We’re about two weeks into the new year. 2017 moves fast for me, it seems, as training for the hometown race, The Flying Pig, started already and I’m still benched with a significant tendonitis in the IT band. I’m managing the short runs and the speed work, but as soon as I hit about 5 miles, the pain starts to kick in… I push through to about 6 miles, and the pain becomes too much for me.
I figure now’s a good time to review my runs from last year. All through the first week of 2017, my friends posted their cumulative mileage for the year – all posting impressive distance, to be honest. I have no idea how much distance I ran. I had one watch at the start of the year – it drown during the rain out of the Asheville Marathon in March – and so I had to order a new one. It didn’t come in until June. So there are two months where my runs were logged by mapmyrun on my phone. Then the new watch – which is so amazing. I stopped logging runs on my Daily Mile account because I was running so much and lost the motivation to keep logging on multiple places.
At best guess, combining all of these, I put in about 1500 miles in 2016.
I completed my goal of 12 marathons in 2016. It was a rough ride, that became less about training and more about injury management. Each month was a new, all encompassing, injury to treat. Everything from plantar tendonitis, to a swollen achillies; Weak glutes that caused debilitating lower back pain, to morten’s neuroma. I fell on a run and scarred up my leg, and I’ve rolled an ankle.
And of course, I battled through the typical tight muscles and mental fatigues. I pushed through so many things throughout this year that I came into December, finally benched with an injury I couldn’t run through (the IT band), wondering if I was even ever going to be able to “just run” carefree again.
The beginning of the year was so promising – as I was hitting my multiple 20 mile training runs between the 26.2s that I was completing. I was able to do my training and knock out a marathon distance one weekend, followed by an ultra the next. I was feeling strong. By October, I didn’t want to run any more. I stopped training between races and just focused on massaging out the injuries. I placed in my age group in a couple of these races, and I ran my slowest marathon times since I first started this whole running thing. I didn’t run any of the short distance races I love because I was so tired of running and knew I still needed to do yet another major distance soon.
It also weighed on me – the amount of running and races I was doing alone. The key to my successes over the years really came from having my running group friends with me – but as I had to find races for each month, and realized that I had both the opportunity and could afford to (assuming I balanced paid racing with unofficial runs around town) travel to knock some states off my big goal of running a marathon in each state… I started going where my friends were not always able to follow. I don’t enjoy running alone. Not all the time. Its hard for me, to be alone that much. Especially when the race becomes a struggle of wills in the last 10k. Running alone weighed on my mental game as much as the constant injuries and decreased training weighed on my physical game.
It didn’t help that for the first part of the year I was essentially isolated from people in my daily life, on top of all the running alone.
Lessons learned, for sure.
Well. There’s the overview of my year. Lets get to the real reason this post is about: The Highlights.
The big thing of the month was the Pistol Ultra 50k – which I ran to start the year out. But with hamstring and lower back issues slowing me down, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first time I ran it. Instead, I’d say that it was those Friday morning runs with my running group that I was loving. Hanging out with them and laughing and joking. Work changed up again, and I was put on a shift that removed my free Friday mornings (again) but The two runs I did have with them were wonderful. Unknown at the time, my schedule would allow me to run anywhere at anytime soon enough – it just also wouldn’t give me the motivation to bother.
I couldn’t find a race that I wanted much of anything to do with at the time. Nothing was going on close to home, I didn’t have a lot of free travel time, and I didn’t want to spend the money on a race that would likely be too cold for me to enjoy anyway. Then on the 1st, there was a nice warm day – perfect for running. I put a notice out that I would be doing 26.2 around my neighborhood and asked if anyone was interested in joining me. And so began my second marathon, with various wonderful running friends joining me for 5-8 miles at a time. I ran at the other person’s pace, stopped into my house between loops and ate pretzels and kept everything very low-key. I probably only did 8 miles total on my own, and ran the last four with my husband. It was a wonderful and fun, carefree run for me.
