Be Brave

Here I am in Portland, just after the Portland Track Festival. Yet another awesome track meet. Great to catch up with friends, watch some have breakout performances, nail Olympic Standards, and other have tougher days like I did.

The last five weeks have been challenging for me. On Mother’s Day there were some rolling storms in Toronto, which for me brought on a headache. When I didn’t catch in time it brought upon a migraine headache. Migraine’s thrive with blood flow, so you can imagine that running is the great feeding machine for a migraine. Stress can be a factor too, and as you fatigue it is definitely a form of stress. With migraines I also get tight muscles around my shoulders, neck, and head. Basically a nasty cycle with a whole lot of stress put upon my nervous system.

Not a whole lot of training has happened, really I couldn’t even cross-train. Lots of lying down in dark rooms, trying to sleep, just trying to get the pressure and thumping to ease. I found that lying on a foam roller was great, either under my neck or lower back. I’ve had lots of think time, lots of time to reflect on all the things I love to do so much in life, like running!

I finally seemed to have this headache under control. With Olympics and Trials looming, we thought, ‘hey, why not? Lets go ahead and try this.’

IMG_9674I headed down to Portland on the Friday before the race. I’d put in a couple of good efforts over the week, including a very windy and cold 1500m race on the Speed River Track. Things seemed headed in the right direction. With no expectations and the go ahead from the entire team I set off feeling confident; at the very least I was in for some great donuts and coffee (Hit both Voodoo and Blue Water; Blue Water for the win).

My shakeout run Saturday felt awesome. I felt like me again, wanting to chargeIMG_9676 up little hills, feeling light and fast on my feet. It was also Fleet week in Portland so while I was out running along the water I got to see some pretty awesome naval ships. Plus Portland has this Rose Fair the run in conjunction with Fleet week. While it makes for a lot of people out and about, it also makes their waterfront decorated with carnival gear look really pretty.

The race was Sunday at 8:55pm. There were a few Canadians in the 5000m with me, some good friends I met at Pan Am Games last summer. With the mix of amazing American athletes I knew this would make for some good racing.

When the gun went off I got myself into a good position. I got in close to the rail. IMG_9678 2I covered moves. I felt like me again. It all felt really, really good. Until 700m to go. I went from being on Olympic Standard pace to missing the mark by 25 seconds (that’s a lot of time to lose in 700m; 20s was pretty much in those last 700m).

There is so much good that comes out of this race, so much I learned. It’s so frustrating not to hit the mark. To work so hard, to get injured, to feel like you leave it up to fate. It’s not fate, it’s hard work and your body cooperating with you. Sometimes you just cannot have it all.

Being injured sucks. The timing is terrible with the Olympic Games this summer. But I am not the only athlete going through these challenges. Lots of athletes will be experiencing similar anxieties, stresses, injuries, etc. With the Olympic deadline looming and no standard it’s hard to say what to do.

A headache isn’t one of those injuries you can predict what it wants to do. You cannot tell when it’s going to hit (although I think a mix of stress, increased blood flow, and fatigue triggers mine). It’s not exactly like I can put some kin tape on it and make it stay away for a little while longer.

I am a firm believer in respecting your health and well-being. I am going through the emotional exercise to ask myself whether or not I just wimped out. I suspect not given the headache I had; although I will not deny that slowing down was partially an emotional response not just a physical one, I probably had a few more seconds in there if I had gritted it out a little more. Do I keep pushing myself to try to hit the standard? If I do that are there long-term repercussions on my nervous system? Have I missed too much training to actually make standard? Am I just not good enough? These are all questions I’m not really sure I can answer with 100% insight and knowledge.

I don’t want to quit. Wait, I’m saying I’m not quitting. But if a break is what my body needs than that is what it will get. It will make me hungrier for more in the future. I love running. I love the thrill of competing. For now it’s a few days of thinking, respecting my body, and celebrating the success that did happen.