Eight Minutes

Since late March I have been sidelined with a stress reaction in my foot. Yesterday I ran outside for the first time in two months. This also happened to be my first outside run in my 40s. My 40th birthday was almost two months ago. I had grand plans of running 40 laps on the track to celebrate my 40th and running parts of the Boston marathon course on my trip to Boston for a conference just days after my 40th, but none of that happened due to this injury. But I digress…

Yesterday I stepped outside in beautiful spring weather to run outside. It was glorious! Of course I wanted to go up into the Boise foothills and get lost for miles, but my body is not ready for that. My wise and wonderful coach prescribed a 2min run followed by 3 min walk on a soft surface for 20 minutes. I hit the North End alleys.


Sun on my face, flower in my hair and garbage behind me!

Those first two minutes felt strange. Having been accustomed to running on the Alter G for the past month or so, it was wonderful to be moving forward in the fresh outdoor air with the variation of scenery. Lovely wildflowers, spring sounds, people doing yard work and fixing their houses, children playing, animals exploring, and all of these other things I have missed while I have been exercising indoors and rehabbing my injury. I wanted to keep going and going!

But at the same time my foot was pounding! On the hard ground! And I was paranoid. What if I break it again? I was thankful to stop and walk after that two minutes. I am grateful for a smart and conservative coach who does research and talks to multiple health care professionals before determining the best course of action for her athletes.

Although it was not much of a run and yes it was mostly walking (I only ran for a total of eight of the twenty minutes), it felt great because it represented forward progress and I am finally outside again. But instead of feeling thankful for those eight minutes, I found myself spending much of the remainder of the day worried about the future. Thoughts like this ran through my head throughout the afternoon: Is my foot sore? I think it’s a little sore. Maybe it’s a lot sore. Was that too much? Will it feel better by tomorrow? How will I possibly run a marathon this fall if I can’t even run eight minutes without hurting myself now? Ugh. I am going to break my foot again and have to take more time off. And more into the negative thinking hole…

At one point during the day I saw my gratitude journal sitting on my nightstand. It is mostly empty. I have lofty goals of writing in it each night but end up collapsing into bed exhausted and don’t do it. Or perhaps I check emails and Facebook before bed instead. When I saw it yesterday I remembered that instead of worrying about the future or focusing on the negative, I want to make more of a concerted effort to be thankful for the positive in each day. Even being thankful for the little things can make a huge difference in our mindsets.

In yoga practice, they teach you to accept the body that you have each day you come to practice because each day your body is different. I try to apply that to my running as well. The body that I brought to my running practice yesterday allowed me to run eight minutes outside and for that I am exceedingly grateful. I don’t know what body I will have next week, next month or next year and it is a waste of precious energy to worry about it. Instead, I want to be thankful for today. Today I can run. And eight minutes is a fabulous start.

But I Get Up Again

As a runner, I feel like I deal with more than my fair share of injuries. Maybe I am just a glass half empty kind of gal but as I look over the past year I see three significant forced breaks. Granted, one of them wasn’t really a running injury, it was appendicitis, but three forced breaks over a years feels like a lot, especially when you have missed a great deal of the nice spring and fall weather. I guess the universe is still trying to teach me about patience and perseverance and I no I still have not learned. In looking over my Instagram feed the other night I came across this gem which I posted while on Forced Break Number One:

The reality is that if your dream is to accomplish something awesome, it’s not going to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. People who go for greatness are going to get knocked down a lot. They’ll have difficult times. They’ll struggle with doubt and uncertainty. People around them will question the wisdom of their quest. The issue is not whether you’ll fail, because you will. It’s whether you’ll get back up and keep going. It’s whether you can sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back.

Failure is only final when you stop striving.

-Bob Rotella, How Champion’s Think In Sports and Life

The last two sentences really spoke to me. Sustain your self-confidence and your belief in yourself and keep bouncing back. You see, when I get injured or sidelined it is very easy for my mind to go to the places that say, “You are not a runner.” and “You are too old.” or too something or not enough of something else and then suddenly I am deflated and defeated and eating cookies for dinner. But champions do not think that way. Indeed, they cannot afford to. In the face of injury, illness or whatever obstacle they must sustain self-confidence and keep bouncing back. Because failure is only final when you stop striving.

