I Haven’t Got Time for the Pain…

This week one of the quotes from my running journal caught my eye:

“There is no time to think about how much I hurt; there is only time to run.”

Timing-wise, it’s well-placed in my journal, because over the past couple of weeks my teammates and I have really started to feel the aches and pains that start to come with the increase in mileage in our training. Some have actual injuries that they are nursing (minor, thankfully, and they should be able to come back after a couple weeks of rest), but for most of us, the repetitive stress on our muscles and joints is just starting to, well–HURT–myself included. Oh, I’m not 80 years old? Well tell that to my hips, because they disagree.

In my last post I had talked about how I could really feel how my training properly this year and including regular stretching/foam rolling and cross-training with my running had been resulting in my running improving. And it still is. I had a killer tempo run a couple weeks ago at 8:30/mile which is INSANE for me (and doubtful that it will be repeated on race day, but it was nice to log such a fast 5K on my Garmin). But with last week’s 28 total miles for me, I can feel the strain the running is starting to put on my body. Some of this is to be expected–it is marathon training, after all. However, I know from my experience last year that a couple of the pains (shin splints, hips being too tight) are more serious injuries waiting to happen and are freaking me out a little, particularly since this week last year was the week I did the damage that I ignored which subsequently turned into an injury sidelining me for a month before the marathon.

Our 14-miler on Saturday was the first group run since we have started training this year that we were really slow (or, as my pal Rebecca put it, “extra caboose-y”). Our actual pace wasn’t too bad, but we were out there a longer time overall because we stopped a lot. Part of it was that I needed a bathroom break and my friends waited for me despite a very long line at the Newton Fire Station (thanks, ladies), part of it was taking time to chat with our teammates Mia and Regan from last year at the water stop they were running (you rock) and part of it was that we ran a portion of Heartbreak Hill and stopped for pictures along the way (it didn’t happen if there aren’t pictures).

 

But OOOOOF. After the run, I was dead. Back pain, hip pain, leg pain, headache…no bueno. When I got home, I took an epsom salt bath to try to fend off some of the pain I knew was coming, but it didn’t help very much. I iced my left hip that night which did the trick for that area. I had a massage on Sunday thanks to a gift card I gave to my husband in 2013 that he finally decided he was never going to use, and that provided some relief, even if I did feel like I was going to cry when the masseuse started working on my calves and quads. I was hoping that come Monday, I would feel rested and ready to get back at it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I went to my 5 am class at the gym and I felt actual pain in my shins, not just muscle aches. So…what to do?

There are only 10 weeks left until the marathon and NO, I really DON’T have time to think about the pain. But I remember “toughing it out” last year when I started to feel this way and ending up in an MRI machine worried I had a stress fracture (I didn’t), and I don’t want that to happen again. It’s difficult once you get into the groove of your runs and cross-training to take yourself out of it, even if you know it’s ultimately in your best interest, but I had to put aside the guilt I felt for not running and listen to my body. So instead of my 3 “short” runs this week (5 miles, 4 miles hills, 4 miles tempo), I jogged in the pool, did extra foam-rolling and stretching, and took ibuprofen and turmeric to reduce inflammation. It’s Thursday and I THINK I feel better but I won’t know for sure if this all helped until our 16-mile run Saturday.

Come race day, I will have to ignore all the pain that goes along with running 26.2 miles and just RUN, but until then I will keep trying to do what I need to to make it to the starting line on April 15th for Boston, and again on April 28th for the London Marathon. Wish me luck.

 

I’m running the Boston Marathon in 2019 and raising money for Boston Children’s Hospital. If you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please donate in any amount here: DONATE

 

Slow and Steady and All That…

Confession: I am not a patient person.

Some of you reading this just laughed and said “DUH.” This is really not a secret about me. I like things done immediately, I like instant results, and I don’t like waiting. It’s not that I’m not willing to work hard for something, but I get frustrated easily if I don’t see changes immediately. Truthfully, this trait has served me fairly well in most areas of my life. I am an action person. I decide to do something and I do it, and get it over with sooner than later even if I don’t like it. There are a few things I procrastinate about…like laundry, or cold calling for work. But overall, I would say being impatient works for me.

Except when it comes to training for a marathon and trying to lose weight. Then it works NOT AT ALL.

These things require CONSISTENCY over an extended period of time to see results. This directly contradicts my impatience and has resulted in a) me remaining at the back of the pack while training for the marathon in 2018 and b) gaining 40+ pounds over the past 9 years and never being able to get it off permanently again.

Yes, I trained more for Boston in 2018 than I had ever trained for a run before. But was it consistent? Did I give it 100%? If you had asked me that last year I probably would have said yes. But looking back, and comparing it to this year, the answer to those questions would be a hard no.

