June thoughts

That thing has been happening again where time feels like it’s just slipping away from me. Today is officially the first day of summer. And, with that I get a little nervous and a lot more stressed because — non-running alert — the wedding is less than three weeks away.

I haven’t been running as much recently since 1) the thoughts I wrote about a few weeks ago still hold true and 2) it’s been super hot in Seattle as of late. And, yes, by “super hot” I mean low 80s but having lived here my whole life, low 80s is super hot for me. 3) there are a million things left to do for the wedding.

What I can report back on is that last Friday I played ultimate Frisbee for the first time since before I was injured. It was the first time in more than two years that I laced up my cleats, ran around for deep hucks and tried not to make a fool out of myself.

I’m playing in a summer mixed team so it’s with a bunch of people that are randomly assigned to be on a team together. And, it has a nice mixture of experienced and more beginner players.

I was really nervous that sprinting around for two hours would aggravate my knee. Oddly enough, I had no knee pain.

This may have been the first time I had absolutely zero knee pain during exercise since before I was injured!

At first I thought I just wasn’t “noticing” my knee since sprinting around for the first time in forever was really a struggle for my lungs. I felt very out of shape. But, after a few points when I really focused on my knee, I realized that it felt normal!

I guess running around on a turf field makes a difference. I just thought sprinting wouldn’t have been ideal for the knee. I guess not.

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Race goals for the reluctant runner

I’m racing, er, running — maybe jogging — an 8K tomorrow. I’m feeling a bit reluctant about it and I wish I was in a better mindset.

After all, I have three other friends who will be running, and Bryce will be coming out to cheer for us.

So, why the reluctance?

I have an ingrown toenail situation that had been affecting my running earlier in the week. It’s gotten better (i.e., it no longer hurts to wear close-toed shoes). But, because of that, I haven’t run much recently. And, when I have, my knee has been “acting up.”

With all that being said, I’m still going to do the race. And, here are my race goals:

  1. Have fun.
  2. Finish with a smile on my face.
  3. Do not worry about time/pace.
  4. Beat the bridge (but do not get mad if I do not).

I know, I know. Goal #3 and #4 are in direct conflict with one another. In order to “beat the bridge,” I think one needs to maintain 10 minute/mile pace. Or, a bit faster?

For those who are confused by this whole beating the bridge thing, this course has two bridge crossings and the second one is around the 2-mile mark. The bridge will go up at a specified time so a lot of runners’ goal is to beat the bridge from going up. If you get caught at the bridge while it is up, you will have to wait for a minute or so — and then continue on with the rest of your race.

But, my main goal is just to have fun.

Last-minute tenacity

I’m not sure what overcame me. Maybe I was still riding off a high from the Boston Marathon. Maybe I didn’t want FOMO because it was all abuzz on social media. Maybe it’s because the weather is actually supposed to be nice this weekend.

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But, whatever the reason, I registered for a 10K yesterday after work. The race is tomorrow.

I kept seeing post after post about how everyone is excited for the Tenacious 10 — a race presented by Oiselle. So, clearly a lot of friends and teammates will be there. I had registered for the 10K last year when the race was brand new. Unfortunately, due to my injury, I couldn’t participate. Last year I was too sad to even go and cheer or volunteer. I forget what I did but I avoided the race all together.

This year is different.

I obviously have not been training for a 10K these last two-ish months I have been running. But, I have been running so I know I can at least jog a 10K. (Although to be clear I think the longest I have run is five-ish miles). Time won’t be the game plan for this race. I just want to go out there and absorb all the wonderful energy and see smiling familiar faces — and run.

I’m a little bit nervous. But, mostly excited! There shouldn’t be much pressure when the only goal is to have fun, right??

Onward to racing!

You may recall that last month I participated in my first race after being injured for 20 months. It was great, it helped build up some confidence. But, it was a trail race.

There’s nothing wrong with trail running. I love it. However, what knocked me out from running to begin with was the Anchorage (road) Marathon. Until I have raced roads again, I’ll remain feeling a bit — weak.

