It is 5:52 am.
We plan to leave at 6:00 am.
Sid says "It is probably time to figure out what I am going to wear."
He finds his watch. “Oh, I probably should have charged this.”
I say, “Does it matter? You don’t actually save your runs anyway."
We grab the headlamp and the little flashing light we found in the basket of one of the rental bikes, a 20 oz Gatorade each, and two small packs of Fig Newtons for “energy.” We ride the 1.5M to the start of the Key West Half Marathon in the dark. It was just perfect.
The pre-dawn bike ride to the start was stress-free. Finding a spot to lock the bikes was easy. I drink my Gatorade to avoid having to hold it any longer than necessary.
The night before I discovered a one sentence note in the pre-race information that says proudly “This race will be cup-less again!” Well, I wasn’t ready for that. I had a brief moment of panic. I hate carrying anything in my hands when I run. I rarely drink or eat even on long runs. It takes me a moment but I know I will be fine. Sid was already half asleep by then and mumbles “I will carry my Gatorade.” Problem solved.
Once at the race, we line up around the 2:10 pace group with no actual plan. We didn’t really talk about anything except for me saying “I just want to run with you” and Sid saying "I just want to finish this thing."
Sid has been bothered by plantar fasciitis for about as long as I have had my achilles issue. That was his one concern.
I am hopeful that my body will find a way to race again as long as I don’t rush. But if I can't race "fast for me" again, I wont be devastated. I am running again and this is a success. I accomplished a lot as a runner when I did race well. I have no regrets.
At the start, Sid and I laugh about how much has changed since our first Key West Half back in 2007. It was three weeks after my last immunotherapy infusion that completed my cancer treatment. Way back then, the race was only 400 people. Sid paced me through bursts of running that I broke up with walks at each aid station.
That run was the furthest I had ever run in my life and having Sid with me made it a special experience. Today running 13.1M again will be the longest run I will have completed since Sept 2021. Running again with Sid made it feel just as special.
Over the next 16 years, Sid and I ran the Key West half at least 10 more times.
Like always, Sid “trained” his usual way. About two weeks before the race it occurs to him that he is going to run 13.1M soon. He decides to to run a long run of about 8 miles at most or maybe just 6. We will never know because he deletes every run he does as soon as the run is finished. He runs "long" declares his work is done and that his “taper” will begin.
Sometimes this is it. Do just enough to get out of an experience all that we need to feel content. Sid can run a half marathon anytime he feels like it. He isn't trying to PR. He doesn't care about his place. He just wants to finish what he starts and so far he has been able to do just that every single time. No stress. No drama.
My training for this was only slightly more invested. I peaked with two 12 mile run/walks, I rowed a half (which was a major accomplishment but it wasn't running), I rode my spin bike, I did some short runs, and that felt like enough for me to know 13.1M was not going to be a problem.
At 7:00 am, off we go.
The crowd is 2000 runners deep. It is 57 degrees, which apparently is the point where no one knows how to dress. Some runners were in coats and gloves. Others in sports bras and shorts. The range was outrageous.
The wind had calmed. The sun was up. It was getting warm. We run right past our hotel and decide to throw our outer layers behind a bush hoping they will be waiting for us when we get back. Once we shed a layer it was incredibly comfortable. Just perfect!
There are 25 local musicians along the out and back course that is mostly along the water. It is all that an island foot race should be!
Despite the cup=free announcement, the aid stations actually had some cups but out of principle, maybe an irrational sense of guilt, I don’t take any fluids. If I was seriously racing, I would have grabbed a cup of anything I could get my hands on but we were moving at comfortably 9:30 pace. I just didn't feel a need.
All is well until Mile 5.5 when Sid notices his Plantar Fascia getting sore.
By mile 7, we find ourselves running next to a guy who continuously and rapidly repeats “You are a Winner! Don’t give up! You are a winner! You got this! You are a winner!!!”… to everyone running the out portion (in our direction) to our back portion. He repeated this possibly every three strides. After a full mile of this guy right behind us, I knew we needed to do something.
I would let Sid decide. I wondered what Sid would decide to do? Would he walk a bit because his foot was sore and let the guy go? Nope! Instead, Sid picks up his pace and we more a little faster for about 2 miles. We make enough room.
I wonder how Sid’s foot is doing after that, but I will never ask someone to assess a problem in the middle of a race. Instead I say to him “Hey Sid, almost less than 5k to go! You know what? You are a Winner! Don't Give Up! You Go this!” :) He rolls his eyes at me. :)
After the out and back on the pier at Mile 10, I realized we had not eaten or drank anything yet. Sid says he doesn't need anything, but reports his foot is on fire. I say “Almost less than 2 to go”… We don’t stop moving.
Sid reminisces about how he used to be able to just run a half without training and have no issues. I comment that he seemed to have used that same plan for this one. He comments back that things are getting harder over the years. There are issues now. I agree.
We are definitely slowly growing old together.
We are ahead of the 2:10 pace group. I remind him that our first Key West half was about a 2:02. We might be close to that time. I know better than to say “Want to try to break 2” Sid isn't motivated by stuff like that. Sid is content with exactly what we are doing and so am I.
It is a beautiful experience to run this race once again side-by-side with Sid 16 years later feeling just as grateful to share his company as I did the first time we ran this far together.
The volunteers' cheers were welcomed. It seemed like despite the race being much much bigger, the spectators were really much less this year. This year, we hardly saw anyone course-side. There were some people but just not like in the past.
We hit the final stretch. Sid says jokingly “Do you want to sprint?” because he knows I am motivated by stuff like that. I say “Oh yeah, let's pull all the muscles that are still working for us in the least few strides” LOL. We cruise in at a 9:50 pace and finish smiling with nothing broken.
