Down but not out...

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Right around June 24th my worst runner nightmare became reality - I suffered an injury.  There was no herolike story to accompany my limp, just that I had walked 6.5 miles at work in shoes that were far too worn out. I had completed a round of P90X plyometrics attempting to get ready to start training for the Chicago Marathon. I stood up from the couch one evening while watching tv and felt a sharp pain in my foot. I thought I needed to stretch but as the next few days unfolded I came to find that my pain was increasing the more time I spent on my foot.

I wanted to list some words of wisdom in hindsight for anyone who wants to continue being injury free, or for those who are going through a first time injury experience (like I was) to give some guidance on what worked and didn't work for me.

 

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1. Always wear supportive shoes, for whatever you may be doing on your feet.

These were the shoes I continued to wear for far too long. I kept waiting to make a little bit more money at work before investing in a new pair. Instead of just paying up for a good pair of new shoes, I had to buy new shoes AND pay a $75 copay at the doctors visit I eventually had to go to (not to mention the days of work I missed from not being able to be on my feet). Also, heels are not a friend of feet. Be wary of too much time in them, and find ones that put as little pressure on your feet as possible.

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I swear by Altras for running, so I committed to them for my new work shoes as well. The support they give is incredible.  I'm waiting for the day they design a high heel that is runner approved. And yes, I will absolutely buy them when they do.

 

2. Go to the doctor as soon as possible. 

I kept telling myself that my injury probably wasn't that serious, I figured I had just strained a muscle or had a case of tendinitis. It got to the point when I couldn't walk or stand without excruciating pain. I made an appointment to see a physical therapist through my local running store. That visit ended with a false diagnosis of tendon strain and being told a second metatarsal stress fracture is extremely rare. PSA: second metatarsal stress fractures cover about half of all diagnosed stress fractures in runners. I wasn't able to get to a doctors office for another two weeks because of plans to visit family in New Jersey the following week.

 

3. Listen to your body. 

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I finally made it to the walk in clinic on August 28th, more than a month after the occurrence. I waited to hear back from the radiologist who said there was nothing on the x-ray and I was clear. Sadly, this was also a false diagnosis. Because a stress fracture is not a full fracture, noticing one on an X-ray is nearly impossible within the first few weeks. However, I was on week five at this point. On the point of pain which was felt on the top of my foot, you can see a periosteal reaction on the X-ray, which often means a place where bone has healed from some type of injury. I find it too coincidental to say that this was not the exact pain I was feeling. I think doctors are fantastic resources for helping us runners get back on our feet, but if you are unable to afford an orthopedic surgeon visit or podiatrist visit like me, I think it's best to use your head and notice the pain you feel and what those symptoms may suggest.

 

4. Do not try to "run through it." There's no such thing. 

Running through a stress fracture just means aiming to have a full on fracture. Give your body the time to heal and miss a few weeks or try to run on it and miss a few months. I'm not really sure how anyone could run through the pain my foot was causing me, but just don't do it. Let your body heal and come back stronger than ever. After all, bone repairs thicker than it originally was so giving it time to heal just means you'll be a stronger person. I know it's sad to have to defer a race you really wanted to run or forfeit the money you spent on training, but it's even sadder to have to be out of the game for much longer because you decided that you just couldn't refrain from that race. 

 

5. Find what exercise works for you in injured condition. 

I was fortunate for a few weeks and had access to my apartment pool. Sadly, I moved from my apartment a few weeks into my recovery and I didn't continue to carry out swim workouts, but I swear they were making me stronger. Swimming is very different from running and it's challenging in its own way. Maybe your injury allows you to do yoga, or cycling. Find what works for you but don't put too much stress on yourself or your injury.  

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6. Don't be hard on yourself.

You didn't want this, you didn't purposefully cause this, and beating yourself up will only make recovery worse. Be wary of your mood and note that you may lose those endorphins without proper exercise. It's sad enough to not be able to exercise the way you want, but it's a whole other level to then have to deal with the mental downfall. Take time to do the things that do make you happy. Talk to a friend, bake cookies, listen to good music, drink a good cup of coffee. Take the time to treat yourself and give yourself the self love you need. It matters now more than ever.

 

7. Come back slowly and again, don't be hard on yourself. 

I ran 7 miles in my first week back starting last week following nine weeks of rest aside from the swimming and some cycling. I was slow. I am still slow a week later. I am running on the grass to help alleviate too much stress right off the bat. But I am pain free. To me, I know that I should be running a 20 miler this Saturday. But instead of dwelling on what I can't do I am choosing to find the victory in the things I can do. I have created a new game plan of trying the Galloway Method for the Chicago marathon in less than a month and I will earn my medal being proud of whatever I can accomplish with such a crapshoot of a training season. 

 

 

Life is hrd, and running injuries make it harder.  Be nice to yourself, get angry, then get over it and come up with a game plan for your comeback. Taylor has surely been helping pump me up for my comeback. What do you think about her new music?? Newly added to the playlist, ...ready for it? And Look What You Made Me Do. Boom.

