Thursday, April 14, 2011

Full Steam Ahead

For the past six or so months, my goal has been to get my abdominal pain figured out so that I could be pain free during my marathon in Eugene on May 1.  I forced myself to run through stabbing abdominal pain for hundreds of miles, always thinking "I want to keep my fitness for when they figure this out."  When I got home from Florida, I made the decision to let go of the expectation of being pain free, or anywhere close to it, by May 1.  I'm too exhausted to try and frantically search for an answer between now and then, and it's just stress I don't need.  I temporarily derailed from that plan when I saw the surgeon earlier this week.  After it was clear that he wouldn't consider anything other than a "running injury" (which we know this is not), I fell into a little mini-depression.  It has been, as you've witnessed, disappointment after disappointment.  I cannot bear to sit around and think anymore, at least for now, "What is this?  How can I get help?"  I'm just accepting this as my situation right now--I am in pain all the time, and it's much exacerbated when I run.  End of story.  I've decided to wear my TENS unit during the race (and on every run between now and then) and hope that it's a good day pain-wise.  I am also getting cortisone injections a week before, as this last round did help some (though they just don't last long).

So, in the spirit of moving forward, let's talk about the plan.  What plan?  Race day plan!  Whenever someone would ask me what I was planning to do in Eugene, I'd always say "Well, it depends on if I get my abdominal pain figured out."  I haven't yet.  But I've found a way to make it tolerable via the TENS.  I cannot run at my hardest/fastest with the TENS on, but I can do a pretty good job of it.  So, after consulting with Tim, here is the plan:

First, there is no specific time goal.  There is only strategy.  We will start the race at a 3:20 pace (7:38 minutes/mile).  Actually, we may start the first few miles a bit slower, but make that up quickly after.  The plan is to run the first half at that pace.  Given it's a flat course, that's a very conservative pace for me.  That almost feels like jogging.  But this is my first marathon and I'm dependent on a MACHINE for crying out loud.  Conservatism is in order.  At the half, assuming things are going well (meaning that the pain is being kept under control by Mr. TENS), we will speed up.  Now, I'm not dropping the hammer with 13.1 still to go.  But we'll slowly inch it down.  I'd like to try 7:30 for the next few miles.  Then a few 7:25s.  After that, I'll give everything I have left.  Who knows what that will be.  I may be dying by then.  And if I get to the half and I'm struggling with the pain (or anything else), I'll be happy to stay on 3:20 pace.  So, like I said, no specific goal time, just a plan.  The time will be what it will be.  This will by no means be my fastest marathon, nor one where I'm pushing myself to the limit.  But, I daresay, it will be my most memorable and most satisfying.  I've been through a hell of a road to get here, and I will treasure each step I take to complete this race.  I honestly do not care about the time.  My main concern is that I actually enjoy the experience.  For a very competitive person, that's saying a lot.

Eugene is 17 days away.  Only 9 runs and a total of 63 miles stand between me and that start line.  I've never been in this position before.  Though I wish aspects of it were different (I'll let you guess on those), I am SO STINKING EXCITED!  I ran 10 miles today and 6 of them around a 7:08 pace.  It felt easy and my legs felt great.  That's taper for you.  I was imagining myself in the race and, despite being electrically stimulated and forced to wear a fanny pack while running, I couldn't help but smile.  I'm almost there.  Finally.

Speaking of electrical stimulation....I've been trying to perfect the TENS unit set up.  I've put the patches different places, messed with the intensity, tried different patches, etc.  I bought longer patches thinking that I would benefit from having a larger area covered.  However, the longer patches do not generate as high an intensity as the smaller ones (more surface area=less concentrated intensity).  So I figure I need one with more channels (one that can hold more electrodes).  Mine only has four...and I've been putting three on the right side and just one on the left.  I remember Dr. L telling me that they make them with six channels.  I got online and began looking for them.  All around $200.  Really nice ones around $450.  I was going to buy one, and then I thought:  Hey, I'm a chronic pain patient.  If I allegedly have some incurable, chronic pain "syndrome," then my insurance should cover this.  I picked up the phone and called the pain clinic.  I talked to the nurse and told her I needed a TENS unit.  I further explained that I had one with four channels, but that Dr. L told me about the six-channel ones.  "I want one of those," I said.  She asked me if there were any other specifications I wanted.  I told her I wanted a lightweight but very intense one.  She said she'll have him write a prescription for one and I will get it from the physical therapy department at the hospital.  And my insurance will pay 90%.  Small victories.

No run tomorrow.  Trails on Saturday.

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