Monday, April 6, 2020

PT or voodoo?

My first PT appointment for my mystery hip issue was on April 1.  Along with an intake and assessment, the PT did manual movements for my hip called manual distractions, and gave me three nerve glide exercises to do twice daily on my own.  On April 2, I had Jon do the manual distractions at home, and after just two sessions of them I was walking without a limp for the first time since February 11!  My no-more-limp situation has continued through today, April 6.

It simply blows my mind that 2 days of simple movements that take about 5-10 minutes a pop helped me more than 8 weeks off running did.  Clearly the answer to this issue was not time off running, it was this.  Although I sure wish someone had showed me this 2 months ago, I'm sure thankful to figure it out now!

The manual distractions basically push synovial fluid out of the joint and allow it to be replaced with "fresh" fluid.  They are really simple.

I feel like I could try running any time now, but my PT advised "not quite yet."  I'm going to try to get her to peg down a recommended start date at my appointment tomorrow (April 7).

In meantime I've been doing a lot of cycling.  Running is always going to be my first and strongest love, so it almost feels like cheating to say this, but I have fallen in love with cycling throughout this time.  I have become a much stronger cyclist (the bar was set pretty low to begin with) and now crave going out for rides on my road bike.  I plan to reintroduce running slowly to be smart about it, so when I resume running I expect to be doing a combination of running and cycling for awhile.  Until then, I am chasing cycling PRs!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Follow-up answers

As I mentioned here, I several follow-up questions following my hip diagnosis/non-diagnosis.  I spoke with my doctor who was helpful in answering them all (I warned him I will probably have more).  I'm publishing my notes so I'll have something to look back on, but also to possibly help anyone else who goes through a similar issue.

Can you provide more information about the hip impingement I have?  It is cam impingement or pincer impingement? 
Cam vs. pincher impingement is mostly an x-ray finding.  My x-rays do not show definitive findings, but it would most likely be a cam impingement or a combination.  Both are treated the same way.  My x-ray doesn't show anything for sure.

What exactly causes the pain?
Pain is caused by movement and inflammation.  My anatomy has always been this way but something irritated it.

Could muscles in the area also be painful from compensating?
Muscles in the area will compensate for it so could be contributing to pain, and could perhaps be why it's so running-specific.
Is it a definitive diagnosis from my MRI, or the most likely issue? 
It is not definitive.  MRIs are the best tool to diagnosis this type of issue but can also miss subtle findings.

What is the prognosis for this issue?  Will this heal with rest and PT?  Will this always be an issue?  Will I be able to return to running high mileage when I'm pain-free?
This will get better with rest and PT.  The pain will go away.  It will not always be limiting/painful,.  We need to calm down the inflammatory process.  My anatomy will always be the same (and has always been this way).  I can definitely return to high mileage running when pain free; I have been running all of this time with this anatomy.

Would Aleve or a similar medication help?
Aleve may be helpful (or Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, etc.), taken with food twice daily.  I am going to try this before trying a steroid injection.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

I had the MRI...

Getting the MRI was a saga in itself, but I had it on March 26 and received my results on March 31.

The good news!
No stress fracture or stress reaction.
No labral tear.
No bone death (avascular necrosis).
No torn muscles.
Nothing looks alarming.

The bad news!
No definitive diagnosis to explain why I still have pain even when I walk, and any activity with impact is definitely out the question.

The only abnormality was possible signs of hip impingement, which is generally something you're born with and doesn't come from over-use or running (although physical activity that extends the hip beyond it's normal range, like drills, could aggravate the situation).

None of the professionals I've seen have really been able to pinpoint anything, and I don't meet the diagnostic tests for anything, so it's frustrating.  I'm very thankful I don't have any of the "bad things" they were looking for, but none of possibilities thrown out there make sense.  It's also odd that a hip impingement issue would not bother me biking.

I started physical therapy on April 1 (not April Fools!).  The doctor said another option is to have a steroid injection to reduce inflammation in the area.  After how much pain I've had following the contrast injection I had prior to the MRI, I am certainly in no hurry to inject anything else in there, plus I'd always rather try more conservative treatments first.

This diagnosis doesn't seem very definitive and there is no clear timeline for when I'll be able to return to running (just when I'm pain-free).  I have a lot of follow up questions for the doctor now that I've processed and researched the issue (update:  follow up answers are here).

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 2020: There is nothing certain but the uncertain

March 2020 in review!

