I’ve been avoiding this blog entry for nearly a week.
I didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to face it. I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to tell…anyone.
Yet it was last Tuesday I made up my mind.
Monday I had a strong indication.
And though hard, my mind is at rest, and a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and that’s how I know what I am doing is the right thing. I truly believe that there are whisperings of the heart – steering us in the right direction – we only need but listen.
I’ve decided with much much much consideration to not run Boston this year.
I know many of you have obviously put 2 and 2 together with my posting the condo on my page and elsewhere. Some of you had even inquired about my running Boston as soon as you’d seen my listing. I didn’t respond. I didn’t answer. I avoided your direction questions all together.
Partly because I was in denial. Partly because it was too fresh, and partly because I didn’t feel it was the most appropriate way to let you know. Writing a blog entry about my decision was the least I could do. So many of you have followed my journey, and I didn’t want any of you to think I’d made a rash decision. Anything but.
This has been by far one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.
To bring you up to speed quickly…
Between 2007 and 2008 I lost more than 60 pounds. You know this.
Until then I’d become a couch potato. I was still the caring fun-loving Jenny I am now, but I lacked the energy, drive, and self-confidence to really do anything remotely physical – though I longed to.
When I lost my weight and experienced accomplishing my first “athletic” goal (a 5k in the early spring), I was instantly hooked. From that first 5k I went on to run many more. Then 10ks. Then half marathons. Then sprint triathlons. Then hiking with friends. Then competing in figure. Then, then, then, then. You get the picture. I lived and breathed to be active.
Looking back one of my fondest days was filled with physical activities. I shared this not too long ago with my Hormone Specialist. I’d gone out one morning for an 8 mile run. To prepare for a race? No, it was just for fun. Upon returning home, I sent Dakota off to school. I then met my friend, Heidi, at the gym for weight training and more cardio. To me that was fun. I enjoyed lifting, and I loved lifting at the time with my friend. After training we decided to go hiking. Again, fun. My body loved it. I loved it.
That day stands out in my mind as being one of my favorites because I remember how strong I felt. How eager. How unstoppable. How willing and how blessed to be healthy enough to keep going. That day was special.
I have since run 3 marathons. I know what training for a marathon is supposed to feel like. I know the time and dedication it takes to prepare. There are no shortcuts. You have to put in the miles. While there are many who are so much more dedicated than I am, I still put in my miles. I never really focused on tempo runs, sprints, and track repeats. I just ran. It’s what I loved to do. Running came easy to me. I know that now. I know there are many who only dream to experience the feeling I had while running. Though taxing at times it felt effortless and enjoyable. I was the go-to girl if anyone needed a filler for a relay race, and I was always happy to step up to the challenge. I loved running.
I ran St. George in 2009 (3:49:58) , Top of Utah in 2010 (3:42:41) and because of my time at Top of Utah, I qualified and ran Boston in 2011. My time was 3:47:27. Now again, I know many of you are so much faster than I am. I’m by no means “fast” by running standards, but I was fast enough on the Boston course to qualify me again (at my age) for this year’s race.
I contemplated at first whether or not I should sign up for 2012. It wasn’t long after Boston last year that I hit an all-time low health-wise. It was then I discovered (after increasing energy lags, depression, and anxiety) I suffered not only from Hypothyroidism, but it was the result of Hashimotos. I also discovered at this time I suffered from Adrenal Fatigue. Both conditions were new to me. They finally provided answers to why my body was starting to feel the way it was, but it didn’t necessarily make healing any easier or quicker.
My Hormone Specialist increased my Armour dosage for my Hypothyroidism, and he gave me a slew of other vitamins and minerals to take to help my adrenals – none of which were prescription.
He prescribed more sleep, less cardio, more “zen”-like activities, less stress, less caffeine, and more simplicity. He asked me to evaluate my life, my schedule, and to simplify where possible. He told me to focus moderating my starchy vegetables, eat mostly alkaline above ground growing veggies, limited grains, and lots of lean protein. He advised against Paleo for me (being I’d lose too much too quickly). But he enouraged me to avoid sweets – and that included artificial ones – to help regulate my insulin levels. It all worked together – like a spider’s web – one thing affecting the other. I needed to approach healing my body as a whole. I couldn’t focus on one area and not another. If I wanted to feel like I did a couple of years ago, I needed to make several changes.
