In a year of uncertainty, cancelations and virtual races, I cannot believe we are less than 5 days out from the Marathon Project! Last time I raced was nearly 10 months ago at the Olympic Trials. Even writing that now shocks me. Up until Sunday, I thought I had raced 8 months ago.

I shared on my an earlier update post-Trials I experienced extreme fatigue, which ultimately turned out to be Anemia and Vitamin D deficiency. At the time, I had thought I was training for Grandma’s Marathon slated for June. I was aware of it being a fast turn around, but I was ready for the challenge in hopes of a PR. I will admit, during this time, the Pandemic was all so new and stressful I was filled with a lot of anxiety and depression. I was also dealing with my energy levels while trying to train at the highest possible level. It was a lot. I was putting more pressure than need be, and to be honest… deep down I was relieved when I received the news of the race being canceled. I knew that small part of relief was selfishness and stubbornness since I was unwilling to make the call to not race on my own. Despite this relief, I again felt lost in the Pandemic with no goals and seemingly no end in sight.

Fast forward to June, I slowly began feeling like myself again and I was grateful to have my quaranteamie, Alexi back after her long lockdown in Greece (and quarantine upon her return). Like many of us, I had been training alone most of February up until June, and I was ready to find ways to safely train with others. It’s funny how her return felt as though that was the “medicine” I needed – companionship. It was probably a coincidence, but within a week of her return I began feeling better and we began brainstorming about races to aim for.

I think this is a good spot to talk about the power of *hope*. We were hopeful of a safe race in the near future. We had heard whispers of two potential races (now confirmed as Valencia and the Marathon Project), but at the time they were just rumors. We decided to put faith in at least one of these being true and began our build-up, with plans of doing a Summer Altitude Camp.

Between June and early-October, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect build-up. I was running about 75-80 miles a week, swimming 2-3 times, as well as lifting and core 3 times a week. I felt healthy and was having so much fun, especially during our time in Mammoth.

Going into Mammoth, I was hesitant. I had never had an altitude camp without hiccups. I had also never been at altitude camp for more than 3 weeks. On this trip, we were planning to be there for a month thanks to the Crib. Despite my uncertainty, I knew this was a great opportunity, and I was committed to making the most of it. I acclimated almost instantly – which was expected. My body has always responded to altitude. By the end of our first week, I took a nasty fall towards the end of our long run. This was new. I had never fallen in Mammoth – I’ve had close calls where I caught my fall – but nothing like this. It hurt. Normally, I would bounce up and run it off, but this time was different. I remember being in shock and Alexi coming down to the ground next to me and I just sat there. I hit my left hip, elbow, and my head… which was at the time the scariest since I had a concussion 16 months earlier. Despite this, we got back up and I insisted on running back to our condo. I wanted to make sure I keep my blood circulating (is that even a thing? I definitely made that up), and planned to see the local chiropractor to ensure everything is readjusted. I fell one more time a week later.

By week 2, the infamous Creek Fire broke out. This made training a bit tricky since it was a mere 20 miles away. I became a pro at reading air quality maps and wind patterns. I think we made the call to miss 2 days, and almost left one of the days – but decided to wait the night out. By week 3, we finally had enough. There did not seem to be any sign of the air quality improving, and many people began evacuating – so we called it a trip and headed back to LA. At this point, I had confidence in our fitness. Three solid weeks felt good enough, and I honestly felt ready to be back with my family.

Upon our return, the Marathon Project was confirmed and I applied to be considered. All this time I was pretending I had a set race, and now was the moment of truth. These are the times where being what I like to call “No Man’s Land” gets tough. I recognize I’m fast, but I also recognize I have to prove to others that I am fast enough. I don’t have a sponsor, I don’t have a manager, and I don’t have an agent. I felt as though I were an ant among dogs trying to get their attention. Waiting to hear back from the race organizers had me on edge, especially when I started hearing people were getting accepted. I kept my spirits up and as we all know, I got accepted.

But that’s not where it ends.

The week after being accepted, so early October, I did my first 20 mile long run in the trails. Everything felt great… until it didn’t. I went into the bushes ( don’t we all?) and when I got up I felt a sudden pain in my left knee. I figured it was nothing, plus we were only 8 miles in (dumb thought bubble) so I finished my run. The pain never subsided, but I wrote it off that it might just be fatigue. This went on for another 4 or 5 days until one run I finally stopped with 2 miles to go and called it a day. At this point the pain suddenly became unbearable. That says a lot for me because I’ve always had a high pain tolerance to a fault. My Coach and I decided to take a few days off and only swim. The time off and treatment of my knee helped. I basically laid in bed for 3 days, even worked from bed, applied heat, ice, and CBD. We figured it might have been Patellar Tendonitis, so I began using KT Tape and slowing running again. The taping helped for a while, but then I started feeling pain in my left hip/lower back. I started thinking back to my fall in Mammoth and asked around for Chiropractic recommendations as well as began working with a Physical Therapist virtually. I have been working with the two for over a month now, and they have been instrumental to bringing me back to health. The diagnosis is a nerve injury. I have a history of sciatica, but I do believe the fall in mammoth caused some sort of pinched nerve or something that was laying dormant for a month before exposing itself.

Nerve injuries are tricky, they’re annoying, and sometimes it’s easy to feel helpless. I’ve done my best to stay positive, and I am happy to report that my training has been mostly back to normal for the past month. I don’t feel much fitness was lost, since I really only had one week where I couldn’t run much, then another 4 weeks of lower mileage (35-54 miles) without workouts. The last 4 weeks have been focused ongetting me back on track as much as we can safely.

I will say, training this way has looked more different. I have removed my cross-training entirely and replaced it with physical therapy exercises and core. My mileage did not get back to the 75-80 mile weeks, instead, we have kept me closer to 65-70 MPW.

The biggest exercise has been practicing confidence and positivity. I have been holding on to this idea of racing and running a strong PR for 6 months now. I walked away from the Trials disappointed and have been looking for redemption since. With this hiccup in my build-up, I have had to readjust my goal for race day to reflect my training, and keep in mind that it will not define me as an athlete. I do believe I am still in PR shape, so that is something to look forward to, but I don’t plan to be foolish and run out at 5:50 pace from the gun. I’ll run it a lot like Chicago, starting out more conservative and make my gutsy moves towards the end.

I’ll admit, a big part of me wanted to lie. To keep pretending that this build-up has been seamless, especially because so many people are in the background rooting for me. But that doesn’t help me and it doesn’t help those who look up to me. I recognize my role in the running community. For many, they’ve followed my journey through high school, some through college, and some found me at the beginning of my post-collegiate career when I was at my lowest fitness level with big dreams. It’s my duty to share it all, the good, bad, and the ugly. I do my best to share my journey so others can learn to believe in themselves and not give up on their dreams.

Just Keep Running.