Marathon Training Week #17 – The heart of the matter
Taper madness continues. Along with a lot of outside stress…inner doubt…and really learning to rest this body. It’s not easy. I love my runs, especially my long runs. And having my mileage cut back hasn’t been easy for me. Neither has this entire week for that matter. Never before have I felt like the weight of the world was pushing on my shoulders. And, honestly, my week had gotten off to a good start. I was feeling good. I was making good decisions. I was training right.
But all it takes is one thing to throw everything out of whack. That’s what happened this week and it lead to stress…stress…stress eating…difficult runs…lots of crying…and more stress.
You see, on Monday morning, my roommate, Cathy, woke up and came out of her room looking panicked. She said she had a bad dream and now her heart was racing. Sort of like a panic attack. She went to the doctor that morning and was tentatively diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation (A Fib), which is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that causes poor blood flow to the body. During A fib, the heart’s upper two chambers beat chaotically and irregularly, out of coordination with the two lower chambers. She was admitted to Floyd Memorial Hospital…and that was her home until Thursday afternoon. And I was bouncing back and forth between being at the hospital with her, work, training, and working at home. There wasn’t any downtime this week. The good news is…her heart eased back into its natural rhythm on its own. She had been taken to have a procedure done on Wednesday morning that would involve giving her heart a shock to put it back into its natural rhythm, but her heart had already managed to do that. So, she’s on a blood thinner and a medication to slow down the beating of her heart. Yeah…it’s pretty scary stuff. But, I’m happy to report that she is recovering well, taking her medications, and getting back to normal.
All that being said…training seemed impossible…and impossibly hard this week. Somehow…somehow I managed to get it all in, visit the hospital twice a day, work at the office my normal hours, and work at home after leaving the hospital at the end of visiting hours (8:30 p.m.). This meant there were a lot of very late nights and early mornings. It was a hard week and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t sit down at the office and cry a few times at my desk…or cry in the car…or call my mom and cry…or just have a hard cry while out on my run. It didn’t always make me feel better…sometimes it made me feel worse…but…things happen for a reason. And I know if I can make it through this…I can make it through 26.2 miles in Chicago.
While the week started off great…it took a steep downturn starting Monday after my first run. Let’s take a look at how stress and restlessness turned me into one exhausted runner. I have never felt so physically and mentally wiped in my life. This week…felt harder than any other before it.
Sunday is my other day of rest, which I often use to take a second long run. This run is always shorter than the previous day’s run. And, I also had to meet with Donna, my sports nutritionist, that morning. So, I was out early and getting that run in. I had decided I would go either 8 or 9 miles, whatever I was feeling, really. I wasn’t feeling too good about things. Water retention was becoming an issue and each morning I was waking up feeling bloated and just…fat. Honestly. Turns out, after meeting with Donna, water retention happens during the taper. I should not panic over it or fuss over it. It’s natural. Whew. Because, honestly…I was starting to wonder what was happening. Apparently being very tired and sluggish is another side effect of the taper. Good to know these things. I am so blessed to have Donna seeing me through my training and giving me advice and information I wouldn’t have thought of before. Anyway, I ended up rocking out 9 miles Sunday morning before the sun came up. I kept the pace easy and slower, wanting to keep it challenging, but not push too much. And that’s what I did. I felt really good at the end of it. The run felt good. And in the end…that’s the important thing.
