Monday, October 17, 2011

Nike Women's Marathon: The Non-Race Report

Here I am in San Francisco for a conference that my company is hosting. It's 4:00am here and I have been up since 3:20. My body clock is extremely rigid and it's very hard to get it to adjust to another time zone. I'm able to stay up until about 9:00pm here, but regardless of when I fall asleep, I wake up super early.

Even though this conference is important for my work and I was looking forward to seeing the event come together, I was not looking forward to the trip as a whole. Before I left, I was feeling depressed about my running and the fact that I don't get to spend much time with my husband this month because we both have work travel (but at different times, of course!)

In my last post, I mentioned that I was struggling with the mental issues that contributed to my bonk at Milwaukee. I've decided that I need to address these issues not because I want a good marathon time, but because I want to be a more balanced person. I want to be more laid back, I want to take life one day at a time and I want to be less obsessive about my running. At the same time, I can't jump back into running because my hip has been bothering me-- I think it's bursitis. My dear friend Cristina suggested that I use this "break" from running as an opportunity to work on all of the above challenges.

View of the bay from a Duck Tour
I had a choice to make. I could either be miserable for this entire trip and let it affect my mood at the conference. Or I could really try and work on being positive and letting go of some of my anxiety about my hip and my fall racing schedule. I chose the latter.

I registered for the Nike Women's Marathon back in April because I knew I would be in San Francisco at the same time. The start line is actually just one block from my hotel. Even though Milwaukee Lakefront was my target race, I figured I would do Nike as a fun run or even a fun run-walk and really enjoy the scenery. After all, I was going to be here anyway so it was a perfect opportunity to participate.

With everything that went on with Milwaukee and my hip not feeling great, I decided I would just run the half instead of the full-- but still at a very easy pace. But last week, my coach strongly advised against me running at all. He told me not even to start the race because I would be rationalizing with myself about how it was okay to keep running. Once again I had a choice-- do I run the Nike Women's half marathon and then take off a few weeks from running and put my fall racing schedule in jeopardy. Or do I skip the marathon completely and focus on recovering my hip. Many people would have chosen to run Nike because it's such a cool race with amazing scenery and course entertainment. Not to mention the Tiffany necklace you get at the end and the finisher's shirt. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity because I don't see myself coming all the way out to San Francisco on my own just to run this race. I chose to focus on recovering my hip. Now and not later.

On Saturday, I searched the Craigslist postings and found someone who was willing to pay $150 for a bib (that was how much I actually paid for mine). I am generally against unauthorized bib selling, but I figured if I removed the timing device from the bib then it wouldn't be someone else running under my name. The buyer was fine with that and he just wanted to run for fun anyway. So with $150 cash in hand, it made it a little easier for me to not run the race. Plus, I knew I wouldn't be tempted to just get out there on Sunday morning and ignore my previous decision.

My friend Meredith ran the half marathon
What made it even more difficult was that my co-workers were all asking me if I was running in the race and I had to keep saying no and explaining my hip injury. Since none of them are runners, this responses resulted in a lot of "so the running is finally catching up with you" and "hips are the first thing to go". Not helpful.

So on Sunday morning, I got dressed in my bathing suit and headed out the door of the hotel to the pool next door. At this point, it was 6:45am and the race started at 7:00. There were 22,000 people running this race and the start line was so long that runners were even lined up in front of my hotel. I loved the "vibe". And it felt great to be enjoying the pre-race excitement without being nervous about the race. I heard the National Anthem and a few other announcements. And then I headed into the building next door with the pool. Even the guy at the front desk asked me why I was swimming and not doing the race!

As I swam (I think pool running might be aggravating the hip, so I am sticking to swimming) I had a bit of a revelation. I thought to myself that there are 22,000 people out there doing the race. But only one person swimming in this pool. Well, actually there was one other person-- but you get the point.

One of the reasons I love marathons is the challenge. But wasn't it actually MORE of a challenge to be swimming alone in a pool when there was a super exciting race going on outside? For me, yes. And if we want to speak just physically, swimming laps is not easy.  No, I definitely was not slacking off. No, I shouldn't think I failed because I couldn't run Nike. Yes, I am doing the best I can given my circumstances. Yes, it is more of a challenge to NOT run the race than to run it. Kinda backwards thinking, but given what I know about my personality, I have to realize that I actually am challenging myself by not running. It's just a different kind of challenge. One that I actually think I need right now.

