Slowly getting back on track

My plan for training for the Chicago Marathon didn’t look anything like this.

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I figured at this point in training, with 11 1/2 weeks before the race, I’d be regularly running more than 40 miles a week, working my way up to 50 miles a week, and running double digits every Sunday.

Well, that isn’t exactly happening right now. That strained hip flexor which flared up my adductor/hamstring put a crimp in those plans.

The good news is, I’m on the mend and slowly starting to build back up. I had a run assessment at physical therapy last Wednesday and was told to start running again. Every other day to start, take it slow, don’t run very far, and see how it feels.

Thankfully, it is starting to feel better. My hip is still sore and my adductor still gets tired, but I’ve been consistent with my stretching and rolling, and it is helping. I had a sports massage Monday, which also helped. I ran 5 miles Tuesday and felt pretty comfortable, then ran with the FleetFeet marathon class on Wednesday, doing a six moderate hill reps in the middle of a 4-mile run. I was worried that was a mistake – too much too soon – but I feel OK today, so I’m not fretting.

5304a023-ce24-4231-bb8b-f430e1e449a2I still have a long way to go, I’m definitely not out of the woods yet, but this is progress. I know ramping up my mileage and jumping back into speed work too quickly will put me back on the shelf and I don’t have time for that, so I’m taking it slow. I rode the elliptical today instead of running and will probably take another full rest day this week (Saturday is supposed to be surface of the sun hot, so it might be a good morning to spend at the movie theatre).

What does this mean for my goals for Chicago? I have no idea. The way I figure it, I have 11 1/2 weeks to figure that out. Can I get healthy and fit enough to run that 3:40 or 3:47 I was planning on? I have no idea. At this point, I need to make sure I can get to the starting line in one piece, able to run the race. I’ll figure out a goal when I start running more.

Every time I think about where I’m at and where I want to be, I keep reminding myself that before this hiccup I had four months of pretty decent training and I have two months to get my shit back together. As long as I don’t lose all that fitness I built from February to May, and as long as I can get healthy enough to get back to decent marathon training in August and September, I should be OK.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but that is what I wanted. That is what I signed up for. It’s no time to be lazy, no time to slack off. I’m not giving up on my lofty goals for Chicago just because I broke myself and needed a few weeks top put myself back together.

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A moment of doubt

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4th of July, training to slay the beast, but rolling and stretching and doing PT and NOT RUNNING.

Last week I said I wasn’t freaking out about being injured or how it is going to impact my training for the Chicago Marathon. I’ve reminded myself not to freak out because of all the reasons I stated last week.

On Wednesday, I had a bit of a meltdown.

I had my second physical therapy session Wednesday morning. I went in thinking I would get the OK to do a little running over the next few days, so I could start working my way back to training. After an hour of soft tissue massage, stretching, core work, rolling, all that jazz, I was told to not rush into running. I could try this weekend, once, but I need to take it easy and let this thing calm down a bit. In other words, don’t be a dumbass and make this worse by running.

I spent the rest of the day spiraling into a well of doubt and despair. Driving around Portland running errands, walking the Eastern Prom while everyone else in my running class was crushing a workout, I was telling myself a story I didn’t want to hear, asking questions I didn’t want to answer.

• When am I going to feel better again?

• When will I get to run again?

• Am I going to have enough time to get fit enough to reach my goal at Chicago.

• Am I even going to be able to run Chicago?

The answer to those questions, that’s the story I was telling myself.

• Probably never.

• Not pain free, buddy.

• No.

• Doubtful.

I know, I know. This is not the right frame of mind to be in. This is an obstacle and I have to find a way to deal with it and be better because of it, but that is not where my head was at Wednesday.

I have talked myself down a bit in the hours since that meltdown. I’ve talked with some friends and my coaches, and I realize that all is not lost. There is no reason to donate all my running shoes or cancel my flight and hotel for Chicago.

It’s just frustrating, after such a good build in February, March, April and May, to be on the shelf. I was well on the road to running that 3:47 I’ve been chasing for so long and that 3:40 I really think I’m capable of. Are those goals still realistic now that I haven’t run for nine days? Well, I don’t know.

