Redemption Race

Flashback: November 2016:

 

Sixteen weeks of marathon training was coming to a close on a mild autumn Thursday afternoon. The training group had one more meeting at Fleet Feet to run before our trip to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. The mundane task of walking to the bus stop to collect my son resulted in an injury that would sideline for what was supposed to be my first marathon. I went to Indianapolis anyway and cheered on my friends. I saw from the sidelines the stocking hats finishers were getting and I said I wanted one to myself and to the Fleet Feet Bloomington owner, Julie, and pretty much anyone else who would listen. Julie told me I’d have it one day when I earned it and it would be that much more special. 

November 3, 2018: Race Day

The crowd was HUGE. My usual panic set in getting to the race start before the race actually started. After the first wave started, my friends and I discovered we were in the wrong wave and had to go underneath a divider to get into the correct one. I danced around to the music and said, “If you’re not having fun at the start, you’re not going to have fun later.” I watched my friends go forward as we separated in the group. Their goal time was over 20 minutes faster than mine and I didn’t want to sabotage my race.

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Ready to START!

I was finally in Indy to race. I was doing the half marathon instead of the full, but I was finally there. It seemed like an eternity from the time the race started to the time I finally crossed the starting line. It was about 12 minutes, in reality. I had my music ready and was excited at the prospect of finishing this race.

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Yes, 10 hours of variety. It keeps it fresh.

It was crowded, but I settled in and told myself that the first mile needed to get me warmed up and would have to be 11 minutes or slower. I warmed up and tossed my outer layer during the first mile. I was feeling so good by mile 3, I told myself that I needed to hold back just a little longer despite feeling good and start running how I felt after the first 6 miles were over.

The crowd was amazing! There were the usual “press here for power up” signs and the “worst parade ever” signs. BUT…there were people in costumes all over the place. Young Skywalker and a Storm Trooper were there. A skeleton placed in a chair held up a sign that said “Worst Caravan Ever.” A guy in a shark suit ran beside me and asked if I was his best friend’s friend until I laughed and gave him a thumbs up. A man in a Batman costume ran the race. A woman in a nun getup (a habit) ran the race. She probably beat me even in her nun shoes. There were people giving out beer. There were others giving out ghost peppers and milk. Despite not taking any, I thanked everyone that had an offering on the sidelines. The atmosphere was like a party and it helped push me through. Someone even yelled “Go Jenn Go,” as I’d had printed on my race bib.

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I took in scenery and talked to myself about how I finally got to see the streets and the sights I’d missed before. I reminded myself to take it all in and I prayed a few times for the strength to finish. I felt so good, in fact, I nearly forgot to take a gel until I was into my 5th mile. I was walking through every water stop and taking 1-2 drinks of water at each one and it was working out well for me energizing. I wasn’t taking many drinks from my hydration belt, which contained Tailwind. I’ve had a lot of luck using Tailwind in my summer runs and figured it would be a good thing to bring along to Indy. It would have been if I’d used more than 1/4 of the bottle by mile 10.

I felt amazing! Then, it hit me. I felt a little tired. My head was soaked with sweat. I was pushing as hard as I could and I couldn’t surpass a 12 minute pace. My heart rate was in the 170 range. I had to walk before I hit a water stop and I was not happy about it. I took off the Buff that was on my head and shoved it down the right side of my pant leg. I removed my gloves and shoved them down the left pant leg. I walked and drank from my water bottle. I started estimating a finish time and set a goal. Initially, I’d wanted to get a personal best at less than 2:19. Today, I would finish in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes. I picked back up and pushed myself as hard as I could.  The elite runners of the full marathon started to pass me. I clapped for them and yelled how impressive their performance was. It gave me a little recharge, but probably more because I’m competitive and my ego was achy.

Upon seeing the sign that said “Mile 25,”  I turned off my headphones and I prayed. I thanked God for helping me. I wasn’t doing a marathon that day, but I was nearing the finish line. I repeated: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). Then, I just silenced my thoughts and paid attention to everything there was to see. The people. The signs. The things the people said that were so beautiful and encouraging. This was a fantastic show of people being positive without even knowing all of the people they cheered for. I saw the finish and breifly looked down at my watch. A lady shouted “ON YOUR LEFT” while passing me in the 100 yards to the end. I noticed my watch reading 2:29 and seconds ticking away and I went as fast as I could to cross and beat my goal time by 11 seconds officially. Not my personal best, but still did what I wanted to. I looked at the person next to me [total stranger] and said “We did it,” with a smile as she looked back and mustered a little grin.

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I found my way past the finish and I got my medal and put it on while I tightly wrapped the Mylar blanket around my sweat soaked clothes. I mindlessly grabbed a banana (I’m a little allergic). I saw the hats. The stocking caps were being handed out and I reached out and grabbed it and thanked the people at the table while I carefully ensured it was secure in my possession.

No matter how many times someone suggested I put the hat on when I said I was cold, I declined. My hair was sweaty and this hat was special. It could only be placed on my hair after it was clean and dry. The hat was that thing I’d wanted and I’d finally earned.

My Takeaways

  • Indy was an amazing experience. I would actually spend more time there if given the opportunity. There are so many things to see and to do there, one night isn’t really enough.
  • I know better than to only take 1 gel and drink so little of my nutrition. This is likely the cause of using more effort with less speed nearing the end of the race. This still wouldn’t have led to a personal best, but probably a better time than I had gotten.
  • I chafed my under boob. I didn’t spray Tri Slide lower than the bra’s band, which I also know better. Bras start to creep down a little during long runs.
  • It was a good choice to not toss my cheap running gloves because I really needed to take them out more than once to warm my hands.
  • Mesh panels in running pants and shirts are a great idea for temps in the high 30’s and 40’s. At least for me, they were.
  • The Indy medals are set up for a 4 year series to spell the word “INDY,” and now I have the letter “I” medal in my possession…. uh oh.

Look at this race swag:

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Conquered the Nope

I totally conquered the big fat nope of moving forward for 26.2 miles. I must admit, it was mostly grit and stubbornness that got me through. I said more than once that “I’ll be damned if I don’t finish this thing come hell or high water.” I didn’t realize it was going to be such a struggle to get to the finish line. Well, I was worried I wouldn’t make it that far.

