Two weeks before the event I was on the gym floor finishing up my last workout, attempting to stretch and breathe through the pain I was feeling in my left ribcage. Across the room I saw a friend of mine doing an ab workout, finishing up her workout that was prepping her for her 100 mile race in just a few weeks—50k seemed like small potatoes compared to what she was going to face in Southern California. But that 50k was my big potatoes, I had quietly been preparing for months for this race. Afraid to tell too many people, I was afraid of feeling good during my training in case this happened. An injury.
She and I made eye contact through our headphones and I instantly frowned, she knew I was hurting. I shook my head and I more or less crawled across the floor to sit by her, I started crying. She kept stretching, but talked to me through her less than perfect downward dog, gave me confidence that, yes, I will run again. I had suspected that this was the end of the world and she assured me it was not.
Just under a week later I hadn’t run or even exercised at all. I had lunch plans with an acupuncturist that had been trying to help me all along this painful journey. Lunch turned into a treatment which turned into picking up his friend and helping at an event, watching said event getting what I’m calling a miracle massage at the venue, which turned into dinner which then turned into dancing until 2 am. The sequence of events that happened between 2pm and 2am are what started my road to recovery.
I woke up without pain.
I woke up for the first time in over two weeks able to stand without cringing. I breathed deep and felt…nothing. Sitting with a cup of coffee I moved around, twisted, turned and continued to breathe noticing the lack of pain in my ribcage. As I dressed for work I didn’t cry out when picking something up. While helping customers I didn’t feel the need to apologize for my crankiness, my sudden gasping while laughing because air exiting my lungs was painful the day before and wasn’t that day. By 3pm I was dreaming of running. By 7pm I was tired from work but the thought of lacing up my running shoes lingered. My shoes had been ignored for so many days, they were in need of some attention.
I had disappeared from my normal life while I was hurting. I went to work, ate, came home from work—and most nights took some sort of pm medicine to sleep. I literally disappeared down a hole of depression that fed on ice cream, chocolate chips and Hulu. But through out this I would go to bed or wake with a text from fellow female ultra marathoners. How’s it feeling? What’s going on today? Anything I can do? My depression was deep, but their support lifted me. A co-worker related, she hadn’t been able to do what she’s wanted to do for sometime because of a chronic foot/ankle issue, another friend felt bad—we’d signed up together and she was ready, we wallowed over beers or a bottle of wine together.
Home I sat and had dinner with my roommate whom had been through all of this with me. She frowned and hugged me when I was hurting the worst. By 9pm the day after I had danced my heart out, I remembered I needed to stretch and as I laid on the floor I felt the need to move faster. Outside, the 95 degrees had cooled to low 80s, it was still light out when I laced up my shoes for the first time in weeks—they smiled up at me. I left and I ran. I ran pain free. I cried when I got home, I was so happy, salt water fell down my face and I wasn’t sure which were tears and which were sweat. My roommate was just as thrilled, she could see a glimmer of me again.
The next week was a reconstructive week. I took it easy and the possibility of running 31 miles was still far from my thoughts. I still didn’t think it was going to happen. I had gotten another massage from an amazingly caring woman who greeted me with a hug and heard the pain in my voice over the phone before we had even met. Her hugs and healing hands helped more than she could know.
One hike early one morning built my confidence. Another woman, ultra marathon veteran, wouldn’t let me run. She said we’re hiking, moving the legs for a long time and that was enough. As we climbed we talked about our pasts, as we descended we talk about the race. When you get to the aide station you’ll want to asses you hunger…you have to drink…you need salt tabs…I can be your unofficial pacer this race. Her voice was positive. There were no ifs or maybes, she planned on this race happening for me.
Race week I ran a total of 9 miles. Actually it was 9 miles in the three weeks leading up to the race, 9 not painless miles but less painful. Friday I picked up my race t-shirt and that’s when I truly realized it was going to happen. All the support, all the energy, all the efforts in getting me healthy had paid off. This little family of supporters had been there for me. They had listened to me cry, given me hugs when I really needed them, drank beers when I needed those and most of all they didn’t give up when I had. Saturday morning came quickly after a restless night.
More on the race another time. This post is to THANK all the amazing people I had supporting me through those horrible few weeks. Never in my life have I truly felt lifted from positive energy, love and support. Never before have I known such a flow of energy coming from my Dad in Colorado, my friends and family in Michigan, my supportive team on the east coast and of course the amazing people right here in front of me.