Back to the grind, or not?

Everyone who knows me and hears I’m back to running asks me, “Does it feel good to be back?”

And of course, I say yes. I smile and gush about how much I’ve missed it, how I can’t wait to be back in shape.

Those things are true (especially the second one), but they aren’t the whole story.

I am truly glad to be back overall. I’m only running every other day at this point, but I get so excited when I know that tomorrow is a “run” day.

But it’s not completely fun yet. When I run, I feel slow. I get worried as I feel little aches and pains everywhere: my hips, my knees, my calves, my feet. I fear injury. I wonder if there’s something wrong with my running gait that causes me to get injuries repeatedly. I worry that since I gained (much-needed-to-be-gained) weight, running is now too much stress on my body, and I’ll never be able to run as hard or fast as I did before.

I’m afraid to get too excited because I know it can all be snatched away. I was looking at my Garmin records from early 2014 – apparently I did a long run of 12 miles at an 8:22 pace, on an ordinary Wednesday?! And I was running nearly 8 miles a day on other days. Which, it’s pretty easy to see why I got a stress fracture, but still, I can’t believe that at one time I was capable of doing that.

But I also saw a quote the other day that I really liked (via the Instagram of Christmas Abbott):

She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.

I like that. I feel like it applies not only to running, but also to school. Guys, engineering is HARD. Like really freaking hard. Every single semester, I wonder if I’m going to pass. I honestly am not sure I’ll graduate. I’m literally 7 classes away from graduation (out of 40.5 that I need to graduate!) and I’m not sure that I’ll make it. Isn’t that silly? I know on some level, that I WILL make it. Because if there’s something I truly want, I don’t give up. I even wrote a college essay on that, haha. But it’s true. If there’s something I want, and I know it’s within my power to get to it, I’ll get to it. Even if my transcript looks like the alphabet repeated every semester. I will make it.

After that rant (sorry, finals week just ended, I can’t help it) the moral of the story is: I’ve struggled with injury, doubts, failures, and fears, and right now, the doubts and fears are loud. But I know as long as I keep going, I’ll get to where I want to be, even if I can’t see it yet.

The most inspiring runner ever

If you want to feel inspired, moved, emotional, and awed, watch this video of a high school runner named Kayla Montgomery:

Catching Kayla

After 2 1/2 months off running and about three weeks of physical therapy, I’m finally able to start running again. I ran 3 minutes this past Monday and 10 minutes on Thursday at the PT place. Those first 3 minutes were glorious. I felt like I was meeting up with an old friend.

Watching this video made me incredibly thankful that even though I’ve not been able to run due to injury, I’ll likely have many healthy years of running ahead of me. It’s so easy to take health for granted. As Thanksgiving approaches, one thing I’m especially mindful of is the blessing that is my own health and the health of my family.

Watch the video friends, and prepare to be a puddle of tears.

As it pertains to my right second metatarsal

And the last bit of news of the running-related incidents in my life.

On September 6, I ran the Philly 10k. It was a race of 3,000 people organized by the local running store, Philadelphia Runner. It sold out within two days, and I was lucky enough to be one of those who got a spot.

In August I posted about possibly having a tibial stress fracture, which actually turned out to be a harmless ganglion cyst. I was cleared to run again.

The Philly 10k was the last day of my fourth week of back to running after I took 16 days off for my shin pain (since I thought it was a stress fracture). Before those 16 days, I’d just gotten to 40 miles per week, and I had been around 30 per week consistently all summer. Plus I was doing strength training twice a week, foam rolling, and even made it to yoga a few times.

After those 16 days off I wanted to be conservative, so I started off with 10 miles the first week back, 14 the next, 20 the next, and 21 that final week that ended in the Philly 10k. I felt fine most of the time, although I did feel like it was taking me awhile to get my fitness back given that I only missed about two weeks.