What I do know is I can’t get those nine days back. I can’t travel back in time and not be injured. This is where I am right now, so I need to deal with it and do whatever I can to try to get ready for Chicago. If it works out and I run a killer race, awesome, but I can’t control that either. What I can control is stretch and roll every day, do my physical therapy every day, and listen to the medical professionals who are trying to get me right and keep me right.

And I can control not letting this send me slinking off to a dark room to hide out and drown my sorrows in green tea (sober life is the best life) and potato chips.

Something to prove to myself

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Finishing up my warmup, just before my workout last Wednesday, which didn’t feel good and started the ball rolling on trying to start feeling better. 

Before I start, let me assure the three or four of you how read this (but more so I’m trying to assure myself), I’m not yet completely freaking out (don’t freak out, Scootah, everything is going to be all right in the end).

That being said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in my own head a little bit right now. That hiccup I wrote about last week – a strained hip flexor which is causing some other issues in my right leg – has kept me running from since I aborted my run 5 miles in on Sunday. I had a few OK runs before that, but mostly, running did not feel good for more than a week before that jog Sunday morning.

I say I’m not freaking out, because, like I said last time, I have more than 15 weeks left until the Chicago Marathon and I had four pretty good months of build up until I had to shut it down. I was in a pretty good spot before getting injured and I will have time to build off that once I’m healthy and able to start training (that comes after I’m able to start running) again.

But I’m in my head a little bit because I’m little disappointed in myself. I wrote a while back about how I almost gave up on the marathon after Sugarloaf. I decided not give up on that distance because I didn’t want Sugarloaf to be my lasting memory of the marathon.

If you asked me, however, why it was so important for me to run another marathon, the most honest answer I could give is that I want to prove to myself I can do all the necessary work to get ready for a marathon.

The Chicago will be my fourth marathon and the fifth I have “trained” for. I put trained in quotation marks because I didn’t really train for my first. I trained for a half marathon, then did one 3-hour long run after the half and called it good (I ran 4:47 for a reason). I made it through training for Chicago 2014 just fine, though I only trained for that race for like 13 weeks and I took a break to move to Portland. I planned to run the Maine Marathon in 2015, but jacked up my hamstring and my adductor (which is part of my problem right now), and had to bag it. I made it through training for Maine in 2016 just fine and ran my best marathon to date. The build for Sugarloaf was going better than I could have hoped until I re-aggravated that adductor/hamstring. I spent a few weeks riding the exercise bike, still tried to run the race I was originally training to run, and fell flat on my face.

You see a trend there? Yeah, me too. Two of three marathon builds before this one, I wound up injured and either bagged the race or drove the struggle-buss for 10-plus miles.

Both times I got injured because I did something dumb to get injured (a faster-than 5K workout in the middle of a 9-mile run, for example) and didn’t do enough of the other work (which is also dumb) to stay healthy. My goal this time around was to avoid being stupid and do all the hard work necessary to make it to the finish line healthy, strong, and ready to kick the shit out of 26.2 miles. I’m not saying I can’t make it to the starting line on Oct. 13 healthy and ready to kick ass, but I’m clearly injured right now and that is the result of doing something dumb (trying to jump to a stand doing pushups is how I believe I injured my hip flexor) and not doing enough stretching, rolling and strength work to keep my body in one piece.

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Thursday morning I spent an hour at the gym doing all the stuff I don’t do enough and end up injured.

There is a chance for redemption here. My race isn’t so close that I’ll run out of time to get healthy. I should have enough time to get over this pain, get back on the roads, and train enough to run a decent marathon.

It’s also a kick in the ass to do the stuff I always say I’m going to do and never do. Right now, I can’t really do anything else and I’m paying to go to physical therapy, which should be motivation enough to STOP FUCKING SLACKING.

So, I’ll try to keep the freaking out to a minimum. I’ll try to get out of my head and stop beating myself up. I can’t fix what I’ve already done, I can only try to be better moving forward.

I still have time to prove to myself I can do the work to run a decent marathon, so it’s time to stop dwelling on the dumb stuff, be smarter, and do the damn work.

