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The 2023 Austin Half Pt. 1

Throughout my life I've always put a big competition on a pedestal, and often times it's caused me to perform poorly. Although I was always a top ranked athlete in my sport (in high school and in college) I never won a NCAA title, and I never won a state championship. More times than I could count I'd been the favorite or a close contender, but by the time I made it to the runway I would have spent weeks thinking of how I hadn't done enough. In the days leading up to an important meet I would tell myself that what I'd been doing wasn't working and that I needed to do something drastic if I wanted to succeed. I was a total basket case, and I can imagine that I was a difficult athlete to coach.

The 2023 Austin Half Marathon was no different, except for one detail, I spent (as many of you probably know from my Instagram) a lot of the time training through a potential tear in my glute. At the time I contracted the injury I'd been well into my training for the half and looking for a big PR. I was fortunate enough to not have any serious injuries throughout my high school and college careers, until I contracted one in college that eventually lead to my decision to stop pole vaulting altogether.

You see as an athlete, at any level, you tend to get put on the back burner by coaches if you're injured. It's not entirely the coaches fault either. They have a lot of athletes who need their attention and in many cases they're simply ill-equipped to give athletes the help that they need to rehab it. Often times athletes ignore their pains because they don't want to be benched or forgotten about. I myself did that for so long that my minor pain turned into a nearly 7 year battle with Achilles Tendonitis. At its worst, I could feel the pain while going to sleep at night.

In college, I would push through the pain like it was a badge of honor. I was tough and pain was only temporary. Once I even competed on a sprained ankle (my jumping leg too nonetheless) because I felt like I had no other choice. It happened during warm ups and my coach didn't tell me that I should call it a day. She let me make the decision to keep jumping. Now I'm in no way saying that she should have done differently. I don't know that I would have folded had she told me it was okay to do so, but her silence was worth a thousand words.

So in late September when I first felt my glute pain I did what I've always done, I kept going. And I kept pushing until it hurt to stand, which only took about another week and a half. At some point in there I told myself that it wasn't worth it, and I was pretty devastated. I put on a good face for Instagram and my clients, but deep down was angry, sad, depressed and it was overwhelming.

At the beginning of training I set this goal for myself to break the 2 hour mark by at least 5 minutes, which would be a 5 minute and 40 second PR. I had been running paces on speed days that I had never ran before (remember I'm a pole vaulter turned distance runner over here) and my long runs were feeling smooth and easy. So naturally, I started to get cocky and decided to try out some two a days with weights while continuing to push my miles. I know better than to do this too fast, but my body felt good and for a very brief moment I thought that I would defy the odds and be fine. The universe clearly had other plans for me. After doing a heavy hamstring focused workout that morning, I went out the the track for a particularly intense speed workout and I was feeling fatigued. This is where I should have stopped myself. I shouldn't have piled on extra strength days that early in the program. Instead, I should have just followed the program I'd written and trusted the process. I literally tell all of my athletes to do this, but for some reason I can't follow my own advice. Low and behold, my glute was not having it and by the end of the workout I knew something was wrong.

Fast forward a week and a half later and I'm being told by my sports massage therapist that he thinks I tore it. No more running for a minimum of 6 weeks. What a fucking bummer. I'm no stranger to training through an injury, however, like I mentioned before I haven't always done it in the smartest way. In college, my coach would send me to the training room where I'd do our running workouts on the stationary bike. I'd usually last a week before deciding it was fine and head back to the track. To this day I hate riding on a stationary bike and refuse to take cycle classes. But now that I'm 31 I'm not really in the mood to "push through the pain" for the sake of a PR. Call me crazy, but it just doesn't seem as worth it anymore.

So that's what I did. I stopped running for the rest of October and all of November. I spent 6 weeks doing my running workouts on the elliptical/stationary bike and the only strength workouts I did were isometric and eccentric bodyweight glute/hamstring exercises. It was so boring. Like probably the most boring 6 weeks of my entire athletic career. But for the first time in my life I was going to trust the process. The process that I have walked numerous athletes through in my coaching career. The process that I've never been able to trust myself with. Man... that was a difficult to admit to myself.

After 6 weeks of doing all of my running workouts on the elliptical I came back to running slowly. Very, very slowly. In December, I started back by running just one day a week and continuing to do my speed workouts on the elliptical. My 4, and then 6 mile run were done at a nearly 13 minute pace. By January, I was about 80% back. I could still feel my glute however, the feeling was different. As if it was just sore from being used instead of broken.

Team Delta meets every Saturday for a long run. We did this all throughout our training season and by now we'd started running portions of the most difficult stretch of the course. Enfield. We were 6 weeks out from the race. I started increasing my mileage to 1 long run and 1 track day a week, while continuing to do my rehab work and alternative forms of cardio. That's how I closed out my training for this year's race. Completing just 2 days of running a week.

On February 5th we were officially 2 weeks out. Although I was doing the right things to keep me on track for the half I'd lost all hope of hitting my goal. My glute had been feeling pretty good, but I was doubting my cardio and my strength training and still felt like I was only at 80%. Then about 4 days before race day out of no where it began to hurt again, and this scared the hell out of me.

That's when I really started to crumble. I was so bummed and started having serious doubts about my training. Making the decision to hold back is so hard for me; as I imagine it is for a lot of your reading this. I am adventurous and a risk taker. Pushing my body to extreme places is something that gets me out of bed in the morning. So thinking about pulling back when I'd come this far... well I didn't want to think about it.

Lauren M., one of my Delta Performance Athletes from Colorado flew in to run the race with the ATX Delta crew. We spent Friday and Saturday preparing our bodies as best as we could. We hit an easy shake out run on Friday, and spent nearly an hour and a half foam rolling and stretching on Saturday evening. The whole time I was getting more and more concerned about my glute. If I'm being honest, I was so grateful to have had Lauren and all of Team Delta with me the 42 hours leading up to the race. Unbeknownst to them, their presence, questions and own anxieties about the race were keeping me calm. They were keeping me in coach mode, therefore I wasn't allowed to fully slip into anxious athlete mode.

Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't so anxious and upset about my glute that I wasn't having any fun. The days leading up to the race were an absolute blast! The athlete's I'd been coaching for the Austin Half had been working so hard for about 6 months, and we'd been training together! It was so rewarding to see them get to this point. During our weekly practice sessions (Track Workout Wednesday and Long Run Saturday), I really got to know the athletes I was coaching on a more personal level. Not only their personalities and hobbies but, also what causes them fear in a workout and how they handle stress. So being with Team Delta leading up to the race was rewarding beyond belief, and nothing would have kept me from a good time with the athletes and friends I've grown to love.

But the race was here and I had a choice to make. Did I push my glute or pull back and just enjoy the race?

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