Saturday, July 9, 2011

7 long months

Until now, I haven't had the guts to really look at the state of my training over the past 8 months.  I tell people that I was injured for 7 months and just started training 5 weeks ago, blah, blah, blah, but it always feels like I'm making lame excuses.  Here are the cold, hard facts:

After creating this chart, I stared at it as a lump formed in my throat.  There it is: 7 months of hardly any running and only 2 workouts.  In the 6 months from November through May, I ran a total of 479 miles.  That's an average of 17 miles per week.  Sadly, most of that was test running, and I was in pain.  Yes, I cross trained, but cross training only tides you over for a few weeks before your running-specific fitness starts to drop off dramatically.

Tonight, I did my first race since the Athens Marathon: the World Masters Athletics Track and Field Championships 5000m.  It's funny to think that I signed up to race this event on April 24th, just before registration closed. At that point, I was still injured but somehow held out hope that I would be able to run a 5k by July.  The following week, I would be told by all my local healers that they could not help me any longer. Worse, I was stuck without even a diagnosis.  I was devastated by the scary thought that I might never be healed.  Of course you know, shortly thereafter, Dr. Ball worked some magic allowing me to start training again.

As soon as I began regularly running pain free, I became excited for this race.  I never once thought about not running it.  I was not worried about being embarrassed with a slow time.  I also didn't have my normal pre-race anxiety.  This was a different kind of excitement centered around just participating in a race.  In fact, I only had two goals:
1) run around the track for 12.5 laps without pain; and
2) enjoy being part of this once-in-a-lifetime, world championship competition.

I am happy to say that I met both goals and truly enjoyed myself.  I didn't have much of a race plan.  I just wanted to start out at a pace I thought I could hold for a while and see how that felt.  I picked 90 second quarters as my starting pace.  Of course, conditions were hot, but they weren't as hot as they could have been for 8:00 on a July evening in Sacramento.   I ran my own race, holding those 90s for the first mile, then eased off a bit for the rest of the race realizing that I was completely out of the main competition.  I finished in 19:02.  I felt like I ran strong, without making myself uncomfortable.  From my vantage point, I was able to watch the race unfold for the lead pack.  It was a lot of fun to see my friend Mary Coordt take the lead with 3 laps to go and win.  Thanks to everyone out there cheering me on tonight.  I heard you, and it meant a lot to have your support.

While it is sobering to think of how much work I have ahead of me on my road to Houston, I choose to be humbled and challenged by this experience rather than disappointed or overwhelmed.  In fact, as I walked away from the stadium tonight trying to assess how I felt about the race, my first thought was: in 6 months, I will be running 19:02 for my first 5k in the Olympic Trials Marathon.  Tonight was an excellent start.


  1. All that injury, 17-miles-per-week stuff is the past. Can't change it now, so time to focus on the present, and the future - which you are doing! Lauren Fleshman wrote a very similar post this week (2 posts, actually) about her similar battle with injury, visit to Dr. Ball, and return to 5k racing. She basically trained for 7 weeks post-injury and then ran the USA championships! She also makes the point about *choosing* to view her challenges a certain way, and the impact that has on performance. Interesting stuff.

  2. you have a lot of time before houston. who knows... if you hadn't beeen injured you might have been overtrained or burned out mentally or physically. often these things are blessings in disguise. i'm sure you will kick booty in houston. in your little tiny boy shorts.

  3. You're exactly right, Heather. It is time to focus on the present which includes completely pain-free running. I had to remind myself that it was a small miracle for me to even be out there running last night, especially as I heard the names of people called that ended up with a DNS next to their names because of injury. That could have been me.

    I appreciate you making the connection with Lauren's story. Her blog was where I first read about Dr. Ball and pointed me to his website. The weird thing is that we both came in 8th place in our races. Now, let's hope that we both stay on a similar track of consistent training and faster racing.

    T-Meat: I can always count on you to get something in here about my wardrobe choices:). I do have time before Houston, which is, of course, my real goal race. I feel lucky for a lot of reasons, including the fact that I was actually able to get a qualifier under my belt before my body revolted. I know there are a lot of women out there still shooting for that, and I bet they wish they were in my position. I don't take it for granted.

    I think one thing that a long period away from running due to injury does for you is feed that desire to train hard and get faster. I have that in spades right now.

  4. I agree completely with Heather. Don't dwell on the past. Since Dr. Ball you were gifted with a clean slate and new opportunities to train for Houston. We all know how tough 5K races are and look at what you accomplished and finished feeling about it. That's a huge accomplishment so I'd say you're headed in the right direction.