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Crossing bridges in Chattanooga

I'm about to run one of the hottest races this Saturday in Nashville. The Hillbilly Half in June is always expected to be insanely hot and sunny, but you hope for weather at the end of April to be manageable at the least. It's starting to seem like it will be a scorcher, and the best thing to hope for is to just finish. Which is the exact reason I am not a fan of spring races.

Spring race training is AWESOME. You get to run in cold temperatures for most of your program which makes you feel like a really incredible runner most days. Fortunately, spring races help bring you back to earth and keep you humble. At least that is my experience as someone who runs "hot."

But fall races, those are incredible. In fact, let me tell you about my favorite fall race memory.  

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October 2015 I drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee on Friday the 16th. I had never been to Chattanooga before but was excited about my third full marathon taking place there the next day, and running a Ragnar Relay from there to Nashville the following week. I had trained all summer in horrible heat and was feeling very mentally defeated knowing that I had spent summer training miles much slower than my spring training, and even many of those mile walking. I decided I was going to run with the 4:30 pacers and hope for a PR down from my 4:45:50 spring race.

The start took place before the sun came up, and I can remember running over a bridge or two before there was even the slightest sign of the sunrise. I was running with a group of about 7-8 people, and we were all pretty quiet aside from the advice of how to take on certain hills from our pace leaders. It was a quiet morning, with only 412 full marathoners it seemed very different from my experience with the Rock n Roll race series from the spring Nashville race. 

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In my foggy runner's high memory I believe we started to have conversations around the 17 mile stretch. A girl I had been running with was from NYC and now lived in Georgia and told me how difficult it was to find places to run that weren't hilly there, which made me think of all of my training in Nashville. The last race she had ran left her with a bad injury so she wasn't expecting to do that well here in Chattanooga.

Somewhere around mile 20 we all started to make our own strides and find the pace that felt best at that point. Somehow I had walked so many miles through summer training and now my feet still felt light after 20 miles. I started to pick my pace up a little more and soon found myself pretty distant from all the other people I had been running with in the 4:30 group. Mile 23 came and all I could think was "this is all going by too quick, I need to really take this race in and enjoy every second because it has been perfect and Chattanooga is BEAUTIFUL!" But my legs still carried me almost effortlessly. At the time I only used MapMyRun on my phone and kept it in my pocket so I had no idea what my average pace time was up to that point, and being such a small race there weren't any mats or clocks, just mile markers as stickers on the ground. All I knew was that this marathon was truly fun!

 

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We ran across the pedestrian bridge near Coolidge Park and I could see the area where the finish line was, but I still wasn't sure how far was left to go. Spectators started to be more frequent and the noise was driving my legs even quicker. I turned the corner off the main road and saw the finish line just yards away. I sprinted and could feel the biggest smile on my face as I saw the clock read something around 4:19 and I knew that meant I had earned a huge PR. I saw the girl I had been running with from Atlanta waiting at the finish realizing this meant she too earned a PR and overcame the injury she was worried had ruined her as a runner. It was an awesome victory, and the finish meant pancakes and the largest medal I've ever gotten at a race. 

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When all was said and done and the times had been calculated, my time was 4:16:39, 29 minutes faster than my previous PR. A month later I went on to hit a new PR of 4:11:53, but the Chattanooga Seven Bridges race still stands out in my mind as the best race day I've ever had. A small but mighty race, with sights so beautiful during fall in Tennessee. 

In three days I'll be running a very hot race, but I'll keep in mind that races like this one are earned by the work that I put in when the weather isn't so nice. 

 

Little Red Wagon - Miranda Lambert 

I just had to add this slightly older Miranda song to the playlist. Yesterday I ran 400m repeats and this song made my legs feel weightless for a good number of strides. Take a listen, follow the playlist, and enjoy this next add in its silly but effect ways.  

Run faster...I hear banjos!

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Some races you can't forget. The Hillilly Half in Leiper's Fork is exactly that race.

I didn't want to run it in 2015. At that point it had been a little over a month since I had ran even a mile following the Nashville Rock N Roll full marathon and I couldn't imagine running a half marathon without at least a few training miles. I remember laying out at the pool two days before the race was to happen as a group text ran wild promising those of us not yet convinced that it would be a fun time.

The hard thing about being a runner is that while you're running the race you ask yourself why you would put yourself through it. However, once you cross the finish line your memories of pain and sorrow are completely erased and you will foolishly sign up for five more races that day, minimum.

So there I was, poolside, signing up for a race I hadn't prepared for.

At the time the race was called the Franklin Half Marathon and I had heard horror stories of "heart attack hill" and of the heat that a June race in Tennessee promises. In fact, that morning the weather report was 99% humidity with a temperature in the 90s and the fog from the extreme humidity didn't let up until a few miles into the race. But that's not the most important detail.

