Saturday, April 18, 2015

More than a runner

If you haven't figured it out by now, blogging is kind of like therapy to me. Running is usually my "out," but when that is not an option (for whatever the reason may be), my mind naturally starts over thinking and I become preoccupied with the "when can I return to running?"

Over  these past few weeks, I've tried to focus on the positives.

Less working out means I can spend more time doing other things.

Throughout these past few weeks, I've realized that I am more than just a runner. I think so many of us runners (and even triathletes) feel such a strong attachment to the running community that "running" feels like it defines us.

Yes, we are runners, but we are so much more than just runners.

Sometimes, injuries or unexpected circumstances allow us the opportunity to define ourselves in other ways.

I have been able to see myself as a teacher, not just helping my students learn math, but making connections with these students and making them change their attitudes about math, and school in general. Every Friday, I have my students fill out an "Exit Ticket" and always include an "Anything else Mrs. Giuliano should know?" section as I know how important it is, particularly in this day and age, that students DO feel like they can confide in a teacher, and sometimes it's easier to send an email than talk to a teacher face to face. This past week, I had two students answer this question by telling me that they hated math until this year. To say that this made my heart melt would be an understatement as I truly had tears in my eyes reading that. Most teachers enter the profession to make impacts on students and help them become learn skills that will prepare them for the real world, but to hear that these students at one point hated math and are now liking

I have also been able to see myself as a "housewife" over these past few days. Normally, Ryan would prepare dinner for us, partially because I'd get home so late after teaching then training (but also because he is truly the better cook out of the two of us). Over these past few weeks, I have been able to help more in the kitchen and have been better at cleaning up messes I would normally make when rushing to pack things for the busy week ahead.

I have been able to be a better friend. Texts and emails sometimes would get "marked as unread" so that I would get back to them when I had "time." I have been much better about communicating with those who text/email me these days, which has really deepened my relationship with these people.

I have been able to be a better coach. I absolutely LOVE training people (regardless of age or sport) and would make it my full-time job in a heartbeat if I could. Over these past few weeks, I have been able to really focus on the "why's" of workouts I'm providing and give my trainees more tips on things to help them improve in their sport.

I have been able to be a better colleague. I have been able to let my mind focus more on school-related things over these past few weeks so that it is not focused on running/triathlon and I think that I have come up with some of the best ideas ever to improve my teaching and learning process.

I have been able to be more relaxed. As silly as this sounds, and Ryan would completely confirm this, when I am tri or run training during the school year, I am crazy. I rush from one thing to another and that definitely stresses me out sometimes. Not having to rush home after track practice to swim/bike/run has made me more relaxed.

So you see, there are SO many other things that we who define ourselves as "runners" or "triathletes" really are. As exciting as it is to be referred to as "that runner" or "that triathlete," there are so many other ways in which we are valued.

While injuries and set backs are incredibly upsetting, it is so important to focus on the positives and see the values that you bring to the world outside of the sport. Once you can do this, not only does your mind find healing, but your body also is able to better heal itself as well since you are not stressed about coming back. Easier said than done, but I truly believe we must focus on the power of positivity.

Friday, April 10, 2015


I'm a pretty lucky girl. I haven't experienced much loss in my life with the exception of my three grandparents (all of whom I was lucky to have in my life for over 20 years!). I know friends and family who have had many loved ones pass too early, so I consider myself fairly lucky in terms of losses in my life.

It sounds kind of crazy even typing this right now, but I do feel as though I experienced a bit of a loss over these past two weeks. Before telling everyone how dramatic and extreme I am being, hear me out.

When a person experiences loss and are grieving, they go through stages. There are five stages of grief, according to psychologists.

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger: Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

If I'm being honest, I have/have been experiencing all of these stages for the past few weeks:

  • This knee thing isn't real. You're going to wake up tomorrow and it'll all just be a bad dream.
  • Seriously?! Really?! I did nothing wrong to make my knee hurt. I've been nothing but careful and have been following my training to a T.
  • Okay, body, I'll just say March was a bad month. So April, you'll work again, right?!
  • All I wanna do is sit on the couch, watch meaningless TV shows, eat copious amounts of candy that I'm supposed to be filling eggs with for our Egg Shell Shuffle race, and sleep. This not running thing is pretty much the worst thing ever.
  • Well, it's been too many days of no running... gotta call U of I now. At least the whole Kona goal is still reachable. 

Exactly one month before my goal race, the U of I marathon on April 25th, I began experiencing a familiar pain in my knee. This pain was JUST like the pain I experienced when I developed that deep bone bruise last June, just weeks before hoping to run Grandma's Marathon, from hitting my kneecap on a chair.

The feeling I was hoping to have on Saturday, April 25th.

I'll save you the time (details here) and just say I haven't run since Sunday, March 29. I've run through stress fractures and stress reactions. I've run through partially torn hamstrings. I'm really not a wimp, but I couldn't handle running the past 10 days.

Timeline of events: (Mainly for my own records in case this craziness happens again)

Wednesday, March 25th: had an AWESOME mile repeat workout.. and knee strangeness followed. Not pain, just stiff feeling. Ignored it since it didn't bother me during the workout.

Friday, March 27th: ran 11 miles... second half is when my knee finally loosened. No prob, I'll just always do a 5.5 mile warmup.

Saturday, March 28th: ran in some park in Arizona that pretty much made me stop every mile from knee and/or blister pain.

Sunday, March 29th: last day of running, despite having a great workout in my long run. The 4 mile warmup had my pain scale at an 8/10, and that's likely not good.

Tuesday, March 31st: tried ellipticalling and aqua jogging. Only felt pain when I moved (like to get a drink or to wipe sweat). Success in my book.