Total mileage for the month: running and no clear answers on when I'll be able to run again (injury update post here).
    • Obviously none this month.  Although my reason for not racing was being injured, 3 of 3 races I had planned for this month cancelled due to COVID-19.  The 3 races I had planned for April also cancelled or postponed, and my May race postponed, so I effectively only missed one race this season (February 29).
    My cross-training BFF
    • Cross-training:  I biked most days (road, spin, or a Lifecycle), and did a little swimming, aquajogging, rollerblading, and elliptical (1-2 days of everything that wasn't biking).
    • Biking:  I started tracking my cycling mileage the week of March 23-29, and got in 164 miles for that week.  Of course I'd rather be running, but I'm thankful I can get out on my road bike, which I got tuned up right before the COVID-19 craziness hit the Midwest.  My goal for March 30-April 5 is to ride over 200 miles and I did a cycling "double" on March 30, so I guess it is safe to say that my period of minimal cross-training has come to a close.
    • Strength work:  Weekly totals of 2:08, 2:00, 1:00, 1:16, 1:11
    • Yoga:  Weekly totals of 0:36, 0:45, 2:11, 2:03, 3:16
    Long Runs:
    • You guessed it - none this month.
    Running Fitness Highlights:
    • I was interviewed on the Strong Runner Chick Radio podcast, which was really fun!
    • My running low-light was a hip injury - details here.  My last outdoor run was Feb. 12.  I began using crutches on March 11, and felt more improvement in about 4 days on crutches than I had in 4 weeks off running!  I also realized how much I walk in a normal day, which of course drastically dropped because crutching around is painful.  I had an MRI on March 26 and am anxiously awaiting the results.
    • I improved my biking strength a lot. 
    • I have plans for another series to follow 2:45:01 and Beyond, but I'm going to wait until I'm not working via telehealth, because outside of work I have no desire to see any screens!  It's kind of amazing this post is making it out.
    Every day is now bring you cat to work day
     Life Notes:
    • Without a doubt, the "hot" topics of March 2020 were COVID-19, social distancing, and an unprecedented number of major cancellations.  This pandemic is going to have profound effects on our economy and history.  What a crazy time.
    • On March 17, my agency temporarily changed to providing ABA services by telehealth only.  The first 48 hours were quite a whirlwind with learning the virtual platform, developing telehealth consents, contacting what felt like a million people, etc.  The first two days I worked non-stop from about 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and ended my days completely exhausted despite not leaving my home.  I will be working this way through at least April 24.  It did make it easier to be on crutches, though, that is for sure.
    • Albani was on scheduled spring break from March 16-20, and then her school added two more weeks off, scheduled to return on April 6.  We did not have home school activities like many states, but I kept her on a schedule and had her read a lot.  Following a 30 day stay at home order beginning on March 26, our school closure was extended, now with a scheduled return date of April 27 and alternative learning beginning April 6.  There is a reason my husband and I don't homeschool, so pray for us!
    • We spent a lot of time planting and preparing our garden.  My husband expanded it again this year!
    • My cat Nugget also has a hip malady.  He began limping around and didn't improve, so we took him to the vet to find out he has a genetic hip malformation (x-ray below).  The vet said this is very common in dogs but rare in cats.  We can get surgery for him but it is pretty extreme (the ball of the hip is cut off, and then the bones fuse together), so we are giving it some time since he is still growing.  He is currently doing better but isn't functioning quite normally, so we will see...   We are kind of two of a kind!
    Nugget attacked the crutches a lot
    Every morning
    Nugget's hip abnormality
    Cross-stitching is one of my sedentary hobbies
    I love staying in & reading, pandemic or not
    This is what she learned on spring break
    Books and cats are all we need!


    • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    • Still Alice by Lisa Genova
    • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    • One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
    • Racing the Rain by John Parker Jr.
    • Finding Chika:  A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom
    • Year of the Monkey by Patty Smith
    • Stone Mattress:  Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood
    • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis 
    • A Good Man by Ani Katz
    • Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly 
    • Anatomy, Stretching, and Training for Marathoners: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting the Most From Your Running Workout by Jay Dicharry
    • Noel Street by Richard Paul Evans
    • The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
    • Seven Day of Us by Francesa Hornak 
    • The Tenant by Katrine Engberg
    • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
    • Life Will Be the Death of Me:...and You Too! by Chelsea Handler
    • Inside the O'Briens by Liss Genova
    I would have checked out more books before the library closed,
    but this was all I could fit in my backpack & I was on crutches!
    Theme of the month:
    Uncertainty, patience, and faith.

    Sunday, March 22, 2020

    Favorite yoga practices - links

    I am on day 3 of this 30 day yoga challenge and have enjoyed it so far.  The first 3 practices have included enough core work that I haven't felt the need to do any planks since I began.

    These are the usual yoga practice I do (all free real time YouTube videos):

    Tight hamstrings




    Nugget generally joins my yoga sessions, &
    yes, I often do yoga in a hoodie, haha!

    Saturday, March 21, 2020

    Podcast picks

    After posting my reading recommendations, I figured I'd share my favorite podcasts during this strange, unprecedented, together yet apart time.  In alphabetical order...

