have the heart to chase after such a goal.

The race is in two months, and I don’t have a training plan picked out. I am not sure I am even going to do one. Because this race is on Chicago’s lakefront in January, conditions are unpredictable and chasing PRs come with a warning sign. Still, I am not sure what I can give to training for this other than the current running I am doing.

When I start to think about spring race plans, nothing really excites me. I had thought about doing a May marathon back in the town where I went to college, as a chance to run those streets again. Or, going a bit longer and running a 50K trail race that is less trail and more bridled path. But race fees, training logistics, and all the hours needed to get to the start line have drained any enthusiasm.

Some days, just getting out the door is hard. The last run I did, two days ago for three miles, I hated every step and couldn’t wait for it to be over. But then when I take days off, like today, I feel bad about not running and am jealous of those who did go out. I watch others have great runs on Strava, and wish that I could have that same joy, distance, and speed, but not enough to go out and try. It’s like I can’t win.

Going into the summer, my only goal was to run as much as I could and enjoy every bit of the training process. Now, I just want to get back to a place where running doesn’t feel like a chore.

It probably sounds like I am burned out, which I am, but I am also uninterested in taking a week or two off. My anxiety is too high for that, and I need the release. Plus, it’s the holidays, and I enjoying going out early before celebrations. My only running goal right now is to complete a streak—from Thanksgiving to New Years—but I don’t know if running every day is really going to make me want to run all the races and suddenly feel amped up to go after goals.

Right now, I haven’t made any solid running plans because I am still unsure what my spring semester is going to look like, but regardless, I can’t have the same training cycle as I did for TC. I don’t have the time or the motivation for that.

I guess what I want is to run. Run because it makes me feel me, because there is not another way I would want to spend that hour of a day. I think I need to start setting better boundaries with why and how I run, and hopefully then I will find that joy. I know can feel love and excitement for running each day, but at least I want to feel that purpose again.

Twin Cities Marathon Recap

Hi, it’s been awhile. I apologize for the delay. School has occupied most of my time, but I have not forgotten that I owe this little space a recap of my Twin Cities Marathon. This is quite long post was written the day after the race on the way home. My emotions were raw at the time, but I needed writing to help me process the race. Anyway, here is my recap:

On October 8, 2017, I should have been running the Chicago Marathon. It should have been my redemption race, from the marathon two years ago when I went too fast and didn’t hydrate properly. It should have been my third marathon.

Instead, I watched the marathon from my couch with my right leg strapped to a machine that moved it back and forth slowly. Three days prior, I had had labral repair surgery on my hip, which left me home-bound and on crutches for a month. The pain arrived just a week after I got notification that I had been accepted into the race via lottery. After months of tests and appointments, it was clear that surgery was my only option, if I wanted to live pain free, and that meant no 2017 marathon.

I had the option to defer my entry a year, as long as I was willing to pay the race fee again, but decided against it. I figured I would run again, but I couldn’t guarantee I would be in marathon shape two years later and didn’t want to risk the $180.

The road to recovery was longer and more brutal than I could have ever anticipated. Week after week, I went to physical therapy, still noting pain during my exercises, but asking when I could run again. In February, I got permission to start a return-to-run program, and while it started out fine, the pain eventually returned. My progression regressed from four months post-opt to one, and we had to start nearly from the beginning.

During this time, I thought I had to give up on running for forever. Not just marathons, but all running. It was as if my body said no more. This broke my heart. Running had always been my kind of church, something that made me feel whole and strong, and without it, I felt miserable. The worst part was not being able to run on my wedding day, something I had always envisioned I would do. Before I put on that white dress and begin a new life with my husband, I would go for a run and think about what that all meant. At that time, though, I couldn’t even run 10 minutes.

At one point, my friends and I went to see a psychic, as part of my pre-wedding activities. She gave me a rundown of what she saw in the tarot cards, but I only had three specific questions for her: was I marrying the right man, was I making the right decision by going back to school, and would I ever be able to run again. Her answers were yes, yes, and no. She told me that running and I were done and that I should take up water sports.

By the end of the summer, I had officially finished physical therapy (mostly because insurance had refused to pay for any further sessions, despite my doctors’ orders), and I was again cleared for a return-to-running program. I went slower this time, took it day by day, and eventually, I was running a few times a week. A big goal was to run eight miles on my birthday and then 10 a few weeks later.

