Sunday, March 8, 2020

2020: Comin' in Hot

It's been a while.

A long while.

I know, I know. Guilty as charged.

I can give you excuses, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to a few things. Confidence & Denial. I lacked one while the other overtook my thoughts.

I finished The Chicago Marathon and deep down, I knew I possibly shouldn't have even started the race. I was worried about the damage I had done to both of my hamstrings. Recovery after Chicago proved that I was definitely fit, in shape. But.. both of my hamstrings never bounced back like I needed them to. I was starting to think I wasn't ever going to run the way I used to. I lacked any confidence in myself and felt like my best days were behind me.

I put my running shoes aside for a while. I convinced myself that rest was all they needed. I hit the pool 5 days a week. I started biking much more, 3-4 days a week. Running was cut down to 1-2 days a week, and very very slow. If I use different muscles around them while they recover, this is the same, right? WRONG. I was in denial that I needed anything other than rest.

Thanksgiving weekend came around and I had the opportunity to lace up my running shoes 3 separate times at local fun runs. And I did. And let me tell you, it was a huge mistake. By the time the 3rd race morning came around, it took everything I had to put any sort of hop to my step when the gun went off. My hamstrings were screaming. Violently. With such rage. So many people asked me, "How'd you feel!? Isn't it great to be running again!?" I don't know if I thought I was telling the truth or what, but I realize now I was in denial. "Yea, it was great! I loved it!" Deep down I knew, something had to be done.

This past year there was the shortest amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Rob and I were scheduled to head out of town on the 27th of December for our Honeymoon in Cozumel, Mexico. I knew my journey to healthy run legs was going to have to wait until we returned. In the meantime, I found my massage therapist and begged her to help relieve some of the tension, knots, and scar tissue that I had built up in my hamstrings. Every session with her was helpful, but not 100% what I needed.

I came home from Mexico and the search began. I had heard many times of people going to see Denise Smith at Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy.   BFF and coaches wife Jacqui is her biggest cheerleader, so I decided to give her a call. The last thing I wanted was to go to a doctor have them tell me to "stop running" or "you need XYZ and it doesn't look good." But at this point I just wanted to run the way I know I could. I was tired of always being in some sort of pain. I needed help.

Spoiler Alert: At one point, Jacqui and I had back to back appointments 💖

I walked into her office on day 1 and spent 30 minutes telling her everything. Literally, from day 1 when I first noticed issues with my left hamstring (training for Grandma's Marathon in 2018) all the way to present day, where both my hamstrings felt like rubber bands about to snap at any moment. I gave her all the details, probably more than she bargained for. She sat and nodded, took notes, smirked, and asked me ALL the questions.

Meg: "So, how bad do I sound? How broken am I?"
Denise: "Honestly, you sound very typical. And this can be fixed. I don't want you to stop running." 

You wanna talk about music to my ears!? Holy sh*t, this woman gets me.

A few other things she said:
1. Time. The hamstring is one of the hardest muscles to heal when injured, and it can take a LONG time. Patience is key.
2. That said, consistency. Keep up with everything I tell you to do. Even after the pain is gone.
3. Strength. You can't be apposed to strength work. Because of how the hard the hamstring has to work, at some point it's going to rely on all the little muscles around it for help. All of those muscles need to be strengthened in order to keep all systems working.
4. Flexibility. If you don't understand the value in what seems like a "minor" stretch and how it translates to the run, this will be difficult. 

I left her office after our first consult and was ready to start getting to work tomorrow. We created our schedule, once a week on Monday evenings at 6pm until further notice. I have spent Monday after Monday with Denise teaching me different stretches I didn't know were stretches, that stretch muscles I didn't know existed {caveat, HOLY HELL DID THEY HURT.} We moved onto minor strength work that put me out of commision for a day or 2 because apparently I'm weaker than I thought? She always spends the last 10-15 minutes working on my hamstrings and lower back, digging deep with her thumb or even busting out her famous cups. 

This was super weird

It was a feeling like I've never felt before

I always leave her office feeling a combination of relief with my progress and slightly overwhelmed with how much homework I have to add to my plate. But every run I've had since day 1 with her has progressively gotten better and better. Fast forward to present day, and my stretches no longer burn like hell and I can perform any strengthening exercise with confidence knowing that the next day I'll still be able to run.

Added Bonus: she's your biggest cheerleader 😉

Let's set the record straight. I'm not 100% yet. I still have my moments that remind me I'm not "healed" entirely. But I have turned a HUGE leaf from 3 months ago. I don't skip speed workouts. I have run the super hilly March Madness course 3 separate times this spring and each time I've recovered similar to years past. There were times in the past 3-5 months I've struggled to get through a simple recovery run because I've woken up in so much pain. Mileage has decreased drastically since Chicago. But since seeing Denise, I have officially run 3 consecutive 30+ mile weeks in a row now. And if I'm being honest, I'm simply over the moon about it. 

So, here we are. 1 week out from the unofficial start to the season {March Madness Half Marathon} and my legs are officially back in working order. I'd like to say I plan on truly racing March Madness next weekend, but I'm not sure what will happen. It's looking to be seasonably cold day with possible snow. If my legs show up on race day, then I'm gonna roll with it. But if they don't..? Well, let's just put it this way... I've got to much riding on my season to ruin any chances I have of Ironman-ing in 2020. That's right... you read that right. Ironman. I didn't get the chance last year. And I missed it terribly. And now that I have the confidence I've needed for quite a while, I'm planning on making up for lost time.

Hope you're ready. I'm planning to wear down my keyboard and lock you all into my journey this year with all my racing endeavours. 

Cozumel, Mexico
January 2020
And I'm takin' my husband/spectathlete with me. Cheers!

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