September 7, 2011

Facing the Facts

It's time to face the facts. I'm injured and my body needs time to heal. I made the decision this weekend: I will not be running the New York City Marathon this year.

The decision was both easy and incredibly difficult to make. Easy in that there really doesn't seem to be much of a choice. I'm hurting and can barely run more than 3 miles. How on earth can I expect to run 26.2 in 2 months? But difficult in that it hurt. It hurt a lot. In fact, I can't remember the last time I felt as much emotional pain as I did this past Saturday evening when I realized that there would be no marathon this year. And not just any marathon but NYCM.

Now please don't take that the wrong way. I don't mean "any marathon" other than NYCM isn't just as impressive or important to those running it. But NYCM has been my DREAM for years, it's been my ultimate goal. It's one of the reasons I began running on a regular basis, why I began training for half marathons and then marathons, to prove I was strong enough to do it. When I moved back to NY after college more than 10 years ago, I looked forward to this race every year. To me, it's the best day of the year in NYC. The energy is incredible, the runners strong and inspiring, just an overall palpable intense feeling. And now I have to wait another year to run it.

So here's what's going on with my injury. Last week was an awesome one. It began with a great physical therapy appointment in which we discovered that my right leg was slightly longer than my left, pushing my right hip higher than my left. Could this be the reason my hip has been killing me? We added a lift to my left shoe, I hopped on the treadmill and I ran pain free. I walked around the office, again, pain free. I was ecstatic. Torn and now swollen hamstring injury aside, could this be the solution to some of my pain? I left the office excited to test out our theory and excited for the week. It was the last official week of summer and I spent it living it up, heading to Long Island with my best friend, spent a day at a beautiful beach on Fire Island and hiked with great friends. 
lunch by the pool, reading on the beach
Hiking!
Hiking? With my injury? Well yes. I figured if I put a heel lift in my left hiking boot all would be ok. So I spent Friday hiking 3 miles in four hours, up steep rocks a great deal of the way. And my hamstring and hip felt pretty good the entire way. In fact, I didn't have any hammie pain at all. When I got home Friday night I was excited! If I felt that great after hiking all day, running should be a breeze, right?

I waited until Saturday dusk, my favorite time of day, to run. I envisioned a beautiful 4 or 5 miles along the water, watching the sun begin to set, feeling the fresh breathe through my lungs as I effortlessly glided along NYC's west side. And that was the case for the first 10 minutes... and then the pain began. My hamstring, my hip, everything just started killing. I told myself to test it out a bit further, and the pain went away for a short while. But it came back with a vengeance and by 3.4 miles I had to stop with tears pouring down my face. I was sobbing. Maybe because of the pain or maybe because I felt like I failed. I think a little bit of both. I sat on the rocks by the water, let myself cry really hard, and then picked myself up and slowly walked home. And then I cried some more, drew a mineral salt bath, and called G for some emotional support.

I sat in my bathtub for a really long time and thought about how I felt, trying to put everything into perspective. Here's what I came up with, with a little help from a friend:
  • I'm ridiculously lucky to have my overall health despite this injury. How many people are physically able to hike for four hours? I love hiking. I'm grateful I can do that.
  • I'm really sad I won't be running the marathon this year but I have so many friends running it and I get to cheer them on. There may be some hard moments but there's no way in hell I'm going to let my situation overshadow my excitement for them. I will be at mile 24 just like the last few years and I will scream my ass off, awesome sign in hand. I will celebrate them & their achievements and November 6th will be about them, and not about me.
  • I'm alive. I'm not sick. I'm not dying. I know too many young people, including several my age, who have passed away in the last few years. I get to live and swim and hang out with my friends, listen to music, spend time with the people I love. I am alive and healthy.
  • I have an incredible support system. Wonderful friends, a supportive family and a pretty special and important person in my life. I'm really lucky. And when I need them, they are there for me to lean on.
  • I will run again. If I hadn't hiked and then run, if I had just run, then maybe Saturday's run would've been ok. But eventually, during a 10 miler or maybe a 20, this would've happened. Although according to my physical therapist, it might've happened worse- I could've snapped my hamstring and then where would I be? And if that had happened mid-marathon, how would I feel? Instead it happened now, and I can be smart and take care of it. And I will run again.
So that's the plan now. I'm taking it easy and not running NYCM this year. I will spend the next few weeks healing, swimming, working out on the elliptical and getting strong. And then I will spend the year getting even stronger and building a strong enough base to kick major ass during next year's training and race. I will run New York City in 2012, I have no doubt about that!
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