This was hard for me to hear because everything I’d done up to that point WAS healthy. I was active. I ate clean. I included healthy cardio. But part of the problem was I overdid it. I’d depleted everything. I was tapped out, exhausted, and running (literally) on fumes or what was left of them anyway.
It was during one of our first meetings I told him about that “speical” day I’d had with my friend Heidi and how I longed to have more mornings/days like that. It was then he faced me with the reality that that was my body “then”. This is my body “now”. I may never get back to that place – no matter how fit, athletic, and conditioned I am.
His honesty hurt, but I wanted more than anything to prove him wrong.
It was then too I told him I decided to run Boston this year. He wasn’t thrilled. He knew he couldn’t stop me, but he advised me to listen to my body. Only run it if I were on the road to recovery.
I knew that if I didn’t register I would regret it later. So I did. I registered.
Then I tried to do what I could before training hoping my body would recover enough to handle the intense training ahead of me. Doctor’s orders. I didn’t want to jeopardize my chances of running. I knew what I was up against, and I needed a fresh body.
As January approached, I’d printed off the program I’d wanted to follow. It was from the “Advanced Marathoning” book. It was part of the FIRST program. With three marathons under my belt I wanted this one to be the first where I really focused on hitting a new PR. This was going to be the race I included tempo runs, sprints, and track repeats. I had it all laid out. My goal was to hit 3:40 or at worst 3:45 on the course. A 3:40 would be my all time best. A 3:45 would at least be more than 2 minutes faster on the Boston course, so either way I would be happy.
I headed out early January with high hopes…
…only to quickly discover it was hard. Everything was hard. Running was hard. Breathing was hard. Keeping a tempo was hard.
I tried again two days later. Again, hard.
I started second guessing myself. Was it really harder this time than it had been the three times before, or was I just remembering it wrong? This time it felt so much worse. I swore it. Something was off. This couldn’t be right.
I decided to try a long-run. Go slower. Surely that would feel normal. The only reason the other two runs were painful was because I wasn’t used to training at that intensity, right? So I went out for a long run…
…and it was hard too. I couldn’t last. I was breathless after only a few miles. I had to walk. I never walk.
I decided my body was tired. It was then I decided to take off nearly a month from ALL CARDIO and give my body a complete rest. I’d never done that. I’d never cut everything out. I was willing to try, and I’d hoped that with each cardio-less day my adrenals would strengthen and would be ready for me to pick things back up in February. I figured if I continued to push myself the way things were going I’d only cause more damage. So, I rested from all cardio for as long as I could justify.
I wanted to believe it would help.
And I think to some extent it did. When I reintroduced cardio back in to my schedule, I was jumping at the bit to do it. My short runs (the few that I’d completed) didnt’ feel too bad.
So then I went out for a long run…again. I had many to make up.
It was awful. I made it 5 miles and had to walk. I was in pain. Literally. Everywhere. I cried and cried. I hoped no one saw me as I walked home because I was so ashamed I couldn’t finish. I was the “runner”. I was the one who ran Boston. I was the one who was running Boston. And here I was, crippled from the lungs out.
I still didn’t want to give up.
My friend and I decided to run the canyon not too long after that. I loved running downhill. It came easy to me. It was running the downhill Halloween Half that both she and I set new PRs for the Half Marathon that qualified us both for New York. Running downhill would be easy. I needed to get one good run under my belt so that I could feel good about my running program. We went out early that morning, drove up to our typical spot, parked the car, and started down. We ran down for 2-2.5 and then headed back up the other way to make sure we got enough miles in. This is what we’d done the season before and it had been a breeze. At 4 miles, I again was slow and breathless. I told Sarah to run ahead. I’d continue on, and she’d catch me on the way back down the canyon.
I never did see her again that day. We were supposed to run 15 maybe even 16 if I felt good. At 11.25 (exactly) and after many walks, stretches, and tears, I finally called Greg and asked him to come pick me up. I had pain that originated in my ankle and ran up the right-side of my leg, to my hip-flexer, and back to my glute. It was excruciating. I was done.
That day I’d hoped to go back up and finish the rest of my miles. I didn’t. I was out of commission.
Keep in mind last year after I ran Boston I felt strong. The very next day I was out and about walking the city by foot with a blister. Even with all that I felt good, healthy, and able.
After my 11.25 mile painful run, I was beat. I was sore, and I was injured. It took me 3 days to heal.
