Thursday, October 22, 2015

Runners World Half Marathon & Festival Experience... My Ultimate "Challenge" Race



         All week long, I've been back home, back to reality and really thinking about how I wanted to recap my Runner's World & Half Festival presented by Altra experience. I will be honest and admit that I struggle with writing recaps immediately following a race. I like to soak in the experience and not feel rushed in my writing. However, when I crossed the Finish Line last Sunday during the half marathon, I was OVERWHELMED with emotions. Not typical for this thick-skinned funny Bama girl. I don't cry. I don't like for anyone to see me cry. I don't like to be sappy. But this race, this experience, this journey, this medal......I couldn't hold it in. I sobbed like a baby going down the chute at the finish and I'm okay with it. I was the third to the last finisher and I couldn't have been any prouder.

Disclaimer: I do not want this post to be a "woe is me" kind of post. I've been struggling for 6 weeks with my broken ankle (and longer with personal issues) so this is just where I'm at in my life. However, I want to share a genuine and truthful post so here goes...

This is my story........
King's Chair at Oak Mountain State Park

     Rewind if you will to Labor Day September 7th, 2015. My running group and I decided that we would go trail running at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama. We run the streets of Birmingham weekly and wanted a change of scenery. It was a gorgeous day, my friends were all off of work and we were having a great time running the trails. I was super excited to get some trail running in as I was registered to run the new 3.8 mile trail run during Runner's World Half and Festival weekend in just a few weeks.  When we got to the top of the mountain, we took lots of pictures and I remember asking one of my buddies how far we had ran. He told me that we were almost to 2.5 miles so I knew that we were going to get almost 5 miles in that day. 

     Cool! Now I knew the 3.8 mile trail run was not going to eat me alive! I knew that I could run all of the distances. I was registered to run the 3.8 mile trail run, the 5K, the 10K and the Half Marathon. A total of 26.2 miles for the weekend! Marathon status...Holla!! Not bragging but I knew that I could run these distances. I'm trained for these kind of "challenge" races. However, I'm not a trail runner so I was worried about that one. 

     Coming down the mountain, I roll my ankle. I hear it snap. Good grief. I walked the last mile and a half down the mountain just knowing what was about to go down.

Diagnosis?!?  BROKEN. Life as I knew it changed at that moment. 
Clean Fibula Break.

What in the world?!?! 
I'm a fitness instructor, now I can't work. I have been working so freaking hard to get all of my certifications in order over the last few months. I've been taken off of the schedule and my classes were given away. This just killed me.

I'm a personal trainer. Now I can't train my clients who are depending on me for their goals. Loser Trainer.

I run a Bootcamp for Moms in my backyard. I can't even walk through my grass now. 

I'm a social butterfly. All of my social media revolves around running, runDisney, exercising, running bloggers, fitness, races. Ugh. I don't even want to look at it. Go away world wide web.

Most of my friends that I hang around with, run. Lovely. Their races and long runs haven't stopped. I didn't see them for over a month.

Not gonna lie. I HATED EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF THIS.

But......I've been home more and had lots of down time and I really thiink that I just needed that. My kids and my hubs needed that. We've had some rocky times over the past few months. Slowing down is good even though I don't like it, it's just good.

Now I'm just beating myself up over and over and over again for being so selfish and bratty. "Get over yourself Kristin. It's one broken ankle. There are so many people in the world with much bigger issues. Seriously. You are the worst."

I go to the Doc in the Box immediately after the fall and to the Orthopedic the next day....

My Orthopedic set me up with a "let's get you back to running plan but just know that you won't complete any challenge races anytime soon." 
*6-8 weeks in the boot depending on my healing via x-rays. 
--First Two weeks on crutches 
--Third week...25-50lbs of weight bearing on my right leg.
--Fourth week..75-100lbs of weight bearing on my right leg.
--Fifth week...X-rays were fabulous. Out of the boot and into a brace with physical therapy at a specialized sports clinic.
--Sixth week....cleared to resume normal low impact exercise.
--Just don't over-do it.