THE START

I combined my hotel reservation with my friend, Jane to save us a buck or two when the hotel mentioned they were overbooked and didn’t have the room I’d requested. Our friend, Maureen was staying nearby. Her husband drove us as close to the start as he could. We wound up taking a road under Chicago to get to Michigan Ave and having a fairly short walk to our entry point. I went through security, lifted my jacket to show my holster was simply water and food and joined back with my friends.

We walked on to the restrooms and made it through the lines. We sat on the ground in our start corral and heard the first wave start. I sat beside a man who had drawn on his shirt, “Maria Survivor from PR,” and I told him I was happy to see him. Maureen, Jane, and I took a few selfies because Jane was doing something that wasn’t saving them. So we wound up with this lovely photo:

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At 8 am, I decided to meander to a pace group so I could meet people to run with. I didn’t really find a partner despite chatting it up with a few people. When we started moving forward to the start, I felt the sudden urge to dig into the ground like a dog on a leash not wanting to go. I resisted the urge and walked forward. The image stuck in my head, though. I looked down at my Garmin watch and probably hit it twice because after coming out from under the first bit under a tunnel, the time wasn’t advancing. It didn’t help to start the run tracking, either. The GPS wasn’t working. I’d planned to use it for timing, but I had no idea how much time had elapsed from when I started. The website says I started right before 9am. When the heat of the day was just started to set in.

My Kind of People

I’d started doing my intervals after I got past my frustration with forgetting to start my watch. A group of people in front of me put their hands in the air and said, “3,2,1….walk. And reset.” Then, they all put their arms in the air for a stretch and walked. I replied, “If you insist,” and started walking. Their intervals were 4 minutes run 2 minutes walk, which was close enough to my 5:1 intervals. I asked if I could join and they were gracious hosts to my nervous self. We all stopped at the bathrooms at the same time, which was good because I think I would have peed myself trying to skip them to make good time. I’d waited awhile at the start and was used to starting at 6:30 am and earlier for long runs on Sundays.

I kept up with the group for awhile. They were great fun. I shook my booty and wiggled my shoulders to “Bomboleo,” when I heard it. I smiled when people shouted my name, which was written in permanent marker on golden ‘duck tape’ I’d pinned to my Team Challenge jersey. I felt great and the crowd was so amazing! No wonder people liked this race.

I lost the group at one point and found some people in the 5 hour 45 minute finish pace group. I asked them if they were doing intervals, and two women said they were. While settling in with them, I saw the group I’d lost. I ran over a median to get to them and we all chatted away. One woman had a mom with Colitis and she said she’d appreciated my charity cause. She started to fall back and I struggled to stay with the group. I kept pushing and just couldn’t catch them on a walk break where I tried to run to them. I slowed down.

Bestie For a Day

One member of the group, Lynn, had also fallen back and she caught up to me and told me that we were going to stick together and get it done even if we had to walk the rest of the race. We weren’t even at 7 miles yet. I was pissed that my running consisted of one block at a time.

We danced together to “Uptown Funk” as it played on the street. We shared our misery and a few stories about how and why we were doing our first marathon there. She had an outpouring of support in honor of a close friend who had passed away and she was extremely grateful to all of the people who did it in his name for her to be able to meet her goal. She was running with Team Salute. Hubby took our pic at one of his cheering spots.

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Fortunately, Lynn was actually from Chicago and started giving me my own speed walking tour where we broke into a run once in awhile together to keep our speed up in the range where we’d finish in the official time (6 hours 30 minutes). My legs and my butt were so stiff, running was becoming less frequent. I lost Lynn after mile 14. I tried to catch her, but with the crowd and my body revolting against me, I couldn’t do it. I ate my gels and I didn’t feel light headed. I just felt heavy everywhere.

I found a man who was obviously a Nike Pacer walking. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was injured, but he wanted to finish. I told him I hoped he did and that I planned the same.

Another man was walking along in a “Marathon Maniacs” shirt.  They’re an elite club that I can’t fathom every qualifying for. I tapped his shoulder and I said “I hear walking to the finish is better than not finishing,” to which he told me he had to walk. He encouraged me to push myself if I could because he was falling behind on the time and I would likely fall into that category soon. He was a triathlete who had broken a hip on his bike during a race.  He told me he was trying to decide if he was experiencing regular pain from endurance or from injury. I went on to talk to him as he decided that his pain was not on both sides, and was therefore more likely to be an injury. I walked with him to the next aid station and said my farewell. His parting words to me were that, “Seriously, nothing new on race day. It’s always tempting, but just don’t.”

Worst Race Fear Happened

Anyone who talked to me during training knew that my fear was being passed up by the slackin’ wagon, which is a name I assigned for the car that I assumed disqualified a runner from the race because that’s what I was told.

It wasn’t one car. It was a BMW SUV with a timer attached to the roof followed by about 5 more vehicles moving at around 5 mph in the lane to the left of the runners. It pulled up and I started to run keeping stride 1 or 2 steps ahead of it. I did that for about 1 mile before I completely lost them. I also completely lost my composure and started crying. Not a couple tears dropping down. I was ugly crying in public. Where people could see me. I don’t know how there couldn’t be pictures of it, but my race photos aren’t ready yet.

People were still there to cheer. I was convinced I’d been DQ’d and wouldn’t get a medal. I figured the finish line would be gone when I got there. I put myself down for everything. I prayed to God to speak to me and tell me what to do. Then, I saw duct tape on the ground that was in the shape of the number “1” and had the word “mile” written on it. This was not a mile to the end. I was at 23. I was so mad for a second until I realized Jane kept saying to me in the days leading up to the marathon, “We’re going to do this. One mile at a time. That’s it. Just one mile. Then another one.” I put my butt in gear and I mustered this ridiculous fast walk that was the top speed I could muster. I felt stinging in my heels going all of the way up to the backs of my legs and I carried on.

