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A Victory and a Challenge

Iron Girl Recap

A few weeks ago, I ran the Iron Girl half marathon in Clearwater. This was the last "big" race I'd planned for the spring, so I wanted to do well, but I also hadn't been training to PR (I guess I never really do). And since my sister had planned to bring her family out to spectate, we decided we'd attempt to have my four-year-old niece, Evie, run across the finish line with me. (We tried this once before, but I was too close to a marathon PR to slow down, so I left her trailing behind me.) Because this was a smaller race and a women's-only race, I wasn't too worried about being a disruption to the race.

So my focus during the race was on Evie--and it's a good thing I had a focus other than time, because, as it turned out, my watch wasn't charged, and it wasn't going to last my whole race. But in my experience, this lack of knowing, of constantly monitoring my pace, has served me well during races. (In fact, during last year's Iron Girl, I forgot my watch entirely and still did well.) The watch served me well in the initial miles, kept me from going out too fast, and before it died, I felt I had established a good, level pace, so all I had to do was maintain it for about the second half. Without the burden of having to monitor my pace, I instead focused on just going for it, getting to Evie at the end. I had to get to Evie, I kept thinking. I played out how it would go in my head. It would happen fast; I'd have to be very alert and prepared to slow down--not a natural instinct at the very end of a race.

But it all worked out beautifully. I saw them on the sidelines, my sister lifted Evie over the railing, and I held my hand out to her. She moved her little legs as fast as they would go, and together we crossed the finish line, as the announcer praised "mom" for a good finish. I think Evie was startled by it all; she'd never experience anything quite like this. She's seen me race before, but it's a different experience being thrown into it at the most climactic point, with a bunch of strangers yelling at you, as encouraging as their words may be. I was very proud of her, and this was one of the most special races I've run because she finished it with me.

Look at her determined little face!

My little champ.

Abstract art by Evie and Eleanora.

So, while I was as pleased as I thought I could be with how this race turned out, it turned out that I had actually run a PR! I didn't know my time when I crossed the finish line, because my watch had died and I was so focused on finding Evie. I knew I was close, but I didn't find out my actual score until the next day. I shaved more than a minute off of my previous PR. Perhaps it was the fact that I didn't have my watch; perhaps it was my drive to get to Evie. Probably it was both. This otherwise wasn't an easy race--it contained four bridge runs, big ones. So now I'll have to take Evie with me to all my races and keep her at the end as my secret weapon.

The Aftermath

So, after having struggled with bursitis in my left foot for over a year, and then having a successful fall and winter/spring season, I thought I was in the clear. But about a week after I raced Iron Girl, I was on a regular five-mile run one weeknight and felt the pain again. I took a few days off, ran some easy runs the next week, and realized it was only getting worse. I knew I had to stop running--for how long, I wasn't sure. But I also knew I needed to keep up a good level of fitness; I would need to start marathon training in a couple of months, and I was afraid of losing all the endurance I had built up. Also, I had been going through some ups and downs in my life (perhaps a few more downs), and I knew that regular exercise was essential to my emotional, as well as physical, well-being. So I swallowed my pride and joined a gym--something I was normally opposed to; I preferred utilizing the outdoors for my exercise, both with running and the bootcamp class I attended. But I needed to have ultimate control over my exercise, now that I was limited. A gym offered cardio equipment, a pool, and plenty of space and equipment for strength training, in whatever way I needed to do it.

So I've been challenged to find new ways to maintain my physical fitness. Nothing can really replace running, and I miss it terribly, but I'm proud of myself for pushing to do different things. It's easy to fall into a habit of "mono-exercise," and perhaps this was a wake-up call that I needed more diversity. Maybe my body was sending a message.

I was a little aimless at first when I went to the gym; I was overwhelmed by the machines, intimidated by the weights area, and afraid of the pool. Now I feel fairly comfortable with some machines, but I stick mainly to the "abs" area where people go to do mat exercises, mostly using body weight. I've been brave enough to also bring over some weights from the big-guy area, dipping in and quickly out with my two 10-pound dumbbells. And the stationary bike. I start out on that, trying to stay on for as long as I can, but honestly I do not like it; I just know it's necessary. And twice now I've gone into the pool. The first time I was very unsure of myself, not really knowing how to breathe efficiently, and confirming my doubts as I awkwardly turned my head and took in gobs of water on every third stroke. I got some advice from triathlete friend, watched a YouTube video, and came back a second time for a redo. It was a better experience, for sure. I still can't last very long, about 15 minutes' worth of laps. But it's brand-new to me as a sport, so I have to give myself time to adapt. And this morning I finally got on that new hybrid bike I got after trading in my road bike. It had been sitting in my closet for months. It felt good to ride. I may need to consider some clip-ins in the future, as my feet are just free-flying on the pedals now, but we'll see. It is a better experience for me than the road bike was. I still have speed on this bike, but I feel more secure on it, like I don't have to be so fragile with it.

I have an appointment with an orthopedist next week to hopefully assess my foot condition and figure out what I should be doing--other than not running. I also have an appointment with a podiatrist scheduled a week later, in case the orthopedist can't help. I'm ready to know what the outlook is on this condition, hopeful that it's not completely hopeless. And in the meantime I have some other activities to continue to explore.


shirley said…
Bless you Lee Bird and your love for Evie. You are a special Aunt.

You're young and strong and I pray this "foot issue" is a temporary thing for you.

You are, as always, in my special thoughts and prayers. I love you so much ~ shirley
So cool you included Evie! Kathy and I send our love.

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