Friday, March 16, 2012

Pieces of the Puzzle

I guess my return to running like my old self is like a puzzle. I need to put the puzzle together one piece at a time. I am now consistently running my old schedule of Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday which is a definite positive step. While being consistent, I'm also working on building back my endurance and surprisingly that hasn't suffered as much as everything else. Last weekend, I was really only supposed to do 5, but I ran with a couple of friends and ended up running 7. I ran 8 several weekends ago, but the pace of this 7 was faster so I got a little tired near the end. All in all, it was great though. The best part is the next day I ran a very solid 4 with some of my fastest miles since the injury. My legs felt really good after the previous day's 7. Positives.

This kind of talk still shocks me. It's now been a little over 3 months since I was talking about 12 milers before work and checking off 45 mile weeks. Now I'm happy when I can run 7, or get 15 miles in a week. I've mentioned many times that this has been an ordeal, but it's also been an emotional roller coaster. Running has been a huge part of my life for 10 years and has been a part of many positive changes in me as well. It was suddenly completely stripped away from me. Not only was running stripped away, but being able to do any type of exercise was as well for a few weeks. I was very upset because I lost distance, pace, a marathon, running partners and you name it. It was some of the toughest emotions I had to battle over something so simple, and I felt alone.

2011 did not end on a high note and 2012 did not start on a high note. But I feel completely confident that 2012 will only get better from here. This year hasn't just been about the injury, there have been other difficult things going on in the rest of my life too. I took a step back and evaluated and thought about my roots. I grew up in church, and I actually didn't miss a Sunday until I was in the 9th grade. I became a Christian when I was 12. In college, I grew closer to Jesus than I had ever been in my life. I went to Him for everything. I had the strongest Christian friends, and it was all so amazing. I was able to spend 2 1/2 months one summer as a summer missionary in Montana, and I fully believe I grew up that summer. It changed my life. I have been able to participate in many mission trips and those can really take you to the highest spiritual mountaintop. Life, however, can bring you down so quickly. Since college and life in my 20's, I have had my ups and downs with my faith and my growth, as most Christians do. But it seems that I have had more valleys than mountaintops for the last 2-3 years. God never promised us that life would be easy and that just because we know Him, that wouldn't change. What He did promise us is that knowing Him would give us a place to go when things are good, bad, hectic, scary, and whatever else. He promised us love, joy, peace, comfort, and that He would always be there, we just have to go to Him. And He promised us heaven! As humans,we (me) tend to go to Him only when it's a tough time. And sometimes we (me) feel like we can handle it ourselves. Well we (I) can't.

I don't believe I have put running and exercise on a pedestal over other things in my life. In fact, I wasn't nearly as disciplined with my fitness as I could have been. So this injury wasn't to take away something I put over other things in my life, it was to bring me to my knees before Jesus to trust Him and only Him in all situations. Along with this injury, there were other things that changed in my life that took me to my knees. There has never been a moment in my life where I haven't been in church, prayed, and had a relationship with God. The problem has been that I haven't been consistent. There are periods when I am totally in tune with Him, then I try to take over control when things feel better. Each time, He brings me back to Him. Perhaps he really felt I needed a big jolt this time! It's just like the pieces of the puzzle I mentioned regarding running. There are pieces of the puzzle with our relationship with God too. They all have a purpose, and they all bring this peace to my life that is unexplainable. I'm going to keep working on this puzzle too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Back to the Basics

The recovery story continues. I'm still making my way back to running and training. While I wouldn't call what I am doing now "training", it is still training. What I am actually doing is training to get back to training. I have gone back to basic running to get my endurance back so that I can start working on increasing my fitness.

I have only been running with a heart rate monitor for 6 or so months, and not long after I got it, my coach and I established some training zones. We used those some while training for Houston, to make me push it a little more or not push it too much. I am now using my HR strictly to keep from overdoing it. My runs are all listed as easy, but really they aren't as easy as I would like! I'm keeping my HR under a certain number, and I can definitely feel when it starts creeping up. I like having a number or some kind of data to follow to keep myself in check. What I don't like is how high my HR is at some of these paces I'm running. It's a very different feel for me. However, I trust what I am doing and that it will help me to return to my old stuff safely. For weeks I was spinning my wheels, trying to do too much too fast, only to find myself taking steps backward instead of forward. I feel like now I'm on a path to move forward and stay moving forward.