Then I raced the Philly 10k, which was honestly, miserable. It was the worst race I’ve ever had. It was stupidly hot (79 degrees with 84% humidity at the 7:30am start), and I felt so slow. The plan was to just take it easy and run for fun, but I guess I was a little stubborn in what my definition of easy was. Despite my average pace being 8:27 minutes/mile (not great, but also not turtle-slow) I was being passed by hoards of people throughout the race. I guess that’s what I get for starting in the first corral.

I stopped to walk in the last 2 miles because I felt awful. I felt disoriented and had chills, which I know is a bad sign. It was so annoying because the runners passing by kept “encouraging” me. I know they meant well, but at the time I got angry. Like, I know how to run a race guys, I know it gets harder towards the end and usually you just have to push through… I wouldn’t stop to walk if I didn’t feel so bad.

And as I mentioned in my recap, “My right foot has also been hurting since the race, despite icing it and taking ibuprofen. I’m still hoping that by a small miracle it turns out to be okay, but right now there’s a tiny bruise on top of what looks like a metatarsal, so I’m not feeling optimistic.”

And wow! I must be getting good at being an injured runner now, because it turns out I have a stress fracture in my right second metatarsal.

I really didn’t want it to be that. I still had my stress fracture boot from my last one in the spring, so I just wore that for about two weeks to see if it stopped hurting. I didn’t want to go in a month after my last MRI and become the girl who cried stress fracture. But after two weeks… it still hurt. So I went in, made the MRI appointment and all that.

I admit the one thing I was excited about was that when I looked at the pictures from my MRI (I always ask for the CD of pictures before I leave) is that I was pretty sure I had a stress fracture. I read some resource for radiologists for identifying stress fractures, and if there’s white color around the bone, it means there’s swelling in the tissue around the bone, indicating a stress reaction or fracture. And I saw that, self diagnosed* myself with a stress fracture, and was right! How exciting. (*Not recommended. I’ve been right 1/3 times I’ve gotten an MRI)

Foot MRI

The inside of my right foot (bottom view)

And… yeah. I’m in the boot for at least another week. And also, the killer is that my doctor doesn’t want me to run anymore for the rest of 2014. I guess it is kind of worrisome… two stress fractures in a seven month time frame in a young adult female who doesn’t have great bone density. Even given the logic, it’s a tough pill to swallow. I’m still hoping she’ll reconsider, because not running at all is making me depressed. Life feels dull now, like there’s some screen in front of my perception of the world that prevents me from seeing all the good. At least I notice it and am trying to keep myself busy in other ways.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly Half Marathon spectator recap

On to the next running-related thing I wanted to share with you. The first was my experience being one of those 1,947 people who did not get in to the Boston marathon. This is the second.

A few weekends ago (September 21, to be exact) I spectated the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. A friend of a friend was running the half on Sunday, and she stayed with me the night before, so we walked over to the start together.

It was a humid morning, around 70. Less than ideal for running, but perfect for spectating.

My friend and I parted ways near the start line, and I dashed over to the starting line to see if I could spot Kara Goucher.

My running heroes are Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan. I followed their training for the 2012 Olympic Marathon for months, and since then I’ve been a huge fan. I met Shalane Flanagan at the first Runner’s World half in 2012. She signed my Penn Running Club jersey! Unfortunately it hasn’t made me any faster, but I do feel a little better at the start of every race knowing that it’s imbued with Shalane Flanagan.

I saw more prolific runners – Lauren Fleshman and Desi Linden – at the Peachtree Road Race this past summer.

However, I’d yet to see Kara in person, so I was psyched she was going to be at RnR Philly. Not to mention Deena Kastor, who was gunning for the Master’s half marathon world record.

And I did see Kara! First at the start line, then at mile 4, and finally right at the end. I also watched Deena Kastor cross the finish line to set her world record.

