We always think that experience with something makes it easier. Knowing what's coming takes some of the fear away. Having the experience means you can do things differently the second time around, not make the same mistakes. Sometimes you even find that you don't write your blog as much because you don't need the accountability of others to do your marathon. You know what to expect, and you have no doubt that you'll finish this race; this time it's a matter of how much faster you'll be.
And then, sometimes, your plans get derailed in an instant. There may not be a second time around, at least not this March.
It happened innocently enough about a week and a half ago. I was doing a 14 mile training run on the Burke Gilman, starting at Marymoor Park and heading west. When I trained for my first marathon last year, this was my old reliable trail - nice and flat, good scenery, and the miles are marked along the way. I was making pretty good time too, under a 13 minute mile and approaching my turnaround at the 7 mile mark.
Cramp! Back of the calf, right around the area of the Achilles tendon. It wasn't a pain, more like a bad charley horse, but because of the location near the Achilles, I figured it best to stop immediately and walk. I never want to push it too much during training. Save that for race day.
As I turned around and started back toward Marymoor, I felt a little twinge with each step, and about a half mile down the path, I figured it might be best to find a place to call a cab and save myself another 6-1/2 miles of walking. Luckily for me, I had the good fortune of breaking down right near the beautiful Willows Lodge and hobbled over. They were great. Called me a cab and brought me a hot chocolate while I waited. Awesome people. Beautiful place.
When I got home, I spent the day with the leg elevated, icing the area and figuring that this was my reminder that a) I needed to buy salt pills to keep from cramping on the long runs, and b) USE YOUR FOAM ROLLER, LINDA! Got it. I decided to give the leg a rest from running all week, getting all my necessities and getting back out on Friday.
Friday was a gorgeous, but cold day. I had the day off because I was headed up to Suncadia for the weekend for what turned out to be a fabulously fun bachelorette party. Having the morning free, I decided to get back out for another long run. I turned on my Pandora to the 80's station and fired up my RunKeeper App. Ready to go, I took my first step and BAM! Cramp was back immediately. This time with a twinge of pain. I had done all the right things - stretched, rolled, hydrated - so now I was worried that this might be something else.
Yesterday I decided to go to the doctor, the same one who helped me with my stress fracture earlier in my training. I figured she'd tell me that I just needed to stretch more, wear better shoes, etc. But the instant I pointed out where the cramp/pain happened, she frowned and said, "Achilles." Uh oh.
Not to leave you all hanging, but I don't have the final diagnosis yet. It's either tendinitis of the Achilles tendon or it's a partial tear. I won't know until I have an ultrasound, and due to Snowmaggedon 2012 in Seattle, I wasn't able to get in to see the technician for the ultrasound until Friday of this week (and that's only if the roads clear up enough for me to drive there). After that, it's an appointment with a sports medicine doc. If it's tendinitis, there's a chance that resting it could get me back to training in time to get my long runs in for the marathon. If it's a partial tear, well...
When I realized yesterday that not being able to do this marathon is a very real possibility, it got me to thinking about how different this experience is turning out to be. The first time, the challenge was mostly mental and encompassed my fears of the unknown. Can I really do this? Will I finish last? Will my body give out in the middle of the run? Physically, I held up pretty well and once the race was done, all the fears washed away.
This time, it's not a fear of the unknown, but the fear of failing. What if I physically can't do this?
When I thought about this question, right away, a saying popped into my head. "You either roll with the punches or you get pummeled by them." I don't know if I heard that somewhere or if I just made it up. What that question showed me was that everything I've done this past year - the previous marathon, dealing with difficult personal challenges and most importantly, wellness coaching - has changed me for the better. Rather than believing I'll be a failure if I can't do this, my first reaction to the news was to look for the positives: I still get to spend 5 days in Napa with my friends; maybe I can volunteer at the race and help out; this means I can drink more wine! My first reaction was to roll with the punches, and that's a huge success and makes this marathon a success, even if I have to spend it on the sidelines.
I don't have the final verdict yet. That comes Friday. But whatever it is, I can roll with it.