Let me just get this, a secret of sorts I've been keeping from you for a few weeks, off my chest: I won't be running the 2010 New York City Marathon.
I have a stress fracture in the second metatarsal, which is fancy-speak for the bones that are in the middle of the foot. I started having pain in the top of my foot in about, oh, week 2 of marathon training, and did what I knew I should do: iced regularly, cross-trained, waited until it felt better. Except it didn't get the "feel better" memo. So I spent a ton of time on the bike, stopped filling out my portion of my training plan so I didn't feel like I was deceiving anybody and googled stress fracture and top of foot and running way too many times. After 95% of the articles I read told me the same thing, I had to face the facts: I am (once again) broken.
An orthopedist confirmed it for me about 10 days ago, but I told him I wanted 13.1 more miles on my feet, and 51 more miles on my bike; I had my Leadville and Skirtchaser homework to complete, plus the Venus de Miles to ride. (That said, this fracture, unlike the one I got in my heel while I trained for the Nike Women's Marathon in 2007, is not debilitating. I could barely hobble with that one; this one feels more like a constant bee sting and I can easily still walk.) The doc, obviously, didn't condone my plan, but he said just be smart, stop if it gets worse and make an appointment in six weeks from the date I put on the boot.
I will put on the boot, that clunky, hot, unforgiving thing, tomorrow morning. (The only good news? I saved mine from 3 years ago. Way to save money, huh? Oh, and I don't have to have a soft cast, which I had to have with my heel, so none of that awkward plastic-bag-and-rubber-bands shower thing.)
The more important good news? I went out with a bang. Colorado was awash in athletic estrogen this weekend and am still high on the the fumes. Saturday: Skirtchaser 5k. Sunday: Venus de Miles, the first all-women's ride in 'rado. I have nothing against straight-up races: pin on a number, run, grab a bagel, head home, check your results later.
But I was reminded this weekend, there's so much more you can do with a race.
To wit: Skirtchaser. The athletes who get a skirt instead of a tee with entry, milling around at the start looked smart and stylish. "I've never seen so much pink," said my little sis, before pointing out a dress she thought I should run NYC in. (She wasn't clued into my foot issues.) Afterwards, burritos, salads, microbrewed beer, a kickin' band that brought me back to my 80's high school years. I wanted to stay later than my bedtime. (One really? goes out to the talented female runners who finished top two but didn't wear skirts on the stage to claim their $500 and $250 prizes, respectively. You don't have to embrace--or even race--in a skirt, but at least play along when you take the money.)
Warm egg-and-potato burritos started my second-half of my weekend double-header this morning. Finishing it, I headed towards the port-a-potties, where there was a table set up with tampons and sunscreen, and I knew this event was sweating the details. I was right. There were belly dancers to charm riders up a tough hill; food so tasty and so plentiful, I ate more calories than I burned through 51 miles of pedaling (I swear I had some unbelievable balsamic cream cheese on a bagel at the second rest stop, but no other rider knew what I was talking about); henna tattoos and manicures; and a few post-ride cocktail options that nicely complimented the coconut water on the course.
Do you need a skirt or free tampons to race? Obviously not. And I know some old-schoolers probably are probably not onboard with this trend of making races girly-girly, but I'm sold. Full-on feminine races--these two, plus the Zooma half-marathons, the Nike Women's Marathon, and the IronGirl series, to name some others--bring out a spirit and a sisterhood unmatched at other events.
They're not just about how fast your legs can run or spin. They're about creating a vibe, pre-race, so you don't think twice about asking, "How's it going?" or complimenting a stranger on the course. They're about hanging out long after the results are posted. They're about handing the air mike to a friend to let her belt out, "Don't stop believin!" as you jam on wobbly legs. (I think I've heard that song more in the past 2 days than I've heard collectively in my life.) They're about strengthening the bonds of friendships, and maybe forging new ones. They're about toasting to a job well done--and then making plans to do it again next year.
In other words, they're about celebrating your whole self.
I'm not sure what my whole self will look like in six weeks; I'm pretty sure another road marathon isn't gonna happen for me. That's hard to type, and harder to admit, but this weekend reassured me of one very important thing: I can always find a place among our tribe of strong, amazing women that makes me feel complete, no matter how broken I seem.