We get a plan from the coaches at the beginning of the season. Basically the training consists of 4 runs each week–3 during the week on our own and 1 longer group run on Saturday, with cross-training and rest days. The mileage gradually increases over the weeks, and includes hill runs and tempo runs (runs where you are running at the speed you plan to on race day). For example, our training plan this week is:

Monday: 4 easy miles
Tuesday: 4 miles with hills
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 2 mile tempo with 1-2 mile warmup and cooldown
Friday: Rest or cross-train 45 minutes
Saturday: 8 miles long
Sunday: Rest or cross-train 45 minutes

We are also supposed to work in foam rolling/stretching.

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Scenes from this week’s hill run…good times

Last year, I figured as long as I got the mileage in, I was doing what I was supposed to. So if that meant skipping the runs on Monday and Tuesday because I was too busy and doing 8 miles on a Wednesday to make up for missing a 4 mile run on Monday and Tuesday, that’s what I did. It wasn’t always like that, but it definitely happened regularly. I also didn’t do hills every week, and I literally have no recollection of EVER doing a tempo run–maybe it happened, but I don’t remember it if it did. Most importantly, I NEVER cross trained. Not once. And I didn’t foam roll or go to yoga to stretch out all those sore muscles.

And guess what? I felt like I was dying on almost every long run. My feet hurt the entire run. My back hurt all the time. I would come home from long runs and barely be able to walk for 2 days afterward. Even though I was working harder than I ever had before, I wasn’t seeing changes right away and it was super frustrating. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was the CONSISTENCY of doing these runs on the days the coaches instructed us to, with the mileage they instructed us to, and the cross-training on the days they told us to, etc. that eventually would add up to a strong race day.

Of course, I learned the hard way that not following the plan was a bad idea. I think it was mid-February and I had had a niggling pain above my knee for about a week or so. I had been to an orthopedic doctor earlier in the week to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture or anything like that and had been cleared to run. I can remember being toward the end of our 17 mile group run and literally having to will my leg to lift up to run when we stopped at a stoplight because I was in such bad shape. At the beginning of the following week during a run on my own, I felt a sharp pain in my thigh above my knee. I kept running despite the pain (another thing the coaches had told us not to do) until it was so bad it was actually making me cry. I was afraid I had a stress fracture after all. Come to find out when I went back to the ortho and saw a different doctor, the X-ray I had had at my previous visit would not have revealed a stress-fracture, so I needed an MRI. I could barely walk. It was bad. All that training, all that fundraising for Boston Children’s, and now I wasn’t going to be able to run?

Long story short…I had the MRI and thankfully, it wasn’t a stress fracture. It was a thigh splint. But if I had kept running, it could have turned into a stress fracture, and that would have required surgery to fix. So…I finally started listening to the coaches, only now it was on my modified plan of physical therapy, aquajogging, biking, and going to the chiropractor 3 times a week. No running for at least a month, and there still wasn’t a guarantee that I would be ready by race day. By the time I was healed, I had missed 5 weeks of training, including the 21 miler (the longest we run before the actual marathon) and the taper had started (for non-marathoners, this is a reduction in mileage in the 2 weeks before the marathon to let your body rest a little). I made the last 8 mile run with the team, but without having logged that extra mileage in the previous 5 weeks, I had no idea if I would be able to do 26.2 miles on race day.

Race day came and I survived, but it was painful. Not because of the thigh splint–that was fine. But I really just wasn’t prepared. Combined with the freezing cold temps and rain, it was like pure hell on my body running that day.

That’s why I resolved to do things differently this year. It’s well-established that I’m never going to be a fast runner, but I needed to improve substantially on an almost 6-hour marathon and not get injured in the process of training. I was also SUPER unhealthy and needed to get back in shape not only to make running easier on my body, but so I can be around for many more years for my daughter. I set a goal of running Boston in under 5 hours and I made the following decisions:

  1. Follow the plan with as few adjustments as possible, including cross-training (I try to do it 3 times a week instead of 2) and foam rolling
  2. Get a nutritionist to help keep me on track with healthy eating and hopefully some weight loss (you’d think it would be easy to lose weight while marathon training…no. You’re hungry ALL. THE. TIME.)
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One month of training down…SOS is my gym, by the way, so these are days I cross-trained, not distress signals

This means scheduling everything ahead of time so I can ensure I run on the days I am supposed to, planning my cross-training workouts at 5 am to make sure I get them in, and planning out meals and tracking my food religiously. I also have a running journal where I track every run and make notes about what I ate before, what I wore, the weather, how I felt during it, etc. so I can see what works and what doesn’t over the next few months of training. I’ve been putting aside excuses I can make and am just doing all of it, whether I feel like it or not on that particular day. Probably the biggest change, though, is that I am giving myself some grace and not beating myself up if I don’t see immediate results.

