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Rands on the Run

Marathon training with Mike and Julie Rand

Rand on the Run: From the starting line at Grandma's

Some quick pre-race thoughts from both of us:


The day is finally here. I'm writing this about an hour before the start of Grandma's Marathon, on the shuttle bus to the start line. We drove through rain to get here. There are threatening skies all around us, and we could very well get poured on during the 5 hours or so we expect to use to run 26.2 miles.

But I am ready. 
I'm not sure what the hardest part of this marathon process was. Starting at all, not sure if my body could handle it? Finding the time to do the training in the midst of a busy work and home life? Pounding out 20 miles at the gym because it was the only way to do it with the time and weather allotted?
It could be any of those things. But raceday? It's hard in its own way, but it's never the hardest part. This is the payoff, and even if it rains or we struggle at times, we need to appreciate this time. It's a privilege to be here. We are lucky to have bodies that can do this. 
I can't wait to finish, but I'm even more excited to start.

For the past 24 hours or so, the overarching emotion I've felt is trepidation. While I know I can finish a marathon--I've finished three before--this one has been the toughest to train for. Like childbirth, I've felt a whole range of emotions over this past 16 weeks (really, 14 1/2 months since Anabel was born). I've felt joy and pride, sure--and I've dipped into self-doubt and fear. 

This week, I experienced a challenging ethical dilemma in my professional life that forced me to utilize all the skills I've learned to manage my anxiety. I breathed, I meditated (I like doing the "body scan" exercise), and I've reframed my mental focus to the most important things in life: Michael, Anabel, family, health, love, friends, and so on. Oh, and I took my anti-anxiety meds and told myself to keep my chin up. 

The thing is, through all of life's challenges, the serious and the petty, it's important to maintain a level of self-acceptance that allows us to see the bigger picture. Michael has always been helpful in assisting me to see greater perspective in my times of trial--and to encourage me to maintain my self-confidence, to set boundaries, and not to apologize for them. As time has gone forward (this is our fourteenth year together, he recently reminded me), I have learned to apply these skills myself--and better: to help others to utilize them too. 

The greatest takeaway I have from this week, this training session, this year is this: we all know life happens--we can't prepare for what will be thrown at us, and we'll never have ALL the answers. AND while it's human to experience all the emotions, including doubt, that come along with life's curveballs, the singular most important thing is to stay true to your character. Integrity, transparency, honesty, and humility--these are the things that not only make us human, but which connect is to others with authenticity. 

While one may see this blog as simply a project or a silly diversion, I have taken my duty seriously--sharing my truth as I have experienced it while training for my first marathon post-partum alongside my newly diagnosed husband. 

We've been through a lot of negatives this past year, but today will be a positive: something we are achieving against all odds. My hope is that the authenticity of our story will, if nothing else, remind others that despite the drawbacks, life is worth celebrating. 

Leg pain flares up as marathon race day approaches; what to do?

