While some of the sharpness of those emotions has begun to fade, I will always carry a piece of that day in my heart. Like a jagged rock that has water rushing over it for years on end, it eventually will become a smooth stone. But it will never completely disappear.
[So many others carry permanent physical reminders of that day so, again, I know I am lucky in comparison. And I am forever grateful for the many, many heroes who did anything from save a life to loan a stranger their cell phone so that they could call loved ones. Bostonians opened up their collective hearts and houses to all the displaced runners in a way that will never be forgotten.]
But life does march on, regardless of whether we are ready for it or not.
For me, the past four weeks have been a balancing act of trying to recover from Boston while starting to train for another marathon. A few months ago when we were feeling healthy, strong and invincible, Kate and I thought it would be a great idea to run the Newport Marathon just seven weeks after running Boston. It was the first time running Boston for both of us and we had heard that it was a challenging course -- the downhills at the beginning were known to crush your quads and the hills from mile 17-21, culminating with Heartbreak Hill, were said to crush your spirit. So our plan was to have fun at Boston but not run it too aggressively. We were hoping to save ourselves a little for Newport, a very flat and fast marathon, where we both wanted to smash our old PR's.
What is it they say about the best laid plans?!
For days after Boston, I cursed the fact that I lived in a four story house. Getting from my bedroom on the third floor to the laundry room in the basement was pure torture. I was convinced I had strained my quads because I had never experienced such pain almost a week after a marathon.
After diligently taking a full week off from running, I had no choice but to start running again if I wanted to be in decent shape for Newport. I took it easy that first week back and spent a lot of time pool running in order to minimize the pounding on my legs. I slowly increased my training and even managed an 18 mile run just two weeks after the marathon but I couldn't seem to shake a lingering sense of deep fatigue.
|this run felt much harder than it should have...|
I was exhausted by early afternoon each day and ready to go to bed right after the kids each night. Initially, I assumed it was due to jumping back into training so quickly after a marathon. But then I remembered Amanda having similar feelings and it turned out her iron levels were low. So I made an appointment to have my blood drawn to see if there was anything similar going on with my iron.
Turns out I was suffering from the same thing as Amanda. As a vegetarian and also a pre-menopausal woman, I am at increased risk of becoming anemic. Add long-distance running to the mix and the risk goes up even more. [The constant pounding of our feet against the pavement can cause the destruction of red blood cells.] Although I am not technically anemic, my ferritin levels are very low, which basically means I am suffering from iron depletion. If I were a couch potato, having low ferritin levels wouldn't necessarily be a problem. But it can have a big impact on running performance.
I am now taking an iron supplement that will hopefully boost my iron stores, although it takes anywhere from six weeks to four months to really feel an impact. I plan to get my blood tested again in six months to see where my levels are at and hopefully transition off the supplements if I can make enough dietary changes to compensate.
In the meantime, the date of my next marathon is looming closer and closer. I was able to complete another 20 mile training run last Thursday as well as an 8x800 track workout but my legs just feel constantly tired and sluggish, as does the rest of me.
So don't ask me why, in the middle of all this marathon training and constant fatigue, that I would then decide to sign up to run my very first 5K.
There are two main reasons I have never run a 5K. First, it always has sounded like so much hassle -- registering, paying a race fee, driving somewhere, standing around at the start, etc. -- all for an event that will be over so (relatively) quickly. Second, it just sounded so HARD. Yes, marathons are hard, too. But a 5K is a much different kind of pain and one that I am not used to feeling.
However, because it was on Mother's Day, I decided I could endure all the hassle involved and be able to run this 5K guilt-free while my husband took the kids to church. We would meet at home afterwards and all head to brunch together.
When I woke up early yesterday morning to head to the race, I immediately regretted my decision to register for the 5K. My legs simply did not feel recovered from the 20 mile run I had completed three days earlier. And when I looked at the weather app on my phone and saw that it was already 63 degrees out and 85 percent humidity, I knew it would be a tough day.
|my poor legs just can't catch a break...|
I drove across town to the suburban high school where the race was being held and found myself surrounded by hundreds of moms and their families. There was a kids 1 mile race that was held before the 5K and I couldn't help but smile when I watched them take off at a dead sprint for their race.
I ran into some friends at the start and one of them mentioned that the top 3 finishers by gun time would receive prizes. We both thought it was strange to use gun time when we all had timing chips on our bib but she wanted to start near the front in order to improve her chances at winning a prize. She is a phenomenal runner and I had no doubt she would place in this race -- she had finished 4th woman overall in a half-marathon just the day before!
I went ahead and started near the front with her and suddenly we were off and running. My plan was just to run based on feel and not look at my watch. The first 200 meters were on the track and then we headed out on the streets surrounding the high school. The streets were nice, wide and empty and the runners quickly thinned out. I was surprised to find myself in sixth place fairly early on and passed three runners in the first half of the race, putting myself in third place overall. My speedy friend, Kelly, was in second place (where she ultimately finished) but still far ahead of me. Amazing job, Kelly!!
The race seemed to go on forever. I couldn't believe 3.1 miles could be so torturous. My legs had felt dead from the start but it was my breathing that seemed out of control near the end. I could feel my body screaming for oxygen but I couldn't get it in fast enough! Thankfully, it was finally time to turn back into the stadium and finish the last 200 meters on the track. The 4th place woman was a ways behind my at that point and I cruised to a 3rd place finish in 21:24. Or so I thought.
Long story short, despite what was on the website, the prizes went to the top 3 finishers by chip time not gun time. Of course, that is the only fair way to award prizes and it is how it should have been from the beginning. And it wasn't like I ever thought I had a chance of winning a prize in the first place. But that gift basket did look amazing and it included 2 hours of free housecleaning -- what mom doesn't need that?! Ha!
When I finally saw the results, it turned out another woman had taken almost 40 seconds to cross the start line and she beat me by 3 seconds. Who knows if I had another 3 seconds in me but I am just happy to finally have a 5K time in my running book. I will now have to run another one on fresh legs (and hopefully cooler temps) to see if I can improve on that time.
As much as I didn't like that I-think-I'm-gonna-die feeling that I experienced around mile 2.5, I can see where these shorter races can be somewhat addicting. You could train specifically for these shorter distances and run them much more often. And if the race doesn't go as planned, at least you don't have the feeling that comes with knowing you put months and months of time and effort into such a long marathon training cycle and ended up disappointed.
All that is merely speculation, though, as I still am focused on the marathon for now. I'm hoping my last 20 mile run goes well this Wednesday and then I'm off to spend a relaxing, fun weekend with six of my best girlfriends before heading into taper once again.
|can't wait to see these ladies (plus one more) in just a few days!!|
Anyone else suffer from low iron?
Am I the only one who finds 5K's harder than marathons?