I was given the gift of company during our snowy 12 mile run last Saturday, something that was greatly needed to push me forward. We all showed up before the run in some amount of rough shape. These three weeks at peak are brutal on the body; following up the 18 miles on March 14th with 8 miles of hill reps the following Tuesday, and we were all feeling various body parts starting to "go." By the final few miles, I was uncomfortably aware of a twinge that had sprouted deep in the area behind my left knee. I hoped taking Sunday and Monday off would give it time to settle, but my hill workout on Tuesday was cut short on the 5th rep when it steadily worsened. I took three days off, iced, stretched, and left for the peak 21 mile run yesterday morning feeling pretty hopeful.
The 21 mile run was sort of my final hurrah last year, although of course I wasn't aware of it at the time. It was a beautiful day that permitted us to run in short sleeves, and I think it was the first time my arms had seen sun since October. This year, however, the weather was not so generous, and we got off the buses in Framingham amid steady snow. I was pleased to have time on the bus to connect with my teammate, Davia, and we started off the run together. I recalled taking the first 4.5 miles rather slow last year, and I decided to repeat that tactic. I also wanted to use these first few miles to feel out my hamstring. I was fully aware of the absurdity of it all, testing out an injury's readiness with a ridiculous 21 miles (I'd normally give it a test run with, I don't know, one mile at most?), but I was feeling the pressure of knocking this one out. Completing the 21 mile at a good pace last year made me feel 100% more ready for the actual race, and I needed that reassurance more than ever this time.
However, half a mile in, and I could already tell I was in trouble. A tight feeling and slight burning sensation were already pulling all my thoughts to my left leg, and as we cruised up to our first fuel station at mile 3, I dreaded the decision I knew I would have to make. My energy was raring but I held myself to a jog, hoping to at least make it to the Samaritans tent at mile 8, where I knew Daniel would be waiting. But shortly after Natick Center, I could tell I was about to start making things quite worse, so I stepped off to the side by some cheering supporters at the fire station to borrow a phone and call Daniel. Coincidentally, we had just taken the time to memorize each other's phone numbers the night before, and I bitterly mused at how quickly it came to good use.
It was hard to not feel like this twinge in my hamstring was the Toe Incident all over again. Race Day feels so far in the future all winter, but the days seem to fly by after the peak run. As I chilled down in the falling snow waiting for Daniel to arrive, masses of runners passed by and it felt all too familiarly like last year when I stood on Heartbreak Hill on April 21st to cheer for my teammates and thousands of others, wishing I was almost anywhere else. Climbing into the car after Daniel finally arrived, I felt like such a failure once more as we sped past hundreds of runners down the length of Washington Street and Comm Ave. Feeling incapable with only three weeks to go is not a position that makes me feel very comfortable, and I spent the afternoon riddled with anxiety and feeling quite sorry for myself. I had a sports massage that afternoon (a gift that Daniel gave me for my birthday way back in November), which I had scheduled with the intent of it being a kind reward to my aching body after putting it through the mill. However, it was now instead the first step towards healing this issue as quickly as possible, and I explained everything in great detail to my massage therapist before we got started. He was a rather eccentric guy, which I probably would have handled better in a lesser state of anxiety, but I was soon completely preoccupied by physical discomfort as he tackled my frozen hamstrings and quadriceps with some pretty serious maneuvers. I am quite aware of how tight my legs tend to be (absolutely not helped by my lackadaisical approach to stretching, nor my genetics; 8 years of ballet in my youth and I could never do a damn split, if that tells you anything), but I was less aware of how that tightness inhibits my ease of movement. My range of motion was miserable, but after one excruciating hour, I had gained many inches of hamstring reach and I was amazed at how different walking felt.
In short, I now have my work cut out for me once again. I quickly activated the one-month membership to Boston Sports Club that Michelle gifted to me last year after the accident (something had told me to hold off using it!), and I already have a plan in motion for the next three weeks that involves heavy cross training, superhuman amounts of stretching, and probably another visit or two to the magical hamstring masseur. I am in a much better emotional place now than I was yesterday, and hopeful that I can reorient myself and work around this setback to still run on the 20th. I am telling myself that last year was my year to rock the peak run, while this year will be the one to rock the actual race. And now, I am going to go stretch.
Lastly, if you are curious, check out this link to read about the Boston Strong quilt (made by a Samaritans marathon runner last year) which will be hanging in the Statehouse from April 1st - 20th.