My first hiccup

IMG_3566.jpgIt wasn’t 12 miles at marathon pace, or the 40-minute progression run, or the fast finish long run, or even the 50 steady state minutes that threw the first wrench into my training for the Chicago Marathon. Nope, it was a set of 20 pushups.

About a week ago, I was doing pushups during a break at work. When I was done, while still in the plank position, I lifted my right foot toward my right hand, trying to hop into a standing position when … ouch, that didn’t quite feel right. There was a tug in my right hip. A quick, sharp pain.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, because that quick pain went right away. Over the next few days, I felt a dull ache in there from time to time, but nothing that alarmed me all that much.

Then Friday morning, I went out for an hour run with 6-8×2 minutes on/off mixed in. My left knee was sore because it is always sore, but then my adductor on my right leg felt super fatigued and my hip started to hurt just a bit. After six reps, I called it a day.

Saturday I jogged for a little bit and felt OK, but my hip felt tight after. Sunday I jogged for an hour and 40 minutes and more of the same. Monday was more of the same for 40 minutes. Tuesday was a rest day and Wednesday was that 50 minute steady state run. Warming up, my hip was kind of sore, not quite feel right. During my run, my leg felt tired.

I tested it out this morning and still just don’t feel quite right, so I finally decided that instead of pushing myself into a hole I can get out of, I needed to go get this thing checked out.

The initial diagnosis is a strained hip flexor. Nothing is broken or torn (at least that is the thinking right now), and that is obviously good news. Also, I was told it was OK to run if it didn’t cause me too much discomfort. If anything, the doc said to lay off the intensity for a bit, but she wants me to keep running (if I can without it causing pain) so that I can have some fitness for when I’m ready to ramp the intensity up again in preparation for Chicago. I’m also going to start physical therapy, which is great because I love PT and it will hopefully get me over this shit. The doctor did say the PT may have a different idea on whether I should run or not.

I’m not freaking out (yet) about this, for a couple of reasons. First, I have built a pretty good base and Chicago is still more than 16 weeks away. A couple of down weeks should derail me too badly. Second, I’m going to be doing extra work to get this hip healthy and maybe help out a few other areas (my achey knee) as well.

Marathon training is hard and I figured there would be a few hiccups along the way. I didn’t expect to jack up my hip doing pushups but I’m old, broken, and clumsy, so … shit will happen. It’s time to be smart, take care of myself and not do anything dumb (like run that half marathon I’m signed up for on Saturday). There is plenty of time to put myself back together and get in shape for Chicago.

I’ll be more careful when I do pushups from now on.

Minus-18 weeks to Chicago

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Sunday morning I spent an hour and 40 minutes running around the Atlantic Ocean, working on my fitness and feeling gratitude.

There is a countdown clock on the home page of the Chicago Marathon’s website, which I could check to see how many days, hours, minutes and seconds are left until race day.

 

I don’t need to look.

img_3910I’m well aware that the Chicago Marathon is 122 days, 20 hours, 55 minutes and 30 seconds (as I write this) away. I’m a little obsessed with those numbers and I’m starting to think that is a bad thing.

Obviously, I’m well aware of when the marathon is. It’s the one important race on my schedule, the one race I care about the most, the one thing I’ve geared all of my training for since I found out I was picked in the lottery in December. Clearly, I want it to be a good day and it is important I get myself into a good spot to have a good day. I have a big goal (smashing that 3:47 goal I’ve had for almost six years and running 3:40), but more than anything, I want to prove to myself I can do the work necessary to run a marathon and not fall apart.

But I’m worried about it becoming too important. I don’t want to miss the joy of the journey to Chicago and make myself miserable this summer, worrying about workouts and mileage and every niggle that makes me a little bit uncomfortable. I don’t want this year and that day that is 122 days, 20 hours, 53 minutes and 52 seconds away to be ruined if I don’t have the best possible race. Because, frankly, there is a pretty good chance I don’t have the best possible race. A lot of that is out of my control, if I’m completely honest with myself.

So today as I stand here looking out the window, writing this post and mentally preparing myself for a workout (40 minute progression run, which should be super fun) this evening, I will also remind myself to enjoy the journey. Don’t obsess over how much time I have left to get ready for the race, how prepared I actually am for the race, and how much the months, weeks, days and hours worth of work left freaks me out a little bit (OK, more than a little bit).

