Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Perfectly Imperfect Fall

I've been M.I.A. I know.

Last we spoke, I wasn't in the *best* headspace. (In case you missed it.) 

I know I know, I didn't necessarily let you completely into my head. I'm not even sure I knew exactly how upset I was. I definitely had something going on with my left hamstring AND I had just been rejected from The Boston Marathon.

I cried more in the months of September and October than I ever remember in a long while.

I tried to make light of the situation when people brought it up. "Oh so you didn't get into Boston, you have a wedding to plan instead. No BIG DEAL!" Listen people, I thrive on chaos and the hustle and bustle of what training and life have to offer. Take away the ONE thing keeps my headspace normal and we've got some serious issues. This is a HUGE DEAL.

I had a pretty serious heart to heart with a dear fellow Rybread teammate, honest and true friend, and one of the strongest and guttiest runners I've ever come across. "Kati I'm not strong enough to do what I need to do to get to Boston. I qualified fair and square and it was TAKEN AWAY FROM ME.  This entire experience has me questioning so much. Maybe I'm not supposed to do this?" She listened to me. She let me cry and rant and cry some more. She reminded me that her and I are far to good at comparing our athletic abilities to others only to discredit our own. She reminded me that NO ONE expects me to be ok right now. But she also reminded me how far I've come. {5:27 marathon --> 3:30 marathon} "Megan, you don't have the quit in you. This is what you do and who you are. Come back to me when your head's on straight." And I did just that. 

Instead of training for Boston right now {which I had every intent of running "relaxed" so I could enjoy every step of the world's more iconic marathon only a month before I married my best friend} I'm now training to run faster and harder than I ever have before. We're talking about some numbers that truly frighten me a lot.

Qualifying for Boston 2020 isn't going to be easy at all. Hell, it wasn't easy the first time around. After I ran Grandma's one of the first things I said was, "I'm so glad I never have to run that fast again." If I could go back in time and eat my words... I think another part of the Boston 2020 quest that scares me is the mental game. I had me a few breakdowns while training for Grandma's. I never thought I'd say this, but I guess that was only the beginning. I'm going to finish planning a wedding. I'm also going to train to run the fastest 26.2 I've ever done to date. Someone please say a prayer for my mental state because this sounds like a recipe for all the wedding guests to receive my favorite gel + nutrition combo as the thank you gift 🤦. 

But let's not forget, as of 2 months ago, I wasn't exactly "healthy" in running terms. I've decided to give you all the details on the treatment route I embarked on in my next blog (coming soon!) But for right now, all you need to know is that I've gotten myself into a solid maintenance plan and running is once again... fun.

I first decided to test my legs in late October at the Woodstock Care 4 Cancer 5k. My office had decided to run/walk this event as a company and raise money for a good cause. I never intended on racing this at all. I only agreed to run with a coworker and enjoy the morning. Hell, my first speedwork back to the game (which was pretty weak) was only a few days prior to the race. But then... I did a warm up run and my leg felt different. Good, different. Alright guys, change of plans I might need to see what I can do right now. 

As you can see, I found myself on the starting line with all the young whipper snappers

And I gave it my best shot 🏃
It wasn't a long race obviously, and it was over a month ago. So the exact details aren't completely there anymore. But I so vividly remember watching my first mile tick by at a 6:56. And I remember thinking to myself.. "Man, that didn't feel so bad at all. Looks like I'm here to play today!" It was at that point that I tried to remember how many females were ahead of me. One for sure, possibly two. Shortly after the 1 mile mark we turned into a neighborhood and weaved our way around. Weaving can tire out the body quickly so I thought this might be my downfall. But... I continued my groove and even made a few more passes. When mile 2 clicked my watch showed me a 7:13, I decided to go for it the last mile. I knew I had a shot to PR if I picked up the pace for the last mile.
Megan you're nuts! You barely had enough time to recover from Madison, your leg is still not right, what are you thinking!?
I'm thinking a little RnR does the body good and when you're ready to go you GO. I passed a spectator during that last mile and he screamed as I ran by, "Second female, right here!" I knew first place was out of my league at this point, but I didn't want to surrender my current position. The last half mile everything burned. But it was well worth it.

2nd place female, 21:55, and a 25 second PR
After I went home that day I knew, my running legs were coming back. I needed to be patient and continue my current regimen. Trust the process. Don't skimp on stretches, exercises, massages. Keep the momentum moving forward.

The next month was spent logging more miles as well as more speedwork. I texted Speedy on a pretty regular basis "Holy cow that workout was AWESOME! I NAILED it!" I got SUPER busy going head first into wedding planning that I didn't even think twice about my next race. I went to work, I did my workouts, and all free time was spent wedding planning.

