Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Running Journey, Part 5: Making Peace with Peas

Last week I shot like a bullet into the sky, hit my mark, and like all bullets, came crashing down,  a then-wasted slug buried and lost somewhere in the mud.

Of course, this is about running.

On February 9, 2013, I ran a 10K (6.2M). In case you don't want to read more, I finished the race, and it was a good day. It was after the race that things went awry.



The night before the race a snowstorm raged in.

One moment the skies were a placid blue and swathes of grass were showing through melted patches of snow. I kid you not, the next moment the wind was knocking our house around.

Less than five minutes later, clouds that had hitherto not even been on the far horizon rushed toward, up and over us, obscuring the mountains behind my house. The way those clouds swirled is as close as I've seen to tornadic-action in Utah since the SLC tornado of 1999.

And I know my tornadoes, folks.

Temps dropped 15 degrees in about 60 seconds. A few minutes later, snow was pummeling in horizontally and accumulating fast. In fact, Utah County saw more accumulation than elsewhere in the state.

I was . . . nonplussed. I mean, I knew I could end up racing in any weather. But this was a surprising turn of "any weather."

As it ended up, morning dawned bright and chipper, where chipper = 29.5°F at the 10AM gunshot. Practically (but not quite) a balmy day. Plus the storm blew out the inversion! Definite bonus.

For the most part, the sun was out. Snowflakes flurried on me for 10-15 minutes of my run, but nothing to write home about. Oh, wait. I just did.

So my friend Mindy C. ran with me.

Mindy is a runner. She has always been a runner.

I met her back in 2001 at a time when three different Mindy's Mindies persons named Mindy came into my life. To distinguish, each received a nickname. Mindy C. was dubbed Marathon Mindy, and I still call her that.

Marathon Mindy heard about my Ironman aspirations and shortly invited me to run three races with her this year: a half-marathon in Phoenix, a half-marathon in American Fork canyon, and a 180-mile relay from Idaho to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Having accepted her invitations in the name of personal progress, I felt it was my feeble duty to invite her to run my minuscule 10K that was a SUPER BIG DEAL for me. :)

She accepted, despite it being such a "short" race. I will never forget her saying, "Anything under 10K is almost not worth it, you know?"

I held the phone to my ear nodding emphatically, though I said nothing aloud because my mother taught me not to lie.

It was pretty chilly pre-race, so we only stood around in the snow for all of 2 minutes taking photos and videos before the starting gunshot.

She took off like the speed-train she is. So after the start, I didn't see her again.

Well, that's not exactly true. As I came into the last mile, she was waiting for me on a street corner, having already finished and come back for me. She ran with me, took some video while running, then sprinted ahead to cheer me across the finish line.

Wait. Did I mention she's a runner?

And did I also mention that she's awesome? Because she is.

So here's how my race went.

I set myself a goal to finish in under an hour, even if I came in at 00:59:59.

For those of you who can count, that's slightly under a 10-minute mile. If you didn't believe me before when I mentioned a couple hundred times that I'm a slow runner, may you now and forevermore believe me.

One result of the snowstorm was the course was 65% snow & ice and only 35% clear roads. That slowed me down a little but mostly because this race is so far from my terminal goal that risking injury on uneven and icy surfaces was not worth it.

We also ran downhill for the first 2.5 miles. The end of race being positioned near the beginning, that meant we ran uphill for four miles. There were different grades of uphill, most of them "tame," but the trend never stopped trending, with one fairly-short-but-nasty 45° hill around mile 4.

Cold. Snow. Running. Uphill.

I know I'm kind of the biggest baby ever, but those four words might be my four least favorite words in the English language. Individually.

Put them together?

Hale Freezes Over, 10K Course Route, 2013

I hoped I wouldn't walk at all, but I did. About the time we started uphill actually. But I only walked a handful of times, and literally each walk was not for more than a few seconds apiece. I give myself allowance for that. It's cool.

Here's the video Superwoman Marathon Mindy took of me in the last mile:

And here's me crossing. Because I feel you need proof.

Mindy, it ends up, came in 3rd place in our division (Female 30-34), and was 22nd overall. She had a beautiful time of 46:35.4.

I came in 13th place in the same division, 84th place overall. I had a beautiful time of 1:04:15.4.

Our times, if you didn't notice, were semi-palindromish -- her 46 mins to my 64.

An 84th standing put me about 2/3 of the way back through the pack.

If 2/3 seems a loose comparison to the other runners, that's okay. This race was not about other people. It was not actually about racing at all. It was just about running.

It was just about trying something new -- running, in the cold, at a distance that was new for me.

And it felt really great.

Well, actually, it hurt a lot.

But after that, it felt really great!

It wasn't anything amazing by universe standards. But it gave me a shot of confidence that I really needed.

I woke up Monday and was excited to run!

So I headed to the gym to run on the treadmill. (It was still snowing!)

