Taking a run with a good friend...something I hope to do all my life.

“You can’t indulge self doubt. You just have to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.”

This little nugget I found this morning while scouring old posts on my friend Beth’s awesome running blog. She’s my inspiration today (and lots of other times) as I wrestle with not being able to comfortably run more than 5 miles. I know, I know, 5 is 5. This is something. But I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t tear me up inside some given that Boston is just two months away. At this point in my training I should be logging long runs of 16, 17, 19 miles. It’s discouraging, to say the least. Knowing Beth went through something similar exactly a year ago as she looked toward Boston ’11 — she ultimately ran the race — I spent some time re-visiting her posts about her hip fracture and altered training plan leading up to her Boston Marathon experience. Her posts are always honest … and funny. It’s an excellent combo.

So I’m feeling a little better, re-reading what she went through and thinking a lot about self-doubt and not wanting it to take over. I am determined to keep at this training and look forward to stepping up to the start of this year’s Boston Marathon. But as I was reminded by Lisa this morning, adjusting my expectations is the wisest thing I can do for myself at this point. Lisa doesn’t tell me what I want to hear — she tells me what I need to hear. I may run this race at a much slower pace. I may even walk parts of it. But not doing it? Not finishing it? Not an option for me.

As Lisa puts it: “It’s all about preparing yourself mentally to have a good experience.” She also said this: “You have to remember you’re going to be a runner for a long time. You’re going to be healthy and strong when you’re 50 and 60…”

And how’s this for serendipity? (I love that word) Not long after talking with Lisa this morning, during which she reminded me of my desire to be a lifelong runner — Boston is great and wonderful but it is not the end-all, be-all — I had a phone conversation with another runner, a woman I hope to get to know better. I’m writing an article for a local business publication about a new running assessment program and Holly has signed on. While talking about the gait analysis and other assessments she’s doing through the program, she shared that her hope in doing all of this is to be proactive. “My goal is just to be able to run pain free as long as I can, for life.” Isn’t that great? And isn’t that really what we all hope to achieve?

So, slow and steady is how it’ll be for me awhile. My plan is to continue these 5-mile runs and see how I feel. Then, once I am feeling stronger, I will attempt longer distances, hopefully getting to the point where I can log at least a few double-digit runs before race day.

And I’m taking care of my body in other ways. I’ve gotten a lot better lately about actually getting myself into bed and asleep before 10 p.m. This is huge for me. I’m also drinking way more water. Stretching and icing are built into my daily routine. I’ve also had two sessions of Active Release Technique therapy with Dan Zemper, an accomplished lifelong runner, former high school cross-country coach who came highly recommended to me as “the guy who knows how to take care of your sports injury” by numerous people. I do believe that having seen him twice in the past week — I’ll see him again this coming week for a third and possibly final session — has helped me continue to run.

The best way to describe what he does — in my unscientific, non-medical way — is deep tissue massage. But it’s incredibly focused. For an hour, I’m on my stomach, my back, my side, as Dan works the muscles of my left leg. There is a specific method and physiology to what he does, and here’s how he explains it:

Scar tissue may form within the muscle itself. Very often it forms within the fascia surrounding the muscles that have been injured. Some is fine, too much is the problem. Once there is too much scar tissue, it tends to bond more and more tissues together. This leads to less movement and more problems. The hypoxia actually perpetuates the growth of scar tissue, so that over time a minor issue gradually becomes worse. Because of all of this, breaking up this excess scar tissue is the primary focus of what I do … Using particular methods of tensioning the muscle as it is moved through it’s range of motion is the basic idea. As the muscle is tensioned, it is also lengthened. This releases much of the “pollution” or hypoxia in the tissues, immediately allowing for better function. Scar tissue is not as flexible as muscle tissue, and whether it happens immediately, or after several sessions, the excess scar tissue adhesions are broken apart. Once the muscles are “released,” following the prescribed stretching program will keep the muscles moving freely past each other. The body then recognizes the damaged scar tissue as waste material, and clears it from the body. This then leaves only the amount necessary to take care of the original injury.

The first session went well, but it was the second session that left me having more hope about my injury, which seems to be a combination of IT Band and hamstring issues. My muscles had loosened up by the second session, Dan shared with me, and as a result he was able to really get at the areas (side and back of my left knee) that have been the most tender and sore during and after runs.

Dan doesn’t promise I’ll ultimately be pain-free, but his success rate of 90 to 95 percent is good enough for me. I also like that he’s a runner, a dedicated athlete who has experienced his share of injuries, and can understand the physical and emotional frustrations that come with having to suddenly change plans in your training.

Keeping the faith.

Also, there’s this line that stood out in my morning reading … Beth shared this, in her Boston Marathon recap (if you read her blog, you likely get the underwear reference. If not, you’ll want to head over and check her out. She’s witty and fun and an all-around good person):

“Don’t let nothing stop you! And if you have to throw away your underwear at mile 22, for god’s sake, lock the door.”

Staying the course. Looking forward to a Sunday morning run with a dear friend I haven’t seen in awhile. Can’t wait to catch up over the (nice and easy) miles.

Here’s to happy and pain-free running for each of us … for a lifetime.

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