Familiar People and Fans

I had an ongoing text conversation with my husband. It was ridiculously hard with my hand so swollen, it looked like a glove filled with air. I read messages from my friend Liz, who was encouraging me, but I couldn’t respond. There was no definition in my fingers, my knuckles were gone, and it was so swollen I couldn’t make a fist. I approached a bridge where Angel from the charity was cheering for me. I looked at her with such a pathetic face, she asked me if I needed food or water and I burst into tears. I pointed to the convoy that was still just ahead of me and said, “I can’t keep up with that thing and I’m trying so hard.” She said to ignore it and just go. This is the picture of a woman feeling like she’d been beaten by herself (with that damn convoy of cars next to me on the road).

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I realized that my goal was to cross the finish line. That’s what I’d told my friend Jill when she started helping me with my training after the many pitfalls I’d encountered. There were people in front of me, but there were people behind me. Even if there was no finish line when I got there, 26.2 miles was bound to be marked by something and the furthest I’d been before Sunday was 20 miles and some change. It all made sense. I needed to get to the finish any way I could manage.

I grinned every time someone yelled at me to smile, despite the fact I was sobbing off and on. I waved to people if they called my name and I thanked them. One man intensely looked me in the face and said “Jenn, you’ve got this! You’re almost there, Jenn!” I really wanted to just sit down and cry instead of walking and being unable to run anymore. I kept passing race photographers above me and I just hated that I knew the pic would not only be me walking, but me crying and walking.

My husband, Matt, caught up with me in mile 25 and wound up walking me all of the way to mile 26. Nobody stopped him. They just waved and told me I was doing a good job. That didn’t help the crying any. I was like “No I’m not,” quietly. Matt kept shushing me and trying to reassure me. When we broke off right before mile 26, I started to try to run again. I found Roosevelt hill to be easily surmountable compared to what I’d been told and how I’d felt approaching the famous “hill at the end of the course.” It was painful and everything in my body told me not to move anymore. I mustered a strange little running shuffle for .2 miles and crossed the finish running and hearing people cheer me on. The finish line was still there. The announcer was still announcing finishers. People in the bleachers cheered. I took it all in as I approached each group of people holding items for the runners.

A man put a medal around my neck and I burst into tears and said “I get one of these?! THANK YOU!!!” He looked a little taken by my reaction, but the lady next to him said “Congrats. You did it.” I walked ahead and saw a person giving out Goose Island 312 beer and she put one in my hand and congratulated me. A man with a bible verse* on his shirt was standing at the end with a medal. He looked right into my face, offered his hand to shake, and said “You did a great job.” Total stranger. I realized I’d died during the race and somehow was having a very weird entrance into the after life involving a foil cape, cold washcloths, beer, water, and a protein shake. Oh, and lots of tears. It didn’t make me stop crying. I took a snap when I finished.

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That crap on my band is salt accumulation from my sweat.

In the End

I did  not enjoy that experience except that it was a great crowd and awesome race support all around. They had plenty to drink and plenty to eat along the course. There were water jugs to refill the bottles I carried on my belt. I just had a lot of training roadblocks. That experience doesn’t mean I won’t do it again. I won’t do it anytime soon, of course. I think I need more time to recover and some time off before training again.

I was prepared to finish the race, but not mentally prepared for the feeling of defeat that comes with falling behind and finishing in 6 hours and 48 minutes. By no means did I come in last. There were people that took 8 hours and a former quadriplegic who completed the race in 15 hours. The reasons I’d broken down on the course and been so upset seem so small in the rear view. Not one thing that I’d gotten upset about was worth quitting. Deep down, I knew it. Jane knew it. She told me that if I couldn’t finish, I’d still do it due to the grit I have. She was right. I thought about it while I walked with the blisters stinging in my shoes. My hips and butt were trying to keep me from moving any more. I wasn’t going to give up. I really would have crawled if I had to because I was going to finish the marathon distance no matter how I did it.

 

Afterburn

I had to walk a bit to meet up with Matt because of all of the security. Great job, Chicago. It was a very safe feeling place. I opted to walk back to the hotel from near Millennium Park and the Bean. I finally got to see the Willis (Sears) Tower, but was too exhausted to even try for the Skydeck. At one point, Matt stopped me, asked me to lean against something, and pulled my socks and shoes off to put my Oofos sandals on. It was so sweet. I walked along with my medal and my bib with my husband through the streets of  Chicago to my hotel in Greek Town. I took a few stumbles where I had to grip tighter to Matt to get there, but the walk was actually helpful in calming me down and making my muscles feel looser. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Despite feeling like I could eat everything on the menu, I didn’t finish my burger and fries. I downed two pints of Goose Island Fest Beer, though. Very nice, by the way.  I napped a little on the way home, and I napped a lot on Monday.

What’s next?

I have a 5k on Saturday the 14th. Then, I’ll be working on my speed and my half marathon pace until I start training for a sprint triathlon with my local Fleet Feet. Another marathon is in the future because my time was not what I wanted, but I’m not signing on just yet. Maybe 2019 will look better to me.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or suggestions on what you want me to write, let me know! 

*I think it was Hebrews 12:1, but it could have been Phillipians 4:13. Either way, it was one I already knew, but needed to see at that moment.

20 mile attempt and taper

I haven’t been consistent with writing about this training session because training has been erratic. Last year, I’d followed the plan exactly for 16 weeks. This year, I started training 20 weeks ahead of the race so I could ease back into long distance running. I hadn’t eased back into short distances. I have experienced more drawbacks and delays than I’d anticipated. I was so sure that I’d only miss 10-15% of my training. There have been physical problems, family issues requiring my attention, and I’ve felt discouraged on more than one occasion. I want to do it, but what if I can’t do it?

September 17th was supposed to be my 20 mile run. I’d done 16 miles the weekend before with no physical pain. My mind had turned on me, but my body was fine. I ran a race on the 16th and it didn’t really go well. My legs were tight the entire time and I had a slight pain in my right foot that I couldn’t pin point. I would describe it as just an “ow” sensation when I tried to pick up speed. I didn’t think much of it and I prepared for my 20 mile run the next day. I woke earlier than I do on weekdays, got my bathroom rituals done and had my water and a Stinger waffle (gluten free salted caramel is my flavor of choice) like I’ve had for every long run since some time last year.  I set out to meet up with a group to run with all of my race day items on – except anything related to chilly weather because it was hot and humid already.