    Ali on the Run Show
    Ben and Berry's Running Podcast
    Chasing Bravery
    CITIUS MAG Podcast with Chris Chavez
    C Tolle Run
    For the Long Run
    I'll Have Another with Lindsey Hein
    Most Pleasant Exhaustion
    Rambling Runner
    Road to the Olympic Trials Podcast
    Run Free Podcast
    Running for Real with Tina Muir
    Running Rogue
    Running Through It
    Strong Runner Chick Radio
    The Morning Shakeout
    The 1609 Podcast
    Up and Running

    Applied Behavior Analysis-related:
    ABA Inside Track (also offers CEUs for BCBAs!)
    Behavior Babe
    The Behavior Observations Podcast (some episodes offer CEUs)

    How I Built This

    I listen to podcasts while strength training, stretching, commuting, doing chores, and cross-stitching.  They are also good on road trips!  At home it can be nice to sit on your porch or deck and listen.

    Thursday, March 19, 2020

    Reading recommendations

    Since I read a lot, I thought I'd post some of the best books I've read recently for those who are reading more during social distancing/while the world is closed!  In no particular order...
    Do Not Become Alarmed by Malie Meloy
    House Rules by Jodi Piccolut
    My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
    Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
    Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
    Still Alice by Lisa Genova
    Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
    After Anna by Lisa Scottoline
    You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
    The Broken Road Triology (3 book series) by Richard Paul Evans
    Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
    Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand  
    Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson
    Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins  
    As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner 
    Lottery by Patricia Wood 
    The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 
    Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson  
    Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins  
    The Grip of It by Jac Jemc 
    The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth  
    The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames

    Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention by Jay Dicharry
    The Happy Runner by David Roche and Megan Roche 
    Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor
    Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr.
    Again to Carthage by John L. Parker, Jr.
    Racing the Rain by John Parker Jr.

    My 2019 reading list is here.  My 2018 books lists with brief descriptions can be found here, here, here, and here.  On 1/1/20 I finally joined Goodreads!

    Keep 2:45

    After the 2020 Olympic Trials marathon qualifying window closed, I made a comment on Facebook about why the women's B standard should stay 2:45 for 2024, and one of my friends told me I should write a letter to the USATF, so I am starting with a blog post!

    There are many reasons that I think the standard should be 2:45 for 2024, and only one of them is selfish.  Having a standard that's achievable for many non-professional runners is great for the sport.  Each woman (and man) who qualifies is part of a network, so the effects of one person qualifying are truly exponential.  I don't think anyone could argue that increased attention to running is only going to help our sport.  We may never be popular on the level of football or baseball, but we can increase the popularity of running, and more qualifiers is one way to do that.

    The effects of any one woman qualifying is going to have ripple effects.  Young girls may be encouraged to become active, youth cross-country runners may be inspired to dream bigger, other women will think "why not me too?", and non-runners who know her will learn more about marathoning.  Why wouldn't we want to have a big field of qualifiers to create these exponential effects?  In light of COVID-19, I think all of us can now really grasp ripple effects on a country's population!

    I agree that in celebrating Olympic hopefuls, we lift up our communities.  Any good news that gets publicity is a good thing!

    In a similar vein, in addition to keeping 2:45 as the women's B standard, how about loosening the men's B standard to 2:20-2:21 to get more male qualifiers in the field?  This Running Rogue podcast mentions this, although I promise I wrote this draft before I listened to it (great minds think alike, Running Rogue!).

    It's easy to suggest these things when I'm not the one who has to coordinate the logistics of a large Trials race, but since most marathons are much larger than the 700-some entrants in the 2020 Trials, it's clear there are great methods out there to coordinate things.  I'm sure the Boston Marathon, New York Marathon, Houston Marathon, and Chicago Marathon could offer some tips - and also Grandma's Marathon and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (those both ran like well-oiled machines when I ran them).

    For starters, as awesome as it was for the Atlanta Track Club to pay for everyone's expenses, the 2024 Trials can go back to paying expenses for A standard qualifiers only.  They could also limit personal bottle service on the course to the top 50 qualifiers of each gender.

    Allison Wade wrote a great piece on the topic here, and said it well on her Fast Women account below.

    The Kick also mentioned some reasons to keep the qualifiers coming in the future.

