This cycle has been one frustrating setback after another. When I lasted posted in January, I was fully confident that my speed would return, along with my energy and vitality. No such luck. As the days crept into February, I found myself even more tired than the day before. My 9:15 minute miles inched closer to 9:30s, and by Fridays, I was pushing to keep under a 10 minute pace. Was I that out of shape? My weekly mileage remained high but my speed was ridiculously sad. When my monthly total showed over 176 miles in January - all at a 9 min pace or higher - I freaked out.
I went to my doctor, the same guy who removed the stitches in my arms two summers ago. He knows how much Boston means to me, so when I limped in, sad and dejected, he ordered up a bunch of blood work. Yes, answers! Finally! Several working theories: anemia, hypothyroidism, or (OMG nonononononono, cue the scary music...)...perimenopause. The p-word. Please, noooooo. I'm only 38...
I was most excited about an anemia diagnosis. He said we could do an iron infusion, since oral supplements wouldn't work in time for Boston. My mind instantly flashed to me sprinting past the elite women's field to break the tape. I'm going to win! No Wave 3 runner has ever won the Boston Marathon. Until now! Move over, Kenyans, Kim has new red blood cells. Do they drug test Wave 3?
A week later, I sat in his office, eager for the results, only for him to tell me everything was totally, completely perfect. Relieved, yes, but also frustrated since this didn't offer any solutions. No iron infusion? I was already tapping a vein, excited for anticipated burst of energy. Instead, I pulled my sleeve down and sobbed. Close to nine weeks out and still no answers.
Coincidentally, I had an appointment with my chiropractor the same day. When he brightly and naively asked, "How's it going?", I felt the tears well up again. This isn't the first time I've cried in his office, so he grabbed the tissues and took a seat. Thirty minutes later, he stated a hypothesis that I've toying with but too scared to test out: I'm overtraining and under-eating. The prescription: more time off, more calories.
Whaaaaaaat? Bold words to say to someone training for the Boston Marathon. Let go to get more? Run slow to speed up? Train less to be stronger? Eat more to weigh...::gasp:: less?? None of this was making sense in my very linear brain. All of these counter-intuitive solutions. Scary. Experimental. Not my dish. Why is running such a head trip?
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was my only option. I could only crank out so many sad 9 minute miles before both my legs and spirit collapsed. Fresh legs are such a delight; I would love a good run at a nice, comfortable pace. It would be great to not feel hungry all the time. Was it worth trying?
On Valentine's Day, I had three ounces of steak with my spinach salad. Yup, steak. Go big or go home, right? And then on Wednesday morning - I'm sure this is nothing more than a coincidence - I cranked out six 7:30 miles in a row. It felt gooooood to run that fast. My legs wanted to and my head was so relieved. Brian, of course, attributed this tiny win to red meat.
It's been about a week now and I'm feeling much, much better. Not quite 100% yet, but easier runs combined with less cross training is giving me so much more energy. I feel ready for my hard run-days and enjoy my easy run-days so much more. I'm cramming every micro-nutrient I can find into my smoothies and not counting calories anymore. I've added eggs back into my diet. It's very freeing and slightly scary but I'm so happy to see things finally changing.
Of course, it doesn't mean everything is perfect. In my last long run (18 miles), I made the most rookie of rookie mistakes: I overdressed. All that rain that has hit the West Coast soaked Las Vegas, too. I was too concerned about wet clothing = hypothermia to realize I was setting myself up for disaster. We expected close to a half an inch of rain on Saturday morning, with the heaviest storms hitting right in the middle of our long run. Running in from Red Rock in the pouring rain, I knew I was too hot on mile 1. But I was dry, hooray! I was meeting my new running buddy around miles 7-8, so I thought I'd shed some clothing when I got there. But on mile 3, a tiny river rushed over the road and I was forced to run through about three inches of water. The freezing cold water covered my entire foot all the way up to the ankles. I had almost 50m of this water to run through (they would later close the road due to flash flooding), and the water instantly made my feet about 14 pounds heavier. I am Scott Jurek...I can do this...this is the Rucky Chucky River in Western States...if he can run for 70 miles, run through a river, then run 30 more, I can crank out 15 measly miles.
Unless Scott changes his shoes and socks after the river, who knows. I forgot all about my rising internal temperature because my feet were so darn wet. I began devising a plan to get rid of my sopping wet footwear. By the time I met Johnny, I suggested we go south and run to my house, instead of north into the hills of Summerlin. I could change shoes and we'd do another 3-4 miles. Johnny is super easy-going and agreed to the new plan right away, thankfully. He's been an awesome running buddy - I'm fairly certain we share a brain. We both think in terms of numbers, effectiveness and favor the nerd emoji. It's been a delightful few weeks running with him, making those long miles go by much faster.
We headed south. Right around mile 10, things started to get fuzzy. My heart was racing and I felt nauseous. By mile 14, just a few blocks from my house, I was willing myself to put one foot in front of the other. Don't puke in your front yard. We got inside, I ripped off my jacket, beanie, and gloves, and gasped for air. Ran upstairs to get my other pair of shoes. Must finish the long run! Go go go. It still hadn't hit me that I was overheating until I decided to completely change outfits. I mean, why not? I'm standing in my closet in soaking wet clothing. It would be silly to not take advantage of this opportunity. So I ripped the rest of my clothing off only to discover I was BRIGHT red. Face, shoulders, legs...I was so sweaty too. Like, pouring sweat. I toweled off but kept sweating. Finally, finally the light clicked on and I jumped on the scale. Down four pounds from just over two hours ago. That is no weight loss, folks. That's my body losing water in its attempt to keep me cool.
A new pair of running shorts and tank top, along with dry shoes, did the trick. We did another few miles, albeit not at marathon pace, but I was just proud I had a) figured out the problem and b) solved it. It may rain in Boston; now I know not to wear 8 layers of clothing. And a hat. With my hood up. (doh!)
This has not been a perfect training cycle - far from it. The more I run, the more I realize how much I don't know. (why?? when does this end? lol). But learning to adapt on the fly, be flexible, trust the process...these are themes that are emerging. Learning to listen to my body. Trusting that my miles may be slow now, but as long as I continue, I will make progress. Trust the plan, trust the process. I cannot guarantee an outcome, but I can guarantee I'll do the work.
**Just under 8 weeks out until Marathon Monday.