Yesterday right around noon, Desi Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years.
It was a glorious moment on an otherwise horrid weather day. The Boston Marathon is becoming as notorious for it’s weather as it’s history. The last two years the race has featured a taste of summer and then yesterday it was the polar opposite with a wintry monsoon. Runners dealt with cold temperatures and rain driven by a 25 mph headwind. The wintry blast erased the vaunted favorites, many from East African nations, off the podium and into race obscurity. In fact, on the women’s side, places 2-6 were virtual unknowns. All stout racers to be sure but certainly not even remotely picked as favorites. In fact several weren’t even eligible for prize money due to not starting in the elite wave and only their chip times giving them their high placements long after the elites had left the course.
I love Desi Linden. She is among my very favorite pro runners. But my hero yesterday was the winner on the men’s side: Yuki Kawauchi. Yuki is not a professional runner but rather a working stiff from Japan who trains around a full-time job and is a seriously bad-ass runner. I can’t say it any better than the Guardian’s Blog. (<– Really . . go read that. I’ll wait).
I’ve spent the last week watching my fast running friends make the annual pilgrimage to New England for the Patriot’s Day rite that is the Boston Marathon. As selfies from the expo, finish line, and other iconic symbols around Boston popped up on social media I felt a pang of sadness because I was not there to participate. The images of the nasty weather during the race made watching from afar a little easier, but I still longed to be a part of it again. For the first time in months I suddenly have the racing bug.
Six months ago today I was waking up, bleary eyed and sore from open surgery to fix shredded core muscles and a wonky hip. Since then, my exercise regimen has changed significantly from swim, bike, and run to mostly the prescribed physical therapy and rehab to facilitate a return to normal. (Some might say I was never really normal). Physical therapy started one day after surgery and continued until the end of February.
In that time I missed exactly 5 days of doing rehab exercises. Three of those days were holidays and the gym was closed.
One of the concerns for an injured runner or triathlete is the fear that “it” may never come back again.
The “it” is that inner drive, and competitive desire that helps us put our nose to the grindstone, train hard and give our best come race day. When injured or recovering from an injury it is easy to blow off a workout or really any exercise with a casual “Well, I’m not racing anyway”. Much like exercise becomes a habit when done repeatedly, not exercising or not racing can also become a habit.
I started running again in late December. Those first couple excursions were modest 5-10 minute walk/runs on the treadmill with careful supervision from Vanessa, my physical therapist. At the end of February I had my last planned visit at Vincera Institute and was given the green light by Dr. Poor and Dr. Coleman to resume normal activities with careful instructions to not go nuts right away. Naturally I went out and ran 3 times in the following 4 days. To translate that from runner-speak, I went out and went nuts right away and paid the price. Day 4 found me with some pretty severe groin and adductor soreness on the left side. Being a good patient and smart runner, I immediately panicked but a quick e-mail exchange with Dr. Coleman got me off the ledge. “I said not to go nuts. You need to start running again like a new runner”.
That turned out not to be so hard. It seems despite some biking and swimming, any vestige of running fitness was long gone after a couple months. One of my first efforts at running was a short, flat run on the Chester Valley Trail at a considerably slower pace than a Boston Qualifying (BQ) effort. And it was really hard. Since then, time and distances have improved each week culminating in the completion of 16 whole miles last week. I have friends that do more miles than that most days. Runners are crazy. Still, the slow creep upward in both mileage and intensity is part of the plan and the reason I haven’t signed up for any races.
I think it is time to start looking at the race calendar. As much as I want to go back to Boston, I am not in a rush. I like the idea of focusing on shorter events for a little while. I loved the last two triathlon seasons where the longest thing I did was an Olympic distance (1500 Meter swim, 40K bike, 10K run). The whole event can be accomplished in a couple hours and provides the chance to really put forth some effort as opposed to the long, steady grind of the longer distances. As I build up some new running fitness, I think it would be fun to target 5Ks again. I’d like to see if I am still capable of going under 20 minutes. Maybe I can finally learn to be good at the 10K, a distance where I’ve always been terrible.
Alternatively, one of my last really successful running events was the Phunt trail run. Until that point, I wasn’t a very enthusiastic trail runner. And by that I mean I hated trail running for fear of injury. This hatred would be understandable to anyone that participated in one of the local Wednesday evening trail runs where “trail” is defined as our leader running willy nilly through the woods like a scared deer pretending he knows where he’s going. I went 3 times and we got lost on all 3. There were also close encounters with trees, rocks, ledges, scorpions, and leopards. I may be exaggerating a bit here but it was still not a pleasant trail experience. Phunt, on other hand, turned out to be one of the most awesome events I have ever done and I’m slated to be back in 2019.
In the meantime I may look around for some other trail events to add variety.
There are lots of fun running events out there I could use to return to racing. I wouldn’t mind doing a relay and have given serious consideration to Rev3’s Capital Trail Relay assuming I can find willing
stooges…er…friends. Locally there is an event called Beat Beethoven which is a fun twist on the 10K. I also found a local Summer Biathlon I’d like to look into. Or I could do that interesting race up in Palmerton again, or maybe it’s more difficult trail race counterpart.
The point is, I’m ready to get back out there. At some point rehabbing needs to stop and training needs to start. I think that time is now. I still don’t plan to sign up for events in advance but I will start looking at the calendar and perhaps targeting a couple. I suspect I might focus mostly on running for now with an eye toward making it back to Boston in the next couple years but there will likely be a sprint triathlon and maybe a duathlon thrown in as well. I’m ready!