    Finally, I believe that no matter the time, there will be many qualifiers just under the standard.  50% of the 2020 qualifiers ran between 2:42:48 and 2:45:00.  These women had 2:45 to aim for.  If the standard is 2:42, I am sure that 50% of the qualifiers will run 2:40-2:42.  Whatever the time is, women will chase it and qualifying times will cluster just under it.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2020

    2:45:01 and Beyond: Shannon Miller Bain

    I met Shannon in Houston at the end of her amazing 6 marathons in 13 months journey!  All 6 of these marathons were fast too - including a 2:45:47 at Jacksonville Bank.  I really admire her tenacity and grit to fight for the qualifying time until the end.  I also admire her faith and never give up attitude.  She didn't quite make the Marathon Trials, but she's already giving it another go trying to qualify for the 10k at the Track and Field Trials - what a rock star!
    Name: Shannon Miller Bain
    Age: 35
    City/State: Charleston, SC
    Occupation: Group Fitness instructor, personal trainer, health coach

    Hobbies/interests outside of running:
    I love the beach, warm weather, animals, baking, and anything active and outdoors! 

    When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try?
    About December 2018 while recovering from anemia (super low numbers). It's always been a dream of mine to run in the marathon Olympic trials! 

    Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes.
    6 marathons in 1 year:

    December 15, 2018 - first rust buster in over 6 years in 2:54 (stomach sick night before race)

    6 weeks later in January 2019 - Miami Marathon - 2nd overall female in 2:54/3?? 

    Serious training, then Grandma's marathon June 2019 - 2:46 (felt sooo much energy left over afterwards) 

    October 13,2019 – got into Chicago marathon for charity draw and raised $$$ in order to race; got in last minute and had to start in corral A - 2:45:28 (according to my Garmin), 2:47 (official time)

    Withdrew from CIM 2019 unfortunately - let my fear of flying be bigger than my faith to qualify.  Got into Houston later that week! 

    Then also decided to race Jacksonville Ameris Bank Marathon on January 5, 2020 - 2:45:47 (stopped during race to pop a squat due to stomach upset, and that cost me my qualification time....)

    Decided to try 2 weeks later a final attempt at Houston 2020....2:48....
    What did you gain from this journey?
    A LOT...  To believe in myself, never give up, and keep trying! 

    What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit?
    That in less than a year I could've qualified for the Olympic Trials with the help of my coaches, ambassador groups, and my God given talents. That God is awesome!

    Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit?
    I wish I would've flown to CIM to race. I would've tried harder to not let "life incidents" hold me back from chasing my dreams. I would have run more miles. I cross-trained A TON! 

    What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits?
    To always BELIEVE in the bigger power above, believe in yourself, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and never give up! 

    Tell us something unique about yourself.
    I competed in the violin before I started to run. I have asthma. 

    What’s next for you?
    Not sure about any races but I'm trying to qualify in the 10k for the 2020 Olympic trials for track & field. 

    Anything else you want to share?
    Thank you for inviting me to tell a bit about my story. Always believe and keep trying....

    You can connect with Shannon at:
    @smillerm67 Instagram 
    Shannon Miller Bain -FB
    Twitter @smillerm67 Shannon Miller

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020

    2:45:01 and Beyond: Bean Wrenn

    The series continues!  I'm glad Bean decided to tell her story because it's a great one - although I do think she is the only person in the world who loves pool running, haha!  Bean is running her best at age 46, which I think is inspiring to all of us.  She has fought her way back after having surgery for Haugland's Deformity (thanks to Jake Riley and Galen Rupp she won't have to explain what this is as often now!), and comments that "failure can lead to great things".  She is a great example for us to all to be appreciative of our running and that we get to do this every day.  She also took the time to write me an encouraging note about my marathon and injury journeys when she sent me her story, which speaks to what a thoughtful person she is.  Watch for her next in the first-ever September Boston Marathon!
    Name:  Bean Wrenn 
    Age:  46
    City/State:  Boulder, CO
    Occupation:  Mom of 3 teenagers, Dog walker 

    Hobbies/interests outside of running:
    Painting, reading, hiking, pool running, camping, hanging with my kids

    When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try? 
    I first thought about it at the 2008 Boston Marathon. My kids were 5, 4 and 1 year old at the time and I knew I was done having children.  I watched a friend compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials race, which was super fun to watch.  I think the B standard qualifying time then was 2:47. I ran the Boston Marathon two days later. I think at the time I was aiming for low 2:50s. It was a warm day and I ended up having one of those days where it just felt hard the whole way and ran 2:55 - but I was happy with it and thought I could go a bit faster.

    Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes. 
    I don’t have any crazy stories about chasing some OTQ dreams over and over and over again.  I only tried twice in the 3 cycles.   

    Attempt #1 was at one of the last races to qualify (CIM) at the end of 2011. The OTQ was 2:46. In the fall of 2009 I placed 2nd at the Columbus Marathon on a very chilly, windy day in 2:48:34.  The qualifying window had not opened yet so I thought I would try in 2010.  No such luck. I raced a half marathon in February with a sore foot in 1:19 (I found out after racing the half marathon that my right plantar facia was torn), then I was out most of that year and a lot of the following spring with very little running. 

