Ultra Disappointment

One of my running goals in 2014 was to run an ultra marathon, specifically the VT50 in September. As I stood in line with my family and friends at Ben & Jerry’s in Burlington, VT last Memorial Day Weekend my phone signaled that registration for the VT50 was opening in just minutes. I was in Burlington to spectate the Vermont City Marathon. Just 5 weeks earlier I was planning to run that race until I stopped 4 miles into my 22 mile long run with excruciating left heel/ankle pain. I didn’t know then that it was my Achilles and I was looking at a long road to recovery.

I was energized by watching the marathoners earlier in the day. I couldn’t wait to get back out there and train, and what better goal than an ultra marathon. I wanted to have something planned, something locked in. I had been to doctors and physical therapy, but still the pain persisted and I knew it had gotten worse as I stood in that line contemplating registering for a 50 mile ultra. I tried rationalizing it as soreness from PT. You know the “it’s got to get worse before it gets better” mentality. As I fought the urge to register I looked up and saw a group of people with their medals on and that did it. I logged into the registration site and registered for the VT50 in hopes that it would motivate me to heal more quickly.

Some injuries cannot be willed better and this was one of them as I would learn that painstaking lesson over the course of the next couple of months.  As the pain finally began to decrease I was left with a nagging awareness of the trauma my tendon had gone through. At no time was I ever allowed to simply rest my leg. Life continued around the injury and I had to walk to get places, work and stay active with Carlos. I started to resign myself to the fact that pushing my limits would only cause the injury to get worse.

When I finally started “running” again, if you could even call it that, I was only able to go for a few minutes. I wore an ankle support and often taped my ankle. By August I was barely up to 6 miles and the ultra marathon loomed in the distance. As the days wore on and my training was compromised by not only the injury, but Carlos’ activities, overtime at work and my husband’s busy work schedule. I was finding it very difficult to find time for long runs.

Mentally I was struggling. I had gained weight. I had reverted back to binge eating habits. I was frustrated by the injury and by how life seemed to revolve around work for both myself and my husband. Of course I always put Carlos first so I was juggling summer vacation plans with working 6,7 sometimes 8 nights in a row. I was undoubtedly sleep deprived. So throw that all into the melting pot and you’ve got one recipe for disaster.

Looking back I think I knew all along that I wasn’t going to be able to run the ultra, but I in my head I was hoping it would be the motivation I needed to start running again. At some time in the last week of August the VT50 race director sent out an email giving people the opportunity to drop out and collect half of their registration fee by the end of August. I knew it was time to concede. I felt defeated and a sense of failure, but I also knew that I wasn’t ready. Attempting to run such a rugged race with little training was foolish and an invitation to re-injuring myself. If I were advising a friend I would have told her not to run so I really needed to listen to my instincts as well as the rational part of my brain telling me to pull out of the race.

I cried. I moped. I am sure I ate some of those feelings. Then I moved on. I began focusing on training for the half marathon with my friend Kate. I also began reframing how I thought about and felt about running. I am not the same runner today that I was after Montreal in the fall of 2013. Sure I’m slower, but I’m also more cautious and more aware of my body. I stopped “training” and just focused on running for the love of running, going out without a goal or a plan, running as long and as far as I wanted to.

The injury has led me to some significant personal growth. I continue to work on being a better person and finding a way to live the most authentic life. I have been working on healing strained relationships, being kinder to myself and finding a healthy balance between food, exercise and spiritual well being. I’m in a better place today, but still a work in progress.

As for running, well I’m still figuring that out. I have been running almost every day despite the cold temperatures. My runs are either 2 or 3 miles because I am usually sneaking them into my work day. On Saturday I did go for a glorious 6 mile run. I don’t allow myself to focus on pace. I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about my pace, but it’s not something I’m focusing on. I’m still working through my feelings on how much I’ve slowed down, but I’m running again and enjoying it. That’s really all that matters.

Running goals for 2015? I love having running goals and I want them back in my life. I will run Vermont City this year and training begins February 1st. I will likely run the Jones 10 miler in Amherst at the end of February. I’ve run it for two years in a row. It’s a tough course, but rewarding. It will be double as a training long run. I am also signed up for the big Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10K in my area and I’ve offered to run with a friend who has never run it before. My thought is to use it as part of my long run that day. PRs are just not going to happen this year. Right now I’m  trying to accept the fact that I’ve changed as a runner therefore my goals need to change too if I want to enjoy this sport for years to come. I will run a half marathon in April as part of marathon training, but I’m not sure which one yet.

To sum it up, my running goals for the first half of 2015 are to:

  • train injury free
  • listen to my body
  • run happy with no pressure about pace
  • help others to achieve their running goals
  • focus on distance
  • stretch often, foam roll regularly and strength train
  • eat healthy

I’m not sure I will attempt an ultra marathon in the future. I’m not ruling it out, but it’s unlikely that it will happen this year. As I’ve learned in running, never say never!

8 thoughts on “Ultra Disappointment

  1. Aimee…
    Those goals seem TOTALLY do-able!
    I’m just so happy that you are able to do something that you love again…I remember how frustrated and sad you were not to be able to run at all. And like you said, never say never…who knows what 2016 will bring if you run safe in 2015!

    1. Thanks Kaye. I like that thought about how running safely this year and easing back into running will pay off in 2016. I think you might be right.

  2. I think running for the joy and benefits it brings are most important long term, because even injury free people eventually stop PRing if they run for a lifetime. I’ve found that helping other people meet their own goals is one amazing way to recapture that PR joy. But I’m also not permanently writing off PRs for you — not your priority this year, understood, but you’re right about never saying never and knowing that you have a long healthy running life ahead!

    Also, I looked up Marshall — any chance you’ll fly into or connect through DFW? If you do, let me know and I will cross my fingers that we can grab coffee, or a run, or lunch or whatever. I’m in town in late March and would so love to meet you!

    1. Carina, I’m flying into Shreveport, but I’ll have a rental car. I would love to meet up even if it’s just for coffee. How fun!! Message me at aimee828@yahoo.com.

      Your comment about helping others has stuck with me. I’m really looking forward to running with my friend. I’m excited for her to achieve this goal.

  3. I’m so sorry that you have had to change your goals and give up a couple of your race plans. Looks like you have some great new goals! Years ago I had to quit racing when I just went from one injury to another. Now I just run because I love it and it makes me happy. I hope that you find your happy running place!!

    1. Change is always difficult, but I’m grateful that I can run again. I don’t want to take that for granted. There is something so refreshing about simply going out for a run, no watch, no goal, no plan. I’m glad that you have found your happy running place!!

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