A couple weeks ago, Michael and I were doing a short training run outside. As we neared home, my right calf started to cramp. I took a break to stretch, and shortly after that, my left shin started to ache. It wasn't the type of muscle ache associated with shin splints; rather, it was a deep bone ache. So many aches and pains seem to appear and just as quickly disappear that I just made note of the pain and kept going. 
After the run, the pain stopped -- there you go: just another fleeting sensation. 
But the next day we ran, the pain came back. So, I did what we runners do: ice, hot bath, Tiger Balm, Icy Hot, elevation, compression. 
Soon, our 20-mile training run loomed over us. We made a trip to the gym, due to rain. Oh-- well, not together, because you see the child care center at the gym has a two-hour maximum (which is fine for any NORMAL workout). So, I started, then a couple hours later, Michael joined with Anabel in tow. Once she was checked into the childcare center, he got to work as I was wrapping up mile 12. That was just about the time my shin pain started to amp up again. I powered through for two reasons: a) I felt the need to get it over with and b) because I knew I would have a rare three days in a row of rest (due to some creative reworking of our training schedule to accommodate a long driving trip to an out of state wedding.)
While on our trip, my shin hurt even while walking. I turned down a trip to the zoo with Michael and Anabel because I worried about being on my feet that long. That's when I started to worry. 
Days passed and the pain subsided. I did my regular training run on Tuesday following the trip and it went OK -- achy, but no serious pain. The next day, I ran 8 miles. That afternoon, it hurt to walk. When I held my hand over my shin and flexed then pointed my toes, I could feel a creaking sensation (and hear it too!) I've had tendonitis before in my arm, so I recognized it right away. The next day, I called the orthopedic clinic and took their earliest appointment: Monday morning. I had two training runs to do before then, including a half marathon. I hemmed and hawed, unable to decide whether I should rest or push myself to follow the training schedule.
I was doing everything I could to recover: ice, heat, soaking in the bathtub, massage, Tiger Balm, compression, elevation... I imagined showing up to the doctor's office claiming I had done everything I could, and then reporting that I had just run a half-marathon, further injuring myself. Wouldn't the response be, "You know didn't do EVERYthing you could to recover if you didn't rest!"  Rest was the obvious answer if I wanted to ensure I would be able to run the marathon. So I sat out both training runs and visited the orthopedic clinic on Monday. The doctor examined my leg and gave no diagnosis -- my rest (along with the other strategies to recover) alleviated all symptoms of tendonitis. However, after hearing my story, the doctor recommended the following plan. I was to:
- Continue running but modify the schedule to rest every other day. 
- Each training run should be between 5-7 miles maximum. 
- In order to maintain my cardio fitness, I should push my pace slightly faster. 
- Don't taper below 5 miles. 
The doctor explained his rationale by stating that elite runners don't need to do training runs beyond 13 miles because they utilize their pace to increase their fitness. As it is, I'm already in marathon shape-- what I'd be doing by pushing my pace is maintaining fitness. I didn't need to taper because by resting I had essentially already been tapering. 
Before I left, the doctor said, "Your symptoms could've been caused by tight-fitting shoes, but we can't know that for sure."
My stomach dropped. I changed shoes a couple months before and experienced blisters for the first time in years. I figured I just needed to break them in. This was my fifth or sixth pair of the same shoes (Nike Lunar Glides).  I know that pregnancy often causes feet to grow, and I may have had a slight change in shoe size (maybe 1/4 size), but generally, all my pre-pregnancy shoes still fit. But the new shoes are slightly different material than the previous iteration--and the toe isn't mesh material like the old pair; they're tighter. 
So I started running in my old shoes. No pain. I did the first training run Tuesday and breezed through it. Two days later I did it again. No pain. So I fudged the doctor's orders and did our scheduled 8 mile run last Saturday. No pain. 
I made the decision to go back to the training program. I'm tapering (for better or worse) and running back-to-back days. Today we run two miles.  (Adorable!) Then Saturday we will do the thing we set out to do four months ago, despite the challenges that come with having a small child and Michael's serious diagnosis: another marathon. 
In a way it's surreal. Then again, it's almost rote: we've done this before and we know what we've signed up for. But it's no small feat--and I sense that as the years pass, we'll look back on this time and marvel at the fact that we trained with an infant, through the trials of coming to terms with the uninvited houseguest that is M.S., and pushed through panic attacks and injury to make this happen. This feat, this victory.  
We're unsure whether we'll run another marathon after this. We'd like to have another child, so if and when I get pregnant, I'll be hanging up my running shoes for a while. As for Michael, we have hope that his health will continue to allow him to train to his heart's content. That said, we both plan to take some time away from running long distances for the remainder of the season. This marathon will be more than a race for us -- it will punctuate this trying period in our lives. In typical Rand fashion, our punctuation will be an exclamation point; see you at the finish line!