|Kaitlyn at the Geist Half Marathon|
As runners, we must constantly be in touch with what our capabilities are – I believe we are some of the most self-aware people around. After I successfully completed the Carmel Marathon on April 21, I made the spontaneous decision to run the Geist Half Marathon on May 19, a mere four weeks later, in hopes that my marathon fitness would lead to a personal record without much additional training. My legs felt strong, I reverse tapered from the marathon smartly, and I started focusing on tackling the half distance. I found an excellent pacer for my half, tapered for the race, and got in several speedy runs leading up to the race. I was ready to PR…and PR big.
The Monday before the race, I went to the doctor to explain my frustration with my chronic pain condition, Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction, (chronicled in an earlier blog post here) and see if there were any options I hadn’t previously considered. He surprised me by suggesting a potential “permanent” solution that would involve invasive surgery – several days in the ICU post-surgery, a full week in the hospital, and three to four weeks at home recovering. The surgery will be an open-abdominal surgery leaving me with a nine inch incision down my stomach. Needless to say, this would leave me out of my running shoes for several months. For several reasons I won’t get into here, my family and I decided that now is the time – I am going to take the risk and go forward with the surgery. It is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of July.
Finding out I was going to be missing my Sauconys for so long really hit me hard mentally – I love running, and I’m pretty certain I am going to go crazy when I have to watch my friends cross the finish line of races without a bib across my own shirt. I can only hope it will be worth it in the long run (pun intended), and I have endless painless miles awaiting me on the other side of this hurdle. Regardless, this news meant that suddenly, Geist became an important race to me. It would be the last finish line of a major road race I would cross for months…potentially even a year.
I went into Geist with a lot of challenges – I came down with a cold Thursday before the race, and my chronic pain had been horrible the entire week. I warned my pacer it was going to be a rough race, but he promised to push me until I couldn’t push anymore. I toed the start line and tried to comprehend the fact that this was the last, “Runners take your mark,” I would hear for a long time. Once I started, I quickly realized how rough this was going to be. I have never seriously contemplated quitting a race, but at mile 3 I legitimately was thinking of ways to break the news to my pacer that I simply couldn’t do this race.
|Worst Race Photo Ever|
The race ended anti-climactically. My PR was 1:57:41, and I finished Geist in 2:01:27. The previous year I finished Geist in 2:02:30, so I finished faster than I had the previous year, but I was extremely disappointed with my performance at Geist. I have spent the past few weeks wondering why I was so disappointed – I definitely gave my all for the race. My legs were sore for days following the race and I was out of energy the remainder of the day, so I must have done something right…right?
This left me thinking about expectations that we as runners have for ourselves. When I think logically about the race, I did an awesome job by even finishing. And being mad at my body for hurting while I was running…isn’t that the whole reason I’m having the major surgery in the first place? When do our expectations become unrealistic? As runners, we are aware of what our bodies can do, but I think we tend to be blind to external effects on our performance. Some days, your body just can’t run. Some days, it is too hot to run at peak performance. Some days, something comes up and your run gets cancelled.
I only have five more weeks of running before I’m out completely for several months, so I have been trying to reframe running to be something I do strictly “for fun” without any training plans involved. That is a lot tougher than I thought – I am still running with my Garmin. I am still evaluating my performance constantly. I am compulsively looking for more finish lines to cross. When did running become something that was so data driven for me (and every other running friend I know)? I am trying to embrace the attitude that I am doing what my body says it can do that day, and not comparing that to other days when I feel better or worse. I am trying to run for fun and I am attempting to be thankful to have the opportunity to run at all.
As runners, I think we could all benefit from a few more Garmin-less runs and a little more “fun” running. After all, I don’t think we started running because we wanted to do tempo runs and hill repeats. I challenge you to take a couple days and run without expectations. The few runs I have done without expectations and without my Garmin have been extraordinarily rewarding.
My name is Kaitlyn Walker, I am 20 years old, and I run…because I can, today.
***Kaitlyn will be running her last pre-surgery race on June 16 at the Springville 5K for anyone that wants to join in and support her! Use code mag7voucher to save $2!
KAITLYN WALKER is a junior at Indiana University studying mathematics and policy analysis. She began running to spite her battle with a chronic pain condition and got hooked after her first 5K. She has since run four half marathons. When not in class or running, Kaitlyn volunteers at Fairview Elementary School and hopes to work in education upon graduation. She serves on multiple committees within the University. In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her friends and family.