Yes, I will lose a lot of the fitness I built up over the summer. I simply need to accept that and be okay with that. It's not the end of the world! We can't always be at peak fitness all the time.

I don't know when I will attempt to run again or even pool run. My hip has actually never hurt that much, but it's one of those things you can just "feel". I've already taken a full week off of land running so hopefully it shouldn't be too much longer. But once again, the uncertainty and the lack of control is something I need to learn to just accept. Right now I am focusing on the bigger picture of my attitude, so my actual fitness level is taking the back burner.

Since I do acknowledge that I am losing some fitness, this provides me with another opportunity to race without any expectations. Once my hip is fully recovered and I think I am ready to race at full effort, I will honestly have no idea what to expect, so I'll get to just run by feel without being a slave to the Garmin.

Even though I never want to compete in a triathlon, it's nice that my swimming is getting stronger. I swam a full mile yesterday (all freestyle) and only stopped twice for water. I'm not trying to be fast with my swimming, I just want to be able to swim for a decent amount of time to keep my cardiovascular fitness up and maybe get some upper body strength.

I'm actually headed out for a swim now, and then I will be focusing on the conference all day. Hopefully the event goes smoothly and I continue to be positive about this challenge to re-frame my mindset.


  1. Oooh friend. I'm glad you are swimming, I'm glad you are working on the things that are holding you back, but I know it's hard. Hope to see you back out there soon!

  2. oh my gosh, so much i want to say to you right now!
    i can totally relate to all you are saying about being more laid back and focusing on taking it one day at a time and living in the moment. with running, with life. i think what you did in SF this weekend was HARD and you are incredible for really REALLY listening to your heart and doing the BEST thing for your body, mind and spirit. it would have been way easier to shove all that deep down and run anyway, and you probably would have regretted it even if you ran well because you knew in your heart what the right decision was.
    how frustrating that must have been to hear those non-runner comments about "running catching up with you" etc -- that kind of thing DRIVES ME BATTY! i cannot stand when people tell me running "is so bad for you" - and usually these comments come from people who have zero experience with the sport. i try to brush it off but i have to admit sometimes it makes me incredibly irritated. i am not a confrontational person though - but wow sometimes i wish i was!
    anyway, good for you for taking a step back and listening to your body and giving it the rest it needs. you are SMART. hang in there - this is only going to make you stronger on so many levels!!!

  3. Stay strong, Elizabeth. I think you've made a good decision, and I know it's hard to stick to, but ultimately you will be a stronger person and a better runner for it. Good luck!

  4. Good for you, Chica! And I'm very glad you skipped the race.

  5. (((((HUGS)))), Elizabeth. Tell yourself over and over that this is temporary. You WILL get through this, and you WILL PR again. Please believe these things because I believe them about you.

  6. I know it must have been hard not to run the race, but it sounds like you made the smart decision.

    I'm glad you are swimming and taking on a new challenge. And maybe I can convince you to join me for an open water swim next summer!

  7. I can totally relate to all you are saying about being more laid back and focusing on taking it one day at a time and living in the moment...Treadmill India

  8. :) I can relate, it's a relief to see someone out there struggles with the same things I do, and I like that you're not afraid to post those feelings. I'm afraid to post my true feelings because people will continue to argue with me and tell me what I should feel.
    I think that was a great idea to sell your bib without the timing chip. I know how hard it had to have been, but, really for the best. Waiting until your hip is back 100% is a really good idea.
    I also hate the non-runner coworker remarks. When I say something hurts they tell me "Yeah, that's old age". Ugh. Really annoying.
    Anyway, I hope you are able to enjoy your trip!

  9. I think you probably had 100 people telling you that you were smart to skip the race and 3 people make stupid remarks. I hate that we (as I sometime do too) listen to the one negative remark in lieu of the positive ones.

    You could have run it and you may have been fine, but to chance a comeback for for a race may have haunted you all season.

    I look forward to seeing you at the fall races. Hot Chocolate 15k anyone??? :)

  10. It was smart to DNS the half. You will lose a little fitness, but not as much as you might expect. Focusing on healing 100% and getting your head in the right place for the next big race is a perfect winter plan :)

  11. You made the right decision. Taking care of that hip is much more important right now. You will get better and will be running again in no time.

  12. SO sorry you're going through this, Elizabeth. You have a fantastic attitude about it though, and as the others said, you'll be back to PRs and better running because of it. Just hang in there!