Monday started off great. I was scheduled to do 6 miles easy that morning. And when I set out in the dark, I did just that. I just pressed on. No need to stop for anything. Even on the hills I randomly chose to throw in there, my legs felt good and strong and I was having a very, very good start to the day. Came home to make breakfast and that was when the shit hit the fan. Cathy woke up with the heart arrhythmia, which stressed her out…which stressed me out…which just spiraled into one of the worst mornings ever. The gorgeous and nutritious breakfast I made (veggie egg white scramble with homemade breakfast potatoes and a caramelized apple and Greek yogurt parfait) was thrown away. A doctors appointment was scheduled…then a trip to the hospital…which lead to a hospital stay. I briefly ducked back into the office when Cathy’s mom came to relieve me at the hospital and grabbed some work to do from home that night. I came home and had to go run some of this pressure off. So, I laced up my Newtons and went for a soul cleansing 3 mile run. I didn’t want to be gone too long…just needed to do something to take the some stress off my shoulders and try to ease my own heart. The run was cleansing…but it was soon back to reality. I headed back to the hospital and stayed with Cathy, meeting her doctor, hearing what he was recommending (lots of tests in the morning!), and staying until the last possible moment I could. Cathy had never stayed overnight in the hospital…and as much as I didn’t want to leave her there because of how stressed out she was…I had to go home. Came home, ate a dinner consisting of Greek yogurt and red grapes, then worked until the wee hours of the night before calling it quits.
Tuesday is normally my cross-training day. But I changed it up. Tuesday, I decided I needed to do my speed work. It was the day I was dreading most…and that morning I just needed to feel my heart beat fast and hard and have my legs and body pushed beyond limits. I hadn’t slept well the night before, having only managed about 3 hours of sleep if that. But speed work was happening. I did a 1 mile warm up, then hit the paces with 8 x 800 meters with a 2 minute recovery, then a 1 mile cool down. 8 miles total. I needed that run to battle exhausting, battle my inner demons, battle my emotions. I needed it that morning. Not Wednesday…but Tuesday. Afterwards, I returned to the apartment and showered, then packed up some fruit to have for breakfast (banana, apple with almond butter, grapes), grabbed my lunch for work and headed out the door to the hospital to visit with Cathy. She had her EKG early in the morning. But that morning they were going to take her down for her Echocardiogram. I was there and talking to her (she hadn’t slept much either) until they arrived to take her down for her test. I told her I’d be back after work, and headed into the office. Back to the hospital I went, as promised, immediately following work. We were going to get test results that evening, but her doctor didn’t show up until very late, again. The news was that her tests were fine. There was no serious cause to her A fib. It was brought on by outside factors…stress, anxiety, etc. So, he gave her two treatment options…medicine…or the shock. To my surprise…she chose the shock to the heart. So…they went ahead and had that scheduled for Wednesday morning. It was after visiting hours when I left…got home…had another dinner of Greek yogurt and red grapes, and worked from home until late again.
Wednesday was another early morning. It was also cross-training day. I went to the gym right when it opened at 5 a.m. And I decided to change things up. I did my strength training first. Which felt good. Then, I hit up the Cardio Wave machine. I rocked that one out, despite an exhausted body and tired legs from speed work and late nights…and a not so good dinner the past two nights. After that, I got on the Arc Trainer for 45 minutes and rocked out an amazing 2.75 miles with challenging resistances, inclines, and intervals. I felt good at the end of the morning. I came home, quickly showered, packed up an apple and some grapes to eat at the office and headed back to the hospital. I met up with Cathy’s mom and sister in the elevator and the three of us went to Cathy’s room. She was asleep, but her mom woke her up. We chatted until they came to get her for her procedure. Lots of hugs and well wishes happened outside the cardio unit. I left after they took her back, having a good cry on the way to work. Good news came though when her mom texted and said Cathy was doing fine and that nothing had to be done…she naturally went back to her normal rhythm. It was a relief to be sure. I stopped by after work and stayed with her until her doctor came in. He told her she had to stay overnight, which bummed her out beyond belief, and he was putting her on a blood thinner and a medicine for her heart…but that she could go home on Thursday. I asked if it would be in the morning, and he said it would. So…I left and went to get some work done, once again making a late dinner out of Greek yogurt and grapes, and managed to do as much as I could before fatigue hit me hard. I called it a night and tried to get some sleep.
Thursday morning greeted me and I had an easy 3 mile run to do. I managed that, cursing the taper the entire time. But I did rock the run, and that was the important thing. I felt solid and strong logging those short miles. Then, I hit up the gym. I did just the elliptical machine, keeping the setting at Level 7, but dialing back on intensity. Too close to the marathon to do something stupid, and my body was fighting me. It was just done with everything. Tired doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling at that point. I was just…dead on my feet. So, listening to my body, I skipped the other cardio machine and did some easy strength training downstairs before hitting up the apartment again, showering, and getting to the hospital at 7 a.m. Cathy was supposed to be released that morning. She was starving, mind you, when I was there and after she woke up…so I gave her the grapes I had brought with me. Which is good because the breakfast they brought her was not what she ordered the night before. She picked at it. Around 10:00, her mom showed up and I left to do some work from home, assuming that despite the promise that she would be released in the morning, it might be an all day thing. I was wrong. 45 minutes later, I was texted saying they were doing Cathy’s release papers. So, I booked it over to the hospital to retrieve her. Hurry up and wait. Trust me. It took another 2 hours to get her out of there. And from there…a trip to the pharmacy for her prescriptions. She finally settled in at home just before 1:30 p.m. It made for a long morning. I was working from home to keep an eye on her, and made her some lunch. Then later…at her request…I made a baked mushroom and Parmesan risotto for dinner. All while doing my work and trying to keep up with things at the office from home.
Friday is my day of rest. And I am doing my best to keep it holy and respect it. I admit…I did go out on a 5 mile walk. I KNOW!! BAD!! But I just needed to be moving. I knew I was working from home and that would mean little movement that day because I had work that needed to get done. So, I did this thing where I would walk/jog for a mile…then walk a mile…then repeat. For 5 miles…because it felt so good to just be moving. I didn’t push for speed or anything…I just needed to be active. I needed to be doing something that didn’t involve sitting at home in front of my computer. I ducked over to the office to drop off work, pick up new work, then headed home. I made breakfast for Cathy and I and then spent the rest of the day working while she watched movies and Star Trek. I ducked back to the office to sort and open mail and pick up more work. All the hours I had put in at home added up…and I was actually right at my 40 hour week. So, I was sent home for the rest of the day. And I vegged. Dinner was leftover risotto, so that was easy. And Cathy said she was feeling 70% normal that day. Getting there.
Saturday is my long run day. And, sadly, these long runs as of late have had to be done solo for the pacing requirements of my training program. Today…only 8 miles…but these were paced. My first 2 miles were to be at my long slow distance pace. Miles 3-7 were to be at my marathon pace. Mile 8…back into long slow distance. I wasn’t really feeling this. I miss running with my Saturday group something fierce. Honestly. But, I got out at 5 a.m. and turned out my 8 miles. All 8 miles were actually at my marathon pace, which is good because I didn’t always feel like I was pushing or running hard. This means my legs are stronger than my body and mind think they are. I pressed on all 8 miles and felt really good when the run came to an end. I had only wished it had been a longer run. Aside from that…Chicago is 8 days away and I’m getting really nervous and trying hard not to put too much pressure on myself. I want to enjoy my first marathon and I’m feeling as ready as I can be. The taper edges into almost nothing this week…and my body will take time to repair itself and get strong. Because next Sunday…I go the distance.
It’s been a very trying, very difficult, very stressful week. But I feel if I could maintain my training and battle through this load of stress, doubt, fear, and anxiety and come out strong on the other end (which I feel is what happened)…then I can do battle with the streets of Chicago and prove to myself I have it in me to be a marathoner!! I am really giving myself a pep talk. I did a lot…and I mean…a lot of stress eating this past week. Being this close to my marathon, I don’t want anything to derail the hard work I have put into training for this. This means controlling all stress, anxiety, and every other emotion not through stress eating but through healthier outlets. I think that’s doable.
With Cathy on the mend, the taper coming to an end, and my marathon looming RIGHT THERE on the horizon…I have a feeling I’ll be a basket case this entire week. But, as my friend Dawn told me, now is the time to trust my training and know that when I get to that starting line in Chicago…all this hard work I’ve put into these past few months will have paid off. I can only hope.
That being said…I have my bib number for Chicago…and the participant’s guide…and things are seeming very, very real to me now. Almost there…so close…just trying not to cave under pressure or wear myself out getting there. Yeah…the nerves have kicked in. It’s very real now.