We get our metals and find some oranges.
I ask Sid if he has any bread left. He does. He ran the whole race with bread in his pocket waiting to see chickens :) He didn't see any so we look for roosters and chickens to feed, then find our bikes and ride back to our hotel. Our long sleeve shirts are waiting for us behind that bush. I am happy.
Then I ask “So, did you save your run?”
And he says “Yes. Yes I did!”
One important thing to know is that jumping rope can be remarkably hard on the body. The dose of jumping needs to be small at first. I will be making my jumping minimum 60 seconds total. I only plan to do three longer "jump rope workouts" per week with the rest of the days filled in with, at the minimum, 1 minute of jumping. I anticipate increasing to 3-6 minutes of easy jumping as I get acclimated.
I also think that for me, starting with two feet together will do a lot to help my left achilles not feel overwhelmed. Over the 30 days I would like to progress to a running step. This approach should do a lot to help my achilles tolerate the burden of running again.
Of course, if I feel like it isn't working, I won't proceed. But based upon how I feel today, I think this will help me find my way back to racing again in the next few months.
Here is a copy of an article I wrote about jumping rope and how to get started.
Jump Rope To Improve Running Form
Shannon McGinn, Certified Running Coach, USATF, RRCA, NFHS Revised March 2020
One key component to efficient running form is good posture. Those who run with their posture out of alignment waist energy..To run our best, we want to run tall with a slight lean from the ankles.
We want our feet to land under our center of mass, not out in front of us. If viewing from the side, we should be able to draw an imaginary line from our head, down
our spine, through our hips to where our foot lands under our hips, give or take. No one is perfect. However over-striding is not optimal.
Momentum, from pushing off the ground with our back foot, carries our body forward over our planted foot. The back foot comes forward, traveling directly under our level hips and lands beneath our center of mass again.
Optimal cadence is approximately 180 steps per minute or more. Over-striding heel-strikers often have a hard time achieving this 180 step tempo, mostly due to the center of mass being behind the foot as it lands too far forward.
One of the best reasons to jump rope as a runner is it reinforces some elements of efficient running form. Jump rope with poor form and you will not be able to sustain the rhythm and pace needed to jump continuously. Jump with proper form and you will find your flow.
It just so happens that proper form for jumping rope mirrors in some ways ideal posture for running efficiently. To successful jump rope, the feet must land under the center of mass, directly under the hips, while the spine is held straight and tall. Slouching results in failed jumps. To practice ideal running form, consider adding jumping rope as a warm up, cool down, or cross-training activity.
How to get started:
Initially, I assumed that since children can jump rope, getting started would be easy.
I quickly learned that I had many questions: What type of rope? How long should it be? Where should I jump? How should I jump? To help me get the answers I needed I consulted Michael Schwartz, an experienced Crossfitter. He helped me figure out everything I needed to get started!
What Type of Rope: There are many types of ropes available, included beaded and weighted ropes. Schwartz explained that as an athlete I should consider a speed rope, which is a lightweight cable coated with plastic. These ropes are built to turn fast enough to sustain the paces needed for an adequate workout. He recommended I look at ropes from http:// www.rxsmartgear.com. Another highly recommended site for quality jump ropes is http:// www.roguefitness.com. However, any jump rope that works for you is good enough. Keep it simple.
Correct Rope Size: Some ropes may be adjustable while others require you to purchase the appropriate length of cable. To find the proper length of rope for you, the simplest method is to add three feet to your height. However, jumpers under 5 foot 6 inches and more efficient jumpers may find that three feet is a bit too long for them.
A second method is to use a measuring tape (or the actual jump rope cable if it is too long and you need to cut it). Line up the starting end of the tape or cable with the base of your pectoralis major muscle. Step on the tape or cable with one foot. Bring the remaining length of tape or cable back up to meet the starting end, at the base of your pectoralis major muscle. If you are measuring from your armpit you are measuring too high. The distance of this entire round-trip measurement should be very close to your height plus three feet. Cut the cable and make note of the length. Error on the side of cutting the rope too long if you are not sure. You may find that some further adjustments may be needed to find your optimal length rope, but this should get you started.
Where to Jump: Schwartz recommended that I not jump directly on the concrete pavers in my yard as this will quickly degrade my rope. Instead, he suggested that I get a 4ft x 4ft piece of plywood and place it over the grass to create a supportive, shock-absorbing surface for my workout. Other easier suggestions include jumping on a mat or cardboard to protect the rope from breakage. When selecting where to jump, make sure that the mat, cardboard, or plywood surface is large enough to not catch the rope.
My Very Simple Jump Rope Routine:
When I first got started, I tried few different methods of jumping. Eventually, I decided that I needed to keep it simple. This routine makes a good warm up, emphasizes good running form, and can be lengthened to become an additional workout.
(1) Double Hop with feet together (2 jumps per one turn of rope) x 30 jumps, recover 10-20 seconds
(2) Single Hop with feet together (1 jump per one turn) x 30 jumps, recover 10-20 seconds
(3) Left Leg, single hop x 30 jumps, recover 10-20 seconds
(4) Right Leg, single hop x 30 jumps, recover 10-20 seconds
(5) Running Step (Alternating Left Foot - Right Foot in a running motion) x 60 jumps (if counting each foot plant as 1 jump), recover at least 20 seconds before starting set over.
The routine takes between 5-10 minutes to complete. Do it once as a warm up before other types of training. Repeat this multiple times to make it a stand alone workout.
