Thursday, September 26, 2013

In like a lion, out like a lamb

The month of March is often thought of as coming "in like a lion" and going "out like a lamb."  It suggests the month starts off with winter storms and freezing temps but ends warm, spring-like and peaceful.  For me, that phrase also describes the past year of my life...the first year of my 40's.  I don't mean to imply the last year started off negatively in any way -- more that it started out loud and full and busy and is ending quietly and calmly.

It was almost exactly a year ago that I wrote about registering for my first Boston Marathon and the accompanying excitement and anticipation of running such a historic race.  I looked forward to training hard, to pushing myself and to testing my physical and mental limits in the marathon.  Within a couple of weeks of that post, I was sharing details of the surprise trip to Italy that my husband had planned.  That week was filled with mouth-watering food, incredible wines, delectable desserts and picturesque towns in the Tuscany countryside.

a tiny town on the coast of Italy

The next few months were consumed with marathon training.  With pushing myself.  With learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  With trusting my coach to provide the right workouts for me.  With adapting to running during the cold, wet, Oregon winter.  With doing everything I could to reach my goal of a sub-3:30 marathon at Boston.

frozen fingers became the norm for me

and frozen spiderwebs

pre-race excitement

(short-lived) post-race happiness

Of course, the importance of that goal evaporated shortly after crossing the finish line when tragedy struck.  I was filled instead with shock, anger, sadness, gratitude, relief and guilt...  The what-ifs were simply terrifying.  The emotions I felt over the next few hours and days were overwhelming and just when I thought life had returned to normal, something would bring me back to those feelings that I felt in the immediate aftermath of the marathon.

I remember going to a parade with my husband in early June and both of us feeling uneasy.  We realized it was the first time we had been in a crowd since Boston and I found my heart beating rapidly and my breathing becoming shallow.  I fought the urge to leave.  As the months have passed, however, I have felt more and more like myself.

Until recently.

Just six weeks after Boston, I ran the Newport Marathon on the coast of Oregon.  My time was sufficiently fast to allow me to register for Boston the first week that registration opened.  I really wanted to register and run the race but wasn't sure how the logistics would work for my family.  Easter Sunday is the day before the marathon, my youngest child's birthday is the day after the marathon and my oldest child's birthday is the day after that.  Those are hard dates to work around.  I was uncertain if I should even register.

However, the day my registration window opened was September 11th.  After dropping the kids at school, I sat quietly in my kitchen thought about where I was on that fateful day in 2001.  I remembered how healing it was to run the Marine Corps Marathon just weeks later.  How deeply proud I felt to be an American and how grateful I felt to be running a marathon.  I thought about how I have now run two marathons that were touched by terrorist attacks and how important it is to not be afraid.  And I knew I had to be there in 2014 to heal my own invisible wounds as well as to run for those who can no longer run.

So I clicked on the register button and signed myself up.  I felt fear creeping into my heart and the old feelings coming back as I did so and found myself immediately doubting my decision.

But this time around -- and my goals as I'm heading into the coming year -- could not be more different than a year ago. A cartilage issue with my knee has kept me from running for months and has made me realize that running is so much more to me than chasing PR's or comparing myself to others or even comparing myself to my former self.  It is a part of me and of who I am.  It is my therapy and my best friend and my exercise and my confidence-booster all in one.  It is good for my body and for my mental health and for my kids and for my marriage.  I am lost without it.

Assuming I am able to run again shortly and start building a running base, I hope with all my heart that I will find myself on that starting line in Hopkinton again in 2014.  I expect there will be anxiety and tears and a lot of nerves but I also am hoping for peace and healing for all those involved.  It is a great honor to be able to participate.

For me personally, this will almost certainly be my last Boston and possibly my last marathon.  I look forward to going out like a lamb...full of peace and freedom from strife.

- Kristen

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Easing my way back into it

September is always a month of transition.

Summer slowly fades into fall.  The hot weather of August gives way to cooler September nights.  Baseball is replaced with football on TV on the weekends.  Kids adjust to waking up early for school.  Parents spend hours filling calendars with all the family activities and arranging carpools to sports practices.  We mourn the loss of hot, lazy days at the pool while we simultaneously embrace the routine that comes with the school year.  

I am definitely easing my way into the transition.  

I am enjoying having all the kids back in school.  I am looking forward to soccer games, school functions, gymnastics practices and swim lessons.  I am loving having a few free hours in the mornings so I can grocery shop in peace.  And I am hungry for some time to write and to connect with others.  But I am most excited about my transition back to running.

I had to give up running completely for most of the summer and relied instead on doing Insanity workouts plus the occasional spin or swim workout in order to feed my addition to exercise-induced endorphins.  But they are really poor substitutes for the joy I feel when my feet are pounding the pavement or hitting the trails.  

The last straw for me was when I had to drop out of the Hood to Coast team that my husband and I had put together with friends and had looked forward to all summer.  I ended up driving the van for the team (and had an amazing time) but I spent the weekend feeling like an addict who had their favorite drug in front of them but wasn't allowed to partake.  I'm not gonna lie -- I was so jealous every time one of our team members jumped out of the van to run that it was painful at times.  

I finally saw an orthopedist and, following an MRI, received the news that the cartilage under my left knee cap is "roughed up".  While I was initially devastated and thought this spelled the beginning of the end of my days as a runner, I have since changed my outlook.  I am seeing a physical therapist who believes strongly that I will be back running pain-free soon if I work on some simple strengthening exercises.  Of course, any damage that has been done to my cartilage is irreversible but there is no evidence that my running is the sole cause of all this damage.  Yes, it would be naive of me to think that there was no relationship between my years of high-mileage running and damage to my cartilage.  But I have also been an active person my whole life and I'm no spring chicken.  So, taken in context, a little damaged cartilage isn't all that surprising.  I am seeing the orthopedist again this week where I am hopeful he will clear me to begin running again.  

Of all the things that I am easing myself back into this month, running is by far the one I am most excited about.  As the days get shorter, my runs will hopefully get longer.  

We celebrated the end of summer with a trip to the Oregon coast over Labor Day weekend

The last ice cream of the summer

Who else has been injured recently?
Do you miss summer already or are you ready for the transition to fall?

- Kristen