Monday, August 19, 2013

Down Time. Regaining Perspective.

I sometimes forget how lucky we can be. Life rolls along great and you don't think about how good you have it until something comes up and you're back at square one.

Since I started my marathoning career in 2005, there have only been two times where I physically couldn't race. In 2008, hamstring strains kept us out of the Big Sur Marathon back when walking under the 6 hour cut off was a bit more challenging than it would be today. In 2010, I had the ACL in my left knee reconstructed and I was on the sidelines for 5 months.

This year, I had a hernia flare up in the middle of Rock n Roll Seattle and I needed some down time to have it patched up. We have six weeks between Rock n Roll Chicago and Rock n Roll Montreal, so there is a decent window of recovery time. I figured I'd better get it taken care of before the schedule got crazy - seven half marathons and four 15+ miles support weekends for Nike between now and Thanksgiving. After that, we ramp up training for the back to back full marathons in Antarctica and Chile.

Some people think we're obsessed. I honestly have no idea what they're talking about.

After surgery, I woke up groggy and apparently had about 40 minutes of coherent conversation with Susan that involved a lot of "I love yous" that I don't for the life of me remember. Just like the 2010 knee surgery, she was an absolute angel taking care of me for the first week. She brought me ice packs, copious fluids and took care of the dogs while I was moving slowly. I can not say enough how blessed I am to have her in my life.

I remember how to reset expectations. Between the knee surgeries, broken legs and twisted ankles, I've had to learn how to walk 6 times in my adult life and since good walk form demands a lot of core strength and flexibility, this was going to be number 7. Starting over is nothing new to me. It was nice that between Facebook posts, Fitbit, Runtastic and Garmin Connect and Project 365, I've been able to track how quickly I've been progressing. The day after surgery I was supposed to get back on my feet and keep things moving. I did a half mile to the creek and back with the dogs at a blistering 40 minute per mile pace. Four days of forced rest and a liquid diet made me lose eight pounds. I had almost no stamina. Breathing was painful and labored. I had a ways to go.

I set goals realistically and followed the doctor's guidance of 'activities as tolerated'. I hit 10,000 steps on day 5 and started climbing stairs to hit my daily goal of 20 flights by day 6. The doc cleared me to get back to whatever I wanted to do short of lifting anything over 10 pounds. I couldn't pick up either of the dogs, but salsa dancing was an option. He did mention that it probably would hurt for a while. Ice packs became my friends.

On day 8, I was able to walk the three mile loop at work without stopping. I started with just getting through the mileage, then pushing my times down from 16 minute miles to 15, then down to 14. By day 13, I was on the Alameda Creek trail doing 6 miles, two miles at a time to Starbucks and back. This Sunday I was on the road walking the first extended mileage and speed since surgery. Six miles in the morning at 12:30 min/mile pace. Four miles in the late afternoon heat at a 13:10 min/mile pace. I think I'm ready to string a full dozen miles next week during our coached workout at Heather Farms.

I'm nowhere near full speed yet, but I know that will come in time. I can't help but think how these last few weeks are like my last eight years in fast forward. I started from the couch and each day got faster, stronger.  Yesterday, I reached the pace I was in 2010. I hope to be at 100% in a few more weeks.

I miss being on the trails. And while it's frustrating to have to wait to get out for a real road test, it's good to have perspective and look back on how far I've come.

I'm grateful for this break. It'll make it all that much sweeter when the next race rolls around.

A few days after my surgery, Susan and I did an interview for Runner's World for their November issue. We may be included as a part of a panel of experts giving tips to first time run/walkers who want to complete a marathon. Thanks to Erin Allday and TNT alum Victoria Colliver at the San Francisco Chronicle for the exposure in the article back in March!