Author Archives: Scott Martin

Chicago Marathon 2.0

IMG_4493.jpgSomewhere between mile 19 and mile 20, a runner just in front of me took a few steps to the side of the road, stopped to walk and muttered, “fudge,” only he didn’t say fudge.

My thought as I ran past was, “I feel ya brother.”

About 15 minutes later, I took a few steps to the side of the road, stopped to walk and muttered, “fudge,” only I didn’t say fudge.

For 21 miles of the Chicago Marathon, I was on pace to shatter my PR and finally, FINALLY, break that elusive 3:47 goal I have been chasing for the last 6 years. The race really started to hurt a long time before that, but it wasn’t until I finished mile 21 that I really started to feel all the aches and pains in my old body and started to crash and burn.

My fifth attempt at the marathon taught me a lot, but more than anything it taught me what I had already learned in my previous four marathons: These things are hard. For a broken old fart like me, they are really hard.

But more importantly, I learned that there is still a little bit of fight in this old broken down body of mine, I just wish I had figured that out a few miles earlier.

I had a handful of goals for the Chicago Marathon, the most important race of the year for me. 3:47 was at the top of that list. Setting a personal best was next, followed by feeling good about myself. Lastly, I didn’t want to finish the race saying, “I never want to run a marathon again.”

I definitely accomplished one of those goals and definitely didn’t accomplish another. The other two, well, the jury is still out.

IMG_4498.jpgI didn’t finish in 3:47, but I did PR. My time of 3:49:45 is 27 seconds faster than I ran at the Maine Marathon in 2016. It is also 7 minutes, 10 seconds faster than I ran at the Chicago Marathon in 2014.

There was a lot of time Sunday where I felt pretty good about myself, and a there was some time when I felt disappointed in myself. So that one is a mixed bag.

As far as wanting to run another marathon … well, that is very much up in the air at this point.

My race plan Sunday morning was to start with the 3:50 pace group and see how I felt. I’d run with them for a little bit and if I felt like I could run faster, I would leave the group. If I felt like I needed to stick with them, I’d stick with them. I didn’t really consider what would happen if I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the 3:50 group.

I ran the first mile or so of the race with the pace group, trying to settle into whatever pace the two pace-setters were setting. I also had to pee because the lines for the porta-pottys before the race were absurd and I didn’t feel like finding a bush and relieving myself in front of 45,000 other people (no one else seemed to concerned about that, though … people were peeing everywhere), so I at some point early I wanted to leave the group and get a bit of a lead on them, so when I found a porta-potty, I wouldn’t fall too far behind.

I found the bathroom just after the 5K mark and took my chance. When I got back on course, I caught right up to the pace group and tacked onto the back. The group, however, was all jammed together and there was no room to run, so after half a mile or so I pulled out around the group and went on my own.

It was soon after leaving the group that I made a choice. My GPS was pretty useless, so I didn’t know at any given time what pace I was running. I manually kept my laps, so I knew what I was running in mile in. I was mostly between 8:35 and 8:40 pace so I decided to keep running how I felt and go for it. I made a choice that this was a day to go push it and actually see what I was capable of. I didn’t know if that would blow up in my face, but I was determined to give it a try.

And regardless of what happened, regardless of the fact that the last 10K of the race was a pretty terrific struggle, I do not regret that decision. Not one bit. Yes, I told myself before the race I would be OK if I didn’t leave it all out there and ended the race feeling like I had run a good race but wasn’t totally destroyed. Once I got into the race though, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I wanted to race. I wanted to push myself. I wanted go for it.

That was a great decision until about mile 22. I clicked off a bunch of 8:30 miles-8:40 miles until mile 10, when I made a second bathroom break. I quickly got back on track and threw in some really good splits.

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These are not the right miles because I missed one of my splits. This is actually mile 11 to mile 21.

I was on a roll despite a left hamstring that hasn’t felt quite right in the last two weeks and started barking around mile 5, and my arthritic right knee, which started to hurt at the half.

But when I crossed the mile 21 point, it all started to catch up to me. My knee was really bothering me and my legs were starting to get heavy. I slowed to 9:02 in mile 22.

I don’t regret much of what I did on Sunday, but looking back, there are two things – or two miles – I do regret. I let the pain and suffering get into my head in mile 23 and I stepped off the side of the course to walk for a little bit. I was hurt. I was suffering. I felt defeated. I was ready to quit.

