Hello! Is this thing on? I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post. After Boston my life sort of took off and I didn’t have much free time (hence why the Boston Marathon Part 2 was never created). Summer came fast once finals ended, and I dove straight into work at the store. I took a few weeks of easy running to recover from the race, then my coach put together a short-term plan for a half marathon in Washington that June. I got to stay with my friend Kathryn and her husband, Rick at their home in Seattle. It was a wonderful trip, and I set a new PR on a very difficult, windy race course. Back to reality, I went home and went back to work. Chicago Marathon training began shortly after I got back, and I was looking forward to submerge myself into high mileage weeks and long Saturday runs.
I should point out that at the end of June I sort of struggled deciding if I wanted to go back to the Oxford campus. I had done my first two years there, and felt like by going to a branch campus instead, I’d be letting a lot of people down. My parents, as amazing and understanding as they are, supported any decision I made as long as it was what would lead to my own happiness. Not just them, my friends, coworkers, boss, and coach all told me to do what was best for me. I had to let go of what I feared other people would think of me. Don’t think I didn’t like Oxford; I loved it, but I didn’t love all of the drinking and drama. The campus is absolutely gorgeous and I had some of my most memorable runs there on crisp fall mornings. I definitely look forward to the few classes I’ll commute to Oxford for throughout the rest of my undergrad. As of now, I’ve really been enjoying the Hamilton campus.
Here I go, getting carried away again, but I just need to make sure I catch up on what’s been going on! A few more things until I get to some main points…
Back to my favorite topic… Running! At the very end of June I raced a 10k, and set a PR of 42:12; 6:49 average pace, first overall female, third overall finisher! Then on the 4th of July I ran a 5k (what? Maddie ran a race shorter than a half marathon?). I know it’s hard to believe. It was such a hot and humid day, but I got my 3rd PR of the year in a time of 20:20. I wanted to finish under 20 minutes but this girl isn’t build for speed! It was fun to do something outside of my comfort zone in the midst of marathon training. Finally, in August, I ran the Little Miami Half Marathon for the fourth year in a row. I had a major breakthrough and ran 1:34, qualifying to be moved up one corral at the Chicago Marathon. I felt great, and I started to believe that my goal of sub 3:20 in ChiTown was within reach.
One thing I really enjoyed about this training cycle was how often I ran with other people. I had neglected the group runs for awhile, but managed to get some really successful long runs in with the “fast kids” of the Mojo group. l should also mention that back in August I started dating this guy who hit on me while I was at work. Andy and I have been going out for about three months now. Although he is mostly a cyclist (mountain-biker), he joined me for the last third or half of my long runs which made them go by much more smoothly. It’s because of Andy that I managed to hit my tempo miles at the end of my runs. He always had a massive cooler filled with ice and water, cold Powerade, bars, and my guilty pleasure (Coke Zero) waiting for us when we got done. Let’s just say he won me over with that move. 🙂
Fastforward to tapering; as soon as my mileage started to go down, I experienced a lot of problems. My left sit bone had become really sore, and soon it radiated down to the outer-back side of my knee. I took three days off, with no difference made, but running seemed to make it feel slightly better. I used ice, wore a compression sleeve, got a massage, saw my PT (who performed Graston and cupping), and thought I’d be good to go. In Chicago, my good friend Johnny Ramos had come all the way from Colorado to run it with me. We did a shakeout run the day before the race and my hamstring was still “off”. The day of the race, things didn’t go how I anticipated at ALL. As soon as I crossed the start line I felt spasms going down my quads, as if my knees were going to buckle. After some awkward strides I eventually shook it off. Johnny and I managed my goal pace for the first 8 miles, that was before I made the first stop.
My hip flexors were twinging, and I felt like my body wasn’t working properly to lift my knee up when I ran. It was incredibly frustrating, and I think I knew deep down that the race just wasn’t going to happen. At the side of the road, I began to cry to Johnny, telling him I couldn’t go any further. I felt like such a loser, watching as everyone else ran by, enjoying the streets of my favorite race. He managed to talk me into running a little more; we ran/walked a bit, which is totally not like me. 10 miles in, I stopped again, my body just wasn’t functioning, and my throat began to close up. I sobbed again into Johnny’s shoulder and apologized, but he was supportive and encouraged me to keep going. I knew it was worthless, but I tried one last time; sometimes you just have a few bad miles then you get out of it. This was different, I’d felt miserable since the first step. Finally, just before the halfway mark I dropped out officially. Johnny made sure I went to the med tent where I could be shuttled back to the start, before I practically forced him to finish the race.
There is nothing more demoralizing, humiliating, and infuriating as a DNF. The people lining the streets by the start congratulated me as I hobbled to find my mom. I just nodded my head and kept moving. I finally got to my mom and she helped me get back to the hotel where I ate some avocado toast I felt I didn’t deserve. I love my mother, but she isn’t a runner, so during that time it was hard for her to understand what was going through my mind. I continued to track my friends on my phone as I ate, and noticed Johnny had started flying at a sub-7 pace throughout the second half. He managed a 3:41 despite stopping for 20+ minutes with me! I was glad, I knew he was feeling good. Kathryn and Rick were both doing well too; it was Rick’s first marathon, and he had hardly run the past two months due to injury!