Wednesday, April 1st: saw my PT cousin, discovered I have extremely weak hips

Thursday, April 2nd: I saw an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Doctor (who specializes in knee injuries) (8 days after the pain developed) and had an X-ray done as well.

Saturday, April 4th: our Egg Shell Shuffle race... pretty sure my knee was going to fall off.

Tuesday, April 7th: tired of feeling like a fat, lazy slug, I decided to try biking this morning. My knee didn't hurt as much at school. I tried ellipticalling after school....unsuccessful. Not only did it hurt my knee (after the fact), but my calves have been flared up for the past three days now.

Wednesday, April 8th: I called the doctor back ready to get an MRI done since it was honestly getting to the point where I couldn't even walk around in my classroom. The doctor called back, said he wouldn't do an MRI and suggested I start poppin' pills, ice, rest, and withdraw from my race.

I finally had my much needed, long overdue cry. Poor Ryan came home and the water works started. I'm not gonna lie, it felt really good to let it all out.

Thursday, April 9th: ...and all of the sudden, I was walking pain free. It was the most bizarre thing ever. Wednesday was pretty torturous, so to wake up to absolutely no pain was mind boggling. I decided not to test my luck.

Friday, April 10th: today marks 12 days since I stopped running. When I had that deep bone bruise last year, it took 12 days to heal, which leads me to...

Saturday, April 11th: the day Jacqui attempts to run again. I seriously feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve, that's how excited I am to attempt to run tomorrow.

Throughout these past 12 days, I've had many thoughts. Ultimately, I've decided I cannot run the U of I marathon in 2 weeks. If I go and attempt to run a sub-2:43, I know right now I'll fall short with all of the time I've taken off (22 of the past 46 days I have had to take off of running...not so good).

This weekend will hopefully guide me in the right direction: do I pursue another marathon attempt? do I go straight back to triathlon training? how can I prevent this from happening again (already have some things in motion for this one)?

While I am uncertain of those answers right now, one thing that I can say for a fact is that I can RUN again tomorrow. And for that, I am beyond grateful.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools

Today is the day that many people are posting jokes on social media. Ultrasound pictures, phrases that make it sound like they are pregnant/engaged/etc., and so on. Unfortunately, the timing of my post happens to fall on April Fools Day, and I wish I could say that this was all just a joke.

I figure it is probably time to come clean and update people who read this about what is going on with my training since I haven't really done so for awhile now.

Many Type A athletes like myself tend to think that we are invincible if we follow the plan that was designed for us and cross our t's and dot our i's. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that this is not quite the case...and unfortunately, it's been dropped on me three times over the past six weeks.

For those who are grossed out by "feet stuff," maybe skip this blog. [I warned you]

During the last week of February, I was feeling some pretty bad blood blisters filling in nicely underneath the calluses on the outside of my big toes. I generally get a pedicure every 6-8 weeks that takes care of this since I had been pretty diligent about using my "PedEgg" to file down said calluses 1-2 times per week.

Something that didn't quite occur to me: I was using the PedEgg 1-2 times per week when I was tri training, therefore running a high of 50-55 miles per week. Over the last few training weeks, I had been putting in up to 75 miles per week. Obviously this is a big difference and would dramatically affect my feet (and other areas of my body).
Pink: what I used to use
Blue/white: heavy duty one Ryan bought at Walgreens to tackle my nasty feet

Let's just say I don't think I'll be getting a pedicure again anytime soon. While not fully to blame, the lady just KILLED my feet, and I could barely hobble 4 miles worth of running the next morning. The following day, I requested an emergency appointment with my dad's running friend (who happens to be a podiatrist).

He's filed down my nasty calluses before, but he was in for an extra special treat this time. Is it weird to want to add on a few extra $$ to my bill as a "tip" since my feet were (and I quote), "Possibly the worst I've seen in awhile"?? All kidding aside, he was able to fix my feet and just told me to stop the running for a few days.

Four days later, I was doing hill repeats with both coach's training groups and surprised at how much better my feet felt. Until a week later when the outside of my left foot (the one with the REALLY bad callus) started bugging me. I told Ryan I thought I broke my little to, that's how bad the pain was. However, if he or I touched it, I felt no pain whatsoever; the pain only existed when I would run.

This happened during the week before March Madness. While Ryan, my coaches and I all discussed this issue, it was never really a question as to if I would be running the race or not. I saw another one of my dad's friend (a physical therapist--I'm lucky my dad has so many friends, huh?!) and he verified that I was fine to run, but just might feel the discomfort on my foot.

Well, we all know how March Madness turned out. I talked with my dad's friend post-race and decided to take a few days off (three to be exact). That was the "miracle drug" and my pain subsided.

Until this week when my knee started acting all funky after my awesome treadmill workout on Wednesday. I didn't think much of it as my knee just felt stiff at the time, but during my Friday workout, when my knee pain felt like it did back when I banged it real hard on the chair, causing me to withdraw from my hopeful Trials qualifier (Grandma's 2014).

My Spring Break started on Friday, so Ryan and I were scheduled to fly out to Tucson to visit my sister, Kristina. I obviously had all sorts of running clothes packed (hello sports bras and shorts weather!!!) but unfortunately, they just sat in my suitcase (perk: less laundry to do now). After our "welcome to Arizona" trail run caused my blisters and knee to flare up, I proceeded with caution for Sunday's 14 miler with 3x2miles HARD/1mile easy on deck.

Post long run smiles and brunch.

Kristina took us to a beautiful path to run on (Rilitio River Path I believe), and I thought the change in scenery from my basement "pain