I sulked my way through a 9:54 mile and forgot all about that 3:47 goals, I was nervous I wasn’t going to finish. I was having flashbacks of that awful final 10K at Sugarloaf and convinced I would never run another marathon.

Somehow, I sucked it up and ran an 8:33 mile, but then I quit again, running mile 25 in 10:02.

But then I got a little pissed off and challenged myself. I was upset that I had pretty much cost myself that 3:47 by quitting on myself — TWICE — but after a little math I realized that I still had a chance to PR. I had 1.2 miles to go, if I couldn’t run 1.2 miles, well, what I was doing out here anyway?

I ran through the wall of sound created by the crowds lining both sides of the street, fighting the urge to walk because I knew if I walked, my PR was still going to be that 3:50:12 I ran at the Maine Marathon. At this point, that was unacceptable.

I made the turn into Grant Park and up one of the few hills on the course, and just before turning to run the final 200 meters of the course, looked to my right and saw the 3:50 pace leaders. Sweet, I thought, I’m definitely going to break 3:50. Then I heard the 3:50 pacers shouting at their group and was glad I made the decision a long time ago to leave them. I’m not sure I could have taken 3 hours and 50 minutes of pace leaders yelling at me.

So I took off, wanting to get away from the yellers and wanting to finish as far until 3:50 as I could at that point. I pounded my fist into my chest a couple of times and let out a yell as I crossed the finish line, much different than the curse words I spewed at the 2014 Chicago Marathon.

I was glad to be done. I was glad to PR. I was glad to be able to push myself through this after the shitshow at Sugarloaf and after the two months I was unable to run shortly after that. I was also grateful that the strained hip flexor that put me on the shelf for two weeks this summer didn’t completely derail me.

Chicago was a win. I wanted a little more, but I cannot be upset with a marathon finish and a marathon PR. It was two years ago, almost to the day, that I had to skip my leg of the MDI Marathon relay because of my cranky old knees. I didn’t know when I’d be able to run again, much less if I’d ever be able to run another marathon.

So yeah, Sunday was a big win.

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The hay is in the barn

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Sunday morning, I threw on my new singlet (pictured above, it’s pretty sweet and a nice reminder of why I was heading out the door), a pair of half tights and a Chicago Cubs hat, and laced up my running shoes for my last long effort of Chicago Marathon training. 15.5 miles later, with 5 of those a little faster than goal marathon pace (though my goal is still a little up in the air), and it was time to truly start my taper.

The hay, as the saying goes, is in the barn.

As I write this, just a few hours after an easy 5-miler, I am 9 days, 12 hours and 31 minutes from a race I signed up for nearly a year ago, was not sure I’d be able to run three months ago, and spent the last 11 weeks putting in the hardest work I’ve done in a long time to prepare for.

There is nothing left to do now other than to feel good. The workouts are pretty much done, though I will touch on some speed a little bit next Wednesday. The long runs are done as well, I’ll jog an easy 10 miles Sunday, just to spend a little time on my feet.

In the meantime, my mind will be running with thoughts and questions about the race.

What exactly is my goal?

Am I ready?

Do I have the right shoes?

Do I run with a pace group?

What pace group?

On and on they go.

I’m trying to stay relaxed at this point. Like I said, there is nothing more I can do. Once I was able to start running regularly again after straining my hip flexor in early June, I’ve been doing the work. I’ve done the long runs and I’ve done the workouts. I’ve stretched and rolled and done my physical therapy more than ever before.

If it wasn’t enough, I can’t fix that now, I can only do what I am capable of on race day.

And what am I capable of? I really don’t know.

Ask me one day and I’ll tell you I feel so good I should go out with the 3:40 pace group and try to PR by more than 10 minutes. Ask me another day, like yesterday when after a progression run my left hamstring was kind of unhappy, and I’d tell you maybe I should just worry about finishing and never push the pace.

There is plenty of evidence that I’m in shape enough to at least PR. The Lake Auburn Half showed me I still have some speed in my legs. Those 20-milers I ran on back-to-back Sunday showed me I’ve got enough stamina to spend 3-plus hours on my feet and not be completely destroyed. That 1 hour and 45 minute steady state run last Wednesday showed me I’m aerobically in good shape, and that I can battle mental demons and win.