I'm approaching 3 months of this whole ordeal. I count the positives as much as possible to keep from dwelling on the negatives. That is hard to do, let me tell you. I want to be running 12 miles for fun on the weekends. I want to be with my crew having fun, reveling in the paces, and sharing stories. I didn't expect things to change so much or to feel so alone and left out because of something as silly as running. But running isn't silly to me, never has been, because it has made such a huge, life changing, impact on my life. That is when I try to turn my focus to the positives. In 11 marathons and almost 10 years of running, I have been healthy and just now had an injury of this nature. I'm also not hurting anymore when I run, at least because of the injury. :) And the one I have to REALLY focus on is I will be back to my old self. It won't be as quick as I wanted, but I will be back. I never expected this to last so long or to be so difficult to get over, but it is what it is and that I can't change. There is something I can do about it though, and that is what I am doing now.

I have only run the miles this so far year that I would normally do in a 2-3 weeks, and I might not be able to do a marathon this year. There are a lot of unknowns right now. I am running again though and that is progress. I have a lot of miles still left in these legs and this body, and I will achieve my goals.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Success of a Different Kind

First things first, I passed! I got the long awaited email today that I passed my comprehensive exam for graduate school. I had expressed to several that I was honestly worried about one section, but at this point, it was in God's hands. Several of my fellow classmates and I joked that all we could do is pray for mercy as our professors graded! And pray we did! In fact, before we started our exam that morning, all 12 of us formed a circle, held hands and prayed. God was on my side as I was able to remember what I need to in order to pass. I'm happy to have this behind me, and now I can finish my last class without worry and GRADUATE in May!

Ok, now to the running. Alec Baldwin says it for me. I'm frustrated. What's new you might ask? Well, in fact, nothing. I have had some progress, but I am still having a good bit of trouble moving forward without aggravation. Maybe I'm overdoing it, maybe I'm not doing enough. I have some aches and pains I never have, and I simply know that it is all because of the amount of time I was off. I don't remember starting to run for the first time years ago being this difficult. These aches and pains are what is holding me back. I'm SO READY to move forward and get this all behind me forever. I'm ready to meet up with my friends to go run 12 or so miles. I'm ready to do tempo runs and speed work (shocking I know)! I'm ready to put a race on my calendar and prepare for it. I'm debating on taking a few days off to get over a few of these aches and pains before they turn into yet another injury. And to also give my mind a break as it worries a lot about this training. I'm also going to trust. Trust that this is just one small blip on the radar and that I will overcome.

For today, I'm going to bask in the glory that is the passing of my comps and my upcoming graduation in May. This feeling is enough for now.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Little Something in My Log Book

This week's mantra - I will have a successful run. I repeated this to myself a few times as a method to encourage me to get out there on a regular schedule and try. The last few weeks started pretty well only to fall apart in the latter part of the week. So this week was to be a new direction for me.

I am happy to report it has worked so far! I ran Sunday (not a great one), Tuesday (better) and Thursday (best run since injury). I kept to my typical schedule that coach and I sorted out last year which is spin on Monday, run on Tuesday, spin on Wednesday, run on Thursday, rest on Friday, run Saturday (long) and recovery run on Sunday. I still have two days left in this week's cycle, but I feel good about finishing. I think this is what I need to push my over that final hump and get me back to normal.

I noted that Thursday's run was my best since the injury. I've said that before, and I'm sure I'll say it again a few more times while on this journey back. But it was. My legs felt like they had some bounce in them, I wasn't as sore and I didn't feel any tugging in my injury. And I ran about 30 seconds per mile faster with no walk breaks. I've mentioned that I'm slower right now. I've been running 1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower per mile, but this run was only about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes slower. I'm having to run slow for a few reasons, one being I've lost fitness and another being I've been hurting. That's why I feel that getting back on a consistent schedule will help me push through some of that instead of letting it stop me. I have had to take it slow at times, resting a bit extra here and there for fear of re-injury, but I think I'm at a point where I can push forward. Fingers crossed!

And there is a rumor I might hear about comps soon. Another rumor is that so far, no news is good news.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I know whoever reads this does not want to read another post about my injury. I apologize in advance for today. But you see, this is in fact a blog primarily about my running, hence the title Dawn Will Run. And since for the last couple of months my running has consisted of this injury, and I haven't been able to train as I normally do, I haven't had a lot of running to talk about except for my continued attempts to return to normal training.

For a while, when I wasn't posting, I was having a super hard time dealing with the injury and the fact that I was not going to be able to run my goal race in Houston. I didn't feel much like writing. I wrote previously that with my racing season over, I am happy to have no pressure on me to return to normal training by a certain date. I can take my time, return as I am able, and that is a great feeling. However, I'm going to admit to struggling with all of this still. I want to run, miss running with my friends and even miss those early Saturday morning long runs. Currently, my running is sparse, very slow and sometimes lonely. It consists of constantly thinking and worrying about my injury, if it hurts or will it start hurting. That makes running almost seems like a chore. So the days when I feel like my injury is sore or something else is sore (which happens a lot now), I am almost relieved.