Kara start line

That red blur is Kara just after the start

Kara mile 4

Kara at mile 4

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Kara at mile 4 again

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Deena on her way to the Master’s half marathon world record! (1:09:36)

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Kara about to finish in 1:11:40. Her goal was between 1:11 and 1:12 – can’t believe how precise elite runners can be.

And my friend came in a bit later to finish her first half marathon :)

This was my first year not running the Rock ‘n’ Roll half (2012’s recap here, and 2013’s here), but I didn’t miss doing it. It’s not an exciting course if you’re from Philadelphia and run there all the time. I guess it has the benefit of being flat (I PRed there last year), plus it was fun to spectate this year.

Dismantling a dream in 40 seconds

I have a lot I want to share about the past few weeks, but there’s something important I want to talk about first. 

I did not get into the Boston Marathon. The cut-off time was 1:02 faster than the qualifying time, and I was only 22 seconds faster. 

Here’s my Boston sob story. I wrote it in class on Thursday (the day after the results came out) when I couldn’t focus because of how upset I was. I’ve mostly accepted what happened, and I feel fired up to try for an even faster marathon so that I can really run Boston, but I still thought this was worth sharing.


Dismantling a Dream in 40 Seconds

I did not make the cut for the Boston Marathon.

My time of 3:34:38, twenty two seconds faster than the qualifying time for my age/gender group of Women 18-34 (a grouping I will remain in for the next fourteen years, which at this point is more than half my lifespan), was not fast enough to make the seventy two second cut off. In a race that took me 12,878 seconds, a mere forty seconds (.31% of the time it took me to complete the race) was the deciding factor between realizing a dream and having it snatched away.

I’ve wanted to run the Boston Marathon since 2012, when the qualifying time was still 3:40. Then it was lowered by five minutes, and my heart sunk. Maybe I could run 3:40, but 3:35? I would still try, but I was doubtful.

I trained intensely for three months. I spent a grueling three hours thirty four minutes thirty eight seconds pounding my feet against the pavement for 440,340 steps. I ran with the intent of getting a BQ so that I could run the 2015 Boston Marathon. When I crossed the finish line, I truly believed I had done it. I waited patiently for ten months for the opportunity to submit an entry. I waited not-so-patiently another week and a half for the results. My dedication had paid off. And then it had not. 

They said they had “roughly 8,000″ spots going into the second week. They admitted 6,447.

I am so sad. I wrote this in my physical chemistry class, when I could not focus on anything but not crying, which I did not even succeed at doing. 

Next year I will be in the middle of senior design, a year-long engineering project required for graduation, when the 2016 Boston Marathon rolls around. And after next year I will likely move away from Philadelphia, and I may not be a mere train ride away from Boston. 

Maybe I will really qualify to run in the future, but right now, I am so sad. 


Again, I’ve more or less accepted the results now. I think the BAA’s registration process is very logical but also leads to a lot of disappointment when people who put so much work into qualifying and believe they did don’t end up getting to run. I admire the BAA for not giving into pressure to change their rules, though. They’re able to create a race that thousands of people (including me) ache to run, and I can’t wait to one day experience it myself. 

In a serious pickle!

Quick tidbit of news I couldn’t not share.

I’m currently registered for the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll 5k tomorrow. However, my foot hasn’t stopped hurting since I ran the Philly 10k two weekends ago, so I haven’t been running and have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for next week. And obviously, I wasn’t planning on running the 5k anymore, which was fine by me. It would be just another 5k, right?

WRONG.

Because Deena Kastor (the woman who currently holds the American record in the marathon, although that title might be taken by Shalane next weekend) is going to be at the 5k PACING the 8 minute/mile group! I’m not in shape right now, but I could definitely run 8 minute per mile for 3.1 miles.

I could run with Deena Kastor! An Olympian and American record holder! I’m already registered for the race, and I have no other pressing obligations to prevent me from going to the race, which is conveniently located approximately two miles from my house! What could possibly be wrong?

