Once in a while an experience is challenging enough that it provides one with great satisfaction. I am a believer that this satisfaction comes when character is strengthened from lessons learned. It could be finding a strength you never had in you or recognizing a weakness and overcoming that challenge. Yesterday was a combo day for me, I have a friend who found a strength that she never guessed she had and I learned to have the patience that my body needs to heal itself. On both accounts, I found extreme satisfaction and I that is cause for celebration.
Since March I have been struggling with an injury that forced me off the trails and off my feet. I was so frustrated that my foot-speed and endurance, on which I had been working for almost 9 months, was quickly disappearing but every time I laced up my running shoes, I was stopped short at the end of the block by a gnawing pain in my right knee-cap. I took 7 weeks off and started slowly with 2-3 mile runs a couple times a week, all with success. Next, I tested it out on a 5 mile run on the day I was scheduled to do a sub-3:30 marathon. But the pain-free running seemed like a fair trade for missing my goal. With a five-miler under my belt, I thought it was about time to launch myself into a full week of intense training and topped it off at 39 miles. About three days into the following high-mileage week I was right back to where I had started, with a knee that hurt every time I put the rubber to the road.
I suffered through my Summer training expecting it to heal on 20 miles a week and micro-current treatments. The pain definitely subsided when I wasn’t training but I was still in pain during every run. At the beginning of September I decided that I had to count myself out of my Fall marathon plans as well. I called my best friend/racing buddy to give her the bad news. To her, this was really bad news as she has been training for triathlons and only signed up for this to do it with me (but also to learn if she could train for an ironman but that was secret motivation). She was patient and understanding, probably because she had heard this from me throughout the Summer in relation to other events that we had aspired to do together.
In order to let the rubber band snap, per se, I took about a week off. It was a busy week for me so I hardly noticed the days passing me by sans run. But when I started back up, a little miracle had been handed to me, I was running with absolutely zero pain.
I remembered back to a run a few weeks earlier. I was on the trails behind my house and it was raining, the kind of cool rain that foreshadows a change in the seasons. I was running with the same ache in my knee that I had stopped to take in the view at my turnaround point and I asked the universe to teach me whatever it was that I needed to learn so that I could get back to what I love. I could only explain my pain-free miracle as my second chance. If this had happened before my chat with the energies, I would have taken it as a sign to cram for my marathon, running 50 mile weeks until October 5. But this time I decided to learn the lesson and start small.
Three weeks later, I celebrated with a low-mileage week (29 miles total) and a trail half marathon. I ran a great race. At mile 4 I had hit a rhythm and started passing people. At mile 11, two of them passed me back. I was tempted to pick up the pace and stay with them but when I did, I felt the ghost of my injury reminding me of the reason I was there and I backed off and let them go. That was a humbling moment for me. In spite of challenging conditions that included mud snow, ice, and constant uneven surfaces, I finished in a time of 1:58 and still have never finished a half in over 2:00.
The cherry on the cake was reading that my best friend and racing buddy who was racing our race that morning had qualified for Boston and blown her sub-4:00 hopes out of the water with a time of 3:43. I knew she had it in her and had predicted that very time to my other friend before starting my half marathon just that morning. But hearing the elation and satisfaction in her voice when she told me that she had run such a great race made the day so much better.
I think we both stood a little taller after our races yesterday. But we came to that new height from two completely different angles. That is the amazing thing about calculations, you can come to the same answer with so many different equations. I am so glad that we were able to share that experience together. I can’t wait to get my mileage up to her level so we can share that experience on the same course. For now, I am happy with our cause for celebration and plan to do just that with a big dinner and a bottle of bubbly later this week.
Photos taken by Megan Briley and Ashley Widders