30 Before 30: The New Glamour Book and the Post that Wasn’t

April 25, 2012 § 6 Comments

I just wrote a really long post in which I waxed eloquent about this article that Steph sent me today and how I’m revising my running/racing goals to allow more space for other parts of my life to develop, aspects of my personality and heart and calling that have been pushed into a cobwebby corner over the past few years.

But the post disappeared.

The Internet gnomes were hungry, I guess.

And now I don’t have time to rewrite it…

Abbreviated version:

I have 2 and a half years before I turn 30. There’s a new book out by the publishers of Glamour magazine called 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.   And for once in Glamour‘s life, its basic premise aligns with a lot of the thoughts I’ve been having lately.  Like, Should I shoot to run Western States 100 before I’m 30? Or, instead, should I shoot to become a more creative, relational, balanced individual?

I have a lot of changes coming up — big moves for me that I haven’t really publicized yet.  While I’d love to be superwoman and take on these changes with gusto and excellence while at the same time re-qualifying for Boston and becoming an ultramarathoner…and, incidentally, authentically investing in my relationships with God and people…I’m not sure that’s really feasible.  Actually, I know it’s not.  I’ve been trying to be superwoman for a while.

So far, no bueno.

Maybe by the time I’m 30.

Until then, I have a lot to do and to live for that doesn’t involve running shoes or the numbers on my Garmin Forerunner 205. I plan to run many more marathons and other races in the years to come, but that’s one thing the article said women need to realize: there are years to come.  I don’t have to cram it all in now, at age 27.

There will be more Bostons.  There will be more weekly mileage goals and speed workouts and gorgeous mornings to explore on foot.  In the meantime, where is my focus?  Where am I offering value to people around me?

Just thoughts.

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What I Do When I Can’t Run

April 23, 2012 § 10 Comments

I’m currently perched on a racquetball I found on my officemate’s desk (don’t tell him).  All this sitting the past week has left me with a sore bum and maybe a touch of sciatica or something.  Since I can’t run, and can’t really cross-train, I’ve been spending way too much time researching injury prevention, reading Runner’s World forums, finding new (to me) running blogs, planning future races, looking up dream races, and thinking about how I’m going to ramp back up in training without reinjuring myself.

Also: watching Prison Break.  Michael Scofield, folks.

I’ve decided I really want to get into trail running, possibly starting to run a couple of times a week with a trail running group like this one and eventually training for an ultra (maybe Bandera?).  I have always loved hiking and being in the wilderness, so I think trail running could be the perfect combo for me.  Plus I hear it helps with injury prevention.

Also on my mind has been how to BQ again (qualify for Boston 2013).  I have to do it, if I’m going to, by September 25.  Yikes.  My dad and I have talked about Missoula on July 8.  It looks pretty sweet.  Not sure I’ll be ready.  I’m also planning to do Marine Corps on October 28, which should be a blast and a half.

In the meantime, I literally am just forcing myself to rest.  A lot.  I have my second appointment with Ian tomorrow, and I’m hoping he’s going to show me some exercises and strengthening techniques that will get me off the couch and into more active recovery.  My aunt Lez has also been coaching me about resting and listening to my body and she seems to think I’ll be up and at it again next week.

I sure hope so.  Resting is exhausting.

My Knight in Shining New Balances and Other Heroes

April 20, 2012 § 5 Comments

Instead of giving you the play-by-play of what happened from the time I got to the med tent until…well, today, I’m just going to go down the list of incredible people who have risen to the occasion and the miracles God has planted along the way.  I have to say, they all outweigh the disappointment of not finishing a race by a ton.

1. Jason the Paramedic, Dr. Jennifer, and Luke from Oklahoma

The first guy in the Mile 18 med tent, Jason, was so soothing and reassuring.  He was completely on my side.  He wanted me to finish the race.  I was falling apart and he was not.  I wish I could find him and tell him how huge that was for me.  When I was wheeled into the finish line med tent and laid down on a cot next to a guy who was having severe calf pain, a bespectacled girl came over and introduced  herself as Dr. Jennifer.  She smiled the entire time she was with me and had such compassion in her eyes.  I wanted to be her.  I couldn’t believe that out of the entire tent, she was giving me her undivided attention, letting me use her iPhone, asking me about every point of pain, and all without any sense of condemnation or finger-pointing.  Just total caring.

After about 30 minutes of some massage and stretching, I was about to have a nervous breakdown.  I knew my dad was looking for me and I had no idea how he was going to find me. I had called him from about 5 different phones, talked to him twice, and left a voicemail the last time, telling him to come to the med tent.  But I found out I was in a restricted area.  We were supposed to catch flights at 6:30 and we still had to go back to Brookline to the hotel to get our stuff.  I was alternating between praying and panicking.  Finally, I told them, “I think I’m ok. I can get up now.  I have to go.”