    I had 6-8 weeks of decent training that summer and then same thing happened to my left plantar. You can’t make this stuff up.  That one would not heal, and I finally had PRP injected in my foot at the end of the year and had to spend time in a boot.  I started running again just a little bit in the spring of 2011 then had an injury in my toe joint.  I finally started to train again in August of 2011 and had until the end of the year. I did a bunch of local races trying to race my way back into shape.  

    CIM 2011 was my one and only attempt for 2012.  I didn’t feel great that day and I remember shutting it down halfway knowing I didn’t have it or maybe just doubting myself.  I ended up running 2:48:07 but wasn’t too disappointed.  After all those injuries and downtime, I was just super appreciative of being able to run and finish with no foot pain.

    For the 2016 trials they dropped the qualifying time to 2:43. I decided it was just a little too fast for me.  I was in my early 40s and thought it would take a lot of discipline and focus to go for it.  I was totally fine letting that goal go and just worked on improving my times as a masters runner.  In 2014, I ran a 2:51, 2:54 and a 2:47 and was enjoying training and racing with the Boulder Track Club (BTC).  

    In 2015, I ran 2:50 at Boston in crappy conditions and 2:46 at Chicago while nursing a very sore hip.  I finished off the year trying to ignore my hip issue, stupidly running at CIM, where I ended up walking some of last 10k with major hip pain.  I crawled in with a 2:55. After the race I had an MRI and found out I had torn my TFL at my Iliac crest.  

    The week after CIM they announced they eased up on the OTQ time to 2:45. Houston was still left and I had a bib, but my hip pain was too much.  I was majorly bummed with this news.  I would have certainly spent the previous two years of healthy running chasing that time but had no idea that they could ease up on the qualifying time.  Major lesson learned.

    I thought for sure they would lower the OTQ back down into the low 2:40s for the 2020 trials.  In the summer of 2016, I developed a boney bump on my right heel.  I spent 2 years running (not very well) on it until I couldn’t take the pain any longer and decided to have surgery in April 2018. It is called Haglund’s Deformity. Thanks to Galen Rupp and Jake Riley, I don’t have to explain this surgery as much.  They talked about it during the Olympic Trials coverage.  It is really tough to come back from.  

    After surgery I was in a cast and on crutches followed by 4 weeks in a boot.  I slowly increased my running in late July and August after surgery in hopes of running CIM 2018.  It was a long shot as my foot was so sore; every run hurt and I couldn’t run fast.  I was out on a trail run in early September and stepped on a small rock.   My foot had terrible range of motion and couldn’t absorb the wobble and I felt a crack; I broke my 5th metatarsal and was back in a boot for 6 weeks with lots of pool running until the end of the year.  

    I started to run again in December on the Altar G treadmill and slowly worked up to 5 miles by March.  By this time I just wanted to be able to just run outside with no pain.  I transitioned to running outside but ran by myself alternating walking with jogging. I joined up with my BTC friends on runs in April but struggled to keep up and it felt very challenging.  My foot was still extremely sore, and anything under 8:00/mile pace felt hard.  My surgery foot was so weak I couldn’t really go up on my toes.   I did a ton of PT to try and strengthen my calf.  At the time, I couldn’t jump up and down on one foot.  It had been one year since my surgery.  I thought I would never be able to race well again.  

    Instead of focusing on running miles which always hurt, I focused more on strength training.  Our group had been strength training with Nell Rojas (she just placed 9th female at the trials and her secret weapon is her strength training).  I went 2-3 times a week.  Ever so slowly my foot and leg strength got better, although the progress was really slow.  The OTQ was not on my radar.  I had an entry for CIM that I had deferred from 2018 but thought there was no way I’d be able to race it well or even make it to the starting line.  My foot was still so sore running.  But my BTC teammates were all racing CIM so I thought I would at least try and if I could finish it and break 3 hours that would be a huge success.  

    It was discouraging but I kept at it.  I still ran with my BTC friends for regular runs but didn’t go back to doing workouts with the group for fear of over doing things and getting injured. I decided to train myself and see what happened.  I didn’t do any crazy marathon workouts.  I raced eight 10k races getting my time down from a 41:36 in May to a 37:34 in November, chipping a little away each race.  

    In October I was still just hoping to be able to run under 3 hours at CIM, but thought maybe I could go under 2:55? People would ask if I was going for the qualifier and it just wasn’t a realistic goal for me.  I really wasn’t doing the training for it.  My mindset changed a little about two weeks before CIM.  I was in Florida and decided last minute to run a half marathon as a training run. I ran 1:21:39 in the heat and humidity and it felt pretty comfortable.  I held back some because I was two weeks out from CIM and was using it as a workout.  Then 4 days later I raced a Turkey Trot 5k and ran 17:56 and felt really good. After those two races I thought maybe I could aim for a sub 2:50 at CIM.

