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One step forward, two steps back.

Posted Mar 04 2013 1:30pm

Well, it’s been about a month since I last wrote– and I’d been meaning to post earlier as I was gradually returning to running and workouts (woo!), but the good times didn’t last too long.

I returned to running kinda gradually, and got back into workouts when I felt more confident, as my knee/leg issues seemed to be getting better. I felt in tune with my body and the lessening pain, and felt I could do a mix of running and cross-training, and with continued icing, foam rolling & stretching, the pain would gradually work itself out. And it seemed to be getting better, so I kept at it.

Until one day, after a workout and a ‘long’ run, my legs were super tight. Typically, an easy shake out run and a day or two of rest works out the stiffness for me– tight legs and sore muscles are common, and a given when increasing training load. But when things still felt off almost a week later, I knew something wasn’t right. I was clearly altering my gait to compensate for the pain, creating tightness and stiffness in entirely new areas unrelated to the knee/hip pain I’ve been dealing with for 2 months now.

About 1.5 weeks ago, I completed one of my favorite CPTC workouts– 8 miles, 4 at marathon pace and 4 at half-marathon pace. While my paces weren’t even close to my norms, which I’m OK with and respect, the bigger red flag was the leg stiffness that prevented me from opening my stride and settling into a rhythm. It felt like every step forward required SO much effort and balance, and I was totally limping on our cooldown. I rested on Friday, and decided to meet up with friends to shake it out on Saturday morning.

About 5 miles into that run, I called it quits. My leg, typically stiff to start but eases up after I warm up, wasn’t cooperating. I hung my head and had a total runner’s walk of shame the entire mile from Central Park to my apartment. It was cold, just starting to drizzle, and miserable. I resisted shedding some tears from frustration, and resigned myself to the fact that I just need to stop running until my leg gets 100% better.

I had been gearing up into workouts and regular runs in hope I could do the NYC Half as a workout and potentially get fit to PR by the Brooklyn Half in May. At this point, I know neither of those goals are attainable. I started to see a new doctor upon Kelly’s recommendation, for ART, Graston and chiropractic adjustments. My old PT didn’t do any of these things so I’m hopeful.

If I’m being honest, these past 9-10 months have been really defeating. Mentally, physically. The last race I ran was the Big Sur Marathon at the end of April ’12– though that was more of a run than a race, as with the ‘speed can kill’ Boston Marathon inferno last April as well. That’s a long time for me!

For someone who has been running seriously for the last 12 years, I have come to define myself as a runner. I feel most like myself when I am fit and cranking out long runs, workouts, and racing. I measure confidence and success by these runs and race results. I don’t just run to run, I run to run fast. And not being able to do so has me a bit depressed. Who am I?

I took a break this summer/early fall due to travel and stress demands. For my sanity and my health, that was the best decision for me at the time and while it was personally sad not running Chicago ’12, I don’t regret it one bit. Along the way, some weird health issues that I’m still trying to figure out have me feeling (and looking) totally unlike myself; I initially felt like I could get physically fit again through training but it’s pretty clear to me that I need to take some medical steps to make things normal again. And then there’s the knee/leg issue that’s been persistently bothering me since before Christmas. Set back after set back after set back. I don’t even want to calculate the amount of $$ I’ve spent in registration fees for races I haven’t run and continued doctor’s co-pays.

And yet, because I’m an optimist and I need to picture a light at the end of this funky tunnel, on February 19th I found myself cursing and accidentally registering twice for this race.

Chicago Marathon, I’m coming for you again! Thankful I decided to register before it turned into a lottery.

Call it silly based on how the last year has unfolded for me; the negative voice in me thinks I just need a true break from running and need to accept I’ve peaked and I’ll never get faster than my 3:03 at NYC ’11 . I’m determined to try to take the right steps to sort things out, get healthy, get fit, and continue my quest at sub-3:00. I’m only 25 (26 in about 2 weeks) and know beyond a lifetime of running, I better still have a few good years of competition ahead of me.

It’s still so early, and I need to be realistic with what I can achieve, but I owe it to myself to go for it. Maybe I’ll have to end up swallowing my ego and running this race for fun (vs. DNS-ing like this year), but I need to try. For the sake of my sanity, self, and happiness. I long for the feeling of a solid training cycle and successful race– where you’re truly challenged, motivated and driven throughout the process and accomplished post-race. I know I shouldn’t let running define me and dictate my happiness so much, but at this point in my life it’s still something I love and a passion point for me.

So, I’ll be working on getting myself healthy and back to baseline. I don’t know when I’ll return to running, but I’m going to be patient and cross-train until I feel fully confident there is no pain. If you’re still reading this long rambling after my once-a-month sporadic posting schedule, you rock. I’ll admit this has been a long, frustrating struggle but I’m hanging in to get back and better, and I thank you for checking on on my progress (or lack thereof).

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