We had three new runners with our usual group of three and the six of us started together. As it got hotter, I started to hang back and chat with someone who was also in the back of the group. Then, my foot pain started. I felt like something stabbed into the inside of my ankle and the posterior shin. It throbbed and stung as I moved. At 11.8 miles, I stopped my run. I couldn’t go without worrying that I’d have an injury on race day. I started messaging runner friends to reinforce what I already knew. I needed to stop the run. My friend Liz was the one to tell me to go home, get ice, and rest it. I went to my car, sat down and almost cried while I left my group to finish the other 8 miles that were left in the planned run for the day. It took me a long time to actually start the car and leave the parking lot. I took some time to stretch, got back in, and drove to the big name coffee shop drive thru because I didn’t want to see anyone I knew inside. I went home and iced my foot and took some ibuprofen. Then, I hashed out my running plan with a friend who has been helping me train after the injury I had halfway through this training.

No more running two days in a row until after race day. I would need to do workouts that combine running with other exercises to keep my body in motion for long periods of time without taxing my feet or legs through impact. One day, I did the elliptical for 30 minutes, ran outside for 3 miles, and got on the elliptical for another 30 minutes. That run in the middle was difficult enough that I stopped often to stretch my calves. My legs would not loosen up and refused to allow me to do much more than trot along at a 14-15 minute pace. I waited until Friday to run again and set out for 3-5 miles. I did 3 very slow, difficult, and painful miles. It wasn’t any of my previous injuries that came back. My legs felt like the calves would literally snap if I fully pointed or flexed either foot. I couldn’t move any faster, so I had to walk a lot and stay in forward motion. My miles were lurking dangerously close to 15 minutes. The pace is not a big deal unless I’m training for a race that has a time limit that happens to be an average of 15 minute miles. I obsessed over 15 minute miles. I want to finish my marathon the 2nd time I’ve trained for my first. I want to finish and get a medal, too.

I signed up for a “brick” workout [bike + run] for Sunday. The local Fleet Feet was having a Brick and Brunch event in cooperation with a bike shop, Bloomington Cycle and Fitness. My running buddies said we had 12 miles to run that day and they’d participate in the event as well. We ran 9 miles ahead of the event, got out our bikes and set out. I was the slowest person out there on the bike. I was just barely ahead of the person who was there to look out for the group from the back, or the sweeper. The two women I rode with in the back of the pack were really nice about my snail pace and had tips to offer and ways to help make my riding more comfortable. When finished, my running partners were waiting and we set out for a ridiculously hot and humid 3 mile run.

I have never wanted to quit a run in recent history more than this one and I would have if I wasn’t with Denise and Dianna. I was a hot mess. My legs felt like someone tied weights to them. Somehow I was actually running faster than I felt like I was (pace wise). The sun was in the position to beat down from above and the trail was not offering sufficient shade for cooling. We were all miserable. I kept stopping to walk and urging them to continue on and I’d just have to catch up with them later. They were also miserable and we probably evened out the walk breaks inside of the last mile. Except the last 1/4 mile where we ran simply to get back and have something cool to drink.

Oddly enough, I had a blast Sunday. Even that last little run. I was so happy that I ran without my legs protesting the entire time that I just kept saying how thankful I was for one good run. I totally am thankful. I got to hang out and kind of soak in the reasons I enjoy running.

I made myself some really cool sleeves for the marathon using transfer paper, my home printer, and an iron. It was a little challenging and I bought cheap sleeves just in case I messed up or melted the material. I’m used to my other ones with thumb holes, but I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy these for race day. I do see they’re imperfect and I’m aware that they’re both for the same arm, but I’ll still be able to read them and know what they say. I am excited about the marathon. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish. I’m thankful for the memorable training sessions and the time I get to spend focusing on little more than my cadence, breathing, and what’s immediately ahead.

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Unsettling, but normal

I have started freaking out about 26.2 miles more regularly than before. Today, walking to the bus stop, I was thinking about what the chances were I’d fall in leaves again close to race day. I mean, fall is coming, you guys! The leaves are going to FALL! Yeah, so its like that.

This Sunday, I ran 16 miles. My training plan has kind of gone sideways since I had some inflammation issues right in the middle of training for this marathon. My friends that I would normally run with were only slated for 14 miles, but I’m having to ramp up a little quicker because they’ve already done 18 (last week) and I have catching up without injury to do.

It was a solid run. We chatted away the miles and I found it to be mostly fun. Then, my brain short circuited. We were almost to the starting point at 14 miles, where they’d leave me to finish my last 2 miles alone. For no particular reason, my scumbag brain started in on me about how bad everything hurt after only 14 miles and how there was no way I could stand the pain of 26.2 miles. I stopped in my tracks. My friends Denise and Dianna ran on ahead and I walked slowly trying to clear my head and think about anything that wasn’t running. I saw a group walking together and I made myself pick up to a run, turn to them and say “Hello,” with the best smile I could muster. The little girls and their adult walking companion smiled back. I decided to be strong and at least get back to my friends.  They came back to me and I told them I was just too far inside of my own head and needed a minute.

We got back to where we’d all parked and I tossed a shirt into the car, grabbed some sports drink from the cooler in my trunk, climbed into the driver’s seat, turned the car on, and then turned it back off and got out. I took off on my run to my friends yelling “Go, Jenn!” They were going into the local co-op grocery probably to get smoothies.

I ran south on the trail waving to every single person that went past me. Most passersby were on bikes. In my head, I joked that I should ask them to circle around and make sure I’m still alive in like  15 minutes. I tried to recall song lyrics. I looked at discarded things along the trail and the road and made up stories about why they had to be littered there. I have a pretty amusing imagination. I saw a sign that said “student mail,” and none of the universities in town were near my location, so I bet that sign had a really interesting story that probably involved vandalism and alcohol. Oh, there were beer bottle caps lined up in a perfect little row with most of them donning golden foil with some peeled away, but of the same type.