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DETAIL. 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

The thing no one had warned me about - hillbillies. I run by towards the end of the video, 4:57 or so, and while I look like I'm keeping my cool I'm now realizing I have many miles to go for a race where I may have to outrun some very frightening rednecks.

The heat seemed to beat me down quickly, and I can remember struggling to get over some small rolling hills. I was playing the game of "you can walk until the next fence post but then you have to run the entire next mile." I had a cold rag on my neck that was handed out around mile 8 or so, and I always tried to have a water bag in my hand (a water bag is a water filled plastic bag that you bite, then squeeze to get your fluids, an awesome addition to this race). Soon enough I felt so worn out and my walking became more frequent. I finally was able to pick up cell signal and played my current Spotify playlist which started playing the perfect song.

American Kids - Kenny Chesney

I have said since the first time hearing this song that it would forever be my favorite song and it's still true three years following it's release. I tend to be a pretty big fan of anything Shane McAnally has a hand in, so it made sense that this song would be the one to pull me through. 

 "Sister's got a boyfriend / Daddy doesn’t like / Now he’s sittin’ out back, 3030 in his lap / In the blue bug zapper light."

The rhythm of this song in the intro to the lines that stress small town living (and perhaps a redneck's preferred style of life?), I felt rejuvenated and ready to finish up a great race that I could feel proud of. You know, and happy to have survived.

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For a few months this race was my half marathon PR of 2:15:39, even with heart attack hill that is truly no joke. One of the greatest parts of finishing was the sweetest Georgia peach I have ever had from The Peach Truck. That was my first PeachTruck experience and now every summer I wish the season lasted just a few weeks longer.

All in all, this was a fantastic local race and I ended up running it again in 2016. And it turns out those hillbillies populated a whole heck of a lot since the year before. We'll see if I have the guts to run it again this June... 

 

If you are up for the challenge, I highly suggest running this half marathon at least once. This year the route is going the opposite direction, the way I believe it was originally ran, so if you think you have what it takes you can register here: https://register .chronotrack.com/r/22017 

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The year I fell in love with running

2016 sucked.

For a lot of people. And for a lot of different reasons. December 3rd, 2016 I ran the St. Jude memphis Marathon for the third year in a row. Somewhere near mile 20 a spectator held a sign that read "F@ck 2016!" to which runners all around me agreed. I don't recall a year that was collectively thought of with a sigh the way it seems 2016 is remembered. And I feel thankful that I'm not alone in the idea that 2016 wasn't the best year ever.

I started 2016 by taking my first full-time, 9-5 day job. I started to struggle with time manage and stopped making time for the things that made me truly happy. I missed the first 10 weeks of my spring marathon training program and tried to jump back in on week 11 - an 18 mile run. I began the training run with the 4 hour group but got left behind after just 5 miles. Around mile 15 I was struggling when the 4:15 group caught up to me. And passed me. Just four months before this, November 2015, I had ran a marathon with a personal best of 4:11:53, and now a training run was causing me to feel I was no longer a runner. DEFEAT.

As a back story, 2015 was a great year for me and running. I became a Marathon Maniac (#12090) by running 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga in October, The Nashville Marathon in November, and the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in December. Sprinkle in a Ragnar Relay and a Zooma half marathon (another personal best) and you would have the happiest version of myself that has ever existed.

My spring marathon eventually rolled around and I struggled, both with the actual running of the race and with enjoying it. I ran a half marathon a few weeks later and didn't find it as exciting as it once felt. I had high hopes for the Chicago marathon, my 7th marathon, and felt that a sub 4 hour marathon was in my reach with such a flat course. But my motivation was gone and I started to tell my running friends that I was burnt out on running. Chicago, the most incredible experience marathon I've ran, came and went with improper training and a lack in personal best to accompany it. Two months later I ran the St. Jude Marathon and beat my personal worst time by only 13 seconds. I felt like 2016 was the year I gave no importance to training and in return received no reward.

2017, the year I fell in love with running.

This is what I have planned for this year. I want to find the passion I once had for running and remember why I love this crazy sport. Music is also an important aspect of my life and my running. Each week I plan to draw on the building blocks of running - training, workouts, running sessions, gear, fuel, races, and the songs that helped me get through that week of running.

Runnin' Just in Case - Miranda Lambert

I love this song for the place I'm at currently with my running. Between the rhythm of the song that makes my feet want to run, to the line that reminds me that running can help me achieve something that I may not be directly focused on.

"It ain't love that I'm chasing / but I'm runnin' just in case"

Running sucks. I know this. It can be so rewarding, but it can also be so difficult. I run in weather that is too hot, or too cold. I've ran at hours that are too early when I'm so tired, and I've ran too late when I have to speed to beat the setting sun. Sometimes I set out to run three miles and I finish wondering how I ever ran a marathon. But I've also had some great laughs while running alongside my best friends. I've raised thousands of dollars for kids at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital who are fighting cancer. I'm planning on finding my love of running again this year, and maybe my goals are out of reach, but I'm still runnin' just in case.