2013 has not been the year that I thought it would be for my running. For the past few months I have been looking forward to running the ING New York City Marathon as a perfect way to cap off a difficult year and to show the world what I am still capable of doing. Unfortunately, it just is not in the cards for this year. Letting go of my dream of running New York this year has been very difficult for me, but it was a decision I had to make.
After a rush job to get ready for the Boson Marathon in April, I was relieved to come off that marathon feeling healthy and motivated. I turned my focus to the track, getting my speed back and thinking about running times in the 10,000 meters that I hadn’t run in years. I was really enjoying my training leading up to the USATF championships in Des Moines Iowa. Even though I knew my big goal for the year was to knock it out of the park in the big apple, I was loving the track sessions and the change of pace from my normal marathon training. Unfortunately, I faltered in the 10K in Des Moines. A combo of a bad race strategy and tough weather conditions left me outside the top 3 required to move on to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow. I was devastated, but quickly found the silver lining in the fact that I could now do some summer road racing that I have never had the opportunity to do before. I felt hopeful. Things happen for a reason, right?
Before Shalane left for Europe to begin her altitude stint before the World Championships we did a 10.5 mile tempo together. It was great, working together like we did before the Olympic Marathon, pushing each other in a strong fast tempo. But on the cool down my right foot began to ache. I stopped and retied my shoe, but it just kept getting worse and worse. I hobbled back to my car and drove home to put my foot in a bucket of ice. Hours later it still swelled. What had I done? Had I tied my shoe too tight? Did I take an awkward step and twist my foot on the run? The next morning I woke up and my foot was still swollen and still very painful to step on. I made a decision to take the day off. For those of you who don’t know me, this is a very big deal. I run every day. Every day. It makes me feel normal. Sane. I only took one week off after giving birth to my son before returning to running. I realize this makes me crazy, but in fact it makes me not crazy. I need to feel my body move. Anyway, when my coach, Jerry Schumacher heard I was taking the day off, his immediate reaction was to ask me if it was broken. Since I never ask for a complete rest day, he knew it was bad. But I was sure that it wasn’t broken. It came out of nowhere. Surely it would clear up in a day or two. After hobbling around for a week, and getting increasingly cranky, I went in for an MRI. I was devastated by the news. Jerry was right. My 2nd metatarsal in my foot had a stress fracture.
After lots of frustrated tears and a meltdown or two, I focused on my cross training. If I couldn’t run, I could still cross train. My body would feel like it was building a base, and when I finally got healthy enough to run, my cardiovascular system would be ready. I started with aqua jogging and then added the elliptical when I got permission from the docs. I cross trained for 850 minutes a week (Two+ hours a day.) Every week I would do my “long run” which was 1 hour and 55 minutes on the Elliptical. Why did I stop at 1:55? Because I told myself that only a psycho would Elliptical for 2 straight hours. I worked hard, visualized racing in NYC, and kept my spirits up.
Eight weeks later, it was time to start running outdoors. The marathon was now 10 weeks away, and I needed to get after it! The transition did not go well. My foot ached and my cadence was slow. I recently went back to the doctor and found out that my foot, is healing, but is not healed. I needed to pull the plug on the marathon, get healthy, and stay away from outdoor running for a little bit longer.
Pulling out of NYC is very difficult for me, for so many reasons. First of all, as I stated earlier, this was my chance to finally enter a race healthy, fit, and ready to go. I had suffered through the fall and winter for my chance to shine in NYC. Secondly, I love the NYC marathon! It was where I ran my first marathon. It was a bit of a deer in headlights experience, but I loved every minute of it. I felt like I discovered myself there, really learned to appreciate myself and my strengths as a runner. I had waited patiently for 5 years to return to the place where I fell in love with the marathon. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to wait longer. Finally, I wanted to run this race for my family, fans, and the NYRR. They know what I am capable of doing and they have supported me through this entire journey. I wanted to have the opportunity to perform for them all.
In the end, I had to realize that this was not the year for me. I have run two of my last three marathons with rushed preparation and I deserve to run a marathon at my best, so that I can truly be a contender again. I realize that my family, sponsors, and fans all want me to be healthy and run at my best. They don’t want to see me out there at 70%, trying to outsmart people rather than being able to freely run my own race.
What does this mean? It means 2013 was a rough year for me as an athlete. I have had many great moments in training and with my teammates, but unfortunately it didn’t get a chance to translate into my races. But I know how hard I worked this year, and last. And I know that the opportunity will come when I can finally run the race that I am capable of. I’m not finished, I simply had an off year. My plan now is to get healthy. I would love to do some fall road races for fun, and as workouts to build my fitness as I come back from this injury. And I am already looking forward to 2014. I have put together a loose calendar and I’m going to be racing quite a bit. I get excited just thinking about it. Until then, I will continue my 100+ miles a week running on my AlterG treadmill and keep thinking about one special moment at the 2008 Olympic games when Constantina Dita of Romania became the Olympic Marathon Champion at the age of 38. You see, I will be 38 in Rio 2016. And I still believe.