But of course Thanksgiving Turkey Trots were coming up, and I decided to run the local Turkey Trot at Lippold Park (free entry with donation to the food pantry) with my brother, the Giuliano's (Speedy and Jacqui) and our newest RyBreader, Zach. I never truly race this one as it's on a crushed limestone path. But I always give myself a solid workout during the race. However when we showed up we learned that the course had changed due to ice and construction, so we were now running a 2 loop cross country course. As soon as I heard that I knew I was in for a true "fun run." Put grass under me and I suddenly have 2 left feet and can't figure out speed at all. But it was still fun. We burned some calories so we could enjoy Thanksgiving the way it's meant to be enjoyed. We gave back to the community and had some fun in the process. All in all, I'd call it a great day to run.

As promised, selfie from BFG with the long arms
Happy Thanksgiving!
I've also been known to run a 5K during the holiday season dressed like Santa Claus. This year was no different. The weather is generally of the frigid nature with a chance of snow and/or blizzard. This year.. RAIN. All the rain. And a COLD rain. In all honesty.. I was miserable the entire time. I took off with Jacqui to run a "warmup" in the 40 degree rain. Literally I felt like a moving popsicle it was so cold. BFG decided to sit out the warmup (shocker). Naturally my shoes and socks were socked within a quarter mile of the warm-up and my pig tails were flipping the water all over the place. Yep, this was one of those mornings I could have overslept and it would have been ok with me.

Of course, Jacqui and I got done with our warm-up LITERALLY as it stopped raining. We peeled our wet layers and got "Santa Ready" with a few minutes to spare. At this point... I was bone cold. All I wanted was to be DONE with the race. Just before the gun went off I started to shiver that annoying shiver that chatters your teeth and tightens your skin. Yea, and then the gun went off and I was supposed to race. I ain't so sure about one. 

Are my lips blue? 
I'll be the first to admit, my head was not in this one. I'm not a fan of winter in the slightest, but I might hate the freezing cold rain even more. And that's what this was. Dodging freezing cold puddles of water while catching a cold 36 degree mist of dampness on your face at all times. Oh, did I mention there was a casual wind as well? And the breeze kept grabbing my beard and at one point I damn near gagged on it and my hair at the same time and coughed like I was on my death bed while trying to maintain any sort of respectable pace? Yea, all of that happened. I was able to hold a decent first mile, 6:55. But, it wasn't easy for me (even though it was slightly downhill). I know for a fact, my head wasn't in the game. I was cold. I was damn cold. I could have run on a treadmill later in the day and probably broken a solid sweat! But, alas here I was with my crew doing my thing. After I choked voilently on my Santa beard and hair, I never truly recovered. I had a hard time catching my breath and finding my groove again. So I just went with it. It is what it is. No records were being broken on this miserable morning. I found the finish line and was greeted  by Jacqui's dad, camera ready! 

Dodgin' raindrops!
I can't say I didn't have fun though. This race is as close to home as it gets and always draws in some close family friends and acquaintances. It's always a great time seeing everyone. The first chance I had I made sure to change out of my wet clothes so we could all enjoy a lovely breakfast as a group.

This is why we can't have nice things Mark

Jacqui won (are you shocked?) while I took home an age group medal 

We even stuck around long enough after the race to meet the REAL SANTA! Santa's house sits right outside of Benedict's and as we were leaving he was walking up, about to invite all the children of Crystal Lake to sit on his lap. Mark and I snagged him before he even had a chance to sit down.

"Dear Santa, bring me wine to drink while I plan my wedding"
{He didn't argue this at all}

When I got home I promptly showered, put all the layers on, curled up on the couch and took a nap. I was finally warm, fed, and ready to take a nice little snooze. 

The next morning I woke up and found out I made the paper, incognito obviously 🤣

So what can I say? This fall definitely didn't go as I would have imagined. Hell, the 2nd half of this year didn't go as I planned at all. But what can you do? I've taken some time to give my body the rest it needs. I've invested more and more into my body to help it heal and recover properly. I raced less, slept in more, and did what my body allowed me to do without pushing it any farther. I know I'm still young. But, I've been running for about 20 years. No matter how "old" or "young" I still am, that's a long time to be pounding pavement. I know a time will come and my body won't be able to do this anymore. If I don't truly listen to it now, my running expiration date is going to be sooner than I hope for. I'm pretty comfortable with where I am at the moment. I've got my body back to working order (you'll get details on this next blog), my run speed is coming back (5K PR in October), and I have a pretty good plan of attack for 2019 (also to come at a later date). Santa Claus is coming to my house in a few short weeks, wedding festivities start shortly after the first of the year, and before you know it, I'm going to be racing under a different name. {That one still gets me, every time. Megan Sloan...} 

On that note, I have some Christmas shopping to get done and I'm sure I'm behind on my wedding to-do list.