I turned around before I hit 15 because I didn’t feel like exploring the places beyond the trail like I often do. When I got back to my car, I paused and took a drink of water. I looked down and I saw a rock there. One of those kindness project rocks that people paint and hide and post to Facebook. I picked it up and examined it. There was a book painted on it. I started to move away and there sat another one. I couldn’t wait to show my kids those rocks and go somewhere to hide them. I stuffed them into the pack that held my gels earlier in the run and I took off to finish my run. I looked at my watch every few seconds hoping that I was finished and I could just walk back the car. I no longer felt completely exhausted, though. I had energy to move myself forward.

When I got back to my car after 16 miles and a little cool down walk, I actually spent a little extra time stretching at my car. I felt like people may have been looking at me, but it didn’t matter. I ran 16 miles. It was ugly and it was not the good kind of memorable. I started picking on myself and cutting myself down while I was still running. Even though I’d already crossed the halfway point for a marathon distance, I was tearing myself down. I stopped, I hit reset, and I moved on. They’re right about motivation. It doesn’t last and that’s why you have to keep finding things that spark that light inside.

I truly enjoy running and even though not every run is enjoyable, I’m doing something I take pride in. I’m cool with the people that think it’s crazy or pointless.

I got this on a postcard in the mail and it is going be one of my sparks for this weekend’s 20 mile run:

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What keeps you going? Do you have any mantras that get you through the tough spots? I like “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Good luck on your training goals! Maybe you could do a race for charity sometime, too?

My fundraising site is here: Click these words

Where have you been?

Where have I been? On the crazy train, guys. Google assistant says I spent 48 hours in a car in August. It’s probably  more than that, which is simply disturbing. More than 2 days driving and I don’t think I left Illinois. I also didn’t go on any road trips that were for pleasure.

That doesn’t answer the question of where I was. I started physical therapy. I didn’t finish it, but my foot feels great. No pain when I run. The extra time I took from running was due to my oldest child, the one with Crohn’s, being in the hospital for 15 days. We went from a local hospital that was only 10 minutes away to her being transferred to one 45 minutes away to be closer to her specialist and in a Children’s Hospital. Originally, she was just a little dehydrated. Then, her liver enzymes were up. Before we knew it, she was jaundice. Her liver was not doing well and she had viral hepatitis. All of these things started from one nasty virus that doesn’t even make some people sick when they get it. Epstein-Barr virus, also known as ‘mono’ by the masses, landed my daughter in the hospital for over 2 weeks with a couple of those days in the Intensive Care Unit. Her IBD medications took down her immune system so so her intestines weren’t being attacked by the immune system. Her immune system had a harder fight than it was able to handle. She landed in a hospital bed miserable and missed her first 2 weeks of school including the first day.

I tried to work out as much as I could. I had nervous energy I needed to expend. I did treadmill work at the gym one day until the hospital called. I planned to run one day on the way home from the hospital when my husband had taken my place watching her. Sleep won that day. I needed sleep more than I needed a run. When she finally was released, I went for a run to unwind.  I turned an 8 mile run into a 13 mile run and my friend who was (and is still) helping me get to the marathon distance was not surprised I had run extra. She told me to go for more this week. So, with exactly a month left to to until my first marathon, I have run 13 miles at the most. This weekend, I’ll be going for 16 miles. I’ve actually done 4 and 6 mile runs week outside without pain to my foot or ankle. I’m excited to get the long run out of the way.

I always talk up my running family and how runners are such awesome people. I never imagined how they’d all be there for me when I really needed them. There was so much encouragement and support when I was injured and even more when my daughter was in the hospital. It was amazing.

This week, I finally hit the fundraising minimum for Team Challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis. That put me 3/4 of the way to my goal and I was so excited to see that number and finally being so close.

I had a while when I was really down and out and so pessimistic about pretty much everything. Now, I feel like I have peeked around all of those excuses and ‘what ifs’ and I can see success somewhere in the distance.  I even think I can finish a 26.2 mile race despite a few snags in my training plan.

There’s no magic formula. There’s no words I needed to hear to push away the doubt. I decided that if there are people who can go through these things and come out fine, I can endure a marathon using up 1/4 of my day.  I want to do it now more than ever before. So, I hope you cheer me on in Chicago. I hope you give to my fundraiser. I hope you find the ‘why not’ when you think of reaching a goal you have wanted for awhile.

Fundraising link: MomJennGoal26.2

Here’s a picture of me after my 10k run yesterday. I have my “Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do.” bracelet on. I am one tough broad, guys….

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Peroneal Tendon. Again.

I saw my podiatrist after experiencing what I thought was a stress fracture to my 5th metatarsal bone on my left foot. The injury that sidelined me from my first marathon (two days before the race), was to my right foot. I had a tear in the peroneus brevis, a sprain to my ATF ligament, and tendonitis in the tibial tendon from running on the other two for a few weeks. It has taken me months to get from walking a 20 minute mile to walking 16 minutes and faster. I have recently broken the 12 minute mark running a mile. Progress! Finally!

I was so happy with the progress. I pegged on a 12th mile during my 11 mile run. When confronted with pain, I was completely stressed out about it ending my training. I called the doctor anyway because searching the web turned up results that mostly said “you fractured your foot, dummy,” or something like that [which means I shouldn’t have put it in quotes, but I don’t want to edit them out]. I didn’t run any training runs until I saw him. It was so great that the pain was gone, I couldn’t really figure out what went wrong. I ran 12 training miles the following weekend and my foot hurt again. I scheduled another appointment and I didn’t take time from my training runs. My appointment was on a Monday following my planned 13.1 mile training run. I did the run. It was not pleasant after, but when I saw the doctor, he ordered x-ray images of my foot and did an extensive exam. I had brought him my running shoes to examine and he added padding to one side of my shoe insert and laced the shoes differently. He ordered physical therapy as well.

