Saturday, May 24, 2014
We are en route to Burlington, VT. It is down pouring as we stop for lunch in the quaint state capitol of Montpelier. The sky looks clear in the distance though and race day weather looks optimal. Vermont is one of my favorite places. Life moves at a slower pace. The air is clean, the people are friendly and the scenery is spectacular any time of the year.
I really hadn’t considered running a late spring marathon, but when I discovered the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington over Memorial Day weekend it was an easy decision. Despite the miserable winter training conditions as the weather cleared and spring emerged I grew more excited for the race.
When my training came to a screeching halt on April 23rd because of an injury to my Achilles I honestly never imagined I would be on my way to Burlington to spectate the marathon rather than run it. The definitive decision was made yesterday although I knew on Tuesday that barring a miracle it would not be possible to run.
Thursday, May 8th – Saturday, May 24th
My recovery efforts have been time consuming and costly. An acquaintance who happens to be a runner referred me to her sports medicine chiropractor. She claimed he was incredible and would have me running again in no time. The chiropractor, himself, is quite an accomplished athlete. In his early 60s he continues to participate in triathlons including Iron Man competitions. In his younger years he was a member of the U.S. Olympic pentathlon team in the XXI Olympics in Montreal in 1976. I saw him on 5/8. He sent me for an X-ray, worked on my calf and heel and put some standard (not custom made) orthotics in my shoes. He was very encouraging and seemed to believe that I would be ok in time for the marathon. Per his recommendation I made an appointment the following week for a follow up.
In the meantime hard core running friends of mine suggested I go to see their physical therapist, Sophia, calling her a miracle worker. I was able to get an appointment on 5/14. By the time I arrived in the office my heel was visibly swollen and I was still noticeably limping. After a number of stretching exercises Sophia performed active release therapy (ART) on my heel. With my eyes squeezed shut I gripped the sides of the table as I forced yogic breathing in and out to fight back the tears. ART is incredibly painful, but very effective. I left the office feeling sore, but walking with a steadier gait. I went to PT on 5/15 and 5/16 as well.
I returned to the chiropractor about an hour after my first PT appointment on 5/14. The chiropractor merely watched me ambulate, checked the calf, did a brief massage and sent me off with his expert advice that I would probably be able to run the marathon if I was feeling better by then. I paid my co-pay, thanked him (for nothing) and limped back to my car. I immediately removed the painful orthotics he insisted would help my injury and cried. I had worked the night before, went to the YMCA for water jogging and swimming, tended to house work, went to PT and then drove about 45 minutes to the chiropractor for a 10 minute appointment. I returned home exhausted and feeling defeated. I had even less hours than normal to sleep before going to work again.
My injury became a part time job. I was icing, stretching and foam rolling it at home. I swam and water jogged for an hour in the morning after work before zipping off to PT. From PT it was off to run errands or home for more attention to the the injured foot. By last weekend I finally began to feel some real relief. My discomfort was down to a 1 by Sunday and virtually nothing by Monday. I was excited to share this with the physical therapist. I felt a surge of energy and a spark of hope. I thought maybe, just maybe, if I could comfortably accomplish a few runs by the weekend then perhaps I could attempt the marathon.
I worked Monday night and by Tuesday I was limping again. My pain was up to a 4, bearable, but I couldn’t even contemplate running. I spent much of Tuesday tending to my foot at home and returned to PT on Wednesday feeling a bit better, but more frustrated. I have a high tolerance to pain. I don’t hang onto pain nor do I exaggerate pain. I don’t complain. My life doesn’t accommodate slowing down very easily. I have to work. I have a child who needs me. I was doing everything in my power to heal this damn injury and though diminished it wasn’t going away.
So Wednesday, 5/21 was more PT and Thursday I rested again. Friday, 5/23 I returned to PT feeling great with the most minute awareness that something was wrong in my left foot. Even the ART didn’t make tears well up in my eyes this time. Sophia gave me the green light to start running over the weekend, slow and short. “So not a marathon?” I replied. “No definitely not!” Sophia answered seriously.
Of course I knew I wouldn’t run the marathon. It’s one race, one day. Even if I felt physically capable of running the race I would be risking re-injury and a longer recovery process which would inhibit my running plans for the rest of the summer.
Although I had the ok to begin running I chose not to bring any running clothes with me to Vermont for fear that I might get caught up in the moment and try to run the marathon. Unfortunately even if had wanted to run I couldn’t because of increased discomfort in my heel. I worked Friday night and then spent a great deal of time in the car on Saturday driving to Burlington. I was unable to exercise my calf and foot or ice it, but regardless I was really hoping that wouldn’t be necessary anymore. The good news right now is that I have an appointment with a Sports Medicine doctor on Tuesday morning. I made it the day after the injury and wisely decided not to cancel it just in case. Was it foresight, a jinx or a coincidence? I’m superstitious so I’m going with jinx!
Sunday, May 25, 2014
On race day we went out bright and early to cheer on the runners. Our first stop was mile 9 on Church Street where we had fun hollering people’s names as we quickly read them off their bibs. This delighted some and confused others who either forgot or weren’t aware their names were visible. Calling out the names of the runners lifted my spirit. I was so glad we came out to spectate the race.
If I can’t join them I’ll cheer for them
Spectating on Church Street
Then we walked down the hill just before mile 15 on Battery Street to cheer some more and to listen to the Taiko drummers. The infectious rhythm would have definitely pushed me up the hill towards mile 15.
Taiko Drummers as runners undertake the “assault on Battery Hill”
After that it was on to Waterfront Park to see the first female cyclist and the lead runner cross the finish line. It was a gorgeous location for a finish line and the day could not have been more perfect for a marathon.
Breathtaking views at the finish line
Not the picture I envisioned of me at the finish line of the Vermont City Marathon
The excitement rising from the crowd was intense as the lead runner rounded the corner toward the finish chute. My heart swelled with a longing to be out there running. I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and he said, “next year.”