I've repeated the above question-and-answer to myself at least twice a day for the last five weeks. As much as my head screamed, "RUN!" the body said, "Nope." That whole Achilles thing I referenced in the last entry was far more significant than anticipated; I wasn't able to put weight on my leg (more accurately, push off with my left leg) until the very end of May. THE END OF MAY. It was awful. Logically, I knew I had to slow down; the tendon would heal if I just gave it time. But ugh. No running? For someone who has defined the last 4+ years of her life by pace, splits and miles, time off was slow torture. As Reinier so eloquently stated, "The last part of a successful marathon is a healthy recovery." Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, so what now?
My chiropractor encouraged me to stay active by engaging in less-impact sports, like cycling and aqua jogging. Naturally, I immediately texted Kat (also sidelined by nagging injuries) and said we should take the aqua jogging circuit by storm. Matching swimsuits! Unfortunately, chlorine makes my hair green, so I opted some mechanical device at the gym. In the few times I went, I couldn't help but notice the place was nearly silent as each gym goer quietly pumped their arms and moved their legs, robotically going through their cardio routine, completely unto themselves. We all faced the same direction and no one made eye contact. This experience was punctuated by the giant picture windows that literally overlooked Red Rock Conservation Area, only miles down the road. Why were we chained to these silly machines when we could be running through nature? There are cool snakes out there! Hills! Did everyone have Achilles tendonitis too? What is the point of working out if you aren't going to be in nature?
I wanted to scream.
I realized quickly esoteric questions have no place in the recovery process. I did my requisite 40 minutes and hopped off.
I even tried the stationary bike. Within minutes, I remembered why I hate cycling. A) My legs are 70% of my body making for an awkward pedaling motion B) one should never wear running shorts on a bike (see A) and C) oh my gosh cycling is boring. I was pedaling to nowhere. I resisted the urge to slam my head repeatedly on the handle bars.
My mood continued to plummet.
I threw myself into the bathroom remodel. It was a struggle. As much as I like to look at pretty rooms and design ideas, I have an 18 minute-attention span before I get horrifically bored. Drop-in or under-mount sink? What color: almond, biscuit, or Mexican sand? (Heads up: this is all code for BEIGE). Four inches of mosaic or six? Beveled edge mirror or flat? I had to go to Faucet World to pick out faucets and quickly realized I am Miranda from Sex And the City. Remember when she was pregnant and had to buy a crib? She said, "I don't need to go to Crib World. I want to go to the store called, "This Is The Crib For You. I don't need to look at 300 different types of cribs." This was my sentiment exactly. I wish the store "This is the Faucet For You" existed. I do not need 200 faucets that essentially look the same AND come in 18 different finishes. They all produce water, correct?
Oh my god, stick a fork in my eye.
After that, Chewie Cat, ye of the recent weird behavior, lost her little kitty mind. She inexplicably peed in our laundry basket. Fur fell out an alarming rate. There was some self-harming behavior. Chewie, the more sensitive of the two kittens, was not enjoying the remodeling process. She did not appreciate the constant stream of large men traipsing up our drop-cloth covered stairs, She stopped eating. She stopped greeting me in the mornings when I got ready for yet another non-running boot camp. She started hiding more and more. And then in one epic move, she completely overturned Tub Day (the day the new tub was to be installed) by crawling into the hole under the tub and refusing to come out for a full 24 hours. It was like she had given the entire house the middle paw. I had to explain to the nice workmen that no, they could not put the tub in; our cat was in that hole. I was so mortified I made breakfast for all of them the next morning, apologizing profusely and assuring them we'd take Chewie to the vet.
Thinking that perhaps she was experiencing some kind of early stage kidney disease, I dragged Scotty and Chewie to the vet one very hot afternoon. The stress of having Chatty McChatterson next to the pitiful meow of one very angry cat almost drove me nuts. Once there, the very sweet and kind vet assured us that Chewie is young and healthy, just stressed out. Stressed. My cat is stressed out. I think MOM is stressed out. And now she has the drive the crew back home during rush hour and answered yet another barrage of questions about spinosauruses, corn snakes, and vehicles used in the Star Wars movies while ignoring the hiss of the cat on the seat next to her and not crash the car into a wall.
Exasperated, Brian and I did what anyone in our situation would do: we went to Mexico.