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Saturday morning I had some easy miles on the schedule, so I took a ride to East End Beach and enjoyed the scene because it’s important to enjoy the process a little bit.

I probably sound like a broken record, but it is important that I remind myself (I write these blogs more for myself than any one of the five people who might read this anyway) to have some fun, take each workout and each run on its own, and not to be overwhelmed by the process. To be successful, I need to focus on the process of doing what I have to do on that day, and not worry about what is going to happen in 122 days, 20 hours, 48 minutes and 3 seconds. That day is why I am doing all of this work, but if I let that one day become the end all be all, I’m surely going to be disappointed, no matter what happens.

Work hard today, enjoy today, work hard tomorrow, enjoy tomorrow. It’s as simple as that.

October 13 with be here soon enough, I don’t want to let the months, weeks, days, hours and seconds leading up to it be a miserable experience and I don’t want to let it slip by without relishing in what I’m doing, what I’m trying to accomplish, what I am accomplishing when I put in the work.

I’ll freak out enough on race day, no need to spend the next 122 days, 20 hours, 43 minutes and 2 seconds freaking out.

Looking forward after 8 years

img_3867I’m struggling to find a new way to tell the story. For the last seven years on May 29, I’ve told the same tale, written essentially the same blog post. Eight years ago tomorrow I went for a run for the first time. I started Couch to 5k and began a journey that changed who I am.

Eight years ago tomorrow, I became a runner.

If you know me, you know the story. If you don’t, I give you the following links (here, here, here, here, here, here and here). I’m at a loss to tell the story any differently than I already have.

But don’t leave just yet. I’m not done writing. There is more to read. No, I won’t be looking back on the last eight years in this post, those stories have been written. Today I’m going to take a few minutes to write about what is ahead, where I hope running takes me next and where I hope to be in eight years.

The simple answer, looking eight years down the road is I hope to be running. It’s awful hard to look that far ahead and be able to predict what life will bring. I mean, if you had told me eight years ago that I would still be running eight years later, that I would be a four-time marathon finisher, would run more half marathons than I can remember and I would crack 22 minutes in the 5K twice, I’d have laughed at you. So, I can’t tell you what life for 53-year-old Scott Martin will look like. I can tell you that I hope my knees hold up long enough that I’m still running on May 29, 2027, but even that would just be a guess (my knees have a mind of their own).

The immediate future is a lot easier to predict. I’m staring at a whole bunch of miles, a boatload of workouts, and a ton of other stuff to get ready for the Chicago Marathon in October. I’ll race a little bit, I just signed up for the Old Port Half and I’ll probably race something on the Fourth of July, but my main objective this summer is to stay healthy and get as fit as possible to run a fast-ish marathon on Oct. 13.

My personal best in the marathon is 3:50:12 and I’ve been chasing 3:47 for  five-plus years. I’ve failed in my quest to hit that goal (one hour faster than my first marathon) three times, and I’m bound and determined to blow that number out of the water in October. I’ve mentioned it before, but my ‘A’ goal for Chicago is to run 3:40. So my immediate future as a runner is to do everything I can to prepare my body and my mind to run that kind of race.

To even talk about that, thinking back eight years ago, is pretty mind boggling. Heck, to talk about that thinking back to October 2017, when the pain in my knees became too much for me to even run, makes me scratch my head and wonder if it is possible. Two years after limping to the finish line at the Maine Half Marathon, I’m going to try to PR by 10 minutes in the marathon. Eight years ago, I didn’t think I’d become a runner, much less a marathoner. Two years ago, I was worried about able to run again, forget running another marathon. 

I don’t take for granted the fact that I can at least take a swing at what seems like a big, crazy goal. I don’t know if my knees will be up to the task, but I’m trying to do the work to assure they will and I’m going to spend the next 19 weeks doing the work I think I need to do reach my goals.

Eight years ago, that would have sound like nonsense, something I had no interest in. Eight years later, there is nothing I want more.