Oliver Goldsmith said that success is getting up just one more time than you fall. Just one more time.

Those who are successful make it look easy. But we don’t see all of the hard work and struggle. The tens, hundreds, thousands of times that person might have fallen. We just see that one more time they got up. The success!

We also fail to consider the millions of small steps taken that when viewed alone seem totally insignificant but the sum of which equals greatness. Each day cannot be a personal best, but each day we can take a small step in pursuit of a long term goal. Whether it be getting that extra hour of sleep your body needs to recover, eating some extra veggies for vital nutrients, or pushing yourself a little harder on the track. Maybe it means practicing patience and positivity (ahem, I am looking at myself as I type) because in order to achieve peak performance we must not only be fit physically but mentally as well.

Whatever you do, make sure you keep getting back up, and keep moving forward. One step at a time.

Pool is a Four Letter Word

The day after my 40th birthday I saw the doctor for my mystery foot ailment. At that point I had taken about two weeks off of any real running and had forgone running the Final Four Four Miler in Houston which I had been hoping to run as the last race of my 30s. Nevertheless, the pain in my foot continued. My x-ray looked clean, but after a manual exam, the doctor uttered the dreaded phrase “stress reaction” and told me no running for 4-6 weeks. Welcome to Forty! He suggested pool and cycling and all of those other things that runners just love to do when they are injured. And he prescribed this lovely footplate which does not leave my side:


Francis the Footplate, my new BFF #thisis40

For the entire month of April, my birthday month, I diligently hit the pool, the gym, and tried to find other activities which did not aggravate my foot. I am thankful for the fact that unlike when I had to have my appendix out last summer I can still be very active while recovering from this stress reaction. Nevertheless, I look longingly out the window on these lovely and light spring mornings and desperately want to run. (I think my family wants that too, as each passing week I grow more and more irritable.) I miss my running team and wonder what workouts they are doing and what fun topics of conversation I might be missing out on. Running is not only my chance for exercise and fresh air, it is also a social outlet for me, and I miss my friends!

This week, on Cinco de Mayo (!), I got to run for the first time in over a month and the first time in my forties! I didn’t get to run outside, I got to run on the Alter G treadmill. For those of you unfamiliar with the Alter G, it is an anti-gravity treadmill which allows you to run at a percentage of your body weight. It is a phenomenal piece of equipment for injured runners or runners hoping to take off some of the training load.

I counted down the days until I could try running and when the day arrived I felt equal parts excitement and nervousness. I want to get back to running so badly, but feared having the first step be painful and having to start the 4-6 week clock over again. Finally, my Alter G time slot appointment arrived. Just putting on a running outfit felt amazing. I felt like a runner again! I laced up my running shoes, hopped on, started walking, increased the speed and lowered the body weight.

Per my coaches instructions I lowered the body weight to 60%. When you run on the Alter G, you wear special spandex pants, zip yourself into the machine, and air blows up around you. Your body weight it lowered by the air around you and the machine essentially lifting you by the pants you are wearing. (I am sure there is a more technical explanation, but this is my non-techy description.) As my weight lowered and my speed increased I finally took that first running step. And it felt okay! In fact, due to the decreased body weight, it felt almost effortless.

I was finally running again! It felt easy! It felt amazing! It felt like if I did this for the full 30 minutes I might never get feeling back in my crotch again! At times I felt that I could feel pain in my foot, but at no time was the pain in my foot anywhere near the discomfort I felt in my lady-parts from literally being lifted by the seat of my pants while running. (Guys: How do you manage Alter G running?!?) I took comfort in that feedback, however. It told me that the discomfort in my foot was mostly in my head. Afterwards I iced and had minimal soreness.

Although I will not be running outside in the Boise foothills for Mother’s Day as I had hoped, I am so pleased with my forward progress. I am learning more about patience, listening to my body, and doing my best to enjoy the journey. Even if that journey does involve swimming laps in the pool.