Jumping rope can be harder on the body that is seems like it should be. I recommend jumping rope only up to 3 days per week. Expect muscle groups that have not been used regularly to feel stressed, tired, and sore, including your arms.
Advanced jumpers can reduce the recovery between types of jumps all the way down to 0 seconds and/or repeat this series many times in a row. Eventually, you will become proficient enough to add more challenging jump steps to the set, such as Double-unders, where the rope must pass under the feet twice per jump. However, personally I do feel the need to include double-unders into my jumping routine.
Efficient running form and jumping rope both require good posture. A great way to train the body to hold efficient running form is by adding jump-rope to your training plan. I hope this article helps you get on your way to becoming a more efficient runner.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this article. If you have any questions or are interested in coaching, please email me at shannon@CreatingMomentumCoaching.com
Shannon McGinn holds an MS degree in Kinesiology with dual concentrations in sports performance and sports psychology. She is also a Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is the owner of Creating Momentum Coaching, LLC where she provides endurance and whole-person health coaching for optimal performance. Shannon is a regionally competitive endurance athlete, a USATF, RRCA, and NFHS Certified Distance Running Coach, and an ISSA Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Transformation - Behavior Change Coach. She is a life-long runner, becoming more involved in racing after surviving cancer. She considers herself a marathon and ultramarathon specialist, achieving the USATF Master’s Elite Marathon standard (sub-3 for women over 40), USATF National Championship top 10 place finishes 50k and 50M distances over many years. She set an Age Group American Record for 40-44-year-old women for the 6-hour duration race by completing 43.16 Mile in that time.
Breaking the Cycle: Spinning my way through Achilles Tendonitis (by riding my new bike into the ground.)
I went to see my doc today.
I rarely go to the doctor.
Only when I am about to die do I go, so this was unusual.
Not being able to race is killing me.
I guess I am being consistent.
Last May (2021), the bursa behind my heel started to speak up. Scream at me, really. It was irritable and cranky and didn’t enjoy running. So, like any “good” long distance runner would, I noticed the issue and decided I don’t care what my achilles says, I am a runner so I will figure it out. Sometimes things hurt. Most of the time they get better.
This isn’t the first time that I have had a cranky achilles. This is the first time I have noticed it swelling up like this. But the next day it was not swollen. So I wasn't sure what to make of this initially.
Back in 2015, I had the same type of feeling. By backing down on volume & speed, it eventually became a non-issue. I went on to train just fine and set life-time PRs in every distance from 5k to 50 miles. So I wasn’t too worried back in May 2021.
So this time, once again, I backed off, felt better, started to rebuild. It would flare up again, so I would back off again.... repeat for a year.
I didn’t stop running completely (until now) because:
(1) I was registered for the October 2021 Boston Marathon, a race I trained for after sepsis tried to kill me for year straight. I got back into peak shape and qualified for it with a 3:03 in January 2020. It was very meaningful BQ and I wanted to a least be able to show up and enjoy the day.
(2) The achilles didn't bother me consistently. There would be plenty of perfectly pain-free days in a row, even weeks in a row, then a random flare up that would lead to 2-3 days off just to be safe. I reduced my running down to 2-3 days per week only if I didn't feel any pain. It seemed like I good plan.
I had worked through an achilles issue before, but it wasn’t 2015 anymore. It was 2021. I was 6 years older in 2021 and everything seems to take longer to heal for me now.
As much as I would love to say “age is only a number”… my Achilles disagrees. Training age is more than "just a number". it represents accumulated wear and tear on a hard working body, a body that needs to be taken seriously, listened to, and treated with respect.
I only have this one and it has done good work for me. I have been dumping unnecessary parts as they break down on me for years now (my breasts, half my thyroid, random teeth. Getting older is fun! :) If you are not yet over 40, start saving money for your teeth now, you will thank for this in about two decades!)
With high hopes of running Boston, in August, right on schedule while going out for a 20M long run, I made it to 6.5M and my calf popped. I was over compensating and couldn't take it any more. It wasn't obvious to me that this is what I was doing until the calf popped .
I shut down marathon training. I healed relatively quickly and ran 1:40 half marathon in Utah in September (the downhill course helped to make that possible by putting no stain on the my calves or achilles.)
That week in Utah was rejuvenating. We ran and hiked everyday. 10 miles per day on our feet climbing to over 10,000 feet whenever possible. Nothing hurt. Nothing flared up. I could do anything I wanted to do. I felt like I was healed! I was ready to start training again.
I thought I could get enough mileage in to simply show up to Boston just for fun. But then my calf popped again on mile 1 of an easy jog on a flat road one day after we got home from Utah.
And I knew in was over.
No Fall Boston.
This is stupid.
In late October 2021 I discovered that I could spin and row and my ankle/achilles was ok with that. I started to go 2-3 times per week and it was helping me feel like I was still an athlete.
I still had races on my calendar that were paid for deferrals. Races I wanted to run. I wanted to see a starting line. I wanted to cross a finish line. I wanted to talk about running with runners while running. I wanted to feel like myself again.
But as each race got closer, I knew they weren’t going to happen. I could run sometimes without any pain but then randomly my Achilles would flare up again. It had no logical reason. Sometimes it hurt after a run, sometimes it didn’t hurt at all. Sometimes, I could walk all day, but then sometime mid-dog walk it would flare up. It was not consistent.
Then in March 2022, my right arm started to join in. Apparently I strained something in my arm. From rowing? or lifting? or both. Or maybe from something else? Sleeping poorly? Writing too many treatment plans when I am at the hospital? I have no idea what happened.