Running was back in my life, and I fit it in as I could with school, my graduate assistantship, and my part-time job. Then, in November, my husband lost his job, and with me having left mine to return to school, it was a major setback for us. I didn’t handle it well, and the only thing that could comfort me was running. So I ran when I was angry, when I was scared, when I was sad, when I didn’t know what else to do. I ran in the rain, snow, on the ice, in the dark. I kept running and running.

By March, I had built up some fitness, with no hip issues, and decided to do some races, so I signed up for an 8K and a half marathon, but of course, there was one race I really wanted to do. A few months earlier, I had had a dream about running a marathon, and I couldn’t shake the want to be out there, struggling with my fellow runners, getting to the end of 26.2, and knowing that I was part of a special breed. The Twin Cities Marathon registration opened, and I didn’t hesitate in giving over the $110 race fee.

It had been four years since my last marathon, and I missed training. I longed for schedules and daily logs, tracking splits and averages. School was getting harder, my husband still hadn’t found a salaried job, and I needed to be able to control something and put my anxiety and energy into something that wasn’t worry about our finances or homework.

My goal for the summer was to train hard. I signed up for a local running club and took the plan they gave me and made it harder. Instead of training four or five days, I went for six. I went from 20-30 miles a week to 40-50. I added tempo runs, hill work, and intervals at the track. Running became my life as I made more and more running friends and got a part-time job at a local running store. And, it was amazing. I loved being in marathon-training mode and feeling (not to mention dressing) like a runner every day.

At the height of my training, when the mile started to ramp up, I returned to school and my grad assistant job. My days were long, jammed packed from the moment I woke up to the time I went to bed, and in these times, I started to resented running. I hated getting up at 5 a.m., after having gotten home at 10 p.m. the night before. I began to have more terrible runs than good ones, and my stomach turned at the thought of having to run the same routes over and over. But the marathon was just a few weeks away, and it would be my redemption.

I didn’t realize it until after I completed the Twin Cities Marathon, but I had a lot riding on this race. It was not only going to be my redemption from hip surgery, but a glorious win after struggling with my husband’s job search and our financial instability. I wasn’t just going to finish this marathon, but I was going to crush it. I had trained harder than ever and was incredible shape. I wasn’t just going to get a PR, but I was going to get a massive PR. I was going to cross that finish line, and I was going to feel assured and accomplished in a way that I hadn’t in years. It was going to my big win.

During hard workouts, I imagined what I would post on social media about being laid up two years before and how I finally had completed my third marathon. “You can do hard things,” I was going to tell everyone. While everyone I know was raising families, buying houses, and moving up in their careers, this would be my moment to shine. At this point in my life, I can’t have what they do, but I could have this marathon finish.

We got to Minnesota Thursday night, staying with my brother and his family, so that I could relax and prepare for the race. Earlier in the week, I developed a cold, but I was sure that it would pass. Over the next two days, I snuggled with my nieces, and battled my increasing nerves. I couldn’t eat a lot, but I made myself anyway. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom, and I didn’t sleep much. I had waited months for this weekend, and it was finally here, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t enjoy it. The anxiety and excitement took me out of the moment.

I went into this race with some time goals. Ideally, sub 4, but I knew that would be tough, and so I relented to a 4:05 or 4:10, knowing I could certainly do a 4:20. Most of all, I just wanted to soak up every minute of that race. I had waited four years for this; it had been a long road, and I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to just enjoy it.

Race day came, and everything felt right. I put on my jersey with a pinned bib, did my warm ups, and ate my breakfast. My brother dove me to the start with plenty of time to drop off my bag and go to the bathroom twice. I found my corral and desired pace group with just minutes to go. It all felt right.

The Twin Cities Marathon is known for having killer hills from mile 21-23, so every veteran of the race recommends starting slow. I knew I would want to go out fast, so I pulled the reigns in during that first mile in downtown Minneapolis. It was a bit slower than I wanted, but I would make up for it, I told myself. After two, I started to pick up the pace a bit, feeling a bit sluggish with tight legs, but knowing I wanted to conserve energy.

I wasn’t even to mile three when my side began to cramp. This never happens. I figured it would work itself out and just kept going. I took water at each aid station and GUs every four miles, but by mile nine, I wasn’t doing well. Not only were my calves cramping, but my legs hadn’t loosened up yet, my stomach felt heavy, and I noticed a cold chill. I felt my arm. It was dry and covered in goosebumps. This was not good. I needed water. I was dehydrated.

