Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paradigm Shift

So, it's pretty much official - I am not running the 2013 London Marathon. As of this morning's torture session chiropractor appointment, with my still sore hip, the new diagnosis is bursitis with a side order of really crappy core strength and underlying mechanical problems, all of which combined comes down to one thing: I can not, at age 40, train for a marathon the way I did at 30.

This should come as no surprise to anyone (least of all me). As someone who has been active and athletic in some sort of organized (sometimes even obsessive) fashion since the age of 8, my self-image of my physical abilities has been pretty stable over the years. In my own mind's eye, I am a fit, athletic (if by no means fast at any sport aside from rowing), capable person. But if I am perfectly honest with myself, that is not what I am anymore. I am someone who used to train consistently, who used to commit to doing something active on a regular schedule, and that hasn't been the case since 2005, really.

There have certainly been times when I've entered a race or an event and trained consistently for it, but that training hasn't continued past the finish line. What this failed attempt to train for the marathon has made abundantly clear is that, if I want to be able to run next year, and I mean really run - not just finish - I need to spend the next 13 months addressing my mechanical issues (hello Pilates!) and being consistently active. The answer is to start training now for an event that's more then a year away. And that is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. Hopefully, the habit of consistence will carry me through the post 2014-marathon recovery period and I'll keep going. This isn't about weight, or body image, or any of that crap. This is about the realization, at 40, that if I don't get a handle on this now, the able-bodiedness that I take for granted could slip away without my even realizing its happening.

So, tomorrow I'm going to swim. And next week I'll start riding again. When my hip is pain-free and the bursitis is gone, I'll start back with the running. And we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Running out of time

My life has become mostly centered around running these days. In a mere six and a half weeks, I am supposed to be running the London Marathon. So that means running (ideally) five days a week.

However, I am running into (pun intended!) the reality of being 40, and it hurts. I've always been athletic - I learned to ski as a toddler, took ballet classes for seven years before coming to grips with the reality that being 5'9" and 150 lbs at age 14 was never going to coincide with a dramatic ballet career, then discovered crew and found my dream sport.

I was a serious competitive rower for nigh on 15 years - through high school and college and graduate school. Then I upped sticks and moved to the land of no water (aka Arizona) and found a new sport: triathlon. No one would ever have confused me with a fast triathlete (that 150 lbs was more like 170 at that point), but I was a strong cyclist, and started to swim at the ripe old age of 25, and got to the point where running wasn't all bad. Then we moved to Houston, and its fabulously enthusiastic triathlon community. I entered a bunch of races, and in a moment of insanity entered the 2003 Marine Corps Marathon with a group of my rowing buddies from graduate school. Even more insane, we got places, and so I really had to get into the running thing. I ran the marathon that October, after an up-and-down training schedule that included a second degree ankle sprain in July (aka not ideal training). And I finished it, in 4:54. I've done half-Ironmans, 5K swims, 112 mile bike rides in less time then my marathon, and through it all managed to stay relatively injury free (excepting a few truly spectacular bike crashes in triathlons, but we won't talk about those...) (Austin Fire Dept - you're the best!)

My stated goal this time around was to aim for 4:30 - I'm pretty positive that I will never be a fast runner, or even a quick runner. But I want to go faster this time around then the last time. However, I am finding that training for a marathon is a) very different when you're 40 then when you're 30 (damn mortality!!!) and b) needs to start from a base of consistency in level of activity. Which, in all honesty, I didn't have. In the last two months, I've cycled through problems with my left hip, my right knee and, as of yesterday, my right hip, and I'm feeling a bit demoralized by the whole thing. It's a wee bit frustrating when I can go and run 18 miles one day (last Friday to be exact), but then have to quit 1.18 miles into an easy 5 miler (that would be yesterday).

Today I've been chiropracted and released and stretched and pulled and taped up. My hip still hurts, but my chiro seems to think that I should be able to keep training. This week is lower mileage overall, which should help, and it's not bursitis, which is a really, really, really good thing. But I'm finding myself more then a little bit nostalgic about past fitness. Hopefully my decrepit old carcass holds together for a little while longer...