This month was probably the lowest point in my life, as things started falling apart for me career-wise and I had to bring in legal action against an employer. Motivation and self worth took a dive so low that now, almost a year later, I still have neither.
This one is a tough one to choose for. On the one hand, I ran a great race at the Asheville Marathon and got to have a wonderful weekend away with my husband. We stayed at the Biltmore Hotel on the estate grounds, wandered the town for a day, and the race was a blast – running with the group of ladies that I fell in with. It was rolling terrain, and the rains made the red mud on the farm portion that made up the second half of the race very difficult. Our feet slipped, the puddles were above ankle in some places, and we were covered in mud. We were still busting out laughing – even as the rain came down so hard at one point that we could barely see ahead of us! Amazing how in misery, having the right people around you can make the suffering fun. And. I think. Going in knowing and expecting to work for the outcome also makes it enjoyable.
A full 6 days later I was boarding a plane, last minute, to fly down to Longboat Key Florida to run the final day of my friend, Superman Steve’s, big accomplishment – the Jackie’s Run. It was his third year running across a state to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Research, and I was excited and honored to get to join him on this one.
It was a long day in the Florida sun, but it was wonderful. We were joined by various runners from the area, some friends of Superman’s, some complete strangers that heard about the effort. We had a few stops for TV interviews, which was great, because that’s the point! To get the knowledge out there. I took in the views, even as my foot started hurting. Too much too soon, I guess – running the marathon one week and then knocking out over 25 miles the weekend after. But worth it.
The bonus was, that as my life became shit, I got to enjoy this view, even for a short while, before I returned to it:
This was the month my stupidity came to it’s apex. I didn’t pay attention to dates as I signed up for race after race – I mostly just tried to make sure that it was one per month – because that was the original goal. It didn’t work out well for me. Without meaning to, or realizing it, I chose the Kentucky Derby Marathon – based in Louisville for my April race. Of course, the hometown race, Flying Pig, for May. Flying Pig is always the first Sunday in May. Last year there was about a week between the two races. This year? 24 hours. They were the same weekend – Saturday and Sunday. I owned up to this on the Running Group’s page, and this instantly became a challenge for everyone. Others signed up to join me!
That’s the highlight. That my friends saw me doing something stupid, and didn’t say it was a bad idea or that I would regret it. They saw it for a fun challenge and jumped right in too! And, of course, it was a special treat to have my friend Jim with me the whole time. My stomach was off for some reason that race, and I had a lot to deal with because of that – beyond just the typical runner poops – but Jim stuck with me. We ran a conservative pace because we had the marathon the next day too, but it was still a good time over all. It poured rain on this race too, but that wasn’t a problem.
It was a great little road-trip and a great time with some hilarious friends. We laughed so hard a dinner the night before that I couldn’t imagine my life could hold so much joy and happiness.
Of course the highlight of May is the Flying Pig. Not only because of what an amazing event this race is (Seriously, if you’ve never run this one you Have Got To sign up!).
Things did not go as planned for this race.
I was exhausted and sore and more than a little bit grumpy going into the morning of the Pig, after the rough run at Louisville. I still didn’t feel well, and although my head kept saying “There’s a whole month, you don’t have to do this”, my husband practically kicked me out of bed, dressed me himself, and loaded me into the car – the whole time suffering my onslaught of angry muttering and cuss words.
We arrived at the race area too late to be able to reach any of the reasonable parking areas, so he dropped me off behind the bus area for the relay runners. I hiked toward the start line, trying to find my friends, and then giving up and entering the start corral I was assigned. I realized as I was dropped off that I had forgotten my hat (it was supposed to rain this day too), my water bottle, and my electrolyte tabs. This didn’t help my mood at all either. I decided as I started a slow jog after the gun sounded that I would run the loop through Kentucky and bail as soon as I was back in Cincinnati and near the start.