I stopped going the gym in March and it continued to get worse through May. I didn’t feel like going if I could not row of lift. I was getting less enthusiastic about my 4:30 am alarm for spin class. I just wanted more sleep and I wanted to spin when I felt like it not when there was a class.
With almost 6 weeks away from the gym, my arm was getting worse. My athlete-self was degrading and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
So I made the appointment for my physical today to figure out why my ankle, my arm, even my abdomen (with pain that wakes me up at night), my shoulders (that each decided to take some time off during last year) all seem to be giving me trouble.
My doc is maybe in his 70s. He is an orthopedic specialist, but practices primary care. He is the opposite of histrionic. He very thoughtful, conservative, an excellent diagnostician, a bit of a comedian, and seems to be at a point in his life where he is ok with just clearly calling things he sees them.
“You are beating yourself up. You have tennis elbow. That is why you can use your arm.
You have achilles tendonitis. That is why you can't use your foot.
I can inject you, but that isn’t a solution. The ankle may not get better, ever. You have overworked it. YOU ABUSE YOUR BODY!
The arm, now that may be fixable. If you can ride the bike, do that for a while.
[Walks out of room... returns.. Hands me two handouts] Here are some exercises that can help you recover. This is better than medicine. (*And this is why I really love this man)
... and you need to find a new job, one where people don’t need to see what you can do to want to work with you! You need to take it easy on yourself. You aren't 21 anymore!”
He then shows me the newly healing wound on his head. Said he fell down his stairs. Hit his head on a pipe. Gave himself a concussion. Needed staples. Was told to take 3 weeks off but only took one… And said "That is how life seems to go lately. The demands work puts on us makes us ask things of our bodies that really aren’t reasonable… yet we do it. We feel like we need to do it. If you can find a better way, find it.”
I looked at the handouts he gave me. I said “I'm not ready to stop training but I will do these exercises.”
He said “Oh, I know you will!... You’re done here. Go home. Good luck. Take it easy. Use the bike for a while.”
Since I started running after my cancer treatment in 2007, the only time I stopped running was when I had sepsis and an internal abscess for a year that needed 4 surgeries to close it.
In between those two time periods I became a streak runner and ran daily for 7 years. Sepsis was my reason to end my streak. It didn’t feel like I had a choice.
This does’t feel like I have a choice any more now either. I need to stop running for a little while. Maybe not very long. A few days? Another week? Another month? I don't know yet. When my achilles is ready I will know.
I am tired of running a little, feeling good, thinking I am ok, getting my hopes up, then experiencing an achilles bursa flare up (Doc said, “Well, that means you are about to tear it.")
I rode 130 miles in the first 7 days and realize that I have been a super frustrated endurance athlete without any comfortable outlet for my identity for a LONG LONG TIME.
I have found a new home for now.
The SCHWINN is a decent bike. There are some pros and cons.
Pro -: I paid $850 total (after tax) and it is a “Good Enough” machine. I think the SCHWINN bike can be found on sale ofter for about $500 if you wait. I wish I knew but it wouldn't have mattered. I can sync my Garmin to the bike and broadcast my HR to the peloton app. Comes with universal SPD pedals and a set of cleats which are the same pedals that my gym uses. I will go back the gym eventually.
Con - WHY does it not tell me my watts or my power? It can do it. It just doesn't. But I am working on this. I may find a solution. The free JRNY app is useless to me because you can only sync one thing at a time to the bike and I choose my watch and I cant use the JRNY app without a machine synced to it.
I considered Peloton but I didn’t want a bike that cost $1200-$2000, would require me to pay $44 per month for the app (starting in June), and required me to get spin shoes that were different than what I would use if I did want to go back to taking classes at the gym.
I considered Keiser for around $2000 because it seem like it will last a million years. But I don’t have $2000 right now for this.
The SCHWINN seemed to be the best deal I could find on a bike that had less complaints than the other cheaper bikes I looked at. Except for some common complaints of pedal malfunctions (which I honestly think is caused by people pedaling backwards and not realizing they are unscrewing the pedals by doing that).
So now what?
Now I spin... like right now, right after I hit publish I will go to my garage, and free my soul
I set a personal goal to spin at least 10 minutes per day daily for 30 days. Today will be day 9. Once I hit 30 days I will buy myself some spin shoes. I want to make sure I am using this bike before I invest more into it. I want to make sure my cycling muscle are strong before I lock my feet into the pedals. I want to give my body and mind a chance to heal and thrive without worrying about anything else just yet.
Of course, if I need to rest during the next 3 weeks, I will. This is not a goal I will pursue at all costs. Spinning is all I can do right now. I will protect it. But I am also going to move, sweat, and feel like an athlete every single day that I possibly can.
I am tired of run-walking without any gains.
I am tired of sneak attack achilles flare ups.
I am tired of feeling hopeful, then disappointed.
I am tired to asking Dave to race something awesome with me and then telling him months later that I can’t do it. “I cant do it” has never been part of my vocabulary when it comes to something I have my heart set on, but it somehow has snuck in when it comes to running!
So now I will spin.
This is a topic that seems to confuse many coaches, so how are laymen supposed to know what the difference is?
More to come on this topic.....
There is a lot to learn from getting stuck. There is opportunity for growth in ways that may not be so obvious. For me, just stepping back and asking "What is the point? What is the purpose?" of all this repetition helps me to see what I really need.
I've been running on team, "competing", since I was 9 years old. I took a break from racing in my early adulthood, but returned to racing when cancer made me question my lifestyle and my purpose.
