I announced it on Twitter, and probably on Facebook the other week, but I don't think that trickled into my blog.
I pulled out of the Myrtle Beach Marathon.
This is the first race that I have ever DNS'ed (did not start).
The longer story behind my DNS is that I've been injured since the first week of January. Between foot surgery years ago and an already weakened left ankle, my left arch swelled up, my ankle was tight, every step I took was agony, likely because of over use, old shoes, or just...bad luck. As I started to heal with the help of rest, active release therapy, and a lot of foam rolling, the marathon drew closer and closer and all I had to show for it was one long run of 18 miles.
Coach T and I met, discussed that I would skip the tapering period before the marathon and, instead, ramp up. I felt like this was a doable strategy. I'd run marathons on stranger training regiments. I'm stronger, faster, more consistent...after Coach and I had dinner, I knew I could do it.
The night before I was supposed to head out for 12-13 miles, I was up the wall with stress, anxiety, and guilt over whether or not I should do the race. All I could hear in my mind was "Failure. You gave up. You are not an athlete. Liar. Fraud." I cried. I paced around the apartment. I couldn't tell if I was lying to myself about the pain and I was wimping out or if I was actually injured (spoiler alert: I was actually injured. But it was a unique experience to test physical pain versus mental denial).
In the end, I was so paralyzed by my inability to know how I would be healing that I had to make a decision. The stress of hoping to not be injured was driving me mad. My foot was still swollen, my ankle still tender, and crying over a 12 mile run was the final straw:
It was time for a mandated break.
In the end, this would have been my fourth marathon. I don't want to take the little vacation time I have, to only hopefully PR a marathon, much less finish it without injury. I didn't want to spend the energy I have left at the end of the day worrying about something that is supposed to be a joy...and, finally, I have some lofty goals for the end for the year (sub-6 half IM in Augusta). To do a marathon in February that may have lasting implications for my foot, right as training season revs up? It wasn't a sacrifice I was willing to make.
I'm still fighting to remember that injuries are things to be taken seriously, that there are other marathons, and that sometimes, NOT training is the smartest training decision that can be made.
But, my brain and determination are stubborn. So, to prove to myself that I haven't bitched out on training, I hit every workout this week AND I got up at 5:30 this morning to meet team RAGE for a 6:30 am run.
Rachel and Victoria had a much longer run on the calendars, but Coach T let me get to Saturday morning run early to go out with them as they begin to train to start a run in the early morning for race day.
The sun had not yet risen. And it was COLD. Like, 18 degrees according to my iPhone cold. I had my headlamp and LED flasher (who says I don't train for Ragnar?). I wore long spandex, shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt, thick tech bright orange jacket (thanks, Jason!), two pairs of gloves with hand warmers (thanks, Mom!), ear warmers and baseball hat. Bundled is an understatement. And I was still cold.
As we were getting ready to go, Coach jumped out of her car and rallied with us to run a quick 6 miles. What a gift. How amazing it was to spend a few miles running with Coach. When we hit 3, Coach ran ahead, Victoria and Rachel kept going on Beach while I turned around to head back to the car. Three miles, alone.
It's been a long time since I have run alone.
Aside I headed back, the sun was rising over Rock Creek, squirrels were stirring up the leaves, I saw a runner here or there, but mostly, I was alone.
I stopped my Garmin at one point to stand on a small bridge over the creek and watch the water rush past. Then I picked up the pace and held sub-9's the rest of the way home.
My confidence boosted by the lack of pain in my ankle and foot, the success of getting up early, the excitement of running with Coach...all of that seemed to churn up everything else on my mind in a cathartic manner.
I spent the better portion of my solo run back to the car pouring my heart out to the frigid air. I confessed my deepest thoughts and feelings to imaginary running companions. Perhaps, if you want to know the state of my heart, it is best to run long with me.
Running strips away a certain amount of armor that we all have. I am the most honest with myself in those moments and miles. I love myself the most; I forgive myself the most.
As I write this, my ankle and foot are tender, a little reminder that I made the right decision about the race, for which I am grateful. But the good news is that it all seems to be on the path to healing and I've overcome a huge mental obstacle for me - I am not a failure for pulling out of a race. I am learning to listen to my body. And there will be other marathons.