My mind started to slip as did my pace. I hadn’t gone halfway; how was I going to continue on? I blacked out a bit, ticking mile off by mile. I knew my family would be at 14, and I seriously contemplated dropping then. I was seeing black spots, and I couldn’t imagine that the worst of the race was still six miles away. When I saw my family, I hugged them all and asked for my handheld. I told them that I was dehydrated and unsure if I could keep going. I did leave them and ventured on.

Around 16, I realized I needed to start walking through the aid stations. I had been fighting the urge to puke for five miles at this point, and if I wanted to keep going, I would have to walk. My initial time goals were out the window, but I thought I might still be able to beat my 4:52 PR, and if I wanted to actually enjoy the race, I knew I would have to walk. Lots of people walk in marathons, I suppose I could be one of them, I thought and decided to walk. The walking helped, and I started allowing myself to do it every mile, through the water stops, mile markers, or down hills. I refuse to walk during runs, but I didn’t want to suffer. I just wanted to finish.

I kept taking water and walking, I saw my family again at 19, and while I felt better than I did at 14, I wasn’t proud to be walking. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how fast.

When I got to the hilly section, I actually felt good and ran up them. A part of me thought I would could run the rest, but then I missed the water stop at 24, and fell apart. Despite all the water I had taken prior to the race and during, I was so dehydrated. Thankfully, someone from a church brought me some. At this point, I wasn’t going to PR and maybe not finish under 5 hours, but I kept going.

My adorable niece cheering for me.

The last mile felt fine, and I sprinted to the end. I finished about an hour slower than I thought I was capable of, which is something I wouldn’t let myself forget.

At first, I felt OK. I had finished, didn’t I? I got my shirt and my medal and told my husband I would never run another marathon. But as the day wore on, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I failed. Friends and family texted me, knowing I was probably upset, and tried to reassure me, but I wouldn’t hear of it.

Worse than suffering through the marathon was the emotional beating I gave myself later on, especially as I was turning and tossing at night. I felt like I had given up on myself, that I let the first signs of weakness take me out of the game and that I should have I pushed harder. I worried that I disappointed all my friends and family who had believed in me because I hadn’t believed in me. I was embarrassed with my effort and felt undeserving of any congratulations. And, I fretted over what this meant for future running. This sport was supposed to be my saving grace, but like so many things in my life the past year, it had let me down. Was it finished with me? Was I finished with it again? I wasn’t sure I could run again, or even if I wanted to.

I woke up the next day, and I cried. I cried for the race I should have had, for the race I did, and for the reassurance I expected this marathon to bring me. I cried in my husband’s arms and then in my mom’s. They loved me the best I could, but I couldn’t love me. Not in that moment.

Once the tears were gone, I could see clearer. It just wasn’t my day. That happens to all runners. Maybe I could do another marathon at some point, but I would need a break. Maybe running marathons aren’t what I need from running at this point in my life. Maybe my running relationship needs to be something bigger, something deeper.

At this point, a little more than 24 hours from the race, I am still feeling mixed emotions. I have my sights set on a few other races, but I don’t plan to make any decisions at the moment. I know that it’s time to dive into my schoolwork and attend to the rest of my life, and I am OK with that. Eventually, I will have to go back through race day to learn the lessons I need for the next one, but I know one major lesson in all of that is strength. People keep telling me how strong I am, and this is when that strength is needed the most. I must use it to be gentle on myself, to accept my day for what it was and move on. I need to see the good over the bad and find an authentic optimism. I must not compare myself but understand that this rough day is part of my journey, and only a small part of it.

My third marathon should have been so many things it wasn’t, but my goal now is to accept and appreciate for it what it was. There is much beauty in it, and I will need it to continue forward.

—-

More than a month has passed since the marathon and writing that. I had strongly considered doing another fall marathon, but ultimately chose not to. I gave running so much of me, but at this point, I need running to give to me. Because I had walked so much, my recovery was pretty smooth and I was back running a week later, and although I told my husband I would never do another race, I am definitely considering one next spring along with a half marathon that I have planned in January. My greatest fear was that the heartbreak from this marathon would make me want to stop running, and I was so unsure of how I could find the joy and motivation to run after that race, but I did. I have had so many beautiful, inspiring, autumn-soaked runs in the last few weeks, reminding me that running isn’t about just one race but it’s a lifetime relationship. Yes, the race wasn’t what I wanted, but it was the race I got. So, I keep running and knowing that one day, in running or life, doesn’t define me.

Quick-ish Update – 8 Days to Go

Hello, hello. I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted here, but writing has taken a back burner to marathon training, school, and work. The last few weeks of training were a bit intense – with long days and some very humid runs (including a 16 miler where I was running at the pace of a slow walk) – but we are now in the downward slope.