Racing gave me a sense of existence. Published race results really made me feel like I was leaving a literal mark that said "I was here!" Before cancer, I didn't feel like I was leaving my mark anywhere. Racing offered me connectedness to others. Racing made sense to me. I understand racing better than anything else I have ever tried to understand. Cancer taught me I could ensure. But racing taught me about that the limitation I believed about my own ability were. simply are not truth.
And now lately running has been frustrating. I have felt stuck in almost illogical ways. My body isn't responding in the predictable ways it has done for the past 35+ years. I am not new to training.
These words, from this link below spoke to me:
Alright, there’s no way I’m going to get what I want, this is not where I want to go, it’s not happening,” there’s a moment of truth telling, if you’re willing to take it. There’s a moment of potential surrender. You have to give up the goal. You have to give up where you think you want to get to. You have to give up the very conception of the practice that you’re involved in. You have to give up your very definition of it, and what you think you’re doing it for. And in that moment, there’s something real. There’s an authentic reality of yourself in recognizing you’re not getting what you want. This is a dropping down. This is a coming home. And interestingly enough, as soon as you do that, lo and behold, a door opens.
Listen to the entire 12 minutes of the podcast here. https://www.processarts.com/podcasts/process-before-practice/
This week I have rested and then I tested how I felt. I did not make the progress I hoped I would make. My calf is taking so much longer than I expected it should take to heal. My left heel bursa is intermittently agitated with me when I am not working very hard. I have a lot of questions that I am contemplating and I will find my answers in time.
I am happy that by yesterday I felt a turn around. Everything felt better than the day before. This is not the same as being "OK." I am not yet OK but I am better. That is progress.
I did spend time with Strength training. I created some workouts on an app and played around with that. I don't know how I feel about the app yet. Maybe I will keep it after the free trial. Maybe not. I'll figure that out later. I have two more weeks to use it. It makes strength training more interesting for the moment. That is something.
In the mean time, when I can't train, I create art.
Process Art has been helping me find time to process what is going on with me in this moment.
The Principles of Process Art are as follows:
1. Accept that you are not supposed to know what will happen next. Proceed anyway.
2. Give yourself space to think. Listen to your thoughts with genuine and non-judgmental curiosity. Actually sit with them. This is the opposite of all the mindfulness meditation work everyone has been immersed it. Here I we give ourself time to actually think.
3. Respect the process by not criticizing product. Wherever we are in the art is exactly where we are supposed to be. This is not about making "good" art. It is about creating art. In a group setting, participants are asked to NOT complement others. This act of judging the art product, even in a positive way, will extinguish the power of the process. It doesn't matter what you or I think of the final piece. That is not the point.
4. Allow yourself the freedom to follow the energy and not force the direction you go. This means we need to be ok with taking risks and committing to the marks we make on the page. We need to do something and figure it out we go.
5. We need to be ready to dealing with difficulty as we work. This is not about feeling like a kid. This is not childish work. There is a lot of junk that comes up as soon as you realize your art starts to feel like a self-portrait and you don't like what you are seeing. This is where the learning happens for me. Understanding that sometimes what we do doesn't look anything like what we thought we could do or hoped to do ... but there is it anyway. Sometimes things feel bad or wrong or imbalanced or in the wrong place or at the wrong time ... and then what do I do about that? I figure it out as I go. I deal with it. I accept it. I carry on.
5. Unlike other types of art therapy, in Process Art we don't even attempt to interpret the symbolic expression. We are not making art to find meaning in the final product. We are making it to learn from the process.
6. Recognizing completion, a sense of closure, a sense of being ready to move on. This is important. This is not the same as wanting something to go away, as wanting to leave something that is uncomfortable, or being afraid of messing it up something if you continue on. Attempting to achieve a sense of completion is the final "product" of the "process" regardless of what the actual product looks like. Learning what completions feels like is significant.
When not training, I am creating. This process art project is giving me the space to think about my identity as a runner and why I run. Running daily is just as much a "practice" as meditation or art making.
I am ok with not worrying about the product. I have completely stopped worrying about race times, DNS, DNFs, etc... I don't care if my running is "good", I don't care how others will judge me. This shift is what has allowed me to recognize that my "limitations" are simply a result of judgment of the my product of my labor. The same products that once allowed me to feel like I existed, like I was connected to others, like I belonged...
By shifting my focus from running for performance (at least for right now) to running for process I am allowing myself to be free and to figure out where I will go with my running practice. And this shift is allowing me to heal.
This workout the did me it. .15M repeats up an down a 5% grade. The entire horseshoe as .35M. I did 4 repeats on that road. I felt fine while running. I felt like I was holding myself back. But my calf felt otherwise.
The Importance of Strength Training for this Master's Age Runner
It occurred to me today that the reason this is happening to me is because I am not as strong as I used to be. I used to spend a lot of time in the gym during my last training cycle. I loved going to gym. I would be in there for 2.5 hours 3 x week doing full body work. It was empowering. It was a incredibly enjoyable break from the world. It was fast-paced and intense. I tracked everything. I got so very strong from my size. This made me quite resilient. More resilience than I realized.
I used to think the lifting was collateral, adjunctive, just a something extra that I had time for that maybe could help. I didn't realize how necessary strength training was/is for me now. It is now crystal clear to me that at my age lifting is essential for me to be able to tolerate training at all! This is a big of a scary concept for someone who has been running since I was 9. Aging is no joke, but we can mitigate its effects by throwing some mass around a few times per week. I can do that! I can even enjoy it!