    I still wasn’t sure about the OTQ.  My foot pain was manageable but was always there.  Race day arrived and I thought I am 46 years old and this is probably it.  They will for sure lower the B standard the next time around.  I could play it safe, not go for it and maybe run really well but would always wonder what if. Other option was to just go for it and if it doesn’t work out then at least I tried.  Worst thing that could happen is that I crash and burn at the end but still run a decent time.  

    I did not have a spot in the elite field because my faster marathon times were too old, so I started CIM about 20 seconds back from the start.  They only use chip time to get the qualifier so I thought, well I have to actually run about a 2:44:40.  The gun went off and I thought I will just go by feel and see how it goes.  I actually felt pretty good though about 35k. I was at a 6:16 pace.  Then I bonked. Hard.  I didn’t have elite bottles and did a pretty bad job hydrating and I didn’t take in any gels after my second one around mile 15.  I felt like I was crawling at the end.  I couldn’t even sprint in when I saw the finish. I came away with a 2:47:43. I was super grateful to have started and so happy to finish.  I reminded myself how far I had come and that I didn’t spend months and months with the OTQ as my goal. I had only thought about it for the last 2 weeks.  To be able to get back close to where I was 4 years before at the age of 46 was something to appreciate. 
    What did you gain from this journey?   
    My first attempt in 2011 taught me that you have to believe in what your trying to achieve.  In hindsight I was pretty fit for the race but all I thought about was that I had so little time to get into shape.  I think I felt like I didn’t really belong in that 2:46 group and I just tossed in the towel.  It is one thing if everyone is telling you that you are capable of it, but you have to buy into that and really believe you can do it.

    For 2016 I just wrote myself off. I said I’m not good enough to run 2:43. I may have been right about that.  However, I think if I would have at least tried and failed, it may have pushed me enough to run under 2:45 which is what they ended up changing the qualifying time to.   Don’t be afraid to go for it - you never know what will come of it.

    For 2020, I just went for it.  You don’t know unless you try.  It was never really in my plans while training.  I didn't get the OTQ, but it left me thinking that I can still PR into my late 40s and that’s something to bring forward with me into 2020.  Failing can lead to great things.  Maybe not exactly what you wanted but I think you can find success in failure.     

    What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit? 
    I can’t sit here and say I put my heart and soul into trying to get the OTQ.  The most recent attempt just evolved into that.  I hear these stories of these women and they really put everything into it.  That takes a lot of discipline and persistence.  That’s impressive.  I did however work really hard to heal and get better. I guess I am proud of coming back from a very frustrating and long injury.  My foot still hurts 2 years out from surgery, but I have adjusted and made the most of it.

    Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit?  
    No.  I fear that runners like myself might view the trials time with a pass/fail approach.  You’re awesome if you got the time and you’re a failure if you didn’t.  You’re super fast if you ran it and not so much if you didn’t.  If you ran 2:44:59 you’re amazing but a 2:45:01 you failed.  Don’t let some arbitrary number define how you feel about your running.  Take pride in your performances and appreciate your gains.  If you’re healthy and ready to race, then go for it.  You never know if it will be your last chance for a long while.  
    What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits? 
    I hope I can inspire women in their mid-40s and beyond to stick with it and to aim really high.  If you’re facing an injury that you think has ended your running as you know it, stay with it.  Things can turn around.  It takes patience, especially as we age.  Take it one day at a time and you never know what might come of it.  Tiny improvements add up over time.  When you do get past your low points and are back at it, take things in and really appreciate it. You never know how long things will last.  I remind myself all the time that I can run again and I have a whole new appreciation for it.  

    Tell us something unique about yourself. 
    I have pool run for over 12 years even when I am not injured and swear by it.  It is my cross training when I am injured.  Here in Colorado we pool run outside all winter long in the freezing cold weather. I wear a winter hat to keep my head warm.  The cold days when it’s snowing are the best when the pool is quiet, the snow muffles the sounds and you can hardly see in front of you because of the steam rising from the surface. It can be so peaceful in there.  I have a friend who I always pool run with and we spend hours chit chatting in there just as we would running on land.  I would probably be shocked if I added up the hours I have spent aqua jogging.  My longest pool run was 3 hours (yes, I did hop out to take a pee break). 

