I got the official “all clear” to start running again from my doctor on May 31st after successfully completing four weeks of physical therapy. Needless to say, before the sunrise on June 1, I was on the road. It seemed fitting; the injury happened on April 1. Two very long months sans running will do a number on anyone. Technically, there was one marathon wedged in those eight weeks, but who's counting. That morning as I trotted down a familiar route, I felt both gratitude as well as strong sense of urgency to make up for time lost.
It was a slow comeback. I knew it would be; swimming and indoor cycling are awesome but nothing compares to pounding the pavement one sneaker at a time. My endurance seemed to still be intact, but speed? Gone.
I was starting all over again…again.
The only way out is through.
I must have repeated that to myself a few hundred times over the course of the hot summer months. I was so frustrated with the direction everything had taken – the gastroc strain, Boston, and now, starting again. But…that’s running. Two steps forward, one step back.
As June and July ticked by, I lumbering through those early miles, paying more attention to effort than pace. My only goal was to build mileage slowly and safely. Had I been actually trying to hit certain times, I would have quit. I wasn’t just slow, I was unbearably slow. I couldn't muster any acceleration. My miles were a full minute to 90 seconds slower than what I was clocking in late March, during peak training. It was like living in 2014 again, post-ultra, when every mile was a labored 10+ minute effort. No matter what my brain screamed at my body, the legs simply continued at their own sluggish speed.
In an effort to maintain running sanity, I tried some new stuff. Trail running was a bit of a bust because there are mountains in Southern Nevada and I have a pathological fear of heights. I ran in the evenings in the blistering heat, working on my heat acclimatization. That was a giant sufferfest. Johnny and I did a couple runs on Mt. Charleston, but the real highlight was post-run eating “fancy” oatmeal out of his trunk, enjoying the cooler temps and smell of pine trees.
I swam and swam and swam. My back is really tan.
I decided to transition this concern into action. Time to get stronger.
I did a bit of research and decided to do a function movement assessment at Anthem Fitness under close professional observation. Not surprisingly, it highlighted a significant weakness in my hips, particularly the right one. We all know hips don’t lie; most running injuries are because of weak or insufficient hip rotation and activation. It seemed as though I had gotten as far as I could in running by just winging it; now was the time to get serious and train smart. Under Max's guidance, I incorporated three days of strength training in addition to running, swimming and Pilates.
FYI: if you ever see me on the playground at school, this is why I’m constantly in workout clothes.
The Anthem training was completely different than anything I’ve ever done. It wasn’t cardio and it wasn’t high impact. The movements were slow; they started gradual with lots of stretching and foam rolling. Then we moved on to exercises that “activated” various muscle groups, followed by series of explosive movements designed to get everything firing. Then finally, weights. Heavy weights. I walked out of the gym on the first day dripping with sweat, having no idea what had just happened. It was confusing, fun, and *OMG* painful. That night, my hips ached as I slept. Extremely effective, to say the least.
And it has been. Strength training, combined with a whole bunch of fartleks, hills, and long runs, has brought me back. I’m *almost* there. Each track day, my turnover gets a bit faster. I fatigue less quickly. I finally hit a sub-8 minute mile and practically clicked my heels together in sheer joy. Speed IS a tricky thing. It’s so easy to lose, so hard to find. If you are struggling with trying to get faster, stay the course! It’s a terribly slow process and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it does happen. Keep the faith.
This exciting and encouraging progress was completely derailed by an adults-only trip to NYC in late July. Brian and I dropped the Bear off with Indiana Grandma to fish and hunt turtles while we explored the Big Apple. While there, we ate and drank our way through the city. I didn’t run a single step. Despite the fact we could see Central Park from our hotel and I had packed no less than eight pairs of running shorts, I never laced up. It was kind of a “thank you” to Brian for being so patient with me on countless other family vacations when my running schedule delayed many days. Instead, we slept until noon. We sipped Campari cocktails with orange slices from a fountain in Little Italy. We went to the top of the Empire States Building at midnight and drank champagne at the Plaza Hotel. We saw old friends. We drank craft beer and my absolute favorite wine in upstate New York. I made it my mission to visit at least one fancy bakery per day.
It was an amazing trip.
When the number on the scale popped up, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. But now we know the answer to: “If Kim stops running and eats whatever she’d like, what will happen?”
When you are trying to improve your speed, any weight gain is completely detrimental. I am trying to get back down to racing weight and just set myself back a full month. Whoops. But it’s okay; I own my behavior. I don’t regret one single cupcake. Weight comes and weight goes; if you have the chance to visit your namesake bakery, go!
I was feeling rather smug until I sat on the bike last week. I realized - I haven’t been on a bike since the summer of 2000. Mountain biking in the hills of Wisconsin was such a horrible experience, the memory is still seared into my brain. (I can tell you what I had for breakfast that day). Sitting on the road bike made me realize I have NO CLUE what I’m doing. As a friend suggested, is it possible to RUN the 12 miles instead of bike them?
My fledging cycling career deserves a blog entry of its own, but here’s a preview: did you know there are TWENTY-EIGHT gears to chose from? And if you pick the wrong one at the wrong elevation, your chain will fall off. WHAT?! My shoes have never fallen off during a run. The idea of my equipment turning on me because of user error just made my anxiety spike all over again.
But what’s the fun in life if you aren’t pushing yourself or trying something new? So jump on board, it’s going to be an interesting ride. I mean, just the other day, I realized I had a bike in the back of my car, swim goggles in my purse and running shoes on my feet. How did that happen?
Here goes nothing!