By the time I hit the bridge back to Cincinnati, however, at mile 3, the sun was rising and I was feeling good. Still a grump, but physically, I felt really, really strong! So I went with it. I took photos with anyone and everyone in costume along the route. I stopped at mile 13 to sit on a VIP couch and do two shots of beer. I got bacon at mile 15 and had a dance off with batman and robin at mile 17. By mile 20 I started to feel wiped out again, but I was still moving well. This time I knew that I was feeling off because I hadn’t had any electrolytes. I can’t stomach Gatorade – it makes me sick – but I was contemplating it pretty hard by now. I needed something. And then a salt station came up and I was snacking on pretzels and chips and back to feeling good.
Despite the strong start, I had a slower race time than the day before, but I wasn’t feeling sore and I wasn’t as tired as the day before. I was feeling really good!
It was on the walk to the car – parked about two miles away – that my Achilles started clicking, and then swelled.
This month I was having trouble finding a local full marathon to go to. I didn’t want to travel, but it was looking like that was the only way to do it. Travel and trails. I wanted neither. So my friend Minh pinned a race bib to his shirt and came out to run a 26.2 point-to-point with me on a nice and hot summer day. A week later, while trying to spite a friend into doing her first 50 mile race, I ended up getting myself and another friend talked into doing the 50k
Neither Minh nor Char were harmed during the making of these runs.
But this shows where I was half-way through my marathons challenge. Friends all over. By July, it would be harder for friends to join me. Injuries started striking a bit harder and harder.
The worst words for a runner to hear.
I had started a new job, closed out legal proceedings with the other one by an agreement rather than courts- and I should have been on top of the world. Instead I was crushed by it. The new job was all travel, and flight was still so new to me and so rare that I was actually pretty terrified during turbulence. The hunching and tension, combined with a lot of running and pulled muscles, and the weak glutes issue I never fixed from last year – my back was shot. Again.
“We don’t know why it flared up. Sometimes that happens after a major injury. You’re doing everything right to keep it from happening. We’ll work on it over the next few weeks, but, no running….. You’re still going to run aren’t you?”
“I have a marathon this weekend.”
My chiropractor gets a gold star for trying, though. It should have been a no-brainer. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t straighten up. And unlike when this problem first flared, running was not easing the pain anymore.
A week of hard stretching and focused work on certain muscles… and I was determined to go to the marathon. It was supposed to be a weekend trip for my husband and me, but things happened and he could no longer go. I couldn’t turn it into a girl’s weekend either, despite trying to convince a friend to go with me. So I went alone. That night in the hotel as I rolled certain spots in my leg and butt out with a tennis ball and stuck Icy-Hot patches on my lower back, I decided that if it was bad tomorrow, I would just volunteer to help at the race, not actually run.
It was a pleasant surprise then, that I felt good enough to run. A couple harsh shots of pain at the start, and then it didn’t bother me until I had to duck under a tree on the trail. yes. Trail. But even the trail wasn’t bad! It got super hot – I was downing most of my tall water bottle between each water station – about 3 miles at a time. And then, the biggest shock of all after my second-slowest marathon ever: I placed 1st in my age group!
The highlight running adventure of this month was clearly my morning run….in Iowa. I was staying in a “middle of nowhere” hotel, with no sidewalks or sights nearby. A run out the door was a run along corn fields. As the sun rose, and the temps rose, cars passing by would stop and honk. I thought they wanted to bitch at me for being on the road – you get that a lot as a runner – but no. They called encouragement from their cars.
“You’re looking really strong! Keep it up!”
“Good morning, runner!”
“Hope you’re having a good run! You look great!”
Typically that kind of random encouragement comes from being in a race. But to have it from multiple cars out in the middle of these corn fields? It was pretty amazing. I don’t remember if the run was hard or easy or how I felt on it. All I remember is how good my heart felt with this random encouragement out of no where.
Hands-down the highlight of the year was my trip to Seattle. It was the BIG race. The big trip. My husband went with me, and so did Minh (Who referred to himself as my race husband…. It’s accurate).
The trip itself was just so damn perfect. But the race – Beat the Blerch – that was amazing.
I admit that if Minh hadn’t been there, I would have been miserable. There weren’t a lot of people doing the actual full marathon, so without him, I would’ve spent a lot of time alone…. in the rain. Yes. Another rain-out marathon. No one should be shocked by this. I am the storm.
Minh was shooting for a PR, and I was honored to help pace him to it! Also. It was a blast to laugh at his runner-brain trying to do math. I did get a piece of cake at the end. I got to meet Matt Inman – the Oatmeal, and creator of The Blerch – and I got to run a good race time again without any injuries or problems.
The highlight of October was the Queen Bee Half Marathon. It was the first time I got to do a race with a coach’s bib. I tried to pace a couple of friends, but they were running a different goal than me, and I wanted to do one thing more than run the whole race: Bring people in to the finish.
My sister was walking her first half marathon – I talked her into this one over any of the others, and I really wanted to be there for her finish.
I ran quite a few people in for the final mile to mile and a half – picking up complete strangers who’s races had fallen apart due to cramps or injury or just general loss of energy. It was inspiring and wonderful to be able to help them at that moment – because I know what I would want from someone when I’m in that same position.
And I did get to see my sister finish.
This month, I ran a good race at Tulsa and got to see the center of the universe – I was running strong, but faltered toward the last 9 miles and had to fight through a lot to keep going – among it the loneliness. Seeing my husband at mile 24, near the center of the universe detour made all the difference in the world for me! It was the loneliness that was destroying me.
Despite the marathon, the highlight of this month was running people in for the end of their marathon at Indianapolis!
I got to help a friend make his goal of sub-4, I got to see the guy I coached with the running store shoot above and beyond his goal time for this return to marathoning, I got to help some struggling runners in, and I got to help and encourage a new co-worker on her first full marathon. I’m telling you, this coaching at the end of the races is where its at! I love this more than actually running the whole damn thing!
This…. This was a hard month. The end of the year brought the end of my marathons challenge – or should…. I was a hobbling mess at this point – having difficulty running due to the IT band injury that started at Tulsa.
I did manage, on the last day of the year to knock out a full marathon distance – on my own – with my husband hanging around to crew me with advil, water refills, and food. I could barely walk afterward, but it was done.
That was not the highlight. Ending the challenge was the highlight. I learned a lot from this challenge. Nothing good about myself, but a lot about running and injury management.
Despite the overhanging Failure of my life this year, I did manage to complete a challenge that I started. Through injuries. Through set backs. Through hope-sapping events in my life. Through days where I didn’t get out of bed until noon because there was no reason for me to do so. Through days where I did get out of bed, and spent the rest of the day trying to convince myself that no, I did not need to break bones in my body to give the mental anguish of my bullshit life something to physically be as well.
Even in completing this thing, this challenge, I still felt like a worthless failure.
I know that’s not the high-note that everyone wants to hear about. But that’s how it is. Thank God 2016 is over. It seemed like it was a harsh year for pretty much everyone I know. It was a helluvaone for me. I could do with wiping it, and the last 8 years off my life.
Where’s the do-over button?
Looking toward 2017.
I have no goals still.
Yeah, I said I would want to BQ in the races next year, but that’s already fucked up. I cannot start training like I need to for the Pig, because I’m still recovering from the injuries of 2016. I signed up for a “big ticket” race in October – it’ll be the vacation and goal race for me – but no one else is going to it, despite the murmurs that some people would be willing to go too. I’m hoping that by stepping back and having only two marathons for the year, I’ll be able to enjoy my running more. I’m hoping that I’ll have some ‘last minute’ signups for races where a lot of my friends will be so that I’ll have fun trips and fun pre-race evenings to bolster myself upon.
I’m hoping I’ll figure out my life and find a direction I want to go in again.
I have hope for 2017. And that’s more than I’ve had for the last year and a half.