    Also, my son Gavin was born on my 29th birthday.  I love sharing my birthday with him.  Gavin - not so much.  We have different ideas of fun things to do on our birthday and argue over where we are going to eat. : )

    What’s next for you?
    Due to my foot injury and surgery, I didn’t have a marathon time to get into Boston 2020.  My CIM 2019 time got me into the Masters Elite field so I will hopefully be racing in September.   It’s been 4 years since I last raced Boston.  It is always a fun experience, so I am looking forward to doing that again.  I ran it in 2015 and had a decent race in crappy weather but 2016 went pretty badly so I hope to redeem myself this year.  I lived in Boston (in the North End) while my husband went to graduate school at BU and my oldest son Gavin who is turning 18 soon was born there.  I love going back to visit!

    Friday, March 13, 2020

    2:45:01 and Beyond: My NoTQ tale

    I decided to wrap up this series by sharing my story in the same format.

    Name:  Sara Ibbetson
    Age:  39
    City/State:  Ozark, Missouri
    Occupation:  BCBA Clinical Director

    Hobbies outside of running:
    Reading, traveling, writing, yoga, anything outdoors, family time, learning (especially about ABA, Christianity, and athletic performance), gardening (edibles, not landscaping)
    When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try?
    I first considered aiming for an OTQ after I ran a half marathon PR of 1:22:36 in November 2016, which came 2 weeks after my second sub-3:00 marathon and 6 weeks after my first sub-3:00.  Why not try to run 1 second/mile faster for twice as far when a little more rested, right?  I became very focused on attempting the standard after running 2:49:20 in the 2017 Mesa-Phoenix Marathon.

    I love marathon training and would have run many marathons regardless of if I'd have chased the OTQ or not, but it being a realistic yet very challenging goal really appealed to me.  I'd watched the 2016 Trials, and at that time the qualifying time seemed way out my league (my PR at the time was 3:01 and I thought 2:59:59 would be my max), but as I inched closer I thought more and more about what a cool achievement it would be to line up with America's fastest female marathoners.  I had no idea how much the 2020 OTQ would explode, but as it did and I connected with more and more women chasing it, that made the goal increasingly exciting.

    I wrote down my thoughts when I first set the goal here, and it's an understatement to say that at that time I had no idea what a twisty turvy journey God had in store for me!

    Tell us about the races you attempted the OTQ at and the outcomes.
    CIM 2017 was my first OTQ attempt.  In spring 2017 I scheduled CIM to be an attempt after the qualifying window opened that fall, but based on my training and shorter race times I didn't think I was quite ready.  I went into the race confident I could run it between 6:20-6:25 pace, but about 10 miles in I ended up dropping to 6:15 pace and going for it, sure that race day magic was going to get me there.  I blew up in the final 4 miles, plus I had a spat of vertigo, and finished in 2:47:14, which was a PR on an OTQ "legal" course and a huge improvement from my 2:49:20 at Phoenix (a course that definitely requires an *, with about 900 ft of elevation drop).  I was pretty crushed by not netting the standard, though, so I did not appreciate the PR.

    Since I'd had great experiences running two marathons off of one training cycle before, and since patience is not my strong suit, I went after it again 6 weeks later at Houston 2018.  Since I'd had a health issue before and during CIM, I thought if I was over that I could get the time, and also that perhaps I'd fare better in flat Houston than at rolling CIM, but I was completely out of gas by mile 16 and did a nice regression run from there to finish in 2:54:06.  I learned that while I can generally do two marathons close together well, I cannot when there is a power-packed vacation and an extremely busy holiday season between them.

    The next marathon I ran was Grandma's 2018, but I didn't attempt to OTQ there; I experienced some health struggles starting after Houston and didn't start feeling like myself again until about a month before Grandma's, and one month of solid training does not make for a PR marathon!  I ended up running 2:49:08, and I was ecstatic with that based on the way my build-up had gone - I was far happier with this race than I'd been with CIM 7 months before.

    I then suffered a severe peroneal tendon strain while training for CIM 2018, and after about 10 weeks off I spent a few months running only easy mileage.  Three weeks before the 2019 Chisholm Trail Marathon, I decided that if I could run 22 miles in training that day I'd run the marathon (maybe don't copy my reasoning here!).  I finished the 22 miler, did 2 workouts before race day, and finished Chisholm Trail in 2:57:18, which I was pumped with given the circumstances!  Like Grandma's 2018, this was not a race I tried to OTQ in, but it's part of the story.

    After Chisholm Trail I felt confident enough to put in a real, albeit abbreviated, training cycle for Grandma's 2019.  I felt like I was in shape to run about 6:20 pace, but no one tries to run a 2:46 so I went for the standard.  I think I paced brilliantly there, and was right where I wanted to be through about mile 21, but then the tank was empty.  I really struggled in the final couple of miles, and finished in 2:47:44.  I was glad I tried there, even though I wasn't strong enough to hold on.

