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?

IMG_0037

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.

IMG_0050

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?

Advertisements

Injured runner: The new normal?

I’m running three to four times a week — anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

I dusted off the pretty Suunto I was gifted for Christmas (of 2016). I’m still getting used to the device and am learning all its features but the main reason I am using the GPS watch is because I need to know how far I am running.

Because I am attempting a 5K trail race at the end of the month.

I signed up for the race several weeks ago and with my PT’s “blessing,” I am encouraged to train for it.

But, what does training entail? It just means I am running three to four times a week and making sure I am at least hitting three miles.

I am slow.

I’m able to run three miles at just over 10 minute/mile pace. This is slow for me. It makes me frustrated and fine all at the same time.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be back to my “normal running self” again.

Will I comfortably be able to run sub 9s in my neighborhood for a leisurely run? Will I be able to knock out a 7-minute pace road 5K like I once did?

Will I ever be able to sub-4 hour the road marathon? Something I never accomplished before I got injured but that I attempted time and time again …

Or, is going out for 30-minute runs with some off and on soreness on my left knee going to be my forever? Will racing be “just to finish” rather than to fulfill a time goal? Will I just never be running or racing long distances again?

I don’t know.

I’m hoping all of this is not my new normal. I’m hoping it’s my new temporary.

Stronger than you think

I looked up from the TV monitor attached to the elliptical, tired of another “Chopped” rerun on the Food Network, and saw a wall full of motivational phrases and words painted across from me.

It was a Saturday morning of PT exercises followed by some form of cardio at the gym.

I was over it. I’ve been over it. I am over it.

Who knew that August of last year when the doctor diagnosed me with a stress fracture of the knee after my first MRI, that I would still not be running today. (For the record, he told me I’d be running anywhere from six weeks to six months).

It’s been 14 months since then.

I’ve had a new doctor since then.

I’ve done a lot of walking, swimming, PT exercises, stationary biking and elliptical-ing. I’ve talked a lot about not running. I’ve written a lot about not running.

But, back to that Saturday morning at the gym.

One phrase on the wall stood out to me the most: You are stronger than you think.

I kept repeating the sentence over and over in my head as I continued using the elliptical. It was kind of cathartic.

In all 10, 15+ years of being a runner*, not running has been the biggest challenge.

But, I am stronger than I think. And so are you.

 

*I ran cross-country in high school as a freshman but didn’t even like running then. I did it for the social aspects of being on a team. By no means did I consider myself a runner back then. But, I stuck with the team throughout high school and running became my lifelong friend. As you can see, I’m not good at letting go of friendships. 

Injured runner: Hiking it out

I have a new goal.

If I’m not going to get any running miles in this year, well, I’m going to get some hiking miles in!

My doctor and physical therapist both have no objections to hiking. Doc said maybe wear a brace just so it will mentally make me feel stronger, if nothing else. So, for the past several weekends, I’ve been going on a hike nearly every week.

IMG_8654

My goal? To hike at least 30 times during my 30th year.

My birthday was in June and I have already gone on 10 hikes. (I didn’t officially start this goal until like September with my first hike of the season being in August). Seeing that I have eight more months until my next birthday, I’m pretty confident that I will be able to surpass my goal of 30.

Maybe this is the “silver lining” of being injured from running.

IMG_8783

I get to hike.

When I’m marathon training, my whole schedule revolves around running. Since there’s always a long run that needs to “get done” on weekends, there is never time — or energy — for a hike to fit into my training plans. My priority has always been running.

IMG_9072

I got some great hikes in during the summer with friends and family. Now that it’s cooler — and snowy — Bryce and I have done a few “winter hikes” already. I’m pretty lucky that even though I’m injured from running, I am still able to climb to the tops of mountains, see water falls and witness the Cascades in all of its glory.

Of course, I still miss running every day.

At least now I can have my weekly hike to look forward to.

A runner who isn’t running

It’s been 11 months since my last injury-free run.

It’s been nine months since my last run.

As each day passes, I feel less and less like a runner. I try not to think about running or not running since it just puts me in a bad/sad mood.

But, it has been nice when others make comments to me, treating me like the runner they knew before I got my stress fracture.

One friend who is currently training for an IRONMAN, recently messaged me on Facebook asking for running advice. She asked me for any nearby hilly running route recommendations because she needs to do more hill training in preparation for her race.

I was touched that she reached out to me and responded with a few of my go-to routes. (Yes, Discovery Park, you obviously made the list!)

And then I was chatting with a colleague who used to work on my team and she asked me if I was running again yet. When I told her that I wasn’t and that I have still been experiencing off-and-on knee pain, her response was something along the lines of, “Wow, that must be really hard for you. After all, several of us on the team ran but you were the only real runner among us.”

I was beaming on the inside that she called me a real runner.

We’ve been having a few sun breaks in Seattle in the midst of all the dumping-rain spells. I do still gauge the temperature based on whether it would be running-shorts-weather or not.

So, some runner instincts still cannot be erased.

 

Continuing the run commute

Just a check in to keep me honest on run commuting home.

It’s still happening, folks!

I’m getting my runs in after work.

I’m not getting stressed out waiting for the bus.

I’m enjoying Seattle fall weather.

And, so far, I haven’t had a single run in the rain. (Knock on wood).

IMG_3846

As the colder and wetter weather comes into full force, I will do my best to continue to run one to three times a week home from work.

The hardest part will probably be packing my running outfit the morning of.

IMG_3845

But, if wardrobe dilemmas are the hardest part, I think fall/winter run commuting will be just great!

Pre-25K race jitters

Saying I’m nervous for my race would be an understatement.

I feel unprepared, under-trained, and out of my element.

I will be doing the Cle Elum 25K this coming Saturday but after last Saturday’s fall, I’m not feeling too confident.

What if I fall again?

Also, to add insult to injury — Is that the right phrase for this situation? — my left scraped-up leg hurts just when walking!

If I were about to embark on a road race, I would be very confident in my training. I know I’m in good shape for a road runner.

But, for the trails? I’m not so certain.

Training for this race, I only got out to the trails maybe a total of five times.

And, my last trail race was two years ago!

Also, the furthest distance I have raced on trails was eight miles. I will be doing about double that come Saturday.

*Happy thoughts*happy thoughts*happy thoughts*

Phyllis, my seasoned trail runner-friend (and might I add, trained and successfully raced a trail marathon while in medical school!) told me to treat my 25K as a brisk hike.

I really hope it’s brisk, and not a slog-fest.

I really hope I don’t fall.

I have no goal time. I don’t even care if I come in last place.

I just want to finish — with a smile.