I am now convinced that lifting was the reason I was running PR=paced training runs and feeling like I was back on track for a sub-3 in 2020. I ran a 3:03 in Charleston in Jan 2020 after a 3:08 at the NCR at the end of Nov 2019. In Dec 2019 I ran a PR half at 6:38 pace. I felt I was ready to really chase down a new marathon PR by Spring 2020. I was feeling so fit and strong. I was 44 then. I am 45 soon to be 46. I feel like I have the muscle tone of a wet dishrag. This has to change.
So what's the plan? Forget racing for the moment. Focus on lifting. Use what I have at home until I get my booster shot (hopefully I will be one of the first to get the booster as I am due) and then after I am boosted I want to (NEED TO0 get back to the gym 3 times per week. Once I get my strength build, then I can return to marathon training.
I have avoided the gym because of COVID. I thought I could find ways to work on my resistance training at home. But it isn't really working. Clearly. I need to get back in the gym so that is what I will try to do as long as it feels safe for me to do it. (I am vaccinated. My gym is at my hospital. It is a big gym where people can spread out. It is required to maintain hospital-level hygiene standards as it is also used for PT). I feel like it is safe but who really knows. I need to return. If I go and I feel like I am not safe then I may need to buy some gym equipment for my garage. I don't want to have to do that but I will if there is no other safe option.
Here is actual research on the benefits of concurrent strength and endurance training on master's runners .
I had to sit down and have a hard chat with myself.
It was time.
Time to revise the plan, the goals, the finish line.
I don't know why running feels so hard right now but it feel like my body just needs time to adjust.
Resting doesn't seem to help. I know it seems like it should help, but I feel like my pain a result of weakness not overuse. Resting has helped reduce the aches and pain but once I start running again, I am sore. This is because resting doesn't do anything to address the weakness. Not running in pain is the plan. Strength training needs to take a starring role right now. If my focus was on getting prepared to race, I needed to run. If I can't run without pain, how do I train for a race?
The Answer: I don't. It is that simple. I don't.
I highly doubt I will be racing Boston 21. I don't see how I can take a step back, heal up, build strength, then move forward as a runner and be ready for Boston in time. I don't want to feel rushed. Rushed training never works,
The good news for me is that I am already qualified for Boston 2022. I don't need to run 2021. Sure, I wanted to. The opportunity to run Boston in glorious New England fall weather will be a once in a lifetime experience.
But it just wont likely be my experience.
So instead of trying to get those 16-20+M long runs done, I gave myself permission to back up. First I wanted a few short test runs to see how my calf really feels.
First, I went out for a 2 mile walk with some running to assess. Everything felt good.
Then I tried a little longer without walks. I feel "good enough". My right calf is sore, my left bursa is sore but all better than last week.
I was able to run a decent 4M on Saturday but the aftermath of a 9:03 pace was not pleasant. I felt like I had run a marathon. My body is not happy.
I waited until late afternoon. I had hope to get a 12M this weekend. I wan't committed fully. I would listen to my body. I planned two 6 miles loops so I could easily end the run if I was uncomfortable. I didn't need to! I manage to get all 12 but I did take a run/walk approach. That helped. I am ok with Run/Walking until I feel 100% again.
I am in no rush. I have nothing but time, really.
I rested last week so that I could have a chance to return to training safely. All went well until Saturday. It seems like the universe is really testing me during this training cycle. I am watching my fall race goals disintegrate. Sometimes this is how it goes. When the body is struggling, it is time to deal with the issues happening in the moment and not worry about what was supposed to happen weeks from now.
The week actually started off really well. Dave and I did two hill days on Tuesday and Thursdays. It was an amazing workout. We found a hilly loop. It was lovely.
7.25% incline/decline. .
35 miles up and down.
We would climb at moderate intensity and then crush the descent at top speed. It was so much fun. Our descent were averaging 5:30-5:40 pace, top speed 5:24. I am sure that hard work primed me for what happened next but it is hard to predict in the moment which step will be the one that is the straw that breaks you.
I was feeling great on Friday, just a little tired but nothing significant. I meet Alanna for an easy 6M which we accidentally ran as a progression down to 9:00 pace. Not blazing fast, but not our normal easy pace normal. It felt good and I had no reason to believe anything was wrong.
I decided to take it easy on Saturday and save my 20M LR for Sunday. I ran an easy 4M with Sidney and again felt fine. Nothing to suggest any thing was wrong.
Sunday, I finally got out the door in the afternoon for my 20. It felt so nice. I didn't look at my watch for 4 miles. It felt easy. I felt fluid. I wasn't working hard at all. I suspected my pace was about 10:00. When I finally looked at my watch, I was averaging 9:01. I felt so very strong and was excited to just hold my pace until 10M and turn back home. The course I run is slightly more incline on the way out so I knew once I swung back around it would be slightly easier home and if I felt ok, then maybe I could actually negative split this run and come in under 9:00 pace.
My long runs have been horrible this training cycle. I have marathons I planned to run. I told my self on the way out to 10M that if I could manage this 20M LR then I could finally give myself permission to believe that a marathon this fall was realistic. I just wanted 20M at any pace. I didn't need sub-9. I wanted distance not time. But when the pace was peppy my confidence soared. It felt so nice to find flow.
I passed 6M and was holding steady and feeling good until suddenly my right calf spasmed. WTF was that? I paused. Massage it for a second and kept on going. The at 6.5M again it spasmed hard and I felt a popping sensation. WTF? I am running a 9:00 mile. How is this happening?!
6.5M from home. No one around to save me. I don't have Uber on my phone. This was not planned out very well.
Sid is in the air somewhere, ironically flying to Boston. He is headed to Boston while I am watching my dream of racing Boston disappear.
I text Dave. Somehow lately I feel like all I do is complain and annoying complaining seems to help me feel better. That is not the type behavior I want reinforcement for. ugh.