With a bit more than a week to go to race day, all the physical work has been done. I’ve finished my last tempo runs, intervals, and hill workouts. I have eight miles to do tomorrow, but after that it will be shorter, easier runs until race day. There are some slight aches and pains in my hips and glutes, which means my body is working out any fatigue and repairing itself. I am trying to get as much sleep as my schedule allows and keep my diet on the healthier side, but really at this point, the days are just passing by until it’s the big day. My main focus for the next week is getting my head in the right spot.

The Twin Cities Marathon has a great mile-by-mile guide that I’ve been reading, and I’ve been trying to take in inspiration anywhere I can get it, like this movie.

For a long time, I’ve been hesitant to talk about my goals, saying that I really just want to have fun. And while that is true, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have some time ambitions. I am afraid that they are too lofty, and if I speak them out into the world, I would be failing from the beginning.

However, in the nearly 35 years I’ve been on this Earth, the one thing I excel at is selling myself short. My friend Danielle is always telling me that my goals are too attainable and that I am a lot faster than I think I am. She has more faith in me, and that just doesn’t seem right. I don’t want to self-sabotage myself from the beginning by thinking too small, and so I am going to put my goals out to the universe.

Ideally, I would love to run a sub 4-hour marathon. I can run that pace, but my biggest concern is keeping it going during miles 22-26. A 4:10 is definitely doable as long as I stay smart and don’t go out too fast trying to chase that 3:XX. I actually think I might start with the 4:10 pacer and work from there, but I want to talk to the pacers at the expo and get a better idea of their strategy.

While time is an important factor, and I want to believe in myself more than I ever have before, I also don’t want to be so caught up in chasing a time that I forget why I am doing this. This marathon is about redemption, about finding strength to come back from an injury and fall in love with running again. I don’t want to give up any moment of that marathon feeling so terrible that I want to quit because I got greedy with numbers. I want to be present and enjoy every single step with it.

The marathon finish line will feel great, but really, I am just happy to have running so prominently placed in my life. After my hip surgery, I thought that I may never run again. But, here I am, two years after, and not only am I about to run a marathon, but I’ve just completed one of my most aggressive training cycles. I worked harder for this marathon than any others, and honestly, that is what I am most proud of. Yes, I have a time goal that I think is achievable, but I also want to enjoy the heck out of this race. I deserve it.

Five Weeks Until the TC Marathon

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.

For me, the hardest part of marathon training is often the final weeks of ramp up, before the taper. The mileage is higher, the speed work quicker, and the long runs longer. Here we are, five weeks before I toe the start line, and I am in the toughest part.

Last week’s long run shook my confidence a bit, and I started doubting my ability to not only run this marathon but do so with an effort that I could be proud of. Every time I go out, it feels like my legs are heavier and achier. I am not sure if thats because my stretching and foam rolling aren’t up to par or this mileage is higher than I’ve done in some time. All I know is that running has become a chore.

Not only am I in the hardest part of training, I also started school this week, which means classes, graduate assistantship hours, and homework. In addition to keeping my same hours at my part-time job, my life is fairly full. I actually have to schedule every hour at, including when I wake up and go to sleep, eat, and commute to and from school and work, so that I can make sure to get it all in. With all of this, running and training for the marathon has lost some of its joy, and relatedly, my runs are slower and slugger.

My long run was supposed to be 20 miles this week, but I couldn’t find the time to do it, so I ended up switching my schedule so that it is next week and did 15. My hope was to keep the pace relative to what I did long runs earlier in the training cycle and then pick it up to race pace. The first six miles felt fairly good, but then I hit a mental wall. My mind kept telling me to stop, to call it in, to give up. I stopped a few times for water, and I literally had to scream at myself to get back going. My paces fell, which only discouraged me more. Not only couldn’t I keep up the pace, I was having a hard time just completing the run.

That’s how many of my runs have felt lately, slow and excruciating. At this point, I am getting in my head about whether or not I can do this, and whether or not I want to do this. I just want it over.

Today, I ran with some people in my neighborhood. It was a cool, fall-ish morning, and we had some great conversations. I still kept tabs on my pace, wanting it to be what it isn’t, but this run contained something that wasn’t there at other times this week: joy. I actually had fun, and instead of returning home nearly in tears, there was a big smile on my face.