These past few weeks since the race have been mostly a mental battle. I have been consoled by my coach, boss, fellow runner friends, and family. Constant thoughts of “could I have finished?”, “was I just not strong enough?”, and “will I ever be able to run a great marathon again?”. It all sounds dramatic, but when you put so much into one race and fall apart without even reaching the halfway mark, can you blame me? Physically, my hamstring was still not better. I took the longest break from running that I’ve taken since 2014; a full week. I met with a sports doctor last week, got an MRI Tuesday, and met again with my doc today regarding the results. No stress fractures, no torn tendons, no signs of anything that will require me to back off from my career. The diagnosis? An iliopsoas strain from muscular imbalances, causing a pelvic rotation and hamstring tendinitis.
What? That’s it? I just need to work on my strength and mobility? I don’t know if I should be happy or annoyed at the diagnosis. It does explain why my runs have been horrible though; my left leg feels like it’s just doing its own thing. After my appointment I went to ride the spin bike and I finally found a moment to think about everything that’s happened this past month. I realized that running is dangerous. Running will break your heart, but it’ll also make you feel the most alive you’ve ever felt in your life. I am so grateful for my body and the fact that it told me to stop in Chicago instead of potentially tearing something. That being said, I want to talk about these “dangers” and dangers of running. If you relate to any of these or want to add to it, leave a comment on this post!
1. Running is Hard: talented or not, if you’re a runner, you’ve had some really bad moments. Times when you thought you couldn’t go another step, or wanted to toss in the towel mid-workout. Runner are tenacious though, and incredibly stubborn (with a short memory) so nothing keeps us down too long.
2. You Get Injured: you could be the most disciplined runner in the world: stretching, warming up, cooling down, strength training, cross training, excellent training plan and mileage progression, great diet, and great mentality. However, even a runner as perfect as this would get injured somehow. The body has a funny way of saying it wants a break, and during these times you have to stop your beloved sport and heal.
3. You’re Hungry: runners are notorious for being incredibly hungry all the time. Long run day? Hungry. Track workout day? Hungry. Easy run day? Hungry. Oh, taper? STARVING. Along with our ravenous tendencies, we also have more digestive problems than any other human beings on the planet. Long runs + gels = GI hell.
4. Running is Expensive: water belts, fancy watches, socks, compression sleeves, medal hangers, technical shirts, and let’s not forget SHOES. 300-500 miles is the rule for the life of a pair of shoes, so that’s like a new pair every 2-3 months. Let’s not forget race fees; World Marathon Majors are ridiculously expensive, but then you have to pay for the hotel, food, travel, and race expo goodies! Note to all the young runners out there: get a damn good job.
5. You’ll Make Weird Friends: I’ve never really experienced peer pressure until I joined a run club. Then I would get text messages from people asking how far I was planning on running Saturday, and if I wanted to meet up an hour before run club started to get some miles in before it got too hot. We bond over our 2-3 hours of pounding our feet in the ground, blowing snot rockets, peeing in bushes, and choking down packets of goop. Then we collapse in piles of our own sweat, compare watch data, and talk about what the plan is for next weeks run.
6. It Becomes Your Identity: runners have a bad habit of losing all other titles for themselves other than “I’m a runner”. Devon Yanko, a professional ultrarunner, has her own bakery that she and her husband opened. When Devon was injured, she credits the bakery for keeping her composed because not all of her identity was gone. She isn’t just Devon the runner, she’s also Devon the bakery owner and Devon the wife. Find something else that you are passionate about so that you don’t make the mistake of falling into the identity trap.
7. Running is Addictive: the reason people fall into the identity trap is because running is addictive. Progress is a high; seeing times get faster as a result of successful training leaves runners coming back for more. Harder training, longer runs, better workouts, etc., all in the hopes of continuously chipping time away from their PR’s. Runners tend to be an obsessive bunch (according to my sports doc), so be sure you take off-season seriously to spend with family and be “normal”.
8. Endorphins: let’s get real here. A huge danger of being a runner is the accumulation of these little things called endorphins. You’ll run and you’ll feel like you are the most blessed individual in the world and you wonder if anyone else has even felt so incredible. But then, on your rest day, these endorphins retract from your body, leaving you sluggish, sad, irritable, and hangry. Beware of the dreaded endorphins; they will get you high, but you’ll get really low when they leave.
9. People Admire Runners: runners are the epitome of determination and tenacity, which gives them a lot of positive attention (especially on social media). Next thing you know, you have an entire community of people you’ve never met in person following you on Facebook. You want to live up to their expectations, and show them all the great things you can do! Runners always want to prove themselves to others; they need to focus on themselves sometimes.
10. You’ll Fall in Love: running will break your heart, but you’ll continue to come back for more because never in your life have you felt so alive and at peace. Running is the rock of your life that you can always come back to because it will always be there for you. Never take advantage of the ability to run, and consider every mile a gift to yourself. Stop thinking, don’t look at your watch or at others, and just run. Sometimes that’s all you need. One foot in front of another, I can assure you that you’ll fall in love with our sport.
“Always enjoy yourself. Don’t be upset if you don’t win, you’ve won by simply not giving up.” – Unknown
Until next time,