I turn around. I drink the remaining fluid in my bottle and run again. I start easy but I loosen up. I realize that spasms did some damage but I can run. I run back to the park. I get more water. I run home. I have to pause a few times to massage my calf.
I think this happened because I am overcompensating with my right to take some pressure off my left side which has the angry bursa.
I make it back home and stop at 13 miles. I weigh in. I'm 116 lbs! WTF. What is happening. I drank 40 oz on the course. I drank before I left. I carried sports drink this time when I started. I didn't feel like I was that dehydrated. This is a 5lb weight loss. No wonder I cramped! I don't know what is going on lately with my body. I have trained for marathons for about a decade. I never cramp. I usually don't even drink or eat when I train. I made an effort today and it didn't matter.
I didn't run much last week. I contemplated dropping out of everything. I have three races on my calendar, two to use as training runs and then Boston. This bursa has been uncooperative and this week I just felt so frustrated..
I ran 3 miles only from Monday - Thursday, trying to assess if rest would make the bursa quiet. But the more I rested the more it bothered me. Many runners know this irony. We call it "taper madness". With less training, everything hurts more.
I was feeling frustrated by Thursday morning when my bursa was exactly the same or possible more obnoxious than it has been for this entire training cycle. And then I had my revelation... the same revelation I have every single year when training for Boston since 2013... My body is fine, this is all in my head.
(I was at Boston in 2013, I had just left the finish line moments before the bombing. As soon as I got to my car I immediately drove right back in to Boston to search for a friend while the entire city was evacuating, I was truly terrified the entire time because of news reports of multiple bombs (untrue). Once we found him, I drove home to NJ. The entire bombing incident impacted me so now every year since I have anxiety-related responses that don't seem obvious or clearly related to Boston, but they always are. It is like my mind sneak attacks my body and makes me malfunction.)
I actually thought (once again), "This year I will be fine. I will be able to train for Boston without having a stress reaction. It was moved to October. The pattern is different. Fresh start." My husband will try to help me by saying things like "You know it unlikely that something will happen at Boston again, right?" Yes. Rationally I know this. But my anxiety is not surface level. It is a deeply ingrain tangling of anxiety + Boston. It is not logical. It isn't even obvious to me when it is actually happening. It is insidious and quiet. It moves in at the pace of a glacier and slowly builds strength, disrupting my flow, my sleep, my peace, and often any chance I have at success as a runner during this time. My mind keeps my body safe by making sure I can't run anything.
So this is what I believe is the real issue. Mind overtaking body.
But wait? If I actually have a swollen bursa, how is this mental? Well I believe it is a little of both. But I believe the bursa isn't as bad as my mind is making it out to be,
First, this is not the first time in the history of my running that my heel bothered me. It feels no more sore than it has in the past, including back in 2016 when I ran all my best races and again in 2020 when I ran my last 3:03 marathon. In those cases, I worked through it. It was sore. I ran. I lifted. It got better. It just needed time to catch up to the work load. I found that calf raises were key for me on the past to build up my ankle strength.
So why is this different? It is different because in the way dark recess of my mind I am most likely looking for my way out. And the last time I gave myself permission to bail on Boston was when I strained my achilles. I believe I am paying way too much attention to it and making it a much bigger problem in my head that it really is in reality.
I am 45 years old. Body parts are going to be a little creaky and sore. I don't expect a painless experience. Historically, training for marathons has never been painless. Something is alway the weakest link and I figure out how to manage it.
I also think I am inadvertently doing things that are making the bursa mad (maybe self-sabotage?). For example, the flat shoes I wear to work are not serving to help me heal. I noticed this week I was more sore in flat shoes than I was last week when I ran in and worked in sneakers more often. I also think my form has been too slouchy and I need to stand up taller. When I lean too far forward I feel more strain down the back of my legs. So I need to stop doing things that are causing me to aggravate my achilles..
I decided on Friday that I was just going to stop feeding into this issue, I plan to either will it way and go run and be fine or I will end up stopping because I make things worse.
I am willing to assume the risk of increased harm in order to give myself a change to try to power through. I opted for this rather than PT only because I know myself personally and Boston always, always, always gets into my head.
I think it takes a lot of mental strength to look a mental weakness directly in the eye and tell it "you can't hurt me." Every single year I think I will see it coming, but I never ever do until I am sucked in to the darkness. But I do catch myself sliding a little sooner each year. This is the earliest I have stopped my derailment. Maybe I have a chance now?
Wednesday, I decided to test how I felt.
So what happened when I called out my anxiety for what it is and I decided to run this week?
I felt better running and ran better than I have all training cycle. Was it from the rest? I would love to say yes, but my heel felt worse off for resting, not better.
I believe when the body is responding with physical pain (psychosomatic) as a result of a psychological issue, naming the problem and shining a light on it is the best way to erase the darkness.
I am shining my light on this here. Either this helps me and I get thought this or I get worse off for trying. At this point, I would rather DNS races because I tried than DNS them because I sat around doing nothing but waiting for insidious pain to go way.
Friday I decided that my heel was going to be fine. I ran a 1M run + .1M walk recovery to see how that felt. My paces felt great and I really didn't feel like I was any worse off for doing this workout.
I then went out Saturday thinking maybe I'll do 6M and I just started running... no walk breaks planned... Just running. I did stop to rescue two dogs at two separate points in my run, which were short breaks... but this run just went from 6M to 12M with no really work. My last two miles were my fastest and the whole run felt great.
I could walk just fine after too.
