The reluctant runner

Honestly, I’m getting tired of not being 100 percent while running.

I still don’t think I have had a single run where my knee felt completely normal. There is always slight pain, or a minor ache.

It’s been two years since I first got injured. Shouldn’t my pain be 100 percent gone by now?

With all this being said, I haven’t been running much lately. I’d rather not run than run and not feel like my normal self.

It just doesn’t feel the same. I just feel worried that I am doing more harm to my knee. It isn’t fun.

I’ll try to get out to the pool since I haven’t at all yet this summer. And, I’ll continue my PT exercises.

But, maybe in a month or two I should go back to the doctor? Or, PT? Or, both?

Just feeling like a reluctant runner these days.

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Motivated by Boston

When I arrived at work Monday morning, I frantically searched for a free live-steam of the Boston Marathon. Nothing was working. I either needed to have a TV provider log-in or pay for a subscription of this or that. I was ready to give up and just read the live-Tweets of the race when a friend responded to my  “urgent” text and gave me his log-in info for an account that had access to view the race.

Des was making moves.

At first I watched with no sound. I am at work after all, and I have two monitors so I was trying to get through my emails while keeping an eye on the race. Eventually I plugged my headphones in to hear the commentary.

She had placed second at Boston in 2011 by a mere TWO SECONDS. Earlier in this race, she slowed down and “waited” for her U.S. teammate, Shalane, to use the porta-potty!

Who is this kind, badass, determined runner?

When she crossed the finish line with no other runners in sight, I felt the sense of accomplishment as if I did something to contribute to this momentous moment. 

Not only did Des Linden come in first at the Boston Marathon for the first time, she was the first American woman to do so in 30+ years!

Her time was now. In the pouring, windy Boston weather, she did it.

All the years, and she never gave up. The commentators called her a “blue collar runner” which I guess is a compliment since she worked hard and won the whole thing.

It makes me feel inspired to one day face the road marathon again. My goal has always been to break four hours at the marathon. I was so close at Eugene but ever since being out of commission from running for more than a year, my goal started diminishing.

Maybe I’m not cut out to run road marathons. Maybe I should just focus on “running for fun.” Maybe I should convert to solely being a trail runner. 

These have been my thoughts for the last six months to year.

But, let’s backtrack a bit …

In December 2015, as that year came to a close, I started setting goals for the new year. I used Year Compass — a free goal-setting booklet — that not only opens up your mind for goal setting for the new year, but also beyond.

There was a section in that booklet that prompted you to dream big. I had written “Boston?”

As a current 4:01 marathoner, I’d need to cut at least 30-35-minutes from my marathon time to qualify for Boston. This seems outrageous. And, just because I’m hyped and inspired by Des, does not mean I am going to go immediately chase this goal.

However, I am ready to start thinking about tackling a road marathon again. I’m not saying I will run one this year. Because, mentally and physically — and just with my I’m-so-busy-because-I’m-getting-married schedule — I’m not prepared to train and race a marathon this year.

Next year? Probably.

Boston? Who knows.

Maybe one day.

Reaching a goal: 30 during 30

Last summer when I was feeling sorry for myself for not being able to run, I created a goal for myself.

I will hike 30 times during my 30th year.

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Now, I started this goal in mid-July and my birthday was at the beginning of June. Even with those few “lost weeks,” I was excited to achieve this goal for my year. I wasn’t going to continue to let my running injury keep me down!

While the summer was busy, I went out often to the mountains and did several hikes — with friends, with Bryce and my family.

Bryce and I tried to squeeze in as many hikes as we could before Christmas-time and were even able to go on some nice snowy ones (that weren’t blizzarding!)

Then the new year rolled in and I sort of “forgot” about this goal as wedding planning started consuming my life. Now it’s mid-April and I’m freaking out a little bit because my count is at 21 and my birthday is less than two months away!

I think there are exactly nine weekends in between now and June 8 (my birthday), but I know I’m not available every weekend to go on a hike — soo many wedding “obligations” and just other things to do!