During this time I’d also started seeing a Sports Physical Therapist. He was going to help me run. He took me through a number of stretches and exercises. He helped me with my form. He taped me, massaged my leg, and tried to instill the confidence that was waning at this point.
Was I still a runner?
My hope was deteriorating. Time was beginning to run short. I could see the deadline approaching much more quickly than I’d like, and my concern grew.
But I still had hope – at least some.
Last Monday I hit the treadmill at the gym. We had fresh snow on the ground, and I hesitated to run outside in the dark. I didn’t want to risk twisting an ankle and injuring it even more.
I ran 2 miles on the treadmill. By the end I was hunched over, feet on the permiter, doubled over trying to catch my breath. I wasn’t even sprinting. I was running fast, but not fast enough to explain my breathlessnes.
What was going on?
The next day I tried again. I wrote the day before off to coming off a long weekend with my best friend, Cami, and our irregular schedule. My sleep schedule had been off during the weekend, and I thought perhaps it was that and the fact that my diet was different and the altitude change that affected my run. I continued to search for answers or explanations.
Tuesday I ran one mile, and it happened again.
There was no denying it.
Something was wrong.
Tuesday was a hard, hard day. I’m not too proud to admit I cried a lot that day. It was the day I knew I had to make a decision.
I felt like my body was giving up on me. Or was it the other way around?
I was so mad that I could not do the one thing that had come so easy to me before. I longed for that feeling. I could almost taste it. Yet every time I’d attempted as of late I could never get “there”. I was healthy, strong, and fit. If anyone could do it, I should be able to. Yet, attempt after attempt I was forced to evaluate my training program. I’d already eased up on it so much. My FIRST program I’d initially been following had been replaced by the easist training program imaginable and even with that I was struggling.
That morning upon returning from the gym I sat down to read up on what was going on with my body. Why was I so sluggish? Why couldn’t I run? Why was I so fatigued so immediately after starting? Why was I breathless? Why did my legs feel like huge bricks when I ran? Why was I so heavy on my feet? Why? It was then I came across an article (or something) that brought me back to my Adrenal Fatigue. It mentioned that runners with Adrenal Fatigue have a difficult time drawing enough oxygen in to their lungs to refresh their muscles. With this lacking their bodies are exhausted. This was me. There was no short-term easy bandaid approach fix either. There was no guarantee. It could take a month. Maybe two. Could even take a year. Who knows. Most runners get it back, but there was no guarantee.
So Tuesday I wept and went considering the difference scenarios in my mind.
- Should I just run it and hope for the best?
- Perhaps the energy of the crowd would sustain me the entire race? That’s what I’d been hoping all along.
- What if I couldn’t finish the race? Then what?
- What if, even worse, I collapsed from trying to push too hard and was carried off the track?
- What if I suffered long-term consequences because I didn’t listen to my body?
- What if?
The “what ifs” continued. I was overwhelmed with concern and worry. I wanted to believe I could do it just like I had every other time for every other race, but my training up to that point told me otherwise.
At some point you need to listen to reason and your heart. I was at that point. While I wanted to listen to my will, my mind, my drive, and my determination to push through, in my heart it didn’t feel right.
There is a point when you need to make choices that are hard.
They might not be the choices you want to make. They might not be the “popular” choice, and they might be difficult to live with. People my second-guess your choices. You might even. Every day since Tuesday I’ve been second-guessing mine.
It’s hard to let go of something you want so badly.
Who gives up Boston? I’ve asked this of myself more times than I can count, and it still makes me sick. Just saying the words out loud brings tears to my eyes.
I know there’s a strong chance I might never have this chance again, and that frightens me and hurts.
But I also know that my health is more important than any race – even if it is Boston.
I want to believe Heavenly Father is speaking to me through those quiet whisperings in my heart.
My friend put it best,
“Jenny, you have already run the Boston marathon. That is something most runners dream of doing but never have the chance. You have done that. And to top it off you had an incredible run, a great time, and you qualified at Boston for Boston. You don’t want to ‘taint’ your experience. You don’t want to ruin that memory. You don’t want to injure yourself to the point that you never get to enjoy running again.”
Her words help me every time I start second-guessing my decision. Yesterday I had to remind myself of that no less than five times. It’s still hard. It’s still fresh, and it still hurts. It pains me to think of not being there with the 27,000+ runners.
But I won’t be. Not this year.