And get this: all this consistency is working.

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The first group run where I wasn’t the last person to run in (also: Christmas silliness)

I first noticed it at my first run back with the group a couple of weeks ago for our 5 miler. I WASN’T THE LAST RUNNER TO COME BACK. IT WASN’T HARD TO KEEP UP WITH MY FRIENDS. I ACTUALLY GOT TO TALK TO THE COACHES DURING THE RUN BECAUSE I WASN’T WAY AT THE BACK OF THE PACK.

Then I noticed it with my recovery times. MY BACK DOESN’T HURT AFTER WORKOUTS. I’M NOT HOBBLED FOR DAYS AFTER ANY RUNS OVER 5 MILES.

Then I noticed it this week lifting weights. I DOUBLED THE WEIGHT I WAS USING FOR DEADLIFTS COMPARED TO 6 WEEKS AGO.

I’ve also lost 6 of those 40 extra pounds in the past 6 weeks. So that doesn’t suck.

The thing is, if I were going for a quick fix again and hadn’t accepted that I needed to be PATIENT, none of these changes would be happening. I would have kept with my same old patterns and had the same outcomes as before, if not worse. In the past, I would have given up by now because the changes hadn’t been drastic enough. Instead, I am excited to see the cumulative effect of all this hard work come April 15th.

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.”
― Anthony Robbins

I’m running the Boston Marathon in April 2019 with the Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles Team and have a goal of raising $15,000 by race day. Your contribution in any amount is appreciated! Click here to donate! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Takes a Village

December 3rd marked the start of my training for the 2019 Boston Marathon. On day 2 of training, my Facebook “memories” informed me that I had run my first 5K–a Reindeer Run–on that day 8 years ago with my friend Suzi. I don’t remember whose idea it was to do it, but it was a cold day, I don’t think either of us had trained, and it ended up taking us about 45 minutes. But feeling the energy of everyone around me made it fun, and Suzi and I were able to lean on each other to get us through the run. We were a team of two, wearing Rudolph headbands, but we were a team nonetheless.

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So this past week and a half, I’ve had teammates–the tribe that keeps you going–on my mind–a LOT.  My family and non-runner friends are hugely supportive of my running and I would not be able run marathons without them babysitting, changing their schedules around so I can run, helping me fundraise and cheering me on on race day, and I am insanely grateful for them. But other runners understand on a personal level what you’re going through when you run, because they have likely been through it. And long runs go by WAY faster if you are running with someone else. As the hours go by, you talk about basically everything–your aches and pains, your families, your childhood, your jobs, your favorite music–even poop. Yeah, there is a lot of talk about bodily functions when you run together.  Needless to say, you get to know each other EXTREMELY well, and these people become some of the best friends you will ever have. So without further ado, this post is about the runners, including Suzi (who has gone on to run numerous road races and volunteered at mile 17 of the 2018 Boston Marathon) who have inspired me over the past 8 years and have made it possible for me to even contemplate running a marathon.

Although I ran track in high school for one season and jogged here and there over the years to keep in shape, I never really considered myself a runner. And if I’m being honest, I still kind of don’t. I certainly am not the “typical” runner. I am not lanky or light on my feet. I’m not ever at the front of the pack. One day I hope to have a race photo where I don’t look like I am walking or about to keel over and die.

So I remember distinctly almost 10 years ago hearing my best friend Katie talk about running with Team in Training and preparing for her first road races. Katie, who had previously said she “would not run unless being chased.” Katie, who has gone on to run multiple marathons, triathlons, and even completed an Iron Man. But beyond what she accomplished race-wise, what stood out to me was the friendships and bonds she formed with her teammates. These were ride or die, best friends for life. And I thought “Maybe if Katie can do it, I can, too.” I mean, not an Iron Man. That’s just crazy talk. And not even a marathon at that point…but the running. Maybe it was doable. But without a crew, or even a running partner to push me, I was still not terribly motivated to get started.

Enter Carolyn. When I met her in 2013, I had no idea she would end up becoming a best friend, one of my favorite people in the world, and my running inspiration. She was training for the Boston Marathon at the time and I remember thinking “This is insane! How can she do this?” Despite following Katie’s training over the years (she lives in California, I in Massachusetts, so I was observing from afar), I honestly really had no idea what training for a marathon entailed or, if I’m being honest, how many miles it was. I just knew that the Boston Marathon was long and difficult, had something called Heartbreak Hill in it that apparently really sucked, and that as a kid I used to get annoyed I couldn’t watch cartoons on Patriots Day because the marathon was televised instead.