So, I registered for Beat the Bridge, which is a road 8K in May. I have lots of time to work up towards it and 8 kilometers is just under five miles so that doesn’t seem too daunting.

This is a race I’ve done a few times in the past. (Although, upon re-reading my 2011 race recap, I seemed to have not liked it too much?) The course will more or less be the same (since it needs to incorporate the bridges) and I’ll have a few friends who will be racing it as well. It’ll be a fun party, right?

As I type this, I’m excited for the race but I’m sure as it gets closer I will be more nervous. You all just need to keep me in check, OK? OK then!

(And, if anyone has any good 8K training plans, holler at yer girl!)

Breaking up and moving on

I could tell by his words that this would be the last time I’d be seeing him. Like most break-ups, I felt a bit sad. My physical therapist was dumping me.

“So, I don’t need to schedule any more appointments?” I asked, knowing the answer but, still wanting to double check.

“Nope!”

He was excited for me but I felt uncertain.

I know I should be happy to not have to go to PT anymore. I know this means that I am getting stronger and that I am getting closer to being my “normal running self” again.

After all, I did run a trail 5K a few weeks ago (and came in second!)

But, even with that, I don’t have the confidence to run on my own again.

What if I continue to slowly increase mileage, do my PT exercises and massage out my stiff knee but the pain still continues or becomes worse? What if I re-injury myself? How will I know when I’m ready to tackle a half-marathon and then a marathon?

I suppose after more than five months of PT, I just need to take the plunge and try.

I swam, biked, walked and hiked during the early stages of my injury when I couldn’t run at all. I took some yoga classes. I joined a gym for the first time in my life! I consistently went to PT (and actually did my PT exercises at home on my own). I even got to run on the Alt-G treadmill at PT several times! I patiently waited and waited until I could run again. When I could run, I painfully did my “Return to Running” program that involved a lot of run/walking.

It’s been a long year — or, year-and-a-half? I stopped counting! — of recovery.

I’ve clearly done all of the work. Now I just need to believe and have trust in it all. I need to believe in myself as a runner again.

 

First race after 20 months of injury: A success story

It really couldn’t have gone any better than it did.

I was nervous — about the weather — as the four of us drove from Seattle to Whidbey Island in mixed snow and rainfall Saturday morning.

“She better be right!” Phyllis, my friend, who will also be my maid of honor, yelled from the back seat. Her husband, Andrew, sat next to her.

The “she” Phyllis was referring to was our wedding venue manager. Our wedding is going to be on Whidbey this summer and the venue manager has told us several times that even if the weather is crappy down south/at the ferry dock, it is always nice inland on the island.

This fact proved accurate on race day. I really hope it proves accurate on the wedding day as well.

I bumped into a few friendly faces at the Fort Ebey Trail Race before the start, so that was a nice surprise. Though everyone I knew, including my friends and Bryce, were all running the 10K. I had about 15 minutes of waiting by myself in the extremely cold wind for my 5K to begin. This is when the self-doubt kicked in.

What if lots of people pass me? What if my knee starts hurting really badly? What if I have to walk a ton?

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Finally it was time for us 5K-ers to line up at the start. As the group of us stood there practically shivering, I reconsidered my choice to not wear gloves and my earwarmer headband.

We started the race with a small loop along the bluff, which was annoying but helpful since it helped disperse runners before we got to the narrow single-track trail. Once running in the forested trail, I felt warmer not being out by the water and the wind. My fingers and toes were starting to thaw out but my nose was a running mess.

I leaned forward to attempt a snot rocket — without it hitting the runner right behind me. This was a mistake. I (thankfully) did not hit the runner behind me but in an awkward maneuver to move forward while shooting a snot rocket, I lost my footing and tripped on a root in the ground.