I feel that playing is safe is absolutely the smartest thing to do because it's not too far off in the past that I was in intense pain barely able to walk for about two weeks. I haven't run since Tuesday of this week, and I honestly haven't felt like I should try due to some of the aches I've had. The problem is I struggle with enjoying the gym and finding alternatives to running. There is nothing like the feel of a good, pain/worry free run, and I so miss that feeling. Today is the third day straight of complete rest, and I don't like that. I should be doing something else, but I'm struggling with what I want to do. I love my spin class and it's great cross training, but it's the plain gym work - treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, etc - that I get so bored with.

On the flip side of this frustration, I admit to enjoying this rest a little. I loved being lazy and sleeping in today. And no I haven't done any exercise yet and not sure I will. I almost feel a little guilty for feeling that way. I know I'm all over the place. I say I miss running. Then I say I don't miss running. I like being lazy. I feel guilty for being lazy. That's why I'm writing today, to try to figure some of this out. The good points are that during this craziness, I have reeled my diet in and lost a few of the pounds I put on during the absence from running. I also massively cleaned my house today and rearranged my living room! I have quite a long list of things at my house to accomplish still!

So like each weekend, I will look to the start of the new week as the time when I finally get on a schedule of some sort. Let's hope tomorrow is the day. If not, I will look to the next week for that regularity to start. And I promise to go back to normal posts that include a lot of positive thoughts.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to Avoid a Failure

I've posted before that the process of returning after my 6+plus weeks of injury is up and down. Tuesday I ran 5 miles, no walking, but slow and easy. My legs were a bit tired and stiff near the end, which in this situation I feel is normal, however I felt good overall. Yesterday morning's spin class was a solid, consistent hard effort, just like Monday. Both days I had completely full classes, which is amazing because the energy you can pull from a full class really fires up the adrenaline and those endorphins. I had been having some trouble in my class from losing some of my fitness, but these classes were better. I experienced some fatigue in the legs yesterday, but no pain. I was happy with how I felt overall.

I'm still very pleased to report that I am really feeling great as I continue to get back on the horse. From time to time, I feel a little extra fatigue or a TINY bit of discomfort where my injury was, and when it comes to feeling that discomfort, I put on the breaks. As yesterday wore on, I some tightness and started to feel some of that discomfort. While it does not affect my walking or my cycling, I definitely do not want to push it when it comes to running. Not only am I really not able to push too much, I certainly don't want to reinjure or set myself back even further. This morning, I was going to attempt another run, but I decided to ax it. I decided to avoid a failed run attempt that would only leave me more frustrated than not running would, and at the same time, keep me on a healthier path. Not only was I concerned about my health, I was really tired and the weather has been awful the last two days. It was a very balmy, foggy 61 degrees this morning at 5 a.m. That would not have made my effort any easier or enjoyable. It would have only added to the frustration and the intense feeling of failure. I feel that I made the right decision. I will attempt again after work today or tomorrow. It all depends on how I feel. That's how I make my running decisions lately - it all depends.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Comps. Are. Over.

Now the waiting begins. I spent nearly 6 hours taking my comps for grad school on Friday, and I feel good about all but one part. But it's over and now, I wait. And I'll wait for a few weeks before I learn my fate. Those who know me know I'll absolutely worry about it, but I'm also going to enjoy NOT studying. I'm in one class this semester that has zero exams. ZERO EXAMS! I will have some research and a couple of assignments all leading to one big final paper, but I can dig that. So for the next few weeks, I'll keep waiting and praying for grading mercies!

The return from injury is still ongoing. As I was telling my coach yesterday and my running partner today, it is literally up and down, day to day. I'm just taking it as it comes. Some days are good, and those days make me excited to go out the next time. But then some days are not so good, which make me nervous to try again. It's a similar cycle to when you're really training hard. Not every run is perfect, and those rough days can scratch the confidence often making the next run a bit nerve-wracking. On the flip side. one great run can get you really stoked to get back out there. I'm mostly just ready to find a little consistency and start filling my log book again.

My winter/spring marathon racing season is over, and I'm finally cool with that. I was forced to look at it positively, and one positive is that it takes away the urgency and the pressure to get back 100% by a certain time. Instead I can take it easy, take it as it comes, stay healthy and enjoy my comeback. It has probably been a blessing in disguise for that reason and a few others. Trying to force it and return too quickly could have easily landed me back injured and potentially worse than I was.