So that was my Dr's plan. This was my plan.....
*I put my boot on, slept with it and only took it off for a quick 5 minute shower. Somedays I never took a shower. I never wanted to take that boot off. HEAL ALREADY.
--I don't think I ate a full meal for the first two weeks. I lost at least 8 pounds. I quit counting after that.
--The crutches were completely on my nerves but I used them when I needed to.
--Third week..I went back to the gym. I worked my arms and back out like crazy. Lou Ferigno didn't have anything on me.  20lbs on leg press machine was tough but it felt good.
--Fourth week..50-75lbs on Leg Press Machine. If there was one thing that I knew, the minute I was cleared from the boot, I did not want my legs to be weak. I was in the gym everyday. The Row machine was my new best friend. #RowRowRowYourBoot
--Fifth week..I feel great. I'm out of the boot and headed to physical therapy. He knew that I had it in my brain to finish Runner's World Half Marathon. I told him that's all I would do. I would definitely not attempt the trail race and had zero intentions of trying to finish the 5 or 10k either. He gave me the clear to try to walk the half marathon but warned me that he wouldn't have to tell me if I was pushing too hard. I would know it.
I wanted to be smart but dangit I wanted to finish those 13.1 miles. 

This is me having a talk with this crazy boot. I'm like "hey girl. here's what we're gonna do"
All delirium sets in when you can't run. (Yeah, I talk to my boot. #helpmysoul)
      The very first thing that came into my mind after I broke my ankle was...OMG. Runner's World Half!!! I had been dying to run this race for years and I finally had this awesome opportunity and seriously? I break it almost 6 weeks before THIS race???? I just can't take it. I'm beyond broken-hearted.

     Almost immediately after I posted a picture on Facebook of my broken ankle x-ray, David Tratner from Runner's World PR sends me a message to tell me how sorry he was and to please not worry about trying to make the trip. He was so encouraging and so understanding. I knew at that moment that I wanted to make it my life goal to make it to Bethlehem Pennsylvania in less than 6 weeks.  I was on a mission. By the end of our conversation, he says to me "If you think you can do it, we got your back".  Those were the only words that I ever needed to hear.

     From that moment on, I needed to change my thinking. I needed to change my focus. I needed to heal and I needed to heal properly. I had a terrible angry attitude and I needed to change it. ASAP.  I was so humbled by the fact that Runner's World Magazine invited me and because of their generosity and support, there was NO WAY that I would ever want to let them down.

Fast forward through the next 5 1/2 weeks....working out and healing in progress. Everyday.

October 15th, 2015:
     I'm flying to Allentown, Pennsylvania. I never dreamed in one million years that I would EVER go fly away to run a race with Runner's World Magazine or go to Allentown.  All I could think about was the Billy Joel song. I'm a music junkie and I've loved and sang that song all my life it seems and now I was on my way there. It was really one of those crazy moments when I just thought.."Am I really about to get on a plane and go to Allentown, Pennsylvania to hang out with the folks at Runner's World? How crazy is this?" It's totally crazy and I'm still in disbelief somedays. 

     I landed on time and soon met up with the rest of the crew! My roommate, Larisa, is another crazy Blogger friend of mine from Mobile, Alabama and I just knew the weekend was going to be more than fabulous hanging out with her. Trucker hats courtesy of Altrarunning were in our swag bag as we arrived and I think that just set the tone for the weekend. #FUNandSASSYfromTheSOUTH
Trucker Hats and Roll Tide. ;)
     I was not out of the air for more than an hour when we decided to go grab a quick bite to eat. I checked in with my hubs to tell him that I had made it safe and sound. He was at the Dr. office with my Justin. My boy plays the Baritone Saxophone in the 7th grade band and had been complaining that his mouth was feeling kinda weird lately when he plays and his eye was twitching funny. I was thinking he may need to have his eyes checked or need new reeds for his instrument. We all have bad vision in my fam....I was sure it was his eyes. Yep. That's it. New reeds and bad vision. He said he would text me back after they saw the doc. Twenty minutes later, I get the text..  I had to the leave the room and step outside to read it again. I was about to lose it.

BELLS PALSY.

and that was all it said. 

I wanted to throw up. 

I was devastated.

     Why am I here? Why did this happen? My kids are everything to me. 

     Again, I'm the most selfish person on the planet. It's a runner's dream to work/be a part of Runner's World Magazine! I don't want my priorities to be mixed up. I want my heart to always be in the right place.

     My hubs re-assured me that he was going to be fine. It just had to run its' course. Bells Palsy was most likely caused by some sort of infection. We never even knew he had an infection.  "Go have fun."

     I tried to believe him but I was worried to death about Justin. I prayed hard for my boy.

     Now I was on a new mission. I had traveled to Allentown and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania from Alabama and had only planned to *attempt* to finish the Half Marathon. Now I was going to finish ALL FOUR RACES WITH A BROKEN ANKLE AND ALL. My boy is the only one in my fam who loves to see my race medals and I was going to bring them home for him. Period. The End.

     I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I knew it was going to hurt. My legs were strong and I was going to crawl to the finish if I had to. I love my boy that much.

     I will recap every one of the races in a "race recap style" in future posts but I wanted to share now why I was a crybaby at the finish line and why when I crossed the final finish line for the weekend, I looked at David Tratner and said, "you just witnessed me earning my most favorite race medal EVER". And I meant it.
I don't think I have ever been more proud of myself than I was at this very moment.
I finished 26.2 miles over the weekend...
I smiled, I laughed, I Roll Tide'd, I cried and I brought my medals home to my little boy.
BEST. RACE. EVER.

     I will forever love Runner's World Half Marathon & Festival. I cannot say enough good things about the race, the course, the seminars, the venue, the sponsors, the entire organization, etc.  I hope to come back one day and actually be able to *run* but if that never happens, that's okay too. I will cherish this weekend forever. I made life long new friends, ran for my precious purpose and came home with a whole new sense of urgency to run with a purpose and create a life that is meaningful and full of endless possibilities all while keeping my priorities in order.

     Nothing about healing this ankle was easy. It's still not easy. I still can't run. In fact, I walked all 26.2 miles of Runner's World Half & Festival Weekend. I wouldn't trade one step of walking for running either. At the time, when the gun was fired, I wanted to run. Gosh, did I ever want to run. But I didn't. I walked. And I walked. And I walked. And then walked some more. I needed to get through this the hard way.

     My healing has been 99% mental and as weird as this sounds, I have loved the healing process. I loved the "challenge" of being down and having to rise up. I loved having to force myself to have a positive attitude when I wanted to just throw in the towel and give up. I loved finishing this race with a purpose for finishing and not just because I just wanted to log some miles for the weekend and use this half as a training run for a longer distanced race.

      I will always be forever grateful to the folks at Runner's World Magazine and bloggers that I met over the weekend. They are the most awesome group of people that I've met in a long long time and it meant the world to me that they were waiting and cheering for me at the Finish line. I laughed more than I thought I ever would and I needed that happy distraction. I really still think it was all just a dream....a long and meaningful six week dream except for the fact that I have a set of three gorgeous medals, a healthy boy and a very positive mind full of memories. :)

**Update on my boy...he is doing great! His side effects are barely noticeable now and will be able to keep playing his saxophone like a champ. One day when the time is right, I will give him those medals from this weekend and tell him just how much he (and my girls) are my inspiration for every step that I ever take in life. Literally.
Finisher Medals from the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon

     Healing is a FABULOUS process and I needed to soak in this six-week experience in its' entirety. Through it all, I have been reminded by my own self that I can stand on my own two feet, rise up against any situation and keep my priorities straight in the process. I completed the ultimate "Challenge" race and I will always be forever thankful to my broken leg, my fam, my friends and Runner's World for this amazing  experience.

Happy Running, Happy Healing....Thank you and Roll Tide. <3