Except… I’m worried I might have a stress fracture? Again. My foot hurts when I walk, the pain hasn’t gotten better with ice or ibuprofen, and there’s a tiny bruise on the top of my foot. Um… not good signs. Worth getting checked out, anyway. Which I am. But Deena Kastor! Tomorrow!

Dilemma.

I’m seriously considering running the race anyway. How much could 3.1 miles hurt me? I ran 9.5 miles the day after I was pretty sure I got my stress fracture back in February… will 3.1 miles really fracture my foot? I know this is like, the worst logic ever, but it’s hard to be rational when it’s Deena Kastor. My friend suggested I go stand in the corral with her (I have a bib and everything) and then just leave after the race starts, which would look kind of silly, but I’m actually considering it!

The Philly 10k Recap

The Philly 10k shieldThis year was the first year of The Philly 10k, hosted by the local running store Philadelphia Runner. Although this was the race’s first year, the organizers did a phenomenal job of advertising and hyping it up. This was a race for runners, by runners in celebration of Philadelphia Runner’s 10th Anniversary.

“Early” registration opened for one day back in March for 1,500 people, and the spots sold out within 3.5 hours. Regular registration opened the next day, and the remaining 1,500 spots sold out within 70 minutes. Interest was way greater than they anticipated, but I was glad I was able to get in!

The course was unique in that it went through 12 different Philadelphia neighborhoods in the heart of the city instead of along the Schuylkill River, which is the typical course for races in Philadelphia (it’s easy to close down and goes on for basically forever).

Philadelphia

Philadelphia Runner did a beautiful job of organizing this race, but honestly, it was an awful day for me. The weather was atrocious – 79 degrees and 84% humidity at 7:30am! I haven’t seen that sort of weather that early in the morning since living in Georgia.

My time was 52:31, making this 6 minutes slower than my PR (Run the Bridge last November) and 5 minutes slower than the Peachtree, a significantly hillier course, in July. It was just so miserably hot. I vomited in my mouth a little at mile 4, and I started getting chills around mile 5, which I knew was a bad sign, so I stopped to walk. A few other runners kept encouraging me to start running again, which annoyed me at the time. I would only stop to walk during a race if I felt like something was seriously wrong.

My pacing was also pretty bad: 7:21, 8:06, 8:40, 8:30, 8:40, 9:16, and last bit at like 8:00ish. I definitely took it out too fast – I wasn’t looking at my watch, and my sense of pace hasn’t yet returned after taking some time off when my tibia hurt. I was actually surprised my overall pace wasn’t slower though; based on the number of people passing me I would have guessed I was going a 10+ min mile.

I was able to speed up a little at the end because this guy right next to me started retching awfully and I didn’t want to be in his line of fire. Then a girl collapsed about 20 feet before the finish line right in front of me. It seemed like the heat was getting to everybody, and it didn’t help that there were only two water stops along the course (which would have been fine on a cool fall day –  this day, not so much).

The course was neat in that it went through Philly neighborhoods, but it wasn’t fun to “race.” The shape was basically one big rectangle, and each side seemed to take FOREVER. It felt kind of like a 10,000 meter track  – I just kept waiting for the turn which never came, which was so mentally tough.Course map

The road that went straight towards the finish line was very unevenly paved, and I saw a few people almost trip – I wouldn’t be surprised if some did.

After the race I was so out of it. I usually don’t feel that bad after a 10k. I’m talking like post-marathon level of confusion. I ended up walking an extra 1.5 miles-ish to what I perceived in my mind to be the closest subway station, when really I could have just gone back the way I came (a station a few blocks west of the race start/finish).

My right foot has also been hurting since the race, despite icing it and taking ibuprofen. I’m still hoping that by a small miracle it turns out to be okay, but right now there’s a tiny bruise on top of what looks like a metatarsal, so I’m not feeling optimistic.

I think this race will be a really great addition to the Philly race scene in future years, but this year’s inaugural race was just not my day.

*All pictures from the Philly 10k’s website and Facebook page*