The truth is, marathon training is hard. It’s meant to be hard. No one trains or runs a marathon and enjoys it 100 percent of the time. You will have off days, even off weeks, but the point is to keep going. It’s about the process, and part of that process is shit. So, you keep running through it, and that makes you stronger for when you inevitably encounter shit on the race. You are prepared for it because of all those crappy, slow, hard workouts. You made it through them, and you can make it through this moment.

This wasn’t the best week of training, but I know that I must endure the tough weeks in order to truly appreciate the good ones. I keep going and going and know that it’s a new week and anything can happen.

Miles: 47

Goals: Keeping steady mileage and working on paces.

Monday: Easy Run – 6.06 – I wasn’t planning to run this day, but really felt good about it.

Tuesday: Track Workout – 5.06 – Fartlecks of one lap on, one lap easy, two/two, three/three, two/two, one/one. Repeat. Really good. Paces got down there and I felt very strong.

Wednesday: Easy Run – 8.15 – Easy and nice through the Sculpture Park.

Thursday: Long Run – 14 + 1 mile cool down – Great for the first six or seven and then mentally fell apart. Couldn’t get the pace down like I had hoped. However, my nutrition was much better.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Hill Repeats – 5.6 – Not sure these are going to be enough but they feel hard.

Sunday: Easy Run – 7.1 – Beautiful morning with neighborhood running group.

Next week’s goal: Stay mentally present and strong. I want to have fun on my 20-miler this week and soak up all the training as to offer.

Six Weeks until TC Marathon

Whenever I wake up in the morning, so does my dog Annie. She sleeps on a chair near the foot of our bed, but as soon as she hears me stirring she is up too. Her hope is that I am moving towards her food bowl.

Annie is right behind me, following me out of the bedroom, even on early mornings, like at 4:30 a.m., when I am getting ready for a run. This is hours before her regular breakfast, but she can’t tell time. She just knows she loves food, and I am often the one to give it to her. Annie follows me from the bathroom to the kitchen as I get ready to run, or sometime she sits on the couch and moves her head along with my pacing. She isn’t entirely awake, and she fights to keep her head up and eyes open. Annie is like a little kid who insists she isn’t sleepy but then is out three minutes later.

Rarely do I ever feed Annie at this time. To be honest, I am more concerned with getting a run in than her, but often, as soon as I finish, I feed her and take her for a walk. Annie should know this. It’s what we do most mornings, but still she is up with me, waiting for that treat.

On Sunday, I woke up early to eat before my long run, and there was a bit of bagel I couldn’t finish. I left it on the table, thinking I might eat it, but as I was getting ready to leave the house, decided, I didn’t want it after all. Then I looked at Annie, with her drooping eyes, and threw her the bit slathered in peanut butter.

She was so happy. Annie took three big bites and it was gone. Her persistence had finally paid off.

My dog inspired me, and as I was going out on my daunting run, I thought about how sometimes we just have to keep showing up. We may not always get the reward, but if we are consistent and we put in the effort and work, that tiny bit of bagel will eventually come to us.

My 18-mile long run was awful. I started to beat myself up after two miles, and because I kept saying “this is garbage” enough times, a trashy run manifested itself. My nutrition and sodium intake were askew, and I ended up severely dehydrated. I felt terrible during and after, and nearly quit four different times, but thanks to some of my neighborhood running friends, I finished.

Marathon training isn’t about hitting all the right paces, how many miles you can average, or even hitting that goal. It’s about showing up, for both the good and bad days, and know they are both necessary in growing you as a runner. That 18-miler was far from reassuring, but I still showed up. And, if I keep doing that, I will get my reward.

Miles: 50.5

Goals: Ramp up mileage.

Monday: Easy Run – 10.5 – Ran to the running store where I work (6.5 miles) for a group run with Brooks (4 miles). A few of my friends showed up, and it was a really nice evening of running.

Tuesday: Track Workout – 6 – Mile repeats on .10 track. Do not ever do this. You will die of boredom.

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Tempo – 8 – Four miles at tempo felt amazing. I hit most of my desired paces thanks to some help from the neighborhood running group.

Friday: Run Commute – 4 – Listened to TSwift as I jogged through the city.

Saturday: Easy Run – 4 – Nothing special, just getting in the mileage.

Sunday: Long Run – 18 – This was rough. My nutrition plan isn’t working anymore, so I am going to try a few different things this week. Also, I need more positive self talk. Negative stuff has got to go.