But still, I have no idea what will happen on race day. Chicago will be my fifth marathon and they have been a very mixed bag. My first was just a run, to cover the distance. My second, Chicago in 2014, was the first time I tried for a goal (3:47, which really, despite what I said, is my most important goal at Chicago this year). My third, was great until mile 23-ish, then the shit hit the fan, but it was still great. My fourth, I should not have run because I was out of shape and still kind of injured, and it sucked royally.

So, I’ll spend the next 9-plus days trying not to question myself too much and trying to talk myself into giving it a real shot. For all this talk about goals, the most important thing is to feel good about myself when it is over. I just don’t want to hate the marathon and feel like I F’ it up.

I don’t think that is too much to ask.

So this is marathon training

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When the mileage piles up, you spend a bit of time chilling out in the Back Cove parking lot post-run before moving on to whatever else is planned for the day. 

I parked my car at FleetFeet this morning planning to run for 45 minutes to an hour. I wasn’t really feeling it. I’m tired, sore and pretty much constantly hungry.

Part of that was the workout that started and ended at FleetFeet on Wednesday evening.  Part of that was the 20-miler I ran last Sunday and the 20-miler I’m planning tomorrow. Part of that is, while 56 miles in a week and 91 miles in the last 12 days isn’t a ton for some people, it is a shit ton for a hobby jogger like me.

I logged those miles this morning, jogging along the Eastern Prom, through the East End and the Munjoy Hill neighborhood, then finally up Fore Street, along the Prom again and back to my car at FleetFeet.

Then I stopped at Whole Foods for a salad that I devoured before falling into bed for a nap.

img_4320When I signed up for the Chicago Marathon late last year, I knew this time was coming. And I was looking forward to it. After a year and a half of struggling with injuries and burnout and just not giving a shit about running, I was excited to get to work putting in work.

There have been a few hiccups, including that strained hip flexor that is mostly better, but still cries at me once in a while, but I’m putting in the work. I’m running more miles and harder workouts than I have run since early 2017, before I tweaked my hamstring training for the Sugarloaf Marathon, which was the beginning of a pretty shitty stretch of running.

I’m doing the work and it’s pretty freaking glorious.

Yes, I’m sore. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I want to eat all the time. But I’m not injured and I’m able to run. I’m gaining fitness and gaining confidence. I have no idea what will happen on Oct. 13, but to be able to put in this kind of work after so much time struggling to run and hating even the thought of doing it, the last two weeks have been a huge win.

My workload will start to drop a little bit after that long run tomorrow. I’ll be exactly three weeks out from Chicago tomorrow morning and it will feel good to ramp down a little bit to freshen up my legs and my mind for race day. I’ll still log decent miles, and I’ll hit a workout or two, but there will be no more 20-milers, that’s for sure.

It’s been quite an experience, this build. After three months of pretty awesome running, I was definitely worried that my hip was going to keep me from getting into the kind of shape I wanted to run the kind of race I wanted. I took two full weeks off running and still wasn’t feeling a heck of a lot better when I started to ramp back up. Thankfully, a ton of physical therapy has me feeling pretty decent these days and I have finally gotten to a point where I’m running the type of mileage I think I need to to run the kind of race I want to.

Are my goals still realistic? Who knows? Pessimistic me says no way, but I have a lot of people on my side, who see my workouts and my mileage, and tell me I’m capable of more than I think.

I’ll find out on Oct. 13 what I’m capable of, but whatever happens, this build has been a win. To get myself to a point where I can train for a marathon without completely falling apart is exactly what I was looking for when I signed up for Chicago.

I have three weeks and one 20-miler left, and my only goal during that time is to not screw anything up.

There was been way too much good in the last 2 1/2 months to blow it now.

 

Lake Auburn Half Marathon 1.0

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Closing in on the finish line, pushing the pace much harder than I expected to. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

Shortly after the 10-mile mark, I passed the last runner I could see in front of me. I occasionally heard footsteps behind me, but I slowly pulled away and had the road to myself. In races, especially when I’m running kind of hard, I don’t really like being all alone. I like have runners around, runners to chase, runners to pace myself with.