Saturday I had my best run since the injury on December 8. It was also my longest run at 5 miles. It wasn't a fast run, and because my legs and the area of my injury is really tight, I had to take a couple of breaks to stretch out my legs some, however, I consider it one of those good days. The kind I mentioned earlier that make me excited to get back out there. I'll give it another shot in the morning, and I'm hoping that it will be one of those back to back good days. The start of a streak perhaps. If not, I'll keep trying, taking it one run at a time. When one streak ends, it just means another streak can begin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Life's Stresses

To just say that I am just stressed wouldn't do how stressed I really am any justice. If I were brave, I would post a video of my right eye twitching, which it has been doing for over 24 hours. So many things pop up into our adult lives, and it is sometimes hard to compartmentalize them and deal with them effectively. Right now I am facing several of these things. I find myself overwhelmed and all these things snowballing.

First, I take my comprehensive exams for graduate school on Friday. I have been very successful in my graduate program and am proud of my 3.96 GPA (would have a 4.0, no thanks to an A-). However, I suffer from test anxiety to a small degree. I get nervous about exams, midterms, finals, you name it, but I do ok because it's one class, one test, and I'm finished in an hour or so. But comps are different. I will have 6 hours of testing and all 6 of my required courses will be covered. I began preparation about 3-4 weeks ago by compiling notes and reading through them most every day. Some of this material hasn't been looked at in a year, and while I feel like I know the concepts, I find myself doubting what I know and if I really do know it. I am studying more intensively this week and just ready for it to all be over. Come Friday night, I will either be worn out or ready to celebrate. I won't celebrate officially for a few more weeks though, that's when I'll know if I passed or failed. I just tell myself to prepare the best I can, take the exam, and then the worst is over. I will be onward to May and graduation!

Second, my return to running is really frustrating. My injury is much better, and I've run a handful of miles here and there over the last 2 weeks. I find myself fatigued, naturally, but just not bouncing back as quick or as strong as I had hoped. I was off a while, so I figured this would be tough, but I was hoping to feel better quicker. This is the first week I'll be on a consistent schedule now that some traveling, work and sickness is behind me. So I'm hoping I can start turning the corner. Lately I feel like I take one step forward and two backward, and I don't feel like I am overdoing it which is what frustrates me the most. I'm focusing on taking it one day and one run at a time. I'm also really paying attention to my body, the injury and how I feel overall. I'm not used to being this weak, and it is an eye opener. I'm doing all the right things, so I just have to keep working, keep rehabing and try to stay positive.

Lastly, I have a few personal situations that are causing me significant additional stress. To quote my favorite band Coldplay, "nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard." As I grow older, those words are so true. Life gets better with age, but it certainly doesn't get easier. I have enjoyed growing up, but I am finding life's decisions to be pretty intense. These are the moments where praying is easy, but listening to what He has to say is hardest. Sometimes when we pray for answers, we don't like what we get. What is the toughest is I usually have running to relieve some of the day to day worries, but I don't right now. I'm going to learn something from this, and God has plans and lessons in each of life's struggles. So I will keep listening, trusting and praying. It will pass, and I will be better for it when it's all over. And I'll find that the world didn't end in the process. But right now, I need a vacation!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Treadmill Love

I'm learning that the treadmill is my friend. We haven't always been close, but we are growing our relationship. Last Tuesday, I attempted to run outdoors, and it was not a successful attempt. I got nervous about trying to run again so I put if off all week. Saturday, out of boredom, I decided to give it another go, this time indoors at my house on my own treadmill.

With the Southern Miss basketball game tuned in on the radio, and notes for my comps ready to go, I was set to workout. I decided, nothing fancy, keep it simple and take it easy. I walked 4 minutes, then alternated 2 minutes running and 2 minutes walking until I got to three miles. Then I continued to walk until I got an hour of time in. There was some pain in my injured area, but nothing as significant as previous attempts. In fact it never got worse, and it only felt more intense when I would start back running after walking. It was a great workout, but I still wasn't overly excited. Perhaps I'm being hard on myself or something, I don't know. But running was hard! When I ran, I was 3-4 minutes slower per mile - 3-4 minutes! And I was winded! So, no I was not that excited. But, I wasn't deterred from trying again. And I knew I would need to make friends with the treadmill to make this happen. Someone mentioned that the treadmill is a great way to monitor my progress, while keeping myself from overdoing it as I come back from this injury. It also will keep me from getting stuck a mile or two from my house and not able to get back! So...I had a plan.