Next week’s goal: The next three weeks are going to be insane not only because I am ramping up before the taper but I also start my second year of graduate school today. I’ve got my life planned out, hour by hour, for most of September, but I’ve had to make some training adjustments. I was hoping to get a 20-miler in this week, but that won’t happen with my schedule. This week’s goal is to stay consistent with mileage, have a shorter long run, and put in some quality workouts

Seven Weeks Until TC Marathon

Home, sweet, home

Every summer, I long to be west. To be back on the prairie, with the fiery orange sunrises and the sky-filled skies. To have bonfires and s’mores and wake up the next day smelling like campfire. To be somewhere quieter so I can recollect my thoughts and head into fall with renewed optimism.

Last year, between quitting my job and starting graduate school, I drove to South Dakota, where I am from and my family lives, and then to Minnesota to visit more family. It was such an uplifting trip that I wanted to recreate it again, but this time bring my husband and add an additional stop in Colorado to visit friends.

Gearing up for this trip, I thought about all the running I wanted to do. In Minnesota, I hoped to trace pieces of the marathon route, and then re-run some of my cross country workouts in South Dakota. Running familiar streets would be a true homecoming, and even though I’ve run many times at home since I left, this time would be more triumphant. I was a more experienced, stronger runner. I was never the fastest runner, but I kept going, and here I am today, still running.

Saint Paul Cathedral

We started our road trip in Minnesota to visit my youngest brother and his family. Even on the first day, I felt crunched for time. Running was a priority, but so was hanging out with my niece and I had to wake up earlier than I wanted to on vacation in order to get my run in. My brother lives about 20 minutes from the Cathedral of Saint Paul, where the Twin Cities Marathon finish, so I decided to run there so I could a good mental image of it for visualization practices during long training runs. I ran mostly on busy street roads, even though this part of the country has much more to offer, but I did cross the Mississippi River in order to get into downtown Saint Paul. From there, I went up several big hills, reminding myself that I have got to do more hill work before the marathon, before I made it to Summit Avenue. The last stretch of the marathon follows this historic street to the Cathedral. At this point in my run, I was feeling a bit lethargic and nervous about getting home not too long after my niece woke up, but then being on that avenue, I felt the buzz. The next time I would be there, I would be 25 miles into my third marathon, with the finish just ahead. It invigorated me. Reassured me in this lengthy training process. Motivated me to keep going through the lulls and tough workouts, because the next time I am running on that street, it will be worth it.

The next day was a travel day, so I didn’t run, but in South Dakota, I again got up before the sun so I could finish my run as my nephews were eating breakfast. This was less of a training run and more of a tour of my childhood. I ran by the park in which my middle school cross country meets where held. Then along the bike path next to the Missouri River, a common route for cross country practices. I ran by the pool where I lifeguarded and spent most of my summer days. And then to the lot, which used to host the house I grew up in before it was sold and moved elsewhere. These places often appear in my dreams, and it was almost like visiting them for the first time as I ran along streets seem fuzzy in my thoughts. Going home is not always pleasant, as we are reunited with parts of ourselves we would rather leave behind, but then there are times when we can look back and see how where we came from helped us get to where we are today. This summer, I’ve been struggling with doubt on my decision to go back to school, but back on the streets where I’ve ran so many times before, I felt reassured. I was where I was supposed to be.

My house used to be there.

I did one more run in South Dakota, which was harder with the lack of sleep and the poor diet. I had planned to do a long run of 13 miles, but never got around to it. Because I was still nursing pain in my hip, I decided having more rest was probably best for me. Plus, I wanted to have the most time with my family as I could, as I only see them once or twice a year, and I just couldn’t fit running and family time in without loosing lots of sleep. So, no long run for me. I also didn’t get to run all the places I had hoped to, but that was OK.

Let’s all move to Colorado and run here.

The last leg of my trip was to Colorado for a reunion with my Peace Corps friends. I knew there would be lots of late nights and drinking, so I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of running I would be able to do over the weekend. At this point in the week, my mileage was in the low 20s. I really had hoped to get to 35-40, but it didn’t seem possible without doing a long run. Again, I had to chose between running and socializing, so I decided to play it by ear and see how I felt each morning with the intentions of getting at least one run in. On Saturday, a friend joined me for seven easy miles. We spent most of it on busy roads and should have looked up some bike paths beforehand, but we also got to run towards the mountains. Later in the day, my friends and I did a gorgeous hike, and now I am trying to convince my husband to move to Colorado so that I can fulfill my life goal of being an ultra trail runner. We had a copious amount of beers that evening, but I was still able to get up the next morning and run enough to hit 35 for the week. It wasn’t pretty, but it happened and I found the bike trail so it was less busy roads.