But with about 2.5 miles left in the Lake Auburn Half Marathon, I was all alone and fighting the urge to slow down a little bit. I was already running much faster than I planned, and it was getting harder to keep up that pace while running with no one in front of me and no one behind me.

Then, with just over a mile left, as I turn out of the parking lot at St. Mary’s Hospital, I saw a runner up ahead. A yellow hat, making its way down the side of the road, toward the entrance to Central Maine Community College and the finish line. At that point, I made it my goal to get as close to yellow hat as I could, if not catch him (I knew it was a him because I saw that hat when he ran by after he had, and before I, made the turn around at mile 7).

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Very surprising splits considering my plan before the race.

And that is how, at the end of a half marathon in which I was never planning to run faster than 8 minute per mile pace, I dropped a 7:22 mile. The closer I got to yellow hat, the harder I pushed. I knew I had a chance to catch and pass him as we entered the school and a continually reeled him in until passing him about 50 meters before the finish line.

Passing yellow hat guy didn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. We were not in the same age group, though that thought did cross my mind a few times as I tried to reel him in, and I wasn’t going to place in my age group anyway (I finished 41st overall and 10th in the 40-49 age group). No, passing yellow hat guy wasn’t about a race result or about pride, it was simple a way to push myself to see what I had in the tank and what I was capable of. It was about finding some form of motivation at the end of a pretty dang hard effort. It was about having some fun in the spirit of competition.

Sunday was kind of a big day for me for a number of running-related reasons.

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Pre-race, fighting some race-day anxiety while listening to loud music and taking selfies in my car.

First and foremost, I put myself in a race environment, which I haven’t done nearly enough this year. When I ran Chicago in 2014, I was so nervous before I race I nearly puked in a trash can after taking a sip of Gatorade before the race. This year, I had only raced three times before Sunday. One of those, the New York City Half Marathon, is similar to what I’ll experience in Chicago, the rest were big my Maine standards, but small in the grand scheme of things. But anytime I can pin on a bib, stand on a starting line with a crowd of other runners, with some sort of goal in mind, I fight race day anxiety. To face that anxiety one more time before Chicago hopefully will serve as a reminder on Oct. 13 that I can handle those race day nerves and run a solid race.

Second, I pushed myself well beyond what I thought I was capable of. My game plan for Sunday was to run the first few miles as a warmup, then get 75 minutes or so at steady state pace, which I thought was 8:00-8:15 per mile. I never considered the possibility that I could drop 7 sub 8 minute miles on my way to the third fastest half marathon (1:44:59) that I have ever run. My plan was out the window when I ran 8:20, 8:27 and 8:21 in the first 3 miles, then I forgot all about it when I reached the top of a long, long hill at the end of mile 6, ran around a traffic cone and ran down that long, long hill. I felt like I was shoved in the back, I picked up so much speed around that corner, and decided to just hammer it for as long as I could after that. I held together so much better than I expected and gained a ton of confidence in my fitness.

Lastly, I was able to practice for Chicago. I wore the shoes, shorts, singlet and baseball hat I plan to wear for the marathon, and I followed the nutrition plan I am thinking I will use. Everything felt good, everything worked well, so I don’t have to worry about that any more. (I do have to question the use of styrofoam cups at the aid stations).

I’m happy with how things went. I’m glad I put myself out there and pushed myself to an uncomfortable spot to find out just where I am. I’m glad it was a confidence building experience. I’m glad I made it out of the race healthy and ready to step back into training for the big one in five weeks.

When everything hurts, a reminder why

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I’m not really a Cubs fan, this hat is a reminder of why I’m out here.

Last week, my adductor and hammy were sore.

Sunday during my long run, my hip got tired and tight.

Yesterday when I started my recovery jog, my left knee was screaming at me.

Sometimes my left foot hurts, sometimes it doesn’t.

Ah, marathon training when you are old and broken is a lot of fun.

I kid, sort of. I actually am enjoying training for the Chicago Marathon. I like pushing my body to see what I can get out of it. I feel better when I’m able to get out and run miles. I look forward to doing the work, chasing a goal, trying to get the best out of myself.

That is not to say it is easy. I feel like I’m constantly fighting one injury or another. My knees (specifically my left knee). My hip. My adductor/hammy. Something always hurts. Usually more than one thing hurts.