    Next was Indy Monumental 2019.  My training for this race went seamlessly.  It was by far the best build-up I'd ever had; during it I ran a PR half in 74* with a dew point of 72*, a PR 5K without any rest and mostly running solo (if you know how terrible I am at 5Ks, that was really saying something), and workouts I could have never dreamed of hitting before.  This was the first marathon I went into feeling very confident I could run 6:10-6:15 pace.  Mother Nature was not easy on me and after battling a powerful headwind for most of the second half of the race I slowed in the final 5K and came in at 2:46:08.  It was again a bittersweet PR, but afterward I knew without a doubt that with good weather and the faster CIM course, I could do it.

    So I moved forward with a quick turn-around for CIM 2019 but then I lost my brother a few days before the race so did not go.  At that point, I was done.  At the urging of my husband and dad, and because I go rogue without a training schedule (especially when I'm stressed/upset), I had my coach train me as if I was going to run Houston, but I didn't actually think I'd run it until a couple of weeks before (I ran some crazy long workout and then said, "it'd be crazy not to try Houston), although then I decided not to again before I decided I would...

    Finally, Houston 2020 I came down with bronchitis the day before the race.  We were already in Houston so I tried denial and ran with the OTQ pace group anyway (spoiler: denial does not negate wheezing).  I kept thinking I'd drop out after I fell off the group, but I had no idea how hard it is to actually drop out of a race, and I finished in 2:58:45.  I was so sick that running a sub-3:00 was a pleasant surprise, but it was really upsetting to not have a "try again" option after this one.
    What did you gain from this journey?
    I have gained countless valuable connections to amazing women in the running community.  I have gained a new appreciation and compassion for runners who work extremely hard yet don't quite make a goal - whether that is missing the OTQ, a BQ, an Olympic team, a sub-4:00 marathon, etc.

    I have also really grown as a person from this pursuit.  I have gained perspective. When I began this journey I had no idea how non-linear it would be, and I also thought I'd be devastated if I didn't OTQ. While not making it was disappointing, it also seems trivial in light of bigger things in life.  I learned to give myself a little more grace than I usually do as a Type A perfectionist.

    I gained an awareness that I should always be appreciative of health, daily running, solid races, and PRs.  None of these things should be taken for granted.  I learned a lot about running and what my body responds best to.  I learned more about balance.

    Finally, I gained even more love for the sport and running community - and that's saying a lot because I sure already loved both!

    What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit?
    I never gave up.  I will never look back and wonder, "What if?" because I fought with everything I had to hit the qualifying time.  While I am proud that I ran five marathons in the 2:40s, even if I'd never come close to the qualifying time, I would be just as proud that I worked for it with determination.  So many things surrounding any given marathon are out of our control, but I did the best I could with the circumstances I was given each time and never stopped trying, even when life was hard.
    Do you have any regrets or things you wish you'd done differently in your OTQ pursuit?
    I don't have regrets, but I do wish I'd have appreciated my marathon PRs more when I ran them, particularly at CIM 2017 and Indy 2019.  Although I celebrated running 26.2 the fastest I ever had on each occasion, in my mind nothing over 2:45:00 was going to be good enough.  There is something about not hitting the time that made all of us women who missed feel like we were not good enough.

    I vacillate on whether or not I wish I hadn't run Houston 2020.  By doing it, I can truly say I never gave up, and I met so many phenomenal women through the experience that it is difficult to say that I wish I hadn't run it - but I became the most sick I have ever been afterward (due to running it with bronchitis), and now I'm injured, probably due to trying to extend my peak for CIM 2019 and after being unable to run it extending it again for Houston 2020, then running Houston sick.  In hindsight, I realize that running 4 all-out marathons in 10 months (8 within 23 months, 10 in 28 months) was probably too much for my body, but due to the OTQ window I just had to try.

    What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits.
    I'd do it all again.

    Chase your dreams, no matter how far-fetched they seem.  Even if you don't accomplish your goals, you'll be glad you gave it your all and you'll certainly gain a great deal from the journey.

    God placed this dream in my heart for a reason, and although I'll never be able to say I was a 2020 Olympic Trials Qualifier, I know there was a purpose for it all.

    Tell us something unique about yourself.
    I grew up living right next to a small airport and my family owned a 4-seater plane throughout my childhood.  I didn't realize how wild it was that we would walk through our backyard, get in our plane, and fly on vacations with my dad piloting until I was an adult!

    I don't watch television, except for when major running events air and when I cross-train (which only occurs when I'm injured).

    What's next for you?
    Currently I'm injured, so my next steps are getting an MRI to get a definitive diagnosis, getting a treatment plan in place, and then rehabbing the heck out of whatever is wrong with my hip.  I'll be back running as much as I can as soon as I can, and as long as I am healthy I will always run marathons because I love them.  With my current injury uncertainty, I'm not sure on my next performance goals, but if things fall into place for me to chase the 2024 Trials qualifier, you bet I will!