So, I’ve decided that trail runs are OK to add to my count as long as they are outside the city of Seattle. Also, I’m counting those cross-country and snowshoeing jaunts from the other month as well. Those were up in the mountains and involved walking (sort of), so they count, OK??

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I’m hitting my goal no matter what!

Running again, sort of

So, I’m running again. But, I’m still having a hard time saying it with a confident tone and with a smile on my face.

Why?

Because most of my runs are not 100 percent pain free.

There’s still a little wonkiness or minor pain or “weirdness” on my left knee.

I’m running about three or so times a week. Usually for about 30 minutes. Usually really slow. I’ve stopped using my GPS watch since the pace was getting me down.

But, I’m running. And, since I don’t have to worry about sticking to a strict training plan or anything, I can still do fun things on the weekends like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. (“Fun things” that usually get pushed aside whenever I am marathon training).

IMG_0165A few notes on cross-county skiing after my third time at it:

  • Not that big of a fan of it — the straightaways and uphills are fun, but the downhills are so scary!
  • I fell a few times on the downhills and ended up with a big bruise on my leg that lasted a week.
  • Great cardio though!

A few notes on my first time of snowshoeing:

  • Love it!
  • I thought it’d be awkward walking around in snowshoes but it was so much fun!
  • Can’t wait to go again next season.

Well, now that snow sports season is coming to a close — we almost had trouble finding snow for snowshoeing the other weekend! — I guess I can focus on running again, sort of.

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.

 

Injured runner: What I’m proud of

It’s easy to get frustrated when things don’t go the way you want them to, the way you think they should go. It’s easy to get annoyed when someone says or acts in a manner that is the complete opposite to what you view as correct or right.

It’s easy for those negative emotions to “turn on.”

I’d always run them off.

In my current state though — slowly returning to running  — I’m doing my very best to not get annoyed or frustrated or mad or sad.

Every run, even if it’s at three-minute intervals, is a victory. If my knee is not in pain, it’s a victory.

I’m currently at stage 5 (of 7) for my Return to Running program from my PT and I’m proud to say that every single run/walk I’ve done, I’ve done outside. I have not done a single one on the dreadmill. This has meant run-walking in complete darkness after work. This has meant run-walking in the cold and rain on the weekends.

I would never run on a treadmill when I was fully healthy so why would I run-walk on one?

Getting back to running, sort of

My “Return to Running Program” from my PT consists of seven stages. As the stages increase, so does your running time and overall time on your feet. For example, stage one you are active for a total of 20 minutes and only five of those minutes are running (and not even consecutively). By stage seven, you are at a total of 60 active minutes, with 40 of the minutes being running minutes.

I’m on stage three as of right now, where I am only running at two-minute consecutive increments. However, for Thanksgiving, my PT gave me a pass.

Earlier in the week at my appointment, we talked about the upcoming holiday and what we had planned. I told him that every year my high school cross country friends and I meet at 9 sharp at Discovery Park to run together. It’s a tradition we’ve continued for now 15 years! Last year, being injured, I walked with a few friends — one had just had a baby — and this year I figured I’d be walking again.

“If you want to run, you can run. And, then go back to your running program next week,” my PT said.

It was like music to my ears.

I know I’m my own person and I can do what I want. But, it was nice to hear from a professional that I was “allowed” to run (if I wanted to).

So, I did.

I managed one Discovery Park loop with no major incidents. It was a total of 29 minutes of running the 5K loop (with one quick break to take in the sights of Puget Sound from the bluffs).

It felt fantastic to run with my old friends. It felt fantastic to be on our old stomping grounds together, despite the rain.

My knee did not feel fantastic but it also was not in pain, per se. It just felt like it was maybe going to start being in pain. What was most painful was my breathing. I’ve just gotten so out of shape over the course of more than a year of being injured from running.

But, the victory in it all is I did it. I ran.

And, most importantly, I ran with friends.