And I’m at the point in training, running nearly 50 miles a week (which isn’t a ton to some people but is huge mileage for me, especially after spending 2018 just trying to get to a point where I could run on a regular basis) with a workout and a long run, that I’m tired and hungry pretty much all the time.

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Just out here training for Chicago, and everything hurts.

It’s hard not to get discouraged. As I limped around the office last night, my left knee sore and barking with every step, I wondered if I am really capable of getting through the next 38 days of training for the Chicago Marathon. I questioned whether or not I’ll be able to make it through those 26.2 miles at the type of effort I hope to put in on Oct. 13 without pushing my body to the point of no return. I really want Chicago to go well. I really don’t want to be limping somewhere in the middle of the Windy City with another 13 miles to the finish line.

My answer to this is to remember why I’m doing this. I choose to go through this and I want to do this for all of those reasons I mentioned above. The aches and pains are the price I pay for training for a marathon in a 45-year-old body broken down by years of not taking care of myself. A body broken and bruised by the occasional burst of activity on the baseball field or basketball court or football field (touch football only) in my 30s, between long bouts of sitting on my ass eating Doritos, donuts and pounding PBR.

I don’t want to sound like it’s all gloom and doom or that everything is awesome. Neither is exactly the case. It’s somewhere in between those two things. I hurt. My body hurts. But I ran 17 miles on Sunday morning and that was glorious. Kind of painful, but glorious nonetheless.

So when my left knee is really bothering me (like it is this morning) or my hip gets kind of sore, or I just don’t want to go for a run, I’ll remind myself of why I’m doing this. I’ll tell myself to get out of bed and do my physical therapy, to stretch and to roll. I’ve done better this training block doing the little things to stay healthy but I can always do more.

Things are going to hurt, that is probably unavoidable for me at this point. However, if I continue to be smart and do the work I need to do, I can push myself to be better, to chase goals, and to enjoy what I am doing.

This is what I choose to do. I want to do this.

And sometimes, that is going to hurt.

7 weeks to Chicago, this is where I’m at

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6 1/2 miles along the Atlantic: Awesome. Insomnia: Not so much

I ran at 2 a.m. with the moon lighting up an otherwise full black sky. I ran on the treadmill as lightning cracked, thunder roared and rain poured out of the sky. I ran on the Back Cove, dodging the back end of the weekly 5K series. I ran in the cemetery, reading as many headstones as I could while trying to keep my pace easy.

In the 3 weeks since I last posted on this blog I’ve been running. And going to PT. And stretching and rolling. And … well, I’ve been training for a marathon. That’s the easiest way to say it. From that last blogged post through this morning, I have logged 124 miles. I ran 12 miles on that late night/early morning run, I’ve done three speed workouts, I jogged 13.1 miles last Sunday, ran 15.1 miles with a fast finish yesterday, and I’ve jogged a bunch of slow, easy miles.

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Ignite the will. Stock the flame. Burn it down. #believeinthefight

I still feel some niggles. My adductor gets a little sore, my hip was bugging me a little bit at the end of my 6-miler this morning, and both feet have hurt a little bit. Nothing, however, has stopped me from getting out and getting in miles. Nothing has stopped me from making forward progress toward Chicago, toward accomplishing my goals on Oct. 13, whatever those may be.

I’ve said it a million times in this training block, but it bears repeating: I’m not where I thought I would be at this point or necessarily where I want to be at this point in training. With that out of the way, I have to say, I think I’m in a pretty good spot.

Ideally, my longest run would be more than 15 miles with just seven weeks left in training. In any other marathon block, I’ve run at least 16 miles for a long run at this point and have topped 50 miles in a week at least a few times.

It would be great to be further along in my training. If I hadn’t tweaked my hip flexor and aggravated my adductor/hamstring, I would have more miles and more workouts under my belt.

I would probably be a lot more beat up, too.

My body feels relatively good right now. I’m tired because my insomnia has flared up lately, and I do have those niggles, but I’m not stiff and sore all the time. Part of that is I’m doing a better job of stretching and rolling, doing the little things to take care of my body. Part of that is I’m listening to my body and easing my way into training. I’m not forcing mileage, I’m not ramping up too fast. I’m taking my time, getting in more and more miles each week, and trying to take care of myself.