They filled out the paperwork and signed off on me and I stood up, took two steps and crumbled.  I couldn’t even make it to the walkway in the middle of the med tent.

Anyway, long story short, I ended up in a wheelchair being pushed by a guy from Oklahoma named Luke.  They told him he wasn’t allowed to take me anywhere outside of the restricted area, and he broke all the rules and pushed me all the way down to the baggage bus, two blocks away, letting me hold his phone and repeatedly call my dad.  In the baggage area, someone came up to him and chewed him out for bringing me down there.  I was like, “I’m so sorry!” And he said, “Oh, I don’t care.  I’ll never see that guy again.”  “Yeah,” I said, “but you’ll never see me again, either.”  Heart of gold right there, people.  Luke from Oklahoma.

2. Dad

After Luke dropped me off, I stood clinging to a rail that separated the runners from the spectators.  I had talked to my dad and he was at a subway station somewhere close by.  Suddenly, I looked up and there he was in the crowd.  I’m tearing up thinking about the moment I saw his face.  It was like I had caught onto a lifeline.  I screamed, “DAD! DAD!”  And he saw me and ran over and held me.  From that moment on, I knew it was going to be ok.  I didn’t cry again until after I left him that night at the airport. I just literally felt giddy to be with him.  He half-carried me down the steps of the subway so we could try to catch it to our hotel.  On the cement stairway, somehow there was a sturdy branch just laying there.

(I took this picture from my wheelchair at the airport just before security, where they {understandably} took it from me.)

I used the  branch as my cane for the rest of the day, which helped immensely.  Dad’s bedside manner kicked into high gear, as he gave me the very best of his attention, preempted every need I might have, made sure I was comfortable and taken care of, and was just very present, calm, and cheerful, telling me stories about his morning and spectating and giving me the space I needed some of the time just to be.  We had to rush to the hotel, where I gingerly rinsed off, put on compression tights, took some Advil, and stuffed a few peanut butter crackers in my face.  Then we caught the subway to the airport.  Dad had to stand the entire time while I sat comfortably.  We met a beautiful and gracious woman, Diane, who happened to be from Louisiana but had lived in Boston 12 years, and we talked her ear off the entire ride.  She told us a shorter way to get to the airport than we had been planning, praise God.

It was so hard to leave Dad on the bus to his terminal and get off to go into mine.  I kissed him good-bye and limped off.

3. Hope

After the help of about a dozen very sweet security people, airport officials, and wheelchair pushers, I somehow made it onto my plane and collapsed into a chair next to a lovely girl with a finisher’s medal on.  “Are you okay?” She asked me and for the first time since I’d seen my dad, I broke down.  Then she  started crying.  A total stranger!  I briefly told her what had happened and she goes, “Well, I feel like a jerk,” and took her medal off.  Who does that?!  It turned out we had been running along side each other for most of the race and had both seen each other (she had her name written on duct tape across the front of her shirt and I had mine written on both of my arms in Sharpie).  By the end of the plane ride, I wanted to adopt her as my new sister.  She kept checking in with me, asking how I was, even though she was also in pain and kept rubbing her right knee.  When we landed, she went up to the front and requested a wheelchair be sent for me.

4. Jared, the Knight in New Balances

First, the boy from Ghana who wheeled me halfway across the world to catch my flight to New Orleans is worth mentioning.  I told him I had lived with a girl from Ghana last fall, and he loved that.  I asked if he was a believer and he said, yes and that he had had to quit soccer because he was an Adventist and their Sabbath is on Saturdays, when soccer matches take place.  I told him he should take up running, cause most races are on Sundays. 🙂

He pushed me to a seat near a power outlet so I could plug in my phone.  He was worried about leaving me because I wouldn’t be able to get myself to the gate, but I told him I thought I could lean on the wheelchair and get myself there that way.  The guy sitting across from me, who looked like any young traveling exec, said, “Oh, I can take you anywhere.  I’ll take care of you.”

Jared. I so regret not asking for his number.  This guy was raised right.  For the next 30 minutes, he made me feel like I was the most fascinating, beautiful woman in the world.  In a totally non-creepy way.  And bear in mind that I had on compression tights, a long-sleeve tech tee, not one speck of make-up, and I had pulled my hair back without looking in the mirror sometime a few hours before.  Not really at my most attractive.  But he sat there and asked me all about myself, told me all about himself, and then wheeled me to the gate, talked to the attendant for me, gave up his seat for me (because I was originally seated in an exit row), held my bags, let me hold his arm down the walkway, found places for my bags in the overhead bin, and when I said thank you said, “It’s my honor!”