I got to see the physical therapist whom I’d spent a lot of time with after my right foot injury. Her parting words to me [the last time] were to not go all out too soon. I didn’t want to tell her that I was injured. I still went in and we talked a little. She studied my walking stride and then watched me run on a treadmill. Then, I sat down and discussed with her that my walking included a little flick of my left foot toward the outside. She said she hadn’t seen it on the treadmill, but believed that I was probably doing it after settling in on my run. She treated me with an an external anti inflammatory and sent me on my way to see me again in a couple of days and three times next week. Thursday, when I saw her, we discussed that my foot wasn’t hurting. She had me do some stretching, discuss what I need to do to correct my gait issue with strength, and gave me electrical stimulation and ultrasound therapy. She sent me on my way saying I was okay to work on endurance using an elliptical machine and that my outdoor mileage could go to 2 miles at the most because that was the threshold where I’d started to feel pain on my earlier in the week 3 mile run.

There are less than 60 days before the marathon. I am not calm about the situation. I’ve had a lot of other things in my life that are stressful. I’m a stay at home mom and it’s summer. My kids present me with challenges regularly. I am trying to focus on the positive. I am working on it. I’m going to finish this marathon. I am going to do what I can to ensure that I do. So, here goes something.

I’m still fundraising for Team Challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis. I have a fundraiser going on with Keep Collective if you like jewelry. I love making myself bracelets with them and I’m thinking I need a new necklace. Here’s the link:  https://www.keepcollective.com/soc/n39v7    

Please consider a donation as I’m a little over halfway to my goal and I am very close to my deadline date. My fundraising page is here

And here’s a pic of me after my run on Monday evening. The song came on in my 2nd mile and I ran relatively fast.

 

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Adjust and carry on

The goal is 26.2 miles on October 8th at the Chicago Marathon. Training has begun and I have a calendar using a training plan I got from the coaches involved with Team Challenge. I even plugged it in to a calendar that accommodated my plan to have my long runs on Sunday morning. I have had trouble following it because I feel like I’m not getting adequate rest between runs.

Last weekend, I needed to do 9 miles, but I wasn’t returning from an out of town wedding until late Sunday afternoon. I was able to plan a run for Monday morning, but I didn’t want to get up early, so I scheduled an 8 am meeting time with a friend. I was positive talking the heck out of that run ahead of time. I kept telling myself it was going to be the best run since my boot and that it was going to be epic. In reality, it was hard to put one foot in front of the other for almost 6 miles. The conversation and adorable woodland creatures along the trail kept me moving forward for almost 6 miles. When she and I were done running, I decided to hop in the car and head home to get sunscreen before finishing the rest of my run. I wouldn’t have finished that first bit had I been alone. The second part was rough and it was solo. The heat and humidity were bearing down. I got one cheer from a car driving down the road and that was a nice distraction. I struggled to keep moving and was running on pure desire to get home. I went home and halfheartedly stretched so I could hit the shower. Little did I know that for the entire week following that run, I’d have a painful soreness in my right calf and my hamstring would be achy.

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9 hot and humid miles

My first run after that was Wednesday. It was tough, but it was like shaking off cobwebs. My legs were loosened up for the last half of the run. I was able to focus my attention on random things like, “Hey a White Castle box,” and “We don’t even have White Castle near here.” I looked around and took in the scenery and tried not to focus on any discomfort. I felt pretty good finishing up and I actually did my hip strengthening and stretching afterward. The soreness continued, so my next run was replaced with a session of runner’s yoga.

Saturday was my long run day this weekend due to social plans. I’d planned everything out ahead of time. I was going to ditch the camel bak hydration backpack I’d used in previous weeks and go back to the Amphipod brand hydration belt. I filled one bottle with my BCAA powder mixed with water and the other with just filtered water. I put a protein shake in a lunchbox cooler. I planned to meet the Saturday group at 6:30 am. I’d lost my Garmin watch and found it after a frantic search through my belongings. It was on the passenger seat of my minivan face down and the same color as the interior. My frozen water bottle was completely thawed, so my buffer from the heat wasn’t going to be there. I shook it all off, showed up at the meeting place at 6:45 with nobody else there, and I did a little arguing with my brain to take off on the run. My watch went off a few times for the 5 minute run, 1 minute walk intervals. I ignored the first 2, then I started walking quickly the 3rd time it went off. I wasn’t dropping too far below a 13 minute per mile pace with the walk breaks, so I just kept doing the intervals. I reserved water and gel breaks for walking intervals and it worked out well for mentally preparing. I passed people I knew periodically on the trail and felt encouraged to keep going. It was the epic run I’d wanted the previous week. Then, toward the end, my stomach. It was revolting. I didn’t #2 before leaving for my run. I was about 1/2 mile in either direction from a bathroom and both were portable bathrooms (porta potties). I opted for the direction of my car and ran/walked my way back trying to ensure that no accidents would happen to me. I was a tenth of a mile from the big 10. I had to go, though. I ran to the bathroom, went in, paused my watch, and used the porta potty. I made up the last .05 running from the bathroom box to my car to get hand sanitizer and get my yoga mat. I felt energized instead of exhausted.

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I will run for beer, guys….lol

I made the decision after running that if I was going to have good long runs,  I was going to need to adjust the plan. I read some articles in running magazines and websites about training and found that it is not unusual to have as few as 3 runs per week in training for a marathon (assuming other cardio and resistance is included in most other days). I invited myself to join some running buddies on their swim days and they welcomed me. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll be joining my friends in the morning to swim. Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll run. Friday, I’ll get on the elliptical or have a instructor led cardio workout in addition to resistance. Saturday remains rest day so I can long run Sunday morning. Today, I did a resistance workout midday and realized that it has been too long since I’ve done my planks or burpees. Running can suffer from not keeping up strength in all areas. I’m changing my plan to prevent burnout and to prevent injury. I want to do this marathon. I wasn’t balancing my whole body fitness properly and it was affecting my running. Now we’re going to see how well this change of plan works and adjust as needed. I’m happy I can do that.