Shoes & Brews in Longmont, CO.

A bright spot is that we visited a place called Shoes and Brews — a running shoe store and brewery. It was my haven, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of such a thing. After graduate school, I want to open a running store/brewery/therapy practice. Any good name ideas?

It was a lighter week than I had hoped for, but I think my body needed it. My hip is feeling mostly good, and I am ready to ramp back up this week. The mid-training blues is starting to hit me hard, but running in new and familiar places last week reminded me that this about the process. All these early mornings mean something, and I just need to keep taking it one week at a time.

Miles: 35.2

Goals: Listen to my body and work out the issues in my hip.

Monday: Easy Run – 8.17 miles – Got in some unplanned hill work, but kept the pace nice and easy. Seeing the finish line for the marathon gave me some inspiration and motivation to keep going.

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Easy Run – 9ish miles – A run tour of my hometown, with a few sprints at the mostly to catch my nephews from riding their bikes into the street.

Thursday: Easy Run – 6 miles – This was kind of terrible, and I dragged each step, but it ended at a donut shop, so not a total loss.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Easy Run – 7 miles – Felt fairly good, but could definitely feel the altitude.

Sunday: Easy – 4.71 – Too much beer and junk food with not a lot of sleep was taking its toll.

Next week’s goal: I am hoping to ramp my mileage back up, do some solid work outs, and really just get back into the training. I am also hoping to do more group runs since a lot of last week was solo.

Eight Weeks Until TC Marathon

I couldn’t run on Saturday, but at least I got to see this.

This week brought a comeback, and then a setback.

October 5, 2019, will mark two years since I had surgery to repair a labral tear in my right hip. I am in the process of writing a longer post about this procedure and the lengthy recovery, but it was an extremely emotional process for me. More than once, I feared that I would never be able run again, let alone do another marathon. Thankfully, though, about a year ago, I finally regained my strength and slowly returned to running, and by the time the Twin Cities Marathon registration open, I had completely recovered, and my body felt ready to go through another marathon cycle.

I trained for and raced a spring half marathon and then entered into marathon. In most training cycles, I’ve usually taken two rest days per week, but I stepped it down to one and slowly increased my weekly mileage and added two high effort workouts with a long run into my schedule. For the first 10 weeks, my hip felt great. I hadn’t had any pain in months, and I started to believe that I could get through this cycle without any issues at all.

In addition to running, I often ride my bike to work, which is about 10 miles roundtrip. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a slight nudge in my right hip. It wasn’t painful, but it didn’t feel great either. Rather, it was familiar. The sensation wasn’t there when I was running, or after, so I decided to take a break from biking (also because I was tired of dodging careless drivers) thinking the combination of activities was becoming a bit much for the hip.

Coming off last week’s 50 miles, I was eager to post another high mileage week, before cutting back. The first run of the week was six tempo miles with a warm up and cool down. I started dreading the run nearly 24 hours before the workout, but I saw this as an opportunity to bring some speed on tired legs. Despite the slog to get out the door, it was a great run. My miles got progressively faster, and I hit my desired paces. I felt strong and reassured that my body was stronger and healthier than ever.

That afternoon, though, the nudge in my hip was back, and this time it was painful. Not throbbing or wrenching painful, but enough discomfort to cause me pause. Fatigue kept me in bed when my alarm when off the next morning, and I decided to move my rest day from Wednesday to Tuesday, but by mid-day I was fine and eager to run. The scheduled called for seven recovery miles, so I decided to run commute from therapy to work. I promised my husband that if my hip hurt, I would take a bus the rest of the way. I don’t run commute that much, mostly because I hate running with a back pack, but this was pleasant. The extra load on my back kept my pace nice and easy, and I took water breaks as I needed them. My hip tightened up in the first mile but relaxed after that and I didn’t feel it again for the seven-mile run.

At work, it was a different story. My hip tugged when climbing up and down the stairs, sitting and standing, and bending over to pick up boxes. Again, it wasn’t a sharp pain, but the rest day to foam roll, ice, and soak in Epsom salts helped. I even busted out my old physical therapy exercises and stayed off my feet most of the day. I did everything I could think of to get ready for the next day’s work out – 18 miles.