I did 5 miles and noticed my lower-right calf hurt. The longer I ran, the more it hurt. Each individual step hurt. I'd never had pain there before, so I figured it was a muscle cramp.

On Tuesday I went back to the gym and ran 7 miles. At mile 4 my calf was really hurting, so I stopped to stretch (first stop of the run, btw, because Saturday's race gave me the confidence to really run and believe in myself).

I did a reverse stretch pointing my toes behind me and putting pressure on the top of the foot.


No really really really.

It hurt a lot.

It was the kind of hurt that means something is wrong.

So I finished the last three miles of my run and went home to look stuff up on WebMD.

Achilles tendon injury description matched my pain exactly.

This was very depressing. At the moment when I finally felt like I ENJOYED running. Like I WANTED to run. Like I could run LONGER and FASTER and do it on PURPOSE, I became injured.

Adding to my distress, that first half-marathon I told you about? The one in Phoenix? It's on Saturday.

Like... this Saturday.

I only had three weeks to move myself from a distance of 6.2 miles to a distance of 13.1 miles. And I needed my training to count. Every. Single. Day.

Instead, I skipped training on Wednesday completely and went to a physical therapist who works with the BYU sports teams. I saw her Wednesday night, and by then the back of my foot was swollen and bruised behind my ankle bones.

She did some weird squeezy reflex tests to check whether my tendon had snapped. The best news ever is that it's just inflamed. Which is not good news, but it doesn't take me out completely. Achilles surgery would have equaled an end-of-the-line for 2013.

Sam said I should ice it, elevate it, rest it. She gave me permission to cycle but not to swim (at least, no kicking in the water... it's the pointed-toe position that strains it after all).

She said that running is the most common way to hurt your Achilles, especially if you run uphill!!!

(I knew it. All uphill running should be banned.)

She also said it was up to me when I run again, and for how long, etc. But that if I injure it more, it will only be more injured. So I've got to maintain a long-term picture here. Everyone heals differently.

Each of the last 10 days I've sat in whatever short stints I can manage, nursing my Achilles by resting it on a bag of frozen peas. Mmm.... peas.

Looking back, I don't know exactly when I hurt myself. During the race? Maybe. During my treadmill runs? Certainly that's when I first felt the pain. Or noticed it, anyway.

Or maybe it happened over time. This article fell into my lap last week: NYTimes Achilles Tendinopathy.

I took Thursday off, too.

And now might be a good time to mention that I'd started a new medication on Monday (the same Monday I first felt my Achilles pain).

The medication literally made me chemically depressed. And fatigued. And less motivated than I've ever felt in my life.

There is no good word for that level of anti-motivation. There's a reason this blog didn't get written after the race. I couldn't do it. I couldn't do anything.

Actually, my experience with short-term medically-induced depression deserves it's own blog entry, and so it shall get one.

I'm off the meds now.

It still leaves me not knowing what I will do about my race next this week. I already bought a plane ticket to Phoenix, so I'm going down either way. I'll visit my brother and sis-in-law at least.

My plan had been to run another slow race. Start with a 4 mile non-stop, a few minutes of walking, 3 more miles, a little more walking, repeat, etc. I figured it'd take me around 2 hours 30 minutes.

Now? I may do that.

Or, I might walk the whole thing.

Or, I might skip the race and watch from the sidelines. I'll decide the morning of.

And no matter what, for now my cross-training will have to suitably prepare me for running.

Perhaps I should have been doing more cross-training all along, but I wanted to focus on my weakness first and try to make it a strength.

In any case, it's not worth looking back and appointing blame now. No reason to look back at all unless it helps me not to get injured in the future. I'm moving forward in the ways I can instead of feeling guilty for damage done.

No use beating myself up. My Achilles is enough.

Here's how I'm training now.

After two days off for Achilles rest and mental recovery, I picked up on Friday, February 15.

Friday: cycled one hour, indoors
Saturday: weight-training
Sunday: rested
Monday: workout at home
Tuesday: spin class (will get its own entry)
Wednesday: swim (laps sans legs; also deserves its own entry)
Thursday: spin class
Friday: swim
Saturday: weight-training
Sunday (today): blog/rest

Tomorrow? Swim. And on it goes.

Is swimming & cycling sufficient training for running? I'm not sure. Certainly I enjoy them both, so that's something. And they're both good exercise, so I can still work on strength and endurance.

Then I pack up and fly on Thursday to my maybe-next race. Wish me luck! And if you have experience/advice about tendinitis, I'd love to hear that I'm not a lost cause!


Tammy and Alvin said...

So fun to see pics of Mindy! Wish you the best in your recovery and your decision about what to do this weekend.

Lore said...

Sorry to hear it. Pain is no fun. I wish you well for your next race, whenever that is.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Kel, that is a bummer. I could tell from your 10K pics that running really was becoming an ok thing in your life. Here's hoping that your tendonitis does not hold you back. Julianne