Also, I am fundraising for Crohn’s and Colitis through Team Challenge. I have 90 days until the marathon and I’d like to raise $2k by then. So far, I’m a little over $900. Consider helping? Thanks!  My Personal Fundraising Page

Just struggling…

My last blog post, I was feeling pretty down on myself. Low self esteem and body image will do that to a person. Major depressive disorder likes to rear its ugly head when it feels like being a jerk and I have very little control over when I’ll have a huge down swing despite the meds and exercise that keep it at a minimum. I didn’t suddenly start loving my body or feeling better about it. I’m actually still in the stupid down swing where I’m critiquing my existence and my impact. I just wanted to pass along some tidbits I’ve picked up since I’ve been trying to come back from having the cast and boot off of my ankle from the tearing and spraining I did 2 days before I planned to run my first marathon last November.

Yes, I find myself questioning my decision to sign up for another marathon after not completing the one I’d trained for last year. Of course I would feel ambivalent about it. I’m running much slower than I was this time last year and I feel like any distance takes me an eternity to complete.  I actually have the ability to run a mile in just under 11 minutes. I simply don’t have the endurance to sustain that speed for over a mile. I ran a 4 mile race this past weekend. I’d signed up to run the 15k (9.3 miles) race and asked to be moved down from the longer distance upon realizing I wasn’t in 9 mile shape.  I met up with people from Fleet Feet Bloomington to take a group pic before the race. One of the people in the group was Nikki, who I had run with a few times in the past. She started the race with me and I was starting to feel worn out and told her to just go ahead if she was feeling energetic. She assured me she wasn’t there to run fast, and we finished the first mile in under 11 minutes. We walked a little because that first mile was exhausting. The rest of the race went on in an erratic walk/run cycle. We picked up Barb (from our group) near mile 3, who had recently felt the sting of injury and needed some walking time as well. We went on to walk and run until the last half mile.  The three of us finished the end of the race running. My split times were crazy. Mile 1 was just under 11 minutes, mile 2 was over 12, mile 3 was 14 minutes, and mile four was 12 again. I somehow averaged in the 12 minute range, so that was impressive for my comeback race. I don’t think that I’d have started running again if Nikki wasn’t there to encourage me and ask if I was ready to pick up again after walking. So, that’s a testament to how I can really count on my running “family” to support and encourage me through this crappy time where I have no idea why I started running in the first place.

Sunday, I got up at 5 am. Some folks may think of 5 am and shrug. I think that’s the crack of dawn and there is very little that could convince me otherwise. I like staying up late reading, so waking early isn’t my jam. Anyway, I met up with a local marathon training group for the first time at a a park all the way on the north side of my town (I live pretty far south along the main strip). One person I’d met before was there. Denise has been running at least 1 mile every day for a few years now. She just needed to get her mile in, but she started out with me because I didn’t really have anyone my pace there to run my 6-7 miles with. The training plan dictated 7, but I accepted that I’d be happy with 6 if I made it. Anyway, Denise ran with me and I notified her when 1/2 mile passed and she said she’d go a little bit further. She ran the first mile with me before turning back. That mile averaged 14 minutes, and it settled me in for the rest of the run and helped me finish all 7 miles. Without starting out with someone, I probably would have set out to ‘just get it over with’ and blown all of my energy. I didn’t do that this time and I caught up to my training plan distance.

I’ve received a lot of encouraging words and offers for people to help me get back to running. I have tried new things to make it easier. I think running insoles have a little to do with having a good distance weekend. I am still hard on my body for being so much more round and heavy than before my injury. In a way, I wish I’d given myself time to work up to training for a marathon again. Most of it is nerves and self doubt which are purely mentality issues and not whether I’m physically able. I trust that with training, I’ll get there. I feel like it’s difficult to complete each run and that I don’t remember it being quite as hard to push through in the past.

Most people ask me how my ankle feels. The truth is, my ankle is fine. No pain with running [during or after]. My endurance could use some work. My attitude could use an adjustment. I could use a shot of self esteem. I’m getting there. My injury is gone. I’m just trying to make a comeback and I somehow forgot to exercise that toughness that I had in me when I started running distances. There aren’t really any foot holds on this incline and I’m trying to claw my way back up. It’s freaking hard. That’s all. I’m struggling. I’m not quitting. Screw that. I literally don’t know how to quit. Even when I joke that it looks like me laying down and waiting for the struggle bus to run me over….I doubt I’d even take a knee to try to lie down. My depression is truly a jerk sometimes, but I’m not going to let it get the best of me.

Thanks for reading! Marathon is October 8th. This will be my first. I’m fundraising for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation because my teen has Crohn’s. If you want to throw a few bucks at the cause, just go to my link. Click here

Here’s a pic of my ‘fluffy self’ finishing the 4 mile race:

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I was exhausted, but look at that hint of a smile at what I achieved. (Thanks for the photo Steamboat Classic)

Usually, I’m patient

I’m a patient person. I typically just wait in line and amuse myself while not really behaving like my plans for the day somehow are more important than those around me. I was aware that my ankle injury would require starting over. I just thought that I’d be starting over at a slightly less quick pace. I didn’t think about how much it would hurt my body to push myself. I didn’t know that not using my foot would cause swelling in other areas like the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon once I got out of the boot and back to using it normally.

I mapped out my 20 week training plan for the marathon. Yesterday was 3 miles run/walk. I decided to try to do it by how I felt. So, I was walking within 1/4 mile. I ran less than I walked. 1 mile in, the bottoms of my feet felt like they were bruised and tender. My left calf was tight. The wind was whipping into my face and I started trying to run again after a break at a water fountain. I made it less than .1 mile before I realized I was not going to run through any pain. I turned around and headed home with a few spurts of a slow run to test the feeling in my feet. While the pain wasn’t only on the hurt side, I didn’t want to chance it. I went 1.5 mile by the time I got home.