Writing another marathon story

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I learned a lot of things running the Sugarloaf Marathon in 2017, most importantly, don’t race in a superhero shirt because if you are having a bad day, nothing is more annoying than hearing someone yell, “You look great Superman, you got this,” every mile.

I woke up Sunday morning, patting the mattress to my right, searching for my phone (horrible habit, I know). I finally found it after 10 seconds or so of feeling around, used my thumb to unlock the screen and tapped on the Instagram icon. The app opened and as I swiped up with my thumb, scrolling through my timeline, I was overwhelmed with images of people I follow preparing to run the Sugarloaf Marathon or 15K. Later in the day, wasting time on social media again (horrible habit, I know), I saw pictures and read post from those same people after the race. Their pictures showed all the emotions of the marathon: Pain, joy, relief.

Tuesday morning, I started my morning the same way (horrible habit, I know), searching for my phone and scrolling through social media. Still a little foggy from not a ton of sleep, I tapped the Facebook notification to see my “memories” from all the May 21 that I have been on Facebook. A few swipes of my thumb brought pictures of my own experience at the Sugarloaf Marathon two years ago. The only emotion I saw in those pictures and read in the words of those post was disappointment.

I had a mixed reaction to those two social media experiences, but more than anything, I was inspired.

Seeing all those folks on social media, some I know in real life, some I know only on the internet, having a good day in the pouring rain, crushing the 15K or the marathon, made me want to have that same experience. It gave me hope that with the right training, I could have my own good day.

Seeing the disappointment on my face in those pictures from May 21, 2017 inspired me to create some new marathon memories. I went into Sugarloaf a little injured, a whole lot undertrained, 15 or 20 pounds heavier than I was eight months earlier when I set my marathon PR at the Maine Marathon, and crashed in a big way. I took a moment to myself in the food tent post-race to cry, not tears of joy or of relief, but of disappointment and anger. I had high hopes leading into Sugarloaf and was having a really great block of training until it was derailed and I had a race so bad I almost swore off marathons completely.

I didn’t swear of marathons completely, though, because I don’t want that to be my last memory of the distance. Sugarloaf was my fourth marathon and they were all completely different experiences.

  • My first, the Smuttynose Marathon in October 2013, was just about finishing, covering the distance. I didn’t even train to run it.
  • My second was actually taking a shot at racing a marathon. I trained for months to have a good day at the Chicago Marathon in October 2014. It didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a major triumph.
  • My third at the Maine Marathon in 2016 was about gaining confidence that I could stay healthy in training and actually put together a good day over 26.2 miles. As difficult as the last three miles of that race were, it was one of my favorite days as a runner.
  • My fourth, Sugarloaf, well, that was a shitshow in every way imaginable.
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Here I am approaching the finish line of the Mother’s Day 5K a week and a half ago. I left this race with a huge sense of accomplishment and relief that I’m fairly healthy and gaining fitness. I want to keep this momentum going as I train for Chicago.

A lot has happened in two years since I hobbled to the finish line at Sugarloaf. For a long time, I dealt with the fallout of that race and then with a pair of knees that remind me every day that I’m not 18 years old anymore. I didn’t have the desire to even think about a marathon, much less train for one, for months after the race. Then I couldn’t run for two months and I started to think my marathoning days were over.

But I’m ready to take another shot. After spending 2018 just getting myself back into the every day rhythm of being a runner and getting my knees to a point where they allowed me to run without a whole shitton of pain, I decided late last year (with some arm twisting from a friend) to try to get into the Chicago Marathon. I was selected in the lottery, and here I am, preparing to spend the summer deep in mileage and physical therapy and stretching and rolling, to get ready to tackle 26.2 miles again. 

This is a chance for me to write a new story. Not just the story of race day, that of course is important, but of the journey to race day. When I think back to Sugarloaf, I remember how much fun I was having training for the race until things went to shit and I fell apart. I want more of those memories, to see those happy post from race day and from training. 

Two years from now and two years from Oct. 13, I’d prefer not to wake up patting around for my phone to scroll social media (horrible habit, I know), but if I do, I want to be to reminded of a fun, hard, successful training block and see a look of relief, joy, and probably some pain, too.