Since the Princess Marathon Weekend, I have been taking it easy – just walks with my husband. The past couple weeks, though, I’ve been able to add in a few two mile runs both outdoors and on the treadmill…and my leg seems to be doing okay. But it’s very humbling to have to start back from the beginning. Granted, it’s not the very beginning, but it’s also not a sub-two hour half marathon time. My sites are still set for the High Country Half Marathon at the end of August. And in honor of the new Star Wars moving coming out this year, I’ve decided I’m going to try to master the Jedi handstand.
I’m trying to hold out until an emailed coupon comes through my email before I purchase my race photos from last month. I like race photos for a couple reasons: one, I like to examine my form on the course in race pace mode and know what I need to work on; and two, to remember the moment. It’s the later I want to write about today. We all want to remember the moment, but we also need to remember good etiquette as well. While my mom and I were running the Enchanted 10K this year, I noticed a rude trend happening. Mom and I would crest a hill, seeing the photographer at the top, and we would try to put on our best smiles only to have other participants cut across or double back behind to do a “fun”/”funky” shot. I’m glad everyone is having fun, but let everyone have fun. Let it be a natural, organic moment that the photographer catches. Be present in that moment. Wait for the “staged” moments for after the race when you have the space and time to do so.
I haven’t run in two weeks. This is probably the hardest thing for any runner to do: take a break so you can heal and run again. There is a plan, though, and it is this plan that makes not running bearable.
After about a week of not running, and my hip and knee were still feeling funky, I decided to go to our athletic trainers at my University. As a staff member, I am able to use their services, and one of the trainers is in my yoga class as well. The first thing I did was describe what I was feeling and what was hurting. Then she looked at my current running shoes and said, “Your left leg is short than your right”. Then we measured. And sure enough my left leg was 1/2″ shorter than my right. She had me do some exercises, and when we measure again, it was only 1/4″ difference this time. Essentially, my hip flexors are so tight, it’s throwing everything off…hence, the knee/ IT band and hip hurting, plus the outside of my left foot was bruised after the half marathon. Because I’m in the yoga class, she wants to use that space as my therapy. She said she watched me the other day in class, and I am not aligning my hips correctly and overextending. She had me stand in front of a mirror and lined me up correctly in a handful of poses. The ones that I have to work on are warrior I, warrior II, high lunge, triangle, and bridge. I found two great websites that help with proper positioning: yoga journal and bandhayoga.
So here’s my plan: I’ve always wanted to do a home yoga practice, but I could never motivate myself to really do it. Now I have a reason to do so. The plan begins with a home yoga practice with a sequence working on hip openers and aligning myself correctly. Also, the month of March is going to be no running, but I can still swim and walk/hike. For April, I’m going to slowly build up to running 20 to 30 minutes every other day, swim on the other days, and of course more yoga. For the month of May, I will focus on a solid 30 minutes of running, with back-to-back days, along with swimming and yoga. By June, I will begin a new half-marathon training schedule for the High Country Half Marathon at the end of August.
So what does this injury tell me? For one, I’ve over-extended myself, both in a literal sense, but also metaphorically. I over-trained, over-committed, and pushed for something I wasn’t quite ready for (a 1:40 half-marathon time). Another “over” word – I over-compensated for bad form. Aligning myself correctly will allow me to become a stronger person overall. This injury also explains my bizarre running form! Twenty some years of competitive running, which includes running camps, and this trainer was the first one to tell me one leg is short than the other. What I have briefly read on leg length discrepancy is it falls into two categories of anatomic or functional. By the pure fact she was able to move the length by 1/4″ with a couple exercises means this is probably more functional than anatomic, which means there is hope I can run another day.
This was my third year in a row running the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and second year for the Glass Slipper Challenge. In September of 2012, I decided I wanted to try a half-marathon for two reasons: one, to have a race goal to help motivate me to keep up my fitness, and two, just to see if I could do it. That first year, I finished in 2:06, and my mom saw other women who were her size (she was 250+ pounds at the time) were accomplishing. I myself had dropped about twenty pounds with my training. After the race, she asked if I thought she could do something similar. When runDisney announced the Glass Slipper Challenge, I thought this would be perfect: I could pace my mom for the 10k, and then I could run the half-marathon at my pace. Last year, mom finished her first 10k in 1:41, and she was not last place (one of her biggest fears). This year, she improved by four minutes to finish in 1:37, but even more than that, during this race, she was stronger, and afterwards, she was not nearly as spent as she had been the year before. These two races are probably the best races I’ve ever had. Seeing my mom accomplish finishing a race, gaining confidence in herself, and losing 60+ pounds – that’s right, she told me while we were waiting for the start that she was under 200 lbs now – is probably the best win ever.
Like I said, my first half-marathon time was 2:06. Later that year (2013), I ran a local half-marathon, and I finished in 1:51. This really boosted my confidence that I could race competitively at this distance. And then for the 2014 race, in the midst of the major stress of having put my mother-in-law in a nursing home, I ran 1:48. I was ready to take on the racing world, and I was determined to run 1:40 and finish in the top five of my age group the next year, and then in the next five years at 40, I was determined to win the master’s category, which would mean running a sub-1:30 time. So instead of taking the usual month and half off, I kept training harder. For one, it was a bit of stress relief with all the crazy going on both at home and at work. And then, I picked up two more 10K races (Peachtree and Run with the Cows), and I raced and trained hard all year. I also taught two classes last fall on top of my regular 40 hour a week job, and I helped direct a race. I felt exhausted and drained, both physically and mentally. I tried resting over Christmas break, which did help, but I wanted so badly to go fast that the final track workout I did two weeks out did more damage than good. I finished this year’s race in 2:11. The first half went well, and I was running at 8:30 mile pace, which would put me finishing between 1:50 and 1:55. But as soon as I got through Cinderella’s castle and past the 10K mark, my right hip locked up, and I had to walk/jog/hobble the rest of the way in. At the end of the race, I was reminded of the end of Esmeralda Santiago’s book “The Turkish Lover”, in which she says an old Puerto Rican saying: “Alabate pollo, que manana te guisan”, which translates to “Boast now, chicken, tomorrow you’ll be stew”.
That being said, I do not feel all is lost. The Princess winner broke her hip a year ago. I have to look at the lessons I have learned through this journey and this process. Next year is another race and another chance. I love what my running journal has at the top of the Race Reviews portion: “No single race, not even the Olympics, is the end-all, be-all. Every performance is simply a snapshot in the moving picture of your running life. Take time to review and learn from your races.” See you next year, Cinderella!
It’s two weeks to the Glass Slipper Challenge and a magical vacation! Hotels booked. Tickets purchased. FastPasses picked. Dining Reservations reserved. And now the packing begins. My husband often recounts his stories of being in the Boyscouts, specifically when he went to Philmont and left his underroos in the van, so he wore the same pair for a week straight. I’m still not sure why they were left out of the main bag to begin with. Now that we’re married, I do the packing.
The best tip I have is to start packing now (two weeks out). This will allow for a less frantic day and night the night before you depart, and you’ll have time to remember “I need (fill in the blank)”. The next best tip I have is to remember yes, Florida does get cold at times, especially central Florida. I’m a native Floridian, and no, it’s not always sunny and 100 degrees. Pack pants, pack sweaters, pack rain jackets, and specifically for the runners, pack an alternate outfit if it’s really cold and pack stuff you can wear while you wait that can be discarded. And my final tip is for the chEAR squad: purchase the package. It’s worth it, both for the fun goodies, but also for the moral support of all the runners. It is awesome to see all the shirts and clappers.
Have a magical day!