I do need to run more miles to get ready for this marathon. I know that and I’m working on that. I’m hoping, though, that by not stressing my body to the max for 18 weeks, like I was absolutely planning on doing before I was forced to slam on the breaks, I will be fresher and healthier when I get to the starting line in Grant Park on Oct. 13.

Maybe this is just my way of justifying where I am right now. I am a little bit worried about the lack of a run longer than 15 miles at this point. I am also excited to feel like I’m in a place right now that I am able to ramp it up and not feel like I’m completely falling apart or falling asleep (well, I do feel like I’m falling asleep but that is because insomnia woke me up 3 hours after I fell asleep last night). Right now, I’m raring to go. I’m ready to tackle workouts and cruise through my long runs.

I’m feeling fresh, I’m feeling mostly healthy, and I’m feeling optimistic that, while I may not be as fast as I was hoping on Oct. 13, I’ll toe the line in Chicago ready to cover 26.2 miles feeling good and in a solid frame of mind (PMA all day).

10 weeks to Chicago

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An hour and 50 minutes on Sunday isn’t much, but it was a win nonetheless.

I glanced at my watch as I passed a couple while jogging up the short hill on the Back Cove Path approaching Tukey’s Bridge. I was about 55 minutes into my run, moving at about a 9:15 per mile pace. Taking the shortest route home, I had about 3.5 miles or about 35 minutes to go.

Is that enough for today?

Do I want to try for a little more?

Ah, I feel OK, just run to Baxter Boulevard and make a decision from there.

My run Sunday was a bit of a test. It wasn’t a workout and it wasn’t really a long run, it was just about spending some time on my feet and seeing where I am as the Chicago Marathon quickly approaches.

45 minutes after glancing at my watch, an hour and 50 minutes after I left the house to grab a few miles, I walked back into my apartment, feeling better. Satisfied. Optimistic.

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Saturday’s stats. 15 minutes up, 6×2 minutes kind of hard with a 3 minute recovery, 18 minutes down.

10 weeks out from race day, I figured out Sunday I’m not where I was two months ago, but I’m not where I was two weeks ago either. I’m not 100 percent healthy, I’ve definitely lost some fitness, but if I keep doing the right things, don’t ramp shit up too quickly, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be OK on Oct. 13.

That doctor’s appointment I had last week went all right, though the doctor thought I should probably be feeling a little better than I am six weeks after my initial exam. She’s not worried about me running and her goal is to make sure I’m ready to race at Chicago, which is encouraging, but she did want to dive a little further into what is going on in my hip/adductor. For now, that means more physical therapy and possible a deeper dive if we feel like that is necessary.

More than anything, I just want some reassurance that I’m not going to completely screw myself up if I keep running and training and trying to run a good race in Chicago. I’ve been encouraged by the last two weeks of training. I haven’t run a ton of miles and my workouts haven’t been super hard, but after running just 3 miles over a two weeks span and 10 miles the week after that, the 33 I ran this past week feels like 100.

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Not where I want to be, but a step in the right direction.

But there is definitely doubt. After that appointment Thursday, I slogged through an uncomfortable 5-miler. My hammy was tired, my adductor was tight, my hip hurt. As much as I am trying to focus on having a positive mental attitude, that run was a little soul crushing. I was questioning myself for all 50 minutes of that run. I convinced myself that Chicago was not going to happen. I was too injured to run the type of mileage I need and if I tried to run the race, I’d end up hurt, limping and catching a ride to the finish line.

I took a rest day Friday, then bounced back with a little speed session Saturday and a little more than 11 miles on Sunday. I still felt some shit during those runs, but it was much calmer than it was Thursday evening. I felt tired and winded sooner during that speed session than I would have two months ago, but it felt mostly good to crank it up, even just a little bit. I never ran hard on Sunday, and I took a short walk break every 20 minutes, but to jog for an hour and 50 minutes was a victory.

To quiet those negative voices in my head for a little bit was definitely a win.

I wish I had a bit more time to get completely healthy and to train for Chicago, but I don’t, so I just have to deal with it the best I can. My goals, which were going to be hard to reach anyway, may be out of reach, but I’m not giving up on anything just yet. I have 10 weeks to get ready, I’ll try to stay positive, be smart and do the work.

At this point, that is all I can do.