Sunday, September 16, 2012

When to Let Go:  making the switch in your brain

I am letting go of the New York City marathon.  I have been fighting this decision for weeks.  But today, after deep thought and shedding some tears, I realize that I have to let it go. 

Qualifying for this race was one of my biggest triumphs.  I am a marathoner at heart.  Half marathons have never been my best number – I feel like at 13.1 I am just getting warmed up.  To qualify for the NYC marathon, you can meet either a full, or half distance qualifying time.  These times are even stricter than Boston, and have been lowered even further for 2013.  NYC was on my list, but not for years down the road.  Until the announcement was made in the fall of 2012 that the times were being drastically lowered for 2013.  My good friend and running partner had a qualifying time…I realized if I wanted to meet one as well I needed to find a race, and quick.  I only had until March or so before the qualifying period ended (with the exception of the Boston marathon and few other NYC races).  I was running Boston, but I wanted at least 2 chances to meet the NYC standard.  I found a small, local half set for mid-January.  With two weeks to train for it, my coach had his work cut out for him!

Fortunately for me, I was just coming off a great fall marathon PR, and was in good shape.  My biggest challenge was mentally preparing for the distance.  It would be a push – I could nail the speed in training, but racing was another story.  Long story short, we did a very abbreviated training schedule…lots of speedwork in a short amount of time and very quick taper.  The plan worked and I came in 90 sec. under the qualifying standard for the half. 

With great joy and enthusiasm I reported the news to my good friend.  We registered, and began happily planning our adventure.   I would take my youngest daughter…just a special trip for her and mom.  My friend’s husband and teenage daughters would watch my 9 year old during the race.  We booked similar flights, the same hotel, and planned on staying a few days after the race to sightsee.  We couldn’t wait to train together, especially on the long runs.

In June, I got injured. 

Three weeks prior to my 70.3 my heel began to hurt.  Plantar fasciitis.  I stopped speedwork, and luckily since I was so close to tapering, I was able to stay in shape and actually ended up having a fantastic race.  I waited until I thought my foot was better, then went running.  Big mistake.  My injury was aggravated.  I took many weeks off, but it never really got much better.  Icing, stretching, massage, rolling, ibuprofen, strengthening…all these things in various combinations have gotten me to about 90%, but that is where I am stuck.  My longest run has been 9 miles.  The swim and bike are fine, but you can’t swim and bike your way through a marathon.

This past week bib numbers and corrals were announced.  I downloaded my information, and felt the race excitement.  Maybe I can make it.  Maybe, magically, all the pain will disappear and I will regain all the strength of my healthy self.   There is magic in running, but recovery from injury is another matter altogether.  The magic happens from having patience, and willingness to let go when you realize that this time, you will be on the sidelines cheering instead of out there on the course.  The magic happens when you make the switch in your brain.  When you fully accept your limitations, the training plan then becomes about recovery first, rebuilding second. 

I am still taking my daughter to New York.  We will get our mother-daughter bonding time.  But it will be as cheerleaders for my friend.  And  like any faraway city you travel to, I’m going with the thought that I will be back someday.  I will run this race.  Just not this year.  And that’s okay.  There are other races to look forward to…other races where I will come back stronger than ever.  Yes, my heart is a little bit broken, but that will heal as well.  What isn’t broken is my spirit and determination.  It just has taken a different path for the time being, a different switch in my brain.


Be Healthy, Train Smart, Have Fun


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Road to 140.6

I am a big fan of podcasts.  It all began years ago, when my favorite radio show went off the air.  The host started his own podcast, available on iTunes.  Interested in more content, I checked out some podcasts about running and triathlon.  Some we great, others less so, but all were interesting because they were hosted by real people, with real stories.  I love hearing other people’s stories about their training, racing, and journeys as endurance athletes.  Each one is so unique, and there is so much to learn from other people’s experiences. 

In hindsight, it was the content of those podcasts that planted the seeds of my triathlon career.  I have been a runner for years.  11 marathons and counting, 3 half-marathons, a handful of relays and many 5ks (including two first overall female finishes on a tough 5k course, something I will never forget and am very proud of).  After years of running in “never quite the right pair of shoes,” it was a podcast, not the running store or my own research, that finally turned me on to the right pair.  Side note here:  the running store kept putting me in different brands of stability shoes.  Turns out what I needed to do was to stop heel-striking.  The right shoe, running with better form, (something I continue to work on today), was key to becoming a much stronger runner.

 It was a podcast that got me on the spin bike, too.  The host, a runner and triathlete, suggested that runners try 10-15 minutes on the bike, before a run, to get the legs warmed up and ready.  I tried it, liked it, and it became my routine before many runs.  I’ll never forget another podcast host, who talked about the “euphoria” he got from swimming.  He made it sound so wonderful, I just had to try it for myself.  It turns out that swimming is one of those sports that takes practice before you get to the “euphoria” part, but after a few months of drills and working on form, one day I felt the “euphoria,” and I’ve been enjoying the swim ever since. 

One of the podcast hosts also suggested that runners try a Sprint triathlon.  Swimming and cycling are  fantastic for cross-training, so why not have some fun and try a Sprint?  This made sense to me, as someone who always ran a spring and a fall marathon.  Why not mix it up and add in a summer Sprint?

That’s exactly what I did.  It wasn’t all easy.  I fell off the bike a lot at first, and was very frustrated that I wasn’t immediately good at it.  I couldn’t figure out how to shift gears, I was chafing in unpleasant places and my rear end hurt.  A lot. But I loved swimming and running, and was not going to get the bike stop me.  It took some time, but I got the gears under control, found a good brand of ant-chafe cream, found the right saddle and comfortable bike shorts.  I’m glad I didn’t give up.  My first Sprint tri was a great success.  I went on to compete in an Olympic the next month, and a 70.3 the following summer. 

I just registered for a 140.6.

Other athletes, their stories, their lives and their dreams are hugely inspirational.  I’m glad I took the time to listen.  You never know what little tidbits will stick in your mind, and ultimately change your life!

Be Healthy, Train Smart, Have Fun.