I was disappointed. I was angry. I felt defeated. I couldn’t finish even 2 miles of a 3 mile run. How am I supposed to run a marathon? First of all, I’m supposed to train for a marathon, not worry about running 26.2 miles this week. Next, I didn’t run 3 miles when I started out a few years ago. I couldn’t do 60 jumps in therapy a couple weeks ago. Now, I can do it. I couldn’t do 60 calf raises in therapy without pause. Now I can do it. We get stronger through persisting. We get stronger by trying. I will get there. I will rest today and I will go back out tomorrow if I feel rested enough and I will see how far I can take these legs. I won’t push through pain. I’ll push through being tired and I’ll look away from ‘can’t’.

I am not always feeling the most optimistic. Nobody is always going to be. You could say “fake it ’til you make it,” but I’d rather just say that you should believe in the best possible outcome and be prepared for it to not work out that way without a few tries. Giving up is the true failure, though. I’m going to keep my head up. I’m going to try again. Maybe I’ll be able to run a full 5k by the time my race comes around at the end of June. I have a one mile race on Memorial Day to worry about. One race at a time. One goal at a time. I can run a mile. Now I want to run 2. We’ll worry about the 26.2 as it comes along.

Thanks for reading!

If you want to know how my fundraising is going or you want to give, Click Here!

I made a new collage pic for it to make the Facebook page more attractive. My friend donated her time to help me with my profile pic that I absolutely love. I used it as the background for this collage.

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Physical Retraining

If this is your first time reading my blog, you might not know that I injured my ankle back in November. It was 2 days before my first marathon and I wound up cheering for my training partners from the sidelines. While I did what my primary doctor had advised, I felt like there was something still wrong with me. It became more prevalent as I tried to ease back into running and working out regularly at the gym. So, I got a second opinion. I found out I had a longitudinal split of the peroneus brevis tendon, a chronic tear of the anterior talofibular ligament and a sprain of the calcaneofibular ligament. I was referred from orthopedics to podiatry. I wound up in a boot and a cast for awhile as a conservative treatment since it wasn’t a full tear, which would have meant surgery. I’m now in a brace all of the time and I’m in physical training to get released to run again. So, if you see your doctor and you have that nagging feeling that something isn’t right, you should probably trust your instincts. This could have been resolved months ago and I’d be out on the trail and in the gym, which is my zen. Exercise literally makes me happy mentally and physically.

I’m in physical therapy 3 days a week and I have homework for the days I don’t have an appointment. These therapists have got me working hard and I see the progress. Day 1, I couldn’t walk down steps the way I used to before the boot. Now, I can walk the stairs, balance on one foot, and do many other things I couldn’t before. I thought I’d go through some of the things I do in therapy to show that while it is challenging, it isn’t impossible.

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When I got to therapy, all I wanted was to hop on the treadmill and try to run. My first trip involved me drawing the abc’s with my foot, doing crunches with my toes, and moving my ankle in ways I hadn’t been able to with the cast on. I learned stretches, and exercises to increase my flexibility.

We’ve been wrapping appointments up with electrical stimulation on my foot. I call it the “zappy thing,” but it doesn’t zap as much as it is a little massage directly on the spot it gets irritated. The therapists say that it helps to interrupt the pain signal from reaching the brain and prevents inflammation to the area, which can result in increased pain.

I was ecstatic when she let me ride the stationary bike. Yes, I was super happy to do it, but I was sweating after 5 minutes and felt pretty exerted. I am up to 15 minutes and it definitely isn’t as difficult as it was a few weeks ago. I still feel a little silly breaking a sweat and having labored breathing after what seems like such a brief time doing something that seemed much easier before the time I was sidelined.

I was put on the treadmill on a board with a bottom part much like a rocker. Standing one way made me have to balance myself forward and back; the other way required me to balance longitudinally. Both ways were challenging at first, which I credited to having been in the boot for the previous weeks.  I find myself grasping the hand rails much less frequently when on the board.

When I went to phase 2 of my ‘homework packet’, I started doing more challenging exercises at home. The most difficult was calf raises with my toes pointed outward, forward, and inward. It was even more challenging when I was asked to do it on only my right leg (the injured one). Then, she added weights. I was sore after that workout, but we’ve started doing some additional stretches that seem to have stopped it. One is standing on the ‘slant board’ with my knees straight, then bent. The calf raises are something I should probably incorporate as a regular thing moving forward in my fitness journey.

Another balance tool I use is something that is called a “Bosu Ball”. That is a brand, but it is an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. I have done squats on the platform side trying to make it balance. I have improved so much, one of the therapists commented on how well I was doing with balance. I also have done lunges on the ball with my injured foot being placed onto the rubber part and my other foot firm on the ground. Both have had ankle weights added to the routine to add a bit of a challenge.  I’ve also been able to use the step with and without weights doing repetitive steps for different time frames. I also balance on one foot on a stability cushion often. I haven’t quite mastered staying on it for longer than 10 seconds at a time.

I think the rebounder is a lot of fun to do. There’s a trampoline set at an angle and weighted balls. I stand on a pad on the injured foot while tossing and catching the weighted ball. My initial goal was to increase my throws by 1 each time without putting my left food down to balance. I’ve finally gotten to that point even with a slightly heavier ball.

When she put me on the treadmill, I sent a Snapchat out that I was finally on the treadmill. I was walking, but I was on the darn thing! The first time, I couldn’t really go over 3 mph walking. The last time I went, I was almost up to a light jog. I was told that next time, I will be allowed to walk/run for 20 minutes next time I go and I was so excited, I almost had tears. How close is that to an end? Pretty close, darn it! I’ll be running in time to start training in June like we’d discussed in the beginning of therapy.

I’ve had time on the stair stepper. I believe I’ve never actually used this machine before therapy. It is challenging. I have done it a few times and I seem to be able to do more each time than the last. It really isn’t something I have a positive or negative reaction to. I would just rather bound up real steps for some reason.

This is not a complete list of the things that I do. The therapists are amazing, though. I really feel like I’m making progress. I thought I should share what I do in therapy because I’m not sure how many people know what goes on when people are going multiple times a week. I know I didn’t know and I certainly didn’t think it would be a workout each time.

I’m still raising money for Team Challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I’m going to run 26.2 miles in Chicago on October 8th. Please consider giving and asking your friends to consider it. Thank you!!!!

Fundraising page:Click Here

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have questions or comments.