Friday, September 25, 2015

Vacation: Rest and Relaxation... and Running

Two weeks ago I got to go vacation—got to spend an entire week with family, eating ice cream, relaxing on the beach. And I got to run four glorious times.

Running in Cape May, NJ 

Running on vacation might seem like a burden—it’s time to relax after all! But running on vacation can actually be a privilege, a chance to explore new places, scope out a town, find a stunning view. If you can squeeze runs in without messing up the plans of your family or co-vacationers, running while away can be a refreshing change and possibly add a new spark to your training.

It was easy to squeeze in a few jogs over the week, since I’m still not going very long and I’m blessed with a family that understands my running obsession. (It’s their fault—namely my sister’s—I got interested in running in the first place.) My husband even joined me on most runs, another benefit of vacation aligning our schedules (or rather, removing any set schedules).

The first morning we ran along the boardwalk—scoped out the shops and ice cream parlors, soaked in the sun and sea, smiled at the many other runners training for fall races and an entire field hockey team doing their running conditioning. It was nice to be back out in the world of runners, rather than stuck in a gym or the slow lane of the pool.

My two-year-old nephew leads me through a yoga sequence.
Other days we ran through trails that switched between sand and dirt to boardwalk and grass. Weaving in and out of woods on grass paths reminded us of running cross-country, and we swapped stories of high school XC practice. A few articles lately have discussed the reasons to love running cross country and I was reminded of all of them. It was nice to get away from the roads and get lost in the woods a bit. (And we did get lost the first time… and went a hair longer than we were supposed to, but my leg seemed not to mind a bit. The grass and trails treated it well.)

Although I still wasn’t going as far, as fast, or as often as I would have liked, I was happy to be able to run at all while there. If it’d been a few weeks earlier I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy those trails. I seemed to strike a perfect balance, just a couple relaxing runs while the rest of vacation I walked, biked, and paddle boarded. But mostly I sat around at the beach or at dinner with my family, enjoying vacation time.

Every runner's heaven:
a store dedicated entirely to peanut butter.
Now that I’m home, I feel like vacation is over in more than just the literal sense. My injury-induced vacation is over, too. This year, summertime was for getting over my injury and now fall is here. I’m healed (I've officially graduated from physical therapy) and I'm slowly increasing the running while phasing out the cross training.

Something about vacation seemed to snap me into a better mindset. Maybe I’ve gone back to denying how much work I have to do, but I’m really just getting excited to do it. Or maybe it was the cross country runs and the smell of fall in the air saying, “Vacation’s over, let’s get to work.”

Vacation's over, back to DC. But... it's not so bad.
Dream big, 

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Coming Back Whining

I really appreciate everyone’s comments—both here and elsewhere—about how positive I was being about this injury, but I’ve got to be honest: I feel like I’ve betrayed you all in the last three weeks, as I have turned into an incredibly ungrateful brat, throwing temper tantrums because I can’t run as much as I want to, gosh darn it!!

I think at first I didn’t fully accept this injury—I’m not sure I have even now, three months later.

Maybe I was just stuck in the first stage of loss and grief—denial. I accepted that Grandma’s wouldn’t happen and that I had a summer of cross-training ahead.  But my doctors and I agreed on a plan: real marathon training would start—on schedule—in October and I’d be base building by September. Maybe I was delusional, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t let myself think this injury would mess up my Trials training. It took away Grandma’s. No more.

But then four to six weeks without running turned into ten. As the days of August ran out, I started getting worried. And irritable. And angry. And depressed. I may have had more than one complete meltdown. Oddly, my anger and depression (stages 2 and 4; we’ll get to stage 3, don’t worry) correlated with when I was actually allowed to start running again. Rather than feeling elated—I can run!!—I became more and more frustrated at just how little I was allowed to run.

On my first two-mile jaunt on real roads, I felt like a cartoon character running with an anvil on my back—all squished down, like my legs weren’t moving up and down at all. (Welcome back to 100% gravity.) But after a little while, I felt mostly normal again, and then—amazing. I was reminded why I love running so much; it seriously is better than any other form of exercise or cross training. I felt like I could have gone so much faster and for so much longer, but… no. I had to take it slow.

The next run—a week later and a whooping three miles—was an entirely different experience. It was freaking exhausting. I felt heavy and tired, so ridiculously tired from jogging what would essentially be a warm up at any other time of my life. It was frustrating—Had I not been cross training enough? How is this so damn hard? How the fudge am I going to get back to running 80-mile weeks when a three-mile week is this tiring? I felt that anvil again, only now I was dragging it, or--more accurately--dragging a slow, out-of-shape body through a short run.

Cue the temper tantrums. I need to start running for real. I need to get back in shape. I feel fine, no pain or soreness in my leg. **Bangs fists, stomps feet.** I wanna run more!!

I know I should be grateful to run, and I am. Running a couple short jogs now is better than the zero running I was doing a month ago. But like a true addict, just a taste of it has got me aching for the real thing. I want to run miles on miles on miles. I want to come home exhausted and elated from a two-hour run, not a two-mile run. I want to feel justified in eating marathon-style feasts. (Not that I’m not eating them anyway, but it’s hardly justified). I want to run with my teammates again. I want to run fast and far, tempos and track days, singles and doubles. I want to race.

So the bargaining (stage 3) began. Last week I ran two times, three miles each. Surely this week I could go three times? Pretty, pretty please? But no. I nearly cried when the PT said it’d be another week of two measly runs.

Not that I’m not scared of doing too much. Of course I am. I am painfully aware that if I do too much I risk not making it to the Trials starting line. I’m doing what I can to make that not happen. But also, there’s the overly ambitious part of me waging war with the cautious side. I’d like to make it to the finish line of the Trials, too. I’d like to do well. Six-mile weeks aren’t going to get me there.

This is the push and pull of coming back from injury. On top of everything else, there’s a psychological war going on in my head. But I’m pain free. Surely, I can increase the running a little more…

Randomly, I wasn’t able to get on the AlterG as much as I was supposed to this week, so my PT agreed to let me go on a third run. Victory! Three days a week! And next week, I’ll be on vacation—far from AlterGs and without many other cross training opportunities. (No, I will not attempt “pool running” in the ocean.) So I got permission to go four days. (Still short and slow, of course.)

So things are looking up. I’m still not where I want to be or where I imagined I’d be at this point, and this morning’s four miles were downright exhausting. I know I have lots of time, and I’m trying trying trying to be patient. It is September, and I am building a base, it’s just a much smaller base than I originally planned. I can’t guarantee I won’t have any more breakdowns, but apparently I’m quite good at denying the reality of this injury, so maybe I’ll just regress to stage 1.

Dream big,