Sunday, just a walk, no need to get in too much of a hurry. Monday, just spin. Again, no hurry. Since Tuesday is a normal run day when I'm healthy, that was the day to try again. I wussed out on getting out of bed to do it before work because during this month off, I've learned how to sleep late again! Plus, I'm typically a little stiff in the injured area a little in the morning. So, at the last minute before I left for work this morning, I grabbed some running stuff just in case I decided to go to the gym instead of using my treadmill at home. Something about my home treadmill just isn't as appealing.

I ended up at the Payne Center on campus for my run because I figured I needed the distractions of the people, the TV's and some new scenery. I hopped on, started walking for 2 minutes and figured I'd do the alternating run 2/walk 2 deal again. I did that sequence once, and I decided to push it a little. I was feeling good so I decided to maybe go 4 minutes. For the first half mile or so, I toyed with different scenarios for the workout, and then decided to go for a half mile. There was hardly anything going on in my injured area, so I was
going to get while the getting was good. The pain did increase, but ONLY slightly so I kept running half miles and walking a tenth of a mile. I was listening to my body the whole time though, and although some things ached, I felt pretty good! I was able to run a bit faster, but still about 2 minutes off my usual comfortable pace. I wasn't breathing as hard as Saturday. My legs didn't feel like they were screaming like last Tuesday. And my injury wasn't barking back at me (just wimpering). I went in aiming for 3 miles, but went on to 4. For the first time in a month, I felt like myself. The one who runs!

I might regret this tomorrow, but for now, I'm going to enjoy it. I'm happy. I am making my return.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Running: Cheaper Than Therapy

Boy is that true! And boy have I missed my therapy! The last 25 days have made me crazy. Gone are the hopes that I will make a comeback before Houston, before New Orleans or some other race. Who cares about all that because now I just want to run! And last night, run I did. Well, it was something close to it, and I really can't be that excited about it because it wasn't without some of the pain that has sidelined me for so long. It also wasn't without heavy breathing and stiff, dead legs. It feels like I'm starting over. And after almost 4 weeks, I am!

I couldn't resist waiting anymore. I went out with intentions of stopping at the slightest bit of pain, which I knew would come. For the first part of the run, all I could think was "I'm running"! Then I started thinking, "this is hard"! My legs were in complete shock. Then the slight pain started creeping in, but I was listening to it. It never got worse, but it was enough to keep me at 2 miles. The term "run" is used loosely in this situation because it was slow, it involved some walking and it probably looked really ugly! The best news of the night was the pain wasn't too significant when I was walking, it never got worse and I was able to go back out with Molly after the run for 2 more walking miles. I'm nowhere near being back, and I might not try running again for a couple more days, but I'm on the mend. And that is ok with me for now.

After the run and the walk, I assumed the position on the heating pad. It really has been a big help for the pain. I don't know if I tore something, pulled something or just had severe inflammation because, well, I didn't see a doctor. But something in me says it was more than inflammation. I was on an anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxer, icing, resting, etc. and that really didn't bring any relief, but heating and resting did. I'm continuing those things, but I'm finally easing back into some exercise, which I really wasn't able to do much there for a while due to the pain. Any slight bit of movement, and I wouldn't be able to walk for days. Sadly, it will only be minimal running, more walking, biking/spinning and maybe I can get myself back in the gym to become friends with weights again.

During all of this, I have found some peace with the situation, but I have also discovered that walking is BORING!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reflections for a New Year

Needless to say, 2011 ended on a disappointing note, at least for running. My injury, which is now in its 24th day, halted my total miles for the year at 1500 something as well as halting my goals of a PR or any time in the Houston marathon for that matter, which is now 2 weeks away. The good news, the injury better, and I'm finally walking with no pain. Next step is returning to running with no pain.

Despite the ending, 2011 was a great year for several reasons. I continued my success in graduate school and am now staring down my last semester and graduation in May. I had a great year of running, including a good marathon back in March. I also had some great training and have enjoyed working with a running coach since April. Of course there were a few up and downs toward the end of the year, but for the 9 years or so that I have been running, I am lucky to just now have any kind of injury. I had some personal positives as well, which made the end of the year so much better.

I could look at the beginning of 2012 as disappointing because as I type, I am sick and can't run. I typically start my new year off with a run but instead I'm popping meds for this cold. And today, like all previous days for the last few weeks, I am hoping today is the day I am able to walk all day pain free or run. Reading Facebook posts about new years runs, new years goals, etc leaves me feeling a bit lost and sad. However, it's day 1 of a new year, and I have 364 more days to accomplish any goals I might set. I do have some mileage goals in mind, a marathon time in mind and a few other things. So the start of 2012 is no different from the beginning of any other year, I have high hopes.