On Sunday, my husband and I left for a week-long road trip west to visit family, so because of travel and a full shift on Saturday, I moved my long run to Thursday. It wasn’t ideal, knowing that I probably wouldn’t find anyone to do that long of a run with me mid-week, but it was what I had to do in order to get it in. And, this was a monumental run for me because I haven’t gone this far since the 2015 Chicago Marathon. Here is the point in the training cycle when I get into the real long distances, when I really have to work on my mental game and reassure myself of what my body is capable of.

How could you not love your run when this is your backdrop?

Going into the run, I had no expectations. It was going to be hot and humid and three hours is a long time to be out there. I brought my CTA pass with me and vowed to myself that I would abandon the run if I felt any hip pain at all. I’ve normally been trying to keep my long runs at a 9:30 pace, but for this run, I had to give myself the permission to let go of gals and just run, letting my body be the ultimate guide.

Once, I saw someone post about how awful 18 milers are, and for whatever reason, I’ve adopted that attitude. I can have a great 20 miler but a disgusting 18. Because my goal was just to get through this, for whatever reason, the mental trudge wasn’t there. For most of the run, I kept my Garmin on watch mode and didn’t care too much about pace. It was a gorgeous morning, and I was mostly just enjoying being on the Lakefront Path. It was a steady and strong run, and my hip was perfect. I never had to use the CTA pass.

Before my surgery, it was hard to tell how bad the pain was because it rarely hurt while running. I felt it biking and doing yoga, but not during running. The pain usually came after. That’s what happened this week. I ran for three hours without noticing my hip, but several hours later, I felt it.

The next day, it was a bit worse after my recovery. On Saturday morning, I was hoping to do eight miles with my neighborhood running group. A little voice in my head told me, that because I could feel the pain while sleeping, maybe I should take the day off. Still, when my alarm went off, I got dressed like I was going to run but unsure if I would. I stood in my kitchen, feeling the nagging in my hip, and understood that this was my chance to train smart and actually work with my body. I decided to call it, and instead, I did PT exercises and foam rolled.

Not running, especially on Saturday, was devastating. I was extremely upset about having to miss my first workout of this training cycle, and I had to give myself a few pep talks to get back to a mentally sound place. It sucked, and I was sad, but I could also understand that the break was necessary. Instead of letting myself panic about how missing one workout could derail my training, I tried to focus on how the rest could boost it. In reality, this entire week was filled with mornings when I didn’t want to run, and maybe a few rest days would actually do me good.

I am to susceptible to my external world and comparing myself to others is practically a part-time job for me. After I made my decision, I wanted to browse Strava and punish myself by looking at all the great workouts that others did, and I did for a while, but then I had to take a break. To stay mentally sound, I had to remind myself over and over that I was on my own journey, and that means taking a few days off to calm an old hip injury.

The day off, in addition to foam rolling, massages, ibuprofen, Epson salt baths, and icing helped, and the pain dulled. I ran a bit on Sunday to test it, and it wasn’t totally back to normal but it also wasn’t excruciating.  

Run commute excitement.

The pain is still present, but less so. I think I became too complacent with strength workouts and recovery, so moving forward I will keeping doing PT exercises, along with core work, and making stretching and rolling a priority. I am confident that if I am more intentional the hip issues should fade away. If there is still pain by the time I return from vacation, I will consult a doctor, but I really don’t expect that.

So, this week I had to take more rest, and it was a somewhat setback to my training, but I also ran 18 miles for the first time in four years. It wasn’t the week I was hoping for, but that’s part of the process, and if I can’t take the ebbs and flows of marathon training, then I shouldn’t be training. This is all part of it, and I am still here, listening to and understanding my body, and moving forward, whatever that looks like.

Weeks to Marathon: Eight

Miles: 43

Goals: I wanted to build my mileage, but that changed with the hip issues. The goal was to listen to my body and change plans when needed.

Monday: Progressive Tempo – 10 miles – With a 2 mile warm up and cool down, the goal was to start temp miles at 9:00 and move down 15 seconds every two miles. I kind of figured this might not happen, but I nailed.

Tuesday: Recovery Run – 7 miles – Lovely run commute.

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Long Run – 18 miles – Amazing. Felt Great.

Friday: Recovery Run – 5 miles – Slow but good.

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Easy – 3 miles – Wanted to test the waters, hip seemed to ache a bit but in a different way than before.

Next week’s goal: I am traveling, and already had intentions of cutting back, so my goal is to run as I can. No speed this week, just easy miles. I am looking forward to running to the finish line of the marathon, retracing my old cross country routes while in my hometown, and then doing a little altitude training in Colorado. Again, my body will be my guide so I will do what I am able. No expectations, just fun.