Although she couldn’t finish in 2013 because of the bombings, Carolyn went on to run Boston again and finish in 2014, and I was there to cheer her on, which was an amazing experience.

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She has since run numerous marathons, triathlons and finished an Iron Man as well. Her passion for running and finishing what seems impossible sparked something in me, and I started running (often with Carolyn) on a regular basis. I finally had a partner in crime for this crazy ride. Her enthusiasm for running was infectious. I loved hearing her stories about her two Bostons and other races, and maybe it’s the teacher in her, but she passed along so much knowledge about the background of the Boston Marathon and running tips that it was impossible not to start getting curious about running Boston.

Without watching Carolyn’s and Katie’s successes, I can’t say if that seed that was planted back with my first 5K in 2010 would have grown into anything. But seeing what they accomplished and having their encouragement as I started to run regularly meant everything, through more 5Ks, 5 milers, 10Ks and half-marathons. I took a break from running while I was pregnant (I admire women who run throughout their pregnancies…but I am not one of those women), and got back at it shortly after my daughter’s birth in 2015, running a half marathon with hardly any training about 4 months later (I DON’T recommend this).

I should add here that my daughter’s birth was complicated, because that’s how I ended up running for Boston Children’s Hospital. She was born in complete liver failure due to what we were later told was a genetic fluke (read: they have no idea why it happened) and needed a liver transplant immediately. As of this writing, Natalie is the youngest surviving liver transplant recipient at Boston Children’s Hospital, having received her transplant at 10 days old. We owe BCH and her liver donor Natalie’s life, and I vowed when she was in the hospital I would do anything I could to help give back to the hospital for what it had done for us. [You can read more about Natalie’s story here: Natalie ]

Cut to late summer 2017. There was no build-up to deciding I was going to run a marathon. I literally just woke up one day and decided I was going to try to run Boston in 2018. No forethought…which is probably a good thing or I might have talked myself out of it. I did some research and applied to the charity that meant the most to me–but which is also extremely popular and somewhat competitive to get on without a personal story–the Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team. I was lucky enough to be asked onto the team, and my training began.

Remember that whole thing about me being a slow runner? Yeah. That’s rough when you’re on a team with a bunch of incredible athletes like the Miles for Miracles Team. Thankfully on my first group run with the team, I met Matt. He had posted something on the Miles for Miracles team page about looking for runners who wanted to run his pace, and that happened to be close to mine. [I’m just going to say right now that Matt SMOKED the 2018 Marathon and ran it in close to 4:30. I mean, WOW. But I digress.] We ended up running most of the rest of our group runs together, until I got injured a month before the marathon and had to do my workouts in a pool. But in that time, we formed an incredible friendship. And while I was injured, Matt texted me almost every day to see how I was doing. I honestly want to cry thinking about it because I don’t know if I would have kept it up without his support. But it wasn’t just Matt. We had formed a little group on the Miles for Miracles Team that we affectionately started calling “The Caboose Crew” because we were always the last to finish. (I was actually always dead last, so I am the caboose of the Caboose.) Over the months of training Matt, Mia, Jeremy, Rebecca and Sam became family to me. In fact, when my 2018 Facebook “Year in Review” popped up this year, 3/4 of the pictures were of me with these amazing people.

We come from all different backgrounds and have different stories of why we run and why we run for Boston Children’s, but our bond is absolutely incredible. I’m so happy to now also call their significant others and children my friends and extended family as well.

 

We helped each other make it through that hellish marathon. We’ve supported each other at various races since Boston, and even run a few together. When I decided to run Boston again in 2019, it was them I ran the idea by first. And it’s because of the friendships I formed with them that I thought I COULD do it again and couldn’t consider any other charity than Children’s to run for. I’m even running for my former teammate Jeremy’s daughter Elodie as one of my patient partners!

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Katie and Carolyn also played a huge part in me being able to finish the 2018 Boston Marathon. Katie raised thousands of dollars for Boston Children’s Hospital and traveled across the country while in extreme pain from an injury and ran with me. Incredible. And who was waiting for me after I made it over Heartbreak Hill? Carolyn and her husband, Tim. Knowing they were there waiting for me was literally what got me through the last miles of the race when everything hurt, I was bawling my eyes out and didn’t think I could pick my feet up.

 

So, if you are reading this, I just want to tell you that I am so incredibly thankful for all of you. You have inspired me, you have driven me, you have supported me, and you have quite literally picked me up when I was down. I wouldn’t be a runner if it weren’t for you. (Did I just call myself a runner?)

I love you, my tribe.

 

My goal is to raise $15,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital. If you can help, please donate here: Donate