The last run of the week was an unevenly 3.2 mile jog with Sidney before I had to rush off to work. I made a point to wear sneakers to work since my revelation that my flat shoes weren't helping.
Now the test will be to see what happens next week. Either I fall apart or my find my flow. Only time will tell!
Celebrate the small victories. That is my plan.
On Monday I was able to run 18M with Kim. Heel cups worked to alleviate the pressure on my heel bursa and I felt pretty good. Not 100% but truly much better that after any other long run since this bursa has been aggravated. However, none of these long run are anywhere near the paces I hope to be running at this point in my training.
Just being able to run 18M is a victory at any pace. I will celebrate that.
I have been trying to figure out if I trust the STRYD Pod for weeks now. Today I turned it off and let it quietly collect data while I allowed the actual GPS on my super expensive GPS watch collect my distance and pace data ... the exact reason I bought the super expensive watch for.
When I got home, I took off my shoes and realized my pod was gone. My heart sunk. Oh no! After weeks of wondering if this thing was worth it's weight in anything.... I was sad it was gone. I pulled up my STYRD app to see when it stopped recording while I ran those 18M at the beach 45 minutes away from my house... and it was all there. Hopeful, I headed out to my truck to find it sitting on the floorboard. Another small victory!
I immediately knew that I would miss using the pod in the treadmill because that was the one place I felt like it has value for me. Immediately I removed it completely from my shoe and decided it will live out its life as my treadmill odometer and we both will be very happy this way.
I met Dave on Tuesdays for hills. Today was the Spring Climb repeat workout. But I was worried about my heel. I wore my heel cups in my Saucony Endorphin Pros because that is what I used on Monday and I felt good,
Oh no... do not try to climb a super steep hill with heel cups in your shoes. My feet were falling out of my shoes. Completely out the back. I contemplated just stopping half way up and pulling those cups out but it was only .1M and I was half way up...
As soon as I hit lap to turn back, my feet settled back into my shoes and I all was well... until I started heading down hill and realized my toes were not jammed so far into the toe box that my big toe pretty much blew up before I hit the halfway point. Ugh.
This workout is 5 x 2 up and downs... 10 repeats but we only take a short rest after running two complete cycles. I chose to just continue on until the first break and then I would fix my heel cup issue.
Once I removed them, I felt better. Running felt good. Still not 100% but I didn't feel like I was being held back from pushing myself.
At the end of the 4th set, an older gentleman was walking along the bottom of the hill. Dave just flew into the finish and I was trying my best to run fast on the descent. The man made a joke by holding out his cane across his body as if to brace himself from the impending imaginary collision. When I stopped I said to him.... "Two to go! When I'm done I may need that cane more than you do"... He laughed and then provided a complement saying "You two are in good shape."
As we headed up the hill, I commended to Dave about how kind this man was to complement us on being fit when he is out walking with a cane. Many people who struggle don't have the capacity to be supportive to others who are doing things they can't do themselves. Many can. But many just can't.
As I finished my 10th repeat, I went to find my heel cups that I had tossed along grass on the shoulder.... I found them neatly stacked side by side on top of a rock near where I tossed them. This man had also organized my things for me. Again I commented to Dave about this stranger to use was such a wonderful human being. We need more people like him in this world. I hope we see him again!
In addition to feeling inspired to be a better person through the kindness of a stranger, I also learned that one of climbs was my fastest yet! I can't complain about my heel or my toes when I am still manage to get faster at this really hard workout.
More small victories. I can focus on what is wrong... or what is going well. I have the choice.
One thing I am struggling with, besides the bursa, is fitting in all my strength training. I prefer to do 3 session per week but I aim to do them on the same day as hard workouts. This means Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturday/Sunday depending on which day I run harder.
But Tuesdays are long day for me. Often I don't get home until 8:30 pm or later... The last thing I want to do is lift weights for an hour and then get to bed late than I aim to while aimed up with adrenaline. I have been opting to skip it. I thought about trying to lift Wednesday morning instead... I tried it this week and I could tell that my legs were still tired by Thursday's speed day. I may just need to settle on two hard strength sessions per week and one extra when time allows.
It didn't really matter that my leg were tired. I met Dave for our interval work and after a 2 mile warm up we were devastated to find that all the bathrooms were locked. There are three sets and all of them locked for the first time in forever since I have been training here.
If we had more time to seek out alternatives we would have gone somewhere else but we just both decided it was easier if we both head back home (me to mind, he to his) so that he could beat traffic and just run solo as much as possible from his house before work. He is tight on time in Thursdays. This was a big disappointment. I hope next week they are open.
I decided that my legs were tired from strength training and my bursa was not feeling awesome so rather than do speed work solo, I took a rest day and ran an easy 6 with Sid.
Because I essentially rested yesterday, I felt great when I met Alanna. She had a triathlon on Saturday so we kept it short. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to not rush.
At this point, I was hopeful that I would get my 20M LR in this weekend. I was trying to take it easy and it felt like it was working. I wore heel cups in my shoes at work. I was careful to not irritate the bursa when I could avoid it. I chose my shoes carefully. I got a pair of Brooks Ghost that helped off-load pressure on my achilles. I felt good by Saturday. I decided to run 5 before work and I just felt like running was easy again. It was nice to see a sub-8 minute last mile that didn't feel like I was racing.
But this workout was cleary "too much too soon" for my bursa. By Sunday morning, everything was back to being just a little too sore for my comfort level. I could run. I know this. I most likely would be fine... but why push it. I struggled with this but I made the decision to rest completely so that maybe tomorrow I can get my 20 done.
Shannon McGinn, MS, MA, JD, EDS, CWHC.