Today was D-Day. Decision Day. To race, or not to race, the Boston Marathon?
Here’s what the past week has looked like for me:
Saturday: 16 mile “run” on the elliptical, with 8 miles at marathon pace. It goes well, but afterwards, panic. My hamstring muscles and tendons behind the knee have a “crunchy” feeling when I massage them. If I swing my leg back and forth, the area feels like a creaky screen door.
Sunday: 45 elliptical, 45 bike. OK, but still feel like the tin man. Also, am missing my girlfriend runs. We meet every Wednesday and Sunday, and I haven’t run since my meltdown over a week ago.
Monday: Off. Things feel better. I am staying optimistic. No crunch or creak.
Tuesday: First run. It does not go well at all. I can barely finish 5 miles.
Wednesday: I try and fail to pool run. It hurts. I ellipt, then go to lunch. My recovery drink is a beer. Thank god it is spring break, and I have the luxury to wallow. I begin to think about logistics of pulling out of Boston. I feel sorry for myself. After a few hours, I see the writing on the wall and go through the 5 stages of grief. I forget what they are, but I know they include denial, self-pity, and acceptance. Luckily, acceptance is the last stage for today. “No run Boston? Big deal. Always another marathon.” I go to Terra Sol and La Sumida and spend $100 on plants and redwood mulch for my garden.
Thursday: Second run. I am fine for the first 4 miles, but the next 4 require an intensive stretch every mile. I go to see Mike Swan, my coach and PT extraordinaire, and he diagnoses me with tenosynovitus of the semitendinosus. That means the sheath of my hamstring tendon is inflamed, causing the creaky feel because the tendon cannot move freely. Mike applies ultrasound, ice, and electrical stimulation, which is really cool. It feels like sparklers going off inside your muscle. We talk about options. I say I can always just “run” Boston and not worry about time. Mike says that would not only irritate my injury, it would irritate me. He’s right. If I can’t race, I’m out. We decide to cancel remaining workouts until Saturday morning, and then try to run tempo. If I blow up, we will pull the plug. We will euthanize my Boston plans.
Friday: I work in the garden, and it feels good to remember there are other things I love in the world besides running the Boston marathon. With dirt-encrusted fingernails, I go in for a Rusty massage. He really works me over. He is encouraging. He says he will meet me every mile or two during the tempo run and hand me my water bottle of Gu Brew. Drinking is key, he says.
I think I am stoical when I hit the pillow, but my subconscious knows otherwise. All night, I dream about running: I have to fight traffic to get to the tempo run, so I abandon my car and walk. When I arrive, hours late, everyone has finished and gone home. I go to work, and they have already replaced me with another teacher because I’m late for my first class, too. I awake from a night of unsettling dreams…
D-Day: I’m up at 5, making my bottles for Rusty. I’m not nervous. In fact, I am already planning how to defer my qualifying time for next year, re-bank my United miles, and talk the B & B proprietor, a charming man, into refunding my money. I will not blame him if he can’t do it…he has a living to make. If he can’t re-book the room, I will go anyway and cheer all my teammates! And unlike them, I will be able to eat anything I want in Boston.
The warmup is iffy. Creak, crunch. It hurts. “This ain’t hap’nin,” I announce to Susie and Betsy. Susie is bummed, because I am in her corral at Boston, #7. I am already thinking ahead to Twin Cities in October.
The workout is two 4 mile loops, with a drink stop between. Mike examines my leg, and says to run the first at marathon pace, and we will re-evaluate. Whoa! What? I was pretty damned sure he would send me out for breakfast at that point. Well, uh…OK. Group 4 is up! Betsy, Elda, Tony, Phil and Rob. Where’s Brian?
It isn’t comfortable. It isn’t effortless. But it isn’t bad. The lower hamstring issue disappears. The high hamstring tugs and barks, but not enough to slow me down. If I focus on my breathing or arm swing, it recedes a bit. Rusty meets me at the mile mark, as promised, hands me my bottle, and runs with me ’til I hand it back. The group gets a little ahead because I’m drinking, but I catch them on the little hill. Phil reminds me to shorten my stride going up…thanks. We run through beautiful Lake Los Carneros with the sun streaming through the trees and lighting up the water.
Rusty meets me a few more times with my bottle, and I finish the first 4 miles on pace, but it didn’t feel anything like my prior penultimate marathon runs. My leg was cranky and it was all I could do to hold pace. Once again, I’m sure Mike will pull me.
Nope. “Do the next one.” You’re kidding, right? Wrong. Yikes! While I am consulting, my group takes off, so I run the second loop alone. At mile 6, I am sure it is all over. I stop, stretch for 10 seconds, and…better! I was slowing down a little, but nothing serious. I pick it up, and suddenly I want to finish well. My hammie is not happy, but it isn’t spitting and hissing, either. Rusty, Mike and Christee meet me at 2.5, offering drink and shouts of encouragement. When they drive by me with half a mile left, hooting and hollering, it energizes me. I finish with my fastest mile at 7:12.
D-Day. D is for Decision. D is for Determined. D is for “Do it!”