Now my left ankle really hurt. I sort of limp-jogged, wondering if I should step to the side of the trail to let those directly behind me pass. Because at this point we had only been running for about five minutes or less. Nah, I’m fine, I thought. Channeling all the Olympic figure skating I had watched in the past week, I figured if skaters can land jumps awkwardly on their ankles yet continue their routines flawlessly, I can continue running on a rolled ankle.

After a few minutes, the throbbing ankle pain went away and it just continued to be sore, which was fine by me. Plus, my lungs were getting a beating — from my lack of being in shape — so, I eventually forgot about my ankle pain.

As I continued, there were a few runners directly in front of me. The woman immediately in front of me had a windbreaker tied around her waist that kept obstructing my view ahead of the trail. After running through a pile of mud that I could have easily avoided had I been able to see it, I decided to run ahead of her.

After I passed her, I continued on and passed one or two other runners. Overall, I was feeling pretty good. I was running!

Halfway through, I’ll be honest, I was getting tired. I started doubting my fitness and was worried that the people I had passed would catch up to me.

I even walked some parts of the last mile. Yes, I admit that I walked during a 5K! But, there were a few steep parts on that 5K course!

In the last quarter-mile, I could see that there was another women close behind me. With every wide turn, I could either see her out of the corner of my eye or hear her.

My competitive nature, which really only comes out while racing, kicked in.

I will not let her beat me. 

Why this particular person? Probably because the entire race, no other female runner had passed me — just two or maybe three guys did.

Once I was out of the woods and the trees started to clear, I knew I was close to the finish. Eventually the finish line became visible and I could see and hear spectators cheering.

This is it. Time to finish this. 

I sprinted the last few (or several?) meters with a smile. As soon as I got out of the finish chute, I realized that not many people were standing around. I walked over to one of the aid tents and asked a volunteer if any of the 10K runners had finished yet.

“Nope. Just a few 5K finishers so far. You’re early!” she said.

Her comment made me feel pretty darn proud.

I hit the portapotty, got some electrolyte drink and posted up near the finish to watch Bryce, Phyllis and Andrew finish their 10K races. Bryce came flying in, beating the guy behind him by a handful of seconds. Phyllis and Andrew later arrived running side by side looking very happy and cute.

Overall, it was a great day of running for everyone.

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And, to my great surprise, I finished second overall in the women’s division! (Bryce won third in the 10K, too).

“And you say you’re injured?” everyone kept saying to me as I held my “second place” mug I was awarded that I had filled with popcorn.

Maybe it was just luck, or the fact that only about 50 women ran the 5K race, but I did podium. And, while my knee did feel achy after I had completed the race, it really wasn’t that bothersome during the race.

I guess I’m officially not injured anymore?

Injured runner: I’m “racing” tomorrow!

I’m signed up to do a trail 5K race tomorrow at Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island.

My only goal is to finish. I don’t care about time. I don’t care about pace. I don’t care about place. (Well, actually, I wish I could say I don’t care about coming in dead last, I do care, but I’m going to try to not think about this).

Oh, also, no matter what — no crying!

I’ve never done a trail 5K so I guess whatever time I finish in, it’ll be an automatic PR.

The funny thing is, exactly five years ago, I ran this same race — although, I think at the time, they didn’t have a 5K option, so I did the 10K.

I remember being nervous and not knowing what the whole trail running craze was about. Five years ago, it was my first ever trail race. I had been a seasoned road runner but the trails were unknown to me.

I came out of it on the other side, loving the trail running scene. I wanted to improve on my road race times, but I also wanted to be out in the mountains. I tackled longer trail running distances. I even successfully trained and completed a trail ultra marathon! 

Yet, here we are.

Not starting over, but being nervous to run a trail race again. Heck, I’m just nervous to run any race! The last race I ran was nearly TWO YEARS AGO. Since then, I’ve dealt with multiple MRIs, a second opinion and lots of physical therapy — self reflection. Oh, and the knee pain, duh. I secretly registered for this first race post-injury to be on the trails instead of the roads because if I have to stop and walk, it won’t be as awkward or noticeable … hopefully.

Also, it’s just a 5K, right?