Alexis: "For the first time in my life, I lined up on the starting line and did not cross the finish"

April 9, 2013  This past weekend, I had the most disappointing day in my athletic career to date.  For the first time in my life, I lined up on the starting line and did not cross the finish.  So much can change in one month.  In my last blog post a month ago I was full of optimism, my legs were strong, and I was excited to race.  A couple of weeks ago, I ran a tough 20 mile run with some big hills, and while I felt strong on the run, in retrospect I believe I went too hard and over-fatigued myself.  A week later, I could feel my knee tightening up during a 13 mile run, but I finished the run anyway.  The next morning I couldn’t bend my knee without pain.  I think I knew in my heart that I had already stopped too late, but with my coach I adjusted my schedule from a gradual taper to a full halt to try to save my knee for the marathon.  I employed practically the entire team at Phila Massages – getting massages from Martin, Natacha, and Karen, and getting taped up by Brian – and I stretched, iced, rolled, and repeated. In the end, I did not have enough time to let my knee heal, and at mile 7 of the St. Louis Marathon, I made the heartbreaking decision to drop out of the race.  I was still holding pace, but at that point my stride started deteriorating, my knee had been getting tighter and tighter since mile 2, and I was losing my ability to push off with my right leg.  I must have been quite the sight, limping along the course with tears streaming down my face, and several well-intentioned volunteers asked if I was okay.  What do you say to that question – “No, my heart is broken, my knee is well and truly f%*ed, I was supposed to qualify for Boston today.  I was on pace when I DECIDED to stop, and I still don’t know if that was the right decision – but I can barely bend my knee… but I was still running, I was still on pace, and I have adrenaline coursing through me, and it’s a beautiful day.  And how can other people be running and happy when I am in such a dark place, and I’m not even tired or sweaty and I want to be running right now, but instead I am this pathetic crying mess hobbling along to cheer for my husband.”  No one wants to hear that though, so I said “My knee is hurt, but I’ll be fine.  No, I don’t need a medic.”  And I let myself cry, gave myself that time to accept that it was not my day, and that it SUCKS, that it wasn’t fair, that I had worked and trained, and that while I could have run through it, maybe even for the next 19 miles, I would have most likely ended my entire season, and that I made the right decision, even if it was the harder one to make.  Today, two days later, I am questioning whether I had to stop, but I know that road will take me nowhere.  My path now is forward – rest, recover, and make the most of the season that lies ahead.  I know I have the support of my team, my family, my training partners, my coach, and the wonderful staff of Phila Massages, and I know the window for indulging in grief is short.  My plan is to take this recovery time to focus on all of the training elements that I don’t always get to after I’m done running, biking, and swimming – core strength, flexibility, and balance.  And I start physical therapy tomorrow.  So, while this weekend was bitterly, heart-wrenchingly disappointing, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, and when I do get that Boston time (and I will) it will mean that much more.