Friday, September 11, 2015

What We Carry

God bless the families of the victims of 9/11/2001.  May God continue to comfort them and hold them closely as America vows to never forget those who lost their lives that day.

As I signed onto this page today, I could not believe that the last time I posted a note was on February 10th.  Back in June, I started a post about my experience crewing and pacing my brother, Jack, during the Western States 100.  I never finished it and there is no way I could do that experience justice now.  It was awesome and one I won't ever forget.  I was actually on the plane back to Cincinnati and it was as fresh in my mind as it could have possibly been.  I had free wifi (thanks to my husband's American Express business card) and 4 plus hours of uninterrupted time.  Or so I thought on the uninterrupted part.  I quickly realized writing would be a difficult undertaking based on my "seat mates".  The lady on the left was  very unaware of personal space invasions and the gal on my right was apparently terrified of flying.  There was simply no way to get lost in thought and let the words flow.

I've missed writing very much.  I wish I made time for it, but I don't.  I've been fortunate enough in the past two years to remain injury free, which allowed me to spend the early morning hours running.  At least that was the case up until 4 weeks ago.  I decided to train for, and race, the Air Force Marathon.  It  is on September 19th… eight days from today and my Lucy's 9th birthday.  I figured summer training would be doable with more time in the mornings to train.  Before I signed up, I checked with Lucy to make sure that she was ok with mom being gone all morning on her birthday.  I told her I wanted to run a marathon and I wanted to, once again, try for a BQ.  She was on board, and soccer schedule permitting, assured me she would be waiting for me at the finish line.  I signed up and personalized my bib with, "Happy Birthday, Lucy!"  I was sure that all would come together that day.

Training did not go as planned.  I did get the scheduled miles and workouts in.  I used a personalized Jack Daniels training plan that had specific workouts tailored for my goal time.  I decided not to "self coach" this time around.  I researched and read a lot about Jack Daniels as a coach and the success of his training plans and decided to give it a try.  I really liked the plan and will do it again someday.  One of the huge pieces missing for this training cycle was any kind of mental edge.  In truth, I trained tired much of the time.  Summer bed times were often quite late and morning runs, early in order to beat the heat.  The combination did not do anything to enhance the training experience or my mindset.  As the weeks went by, my enthusiasm for training was spiraling.  I was doing something 6 days a week that was not only difficult, but I wasn't rested doing it.  And although moods and attitudes during training can and do wax and wane, this was different.  By week 14, I was on the verge of scrapping the race altogether.  I just didn't think I could get myself mentally where I needed to be to race through 26.2 miles on a course that wasn't my favorite.  But I also didn't want to walk away from all the training when physically, my body was adapting well and I where I needed to be.  On August 16th, I set out for a 19 mile long run with Jen and Kim.  I had gone to bed after midnight the night before (or I should say, the day of) and was up at 4:30 to fuel for the 6 am start time.  To say I wanted nothing to do with 19 miles that morning was an understatement.  While running, I confided in Kim and Jen about my thoughts of just not doing the race.  We weren't close enough for nerves to be a factor.  I wasn't scared.  I was exhausted.  I told them I didn't think I had the ability to race the distance mentally.  If that were the case, it didn't matter how well prepared I was physically.  Anyone who runs marathons knows that a mental edge is critical on race day.  It's just too far to go to not be mentally on task.  I thought with the school year starting, earlier bedtimes would help me get more sleep and perhaps I could tweak my training and do one of the three other local marathons this fall.  I hadn't decided that, I was just tossing it around.

My last run was August 19th.  That morning, I set out to do a 9 mile speed workout with Jen, Erin and Greg.  After a two mile warm up, we began our interval miles.  Somewhere around mile 5, I noticed an ache in my lower back on the right side.  I didn't think too much of it.  Strange aches and weird pain that means nothing is par for the course in distance running.  By mile 7, it was really sore.  At mile 8 we started our first cool down mile and I knew that I needed to be done at my car even though we had one more cool down mile to go.  I let the gang know and headed home.  Again, I figured it was something dumb and for whatever reason, I was just having an off day.  After getting home and sitting for about 10 minutes at the computer, I got up and started to head to the kitchen.  The pain in my lower back upon trying to walk was now, severe.  I had never experienced anything like it.  I still couldn't imagine anything was too wrong since I had been fine, literally, 2 hours prior and ran fine for the the first few miles.  Injuries usually give warning and I had none.

After nearly two plus weeks of rest from running, increasing discomfort, difficulty walking, an X-ray, and an MRI, I finally had an answer.  I have a sacral stress fracture on the right side.  This was thought to be brought on by a fall down my steps in MAY, where I bruised my tailbone, and then the beginning of marathon training before it healed.  The stress of the training on an already weakened area was likely too much, causing the fracture.  The treatment?  4-6 weeks on crutches and NO lower body exercise.  AT ALL.  No bike, no elliptical, no swimming.  No lower body strength training of any kind.  And no weight bearing on the right leg.

No Air Force Marathon.  The hand was forced.

I am doing surprisingly well with this injury and I don't know why.  What is bothering me most is not the no running, but the no weight bearing in a family of 6.  It's practically impossible and as much as I am trying to adhere to this, there have been times this week when I have ditched the crutches.   However, I am staying true to the no lower body exercise or workouts.  The pain is considerably better, though I feel a little dull ache when I don't use my crutches.  Absolutely nothing like it was.  Both my mom and my brother have graciously provided meals for my family in addition to John doing some cooking.  We are getting along ok and before I know it, I'll be back.  This is the most severe injury I've had, with the least amount of going stir crazy.  I can only attribute this as a very clear sign that I was mentally fried and needed time off from running.  Running is part of my life and what I do and although I will start again in a very de-conditioned state, without a doubt, I will run well again.  It is not something I will ever give up willingly and something I find worth doing as long as God wills me healthy enough to do it.

It is through running that life's burdens are eased a bit.  Just this year alone, three of my running friends suffered difficult losses.  All three were cancer.  Two were sudden and quick and one was a nine year battle.  On some of the most difficult days for Jen, Greg and Suttan, they showed up to run with the group or with someone.  They did not show up because they were training or because they didn't want to miss a workout.  They did not show up to be at the top of the Garmin Leader board (where we are connected and see each others workouts and mileage).  They showed up to have their heavy hearts lightened through encouragement and listening ears. They showed up to be reassured that they and their loved ones were being lifted up in prayer.   And they showed up for each other… to be a friend in the midst of their own rough stuff.  That's how it is with running.  We go through life carrying loads, or crosses as I see them.  Some are light, some are heavy, but we all carry them.   No one has a problem free life.  Running eases that weight, if only for 30 minutes or an hour or 3 hours.  It provides an escape and an outlet.  There is seldom a group run that laughter isn't part of.  I never have a solo run that prayer isn't part of.  Either way, I always come home feeling lighter and better equipped to handle what the day brings.  I know they do too.

As my wonderful friends get ready for their big races (Suttan and Sarah, Air Force Marathon, Kim, Air Force half marathon, Jen, Berlin Marathon (yes, GERMANY), Erin and Greg, Ironman Louisville), I can only say I have nothing but respect and admiration for what they have trained through… work, kids, illness and death.  May the only thing they carry on race day be the combination of a strong mental edge and pure joy in their hearts.

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