After depositing the Bear at the Smiths for a VERY long weekend, we headed south of the border. Using the points we earned on our credit card from the remodel, we flew to Cabo and stayed at this incredible house/compound of awesomeness to celebrate Uncle Jim's birthday with tequila, guacamole and pool time. Nothing like conquering a first world problem with a first world solution.
The river of men that frequented our house slowed to a trickle. Big things, like mirrors and glass, went up and we inched to bathroom remodel conclusion. I told the crew, "This is mile 22! Push to the finish! Go, go, go!" I'm not sure they appreciated or even understood the sentiment, but I felt better. And happily, last week we moved back into the master bathroom and out of the 4x6' bathroom Brian and I had been sharing for the last month. I didn't realize we were such big people until we were tripping over each other trying to brush our teeth. The fine layer of dust that has blanketed our house for the past four weeks is almost completely gone and I'm not stumbling over plastic, work tools and drop cloths. Rejoice!
Best of all, I'm up and running again. Last week I combining running with boot camp and it went great. This week, I'm adding in a day of speed work and then a tempo run. Weekly mileage is slowly climbing from, well, 0 to around 20. This week, I'm looking at 30+. I'm back - and ready to rumble.
On Friday, my last two toe nails fell off. I was so happy about this situation I immediately snapped a picture in the aisle of Sprouts. I had banged my foot into the cart and one nail popped off. Remarkably, later that night, I slammed the same foot into a bed post and the other one came off. My klutziness is finally paying off. But in many ways, I see this as the bookends of marathon recovery - from Mother's Day to Father's Day weekend, from healthy toenails to empty sockets of where they once laid. And I love it. Good-bye toenails, hello happy runner Kim.
First you can't fight your body. You just can't. Trust me, I tried. Guess who won?
Also, slow and steady wins. Maybe not in the race, but certainly in training. I can't tell you how many people have asked me about running in the past 6 weeks. I am truly flattered that some feel as though I've inspired them to set lofty goals, like run a full marathon or BQ. The number one thing I hear from people is "But I'm not fast." Oh honey! Neither am I. All this running stuff takes time. Lots of time. Not only are you building muscles and endurance, but you are stretching ligaments and tendons and getting your body used to the impact of running. Worrying about speed is the least of a new runner's concerns; staying healthy is most important.
Even more so - don't compare yourself to anyone - especially your old self. A few weeks ago, at a rather painful and torturous Hill Day, a nice person commented that I was "really fast." I snorted and replied, "I used to be a lot faster before I ran that marathon." The frustration over "doing everything right" was overwhelming. It's not like I took 6 months off and just let myself go. I BQ'd and promptly lost my mojo. It irritated the sh*t out of me.
There I was, sweaty, exhausted, annoyed, and a mere shadow of what I could do several months ago. In April, everything clicked. But it's not April, it's June, and time to live in the present. I ran, I BQ'd, and I hit my goal. This is my reality and it's a good one. This recovery is a mere speed bump in what I hope is a long and storied running career. Really, it's about perspective. Slowing transferring that frustration to gratitude helped, as did allowing myself to slow down and not be balls-to-the-wall for every run and workout. Reinier commented, "I'm really glad you went to Mexico and drank margaritas." That made me laugh. When your coach tells you he's proud of you for skipping class and consuming alcohol, you know it's time to calm the f*ck down.
For the record, getting back to running - it's hard! Holy guacamole! I forgot what a suffer-fest it is in the beginning. Newbies and just-getting-back-to-it'ers: ouch! Be ready to be exhausted and tired. Little runs like 5-6 miles were killing me. I had a dinky four miler before boot camp last week and barely got through it. Four miles was the warm up and cool down of a normal speed work session! I used to squeeze seven miles of intervals between those four miles. And now, I could barely make it to the basketball court by 6am. Like anything, I had a choice - keep going or give up. The part of running that becomes addictive, the raging Tiki party* that awaits you at the end of every run, is there; it just takes awhile to get there. Be consistent and be patient. I promise, it gets better. But you have to stay with it.
The Mt Charleston marathon will forever be memorable for two reasons: 1) the BQ, obviously, but also 2) I've learned far more about myself in the recovery than I did in the training and the race. This was completely unexpected. But it's good. Every race, I've learned a little more. This one took me by surprise but I'm glad it happened.
And I'm really glad those stupid toenails fell off.
*Shamelessly stolen from The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman's "The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances"