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.