I didn’t know they made them like that anymore.  So thankful for this guy.

6. Countless Others

I can’t even tell about all the others: Ryan, the New Orleans Airport concierge who called the Hilton for me, where my car was parked, and waited over 30 minutes with me for the shuttle to get there.  Or the man in the parking lot where we were waiting who gave me his package of Biscoff cookies.  Or my cousin Kate who I got home (exhausted at 2am) to find a Facebook message from, saying how proud of me she was.  Or my amazing, amazing friend Matt who brought over his crutches and a plate of warm brownies the next night.  Or precious Megan who left balloons and beer on my doorstep while I was napping on Wednesday.

And I cannot even begin to express how supported and carried I have felt by my family and my fellow marathoner and my friends.  Just to let you know–they’re good in a crisis.

These are the people you want on your team.

So thankful.  So filled to overflowing.  Still limping, but truly believing that the power of love is helping heal me.  Tuesday, I was flat on my back all day and couldn’t walk two steps.  Lots of tears.  Wednesday, I went to see Ian for some active release therapy and I could walk very slowly and haltingly.  Yesterday, I made it to class and even turned in my homework on time!  Today, I can tell it’s even better.

And God is teaching me that He wants me to filter every single thing–every event, every person’s opinion, every thought from my own soul–through His deep, deep love for me.

This quote from Helen Keller was the theme for me and my dad in Boston, and it continues to apply:

Life is either a daring adventure,

or nothing.

Boston DNF and the Subsequent Marathon of Love.

April 19, 2012 § 18 Comments

The past few days, I have been blown away by the outpouring of kindness and love in my direction.  I have felt carried by so many (and literally had to be carried at certain points of the day on Monday).  I have met so many strangers who opened their hearts to me, went out of their way to help me, and expressed so much compassion.  I have gotten countless calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, Instagram notes as well as beer on my doorstep and a plate of brownies warm from the oven.

By now, most of my readers (all 25 of you great folks) know that I didn’t finish the Boston Marathon.  At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this was one of the biggest disappointments of my life.  Writing this 3 days later, I still feel like I’m going to burst into tears.  It still feels like a nightmare that I wish I could wake up from.

I had been hurting for about a week, and I can trace it back to running some hills in Austin over Easter.  My hip adductor apparently was mildly strained.  Over the next week before Boston, I tried stretching, using Trigger Point balls, wearing compression tights, icing, popping Advil, etc.  I even tried resting two days in a row!  What a breakthrough.  But by Sunday night, when I tried running across the street, I knew something was off.  I was limping pretty severely.

On top of that, Boston had “heartbreaking heat” on tap for Marathon Monday.  The days leading up to it were absolutely beautiful, and I wish I could just write about those days, spent with my wonderful friends Steph and Justin and then my dad.  My amazing dad.  God knew I needed him to be there.  I seriously have no idea what I would have done if he hadn’t come to watch me in Boston.

Honestly, the whole day is really hard to write about.  I woke up so excited on Monday.  Steph and I popped out of bed and Justin took us to the shuttle bus to head over to Hopkinton, to Athlete’s Village.  She was coaching me about letting go of my expectations because of the heat.  I had spent a long time the day before working out new pacing plans–one for if it turned out not to be as hot as the forecast, and one that was slower.  I knew by 8:00am that I’d be going with the slower plan.

Athlete’s Village was like a dream come true for me in and of itself.  I couldn’t believe I was there.  I just floated around beaming at everyone.  I got some coffee and a couple of PowerBars and some sunscreen and then sat in the grass and read my Bible for a little while.  Then I gave the guys on the baggage bus the bag I’d brought everything in and found some shade to stretch in.  Dad had bought me a cold pack (one that doesn’t get cold til you break it with your hands) and I was carrying that, had three straws tucked into my bib (duct-taped to my shirt, following a tip from another runner) and four CLIF shot gels with double caffeine.

When they called for Wave 2 to line up, I was trembling I was so excited and nervous.  I found Corral 2 and felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.  How in the world was I here?!?!  I closed my eyes and just prayed for a while, asking God to help me pace, give me strength, keep me cool, and help my hip to not hurt.

I barely remember starting.  We were just going.  We were running through country roads–there was a bluegrass band with moustached men at one point, little kids holding out orange slices everywhere, people with signs lining the roads…and the sun beating down.  I felt awesome.  I looked down and was going 7:09/mi pace and barely felt like I was moving.  Yes!  But I slowed down, knowing I had a long way to go and a lot of hills to face.  Plus, I could feel the tension in my hip and I wanted to make sure it held.

Mile 1: 7:39
Mile 2: 7:32
Mile 3: 7:39
Mile 4: 7:34
Mile 5: 7:54
Mile 6: 7:43
Mile 7: 7:44

During that 7th mile, I suddenly had a shooting pain so bad I gasped.  I think I only kept going because when you’re in motion, it’s easier to stay in motion (or some law of physics like that).  I remembered something I’d read from Catherine Ndereba, the 2011 Boston winner, that during the last bit of the marathon, her legs were screaming at her and she was in terrible pain, but she kept on going.  I thought, Can I keep going?  And I could.  After a few minutes of praying and almost crying from the pain, it subsided and I was able to enjoy the run again.

That happened two more times, and each time the pain subsided after a lot of self-talk, prayer and gritting my teeth.

Mile 8: 7:45
Mile 9: 7:41
Mile 10: 7:40
Mile 11: 7:45
Mile 12: 7:34
Mile 13: 7:46

I think this was the Wellesley mile, with the famous Wellesley girls.  Hilarious!  All the guys around me slowed down to look at the rows and rows of pretty girls with signs that said, “Kiss Me! I’m a senior!”  “Kiss Me! I’m from Nebraska!”  “Kiss Me! I speak French!”  I saw a couple of guys run over for a peck on the cheek.

I think an incline started somewhere around here. I tried my dad’s trick of looking at the ground and pretending you’re running on a flat road, which really helped.  It didn’t feel hard at all.  My hip was just tight and I was hot, so I was trying to focus and stay positive.

I saw a guy with a sign that said, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith,” and I nodded and smiled gratefully.  Just beyond him, a woman held a sign saying, “Do or do not. There is no try.”  And I nodded at her, too.

I loved the kids and the families all out, grilling and spraying us with water hoses.  I was soaking wet for most of the race because at every water stop, I took a Gatorade, sipped it a bit, tossed it aside, then took a water from the next station and poured it on myself.  It helped keep my core temperature down (thanks, Steph, for reminding me of this!).

After mile 16, though, it all fell apart.

Mile 14: 7:40
Mile 15: 7:45
Mile 16: 7:34
Mile 17: 8:22

I guess the hill had caused my adductor muscle to lock up (in the words of Ian, who I went to see again yesterday). The pain was more than I could push through. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my thoughts were all over the place–I was freaking out.

I started jogging slower, praying and repeating Romans 8:18 over and over to myself.  “For I do not consider these present sufferings worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed in us.”  Not worth comparing, not worth comparing, not worth comparing.  I was limping heavily, and trying to breathe through the pain, hoping it would lessen like before.

No bueno.

I fought with my body, not wanting to walk, but barely able to lift up my left leg anymore.  I was afraid that if I started walking now, at 17 and a half miles, I’d never start running again.  Unfortunately, I was right.

Mile 18: 12:47

Someone in the crowd called out to me, “Good try,” and I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to smack him.  I wasn’t trying.  I was doing this.  There was no way I wasn’t going to finish the Boston Marathon!  After my dad had flown all the way up here to see me, and I had been leading up to this for months, putting in mile after mile, workout after workout, early morning after early morning, all for this day.  I was having a hard time, and my PR was swirling in the toilet bowl on its way down, but this was no try.

At 17.6 miles, I saw a med tent.  I desperately needed some painkillers if I was going to make it up Heartbreak Hill, I knew that much.  I veered off, but could barely even get out the words, “Do you have some Advil?”  I was sobbing so hard.  An amazing paramedic, Jason, soothingly told me to lay on a cot so he could stretch me out.  They wouldn’t give out any pills.  He tried stretching me out but it didn’t seem to help at all.  He said he thought I was just cramping from the heat and dehydration, so I gulped 3 huge cups of Gatorade.  I was crying pretty bad and everyone around me I think thought I was in terrible pain.  Sitting down, I wasn’t in much pain, but I just couldn’t put weight on my left leg anymore.  I knew the race was over and I was heartbroken.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.

They put me on a bus with about 10 other people, all who seemed strangely matter-of-fact about being transported on wheels rather than foot to the finish line.  I was wailing.

I apologized to the stringy, tanned guy next to me and he said, “Oh, no, this happens to everybody.  You’re ok.  This happens to everybody.”  He talked to me for the next hour and it turned out he’s an ultramarathoner who had done a 50-miler the week before and had been aiming for somewhere around 2:56 for his time at Boston.  “I just blew up at about the 10k mark,” he told me.  I never asked how, then, he made it through the next 11 miles!  He kept me calm.

At the med tent at the finish line, I got out of the bus. My bag with my phone in it was on a baggage bus two blocks away.  I stepped out of the bus and stopped dead in my tracks.  I couldn’t move.  Every step was excruciatingly painful.  An incredibly sweet man appeared with a wheelchair and wheeled me into the chaos of the med tent, where runners were flat on their back in various states of disrepair, many with IVs, some curled into balls, some being worked on by physical therapy students.

I’ll do another installment later.  I have to go to class.  I know this is long and has way too many details, but it’s mainly for me, so I can remember and process it all out.

Yay for Free WiFi in the Airport!

April 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’m sitting at my gate at the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, typing this blog post on my iPhone. It’s a little after 10am and I am about to get on a jet plane and head to Cincinnati, then Boston.

The past week has been a whirlwind with little time to sleep or eat, much less check Twitter, strategize my marathon hydration plan or catch up on schoolwork (that’s what grad students are supposed to do over spring break, apparently). But this morning, after running a ‘marathon simulation’ run (warm-up and cool-down with 2 miles at race pace in between); finding out via multiple kind tweets, texts and calls that my email had been hacked and my account deleted; packing all the last minute things like phone chargers and a toothbrush; and finishing a Gary Weins podcast, I started to breathe. As I did, gratefulness and awe began to bubble up.

For the people in my life whom I have done nothing to deserve and yet who love me so unreservedly.

For the God who never ceases to surprise me with the lavish gifts He provides.

For fresh hope and the uniquely beautiful painting that is emerging from what I once thought was an amateur trompe l’oeil. My brief yet weighty time on earth.

For life.

For not being in control but not being out-of-control either.

For fun.

For mystery.

For work and opportunity.

For longing.

It’s funny in an airport because so many people are on the cusp of the unknown all together. Whether the mundane unknown of a business trip or the exotic adventure of a honeymoon, no one knows what’s next. It’s part of being human, really, but it’s accentuated in an airport. Maybe that’s why so many people get drunk to fly.

In the next few days, I’m going to do something hard. No one ever said 26.2 was a walk in the park. But it’s unadulterated, untampered with, rip-the-muffler-off life. The beauty, pain, and foolishness of it all packaged up in foot travel from Point A to Point B. That’s why I love it.

That’s why I’m sitting in an airport headed to Cincinnati. Like everyone, not knowing what’s next but confidently expecting a healthy mix of glory and suffering.

Yeah, buddy. Let’s go.

Cognitive Behavioral Management for Runners

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Your brain matters for success in running.  Runner’s World just released this video by the Boston Marathon’s medical team psychologist of 10 years and it’s somewhat targeted to the race next week, but much of it applies to running and racing anytime, anywhere.  It helped me get my head on straight and I recommend you watch it!

Running Hills

April 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’m at Juan Pelota, the coffee shop connected to Mellow Johnny’s, Lance Armstrong‘s bike shop.  (I feel like I just dropped a lot of names.  Unintentional.)

I’m drinking a strange-tasting cup of coffee.  I had them put steamed soy, per usual, on top and maybe they use a weird brand, but it tastes sour.  I hope it’s not rotten.

I’m happy because they have these at the condiment bar, though:

This morning, Sarah and I went running around her neighborhood.  I’m in don’t-get-injured mode, so I didn’t want to do any serious hills, but around Austin, it’s hard to avoid hills completely.  

And I realized: I like hills.

When you dig down, shorten your stride and pump up that thing, sending your elbows straight back and keeping your chest as open as possible, nothing feels quite as good as getting to the top and knowing

YOU crushed IT,

not the other way around.

Hill workouts supposedly mimic speed workouts. Especially interesting to me, as this article details, your lower hamstring muscles are less active, which minimizes braking.  I was noticing on Saturday that when I run on my forefoot, a lot of times I’m essentially doing a soft stop with every footfall.  You know how bikes have brakes on the handlebars and when you pull them, the tires just go completely stiff but still slip a little bit forward?  That’s a little bit how I picture my running: I land on my mid to forefoot, and subconsciously (I guess to keep myself from falling) scuff a little bit.

That can’t be good for speed.

With hill training, you don’t do that as much.  Intuitively, this makes sense, since as you go UP, the likelihood of falling forward declines.

 

In Baton Rouge, where I live right now, hill training is best done on a treadmill or at the levee or in parking garages.  If you’re lucky (yes, lucky!) enough to live in a hilly area, though, it’s definitely worth switching out one speed workout a week for a hill workout.

If your mental toughness, form, speed and muscle activity don’t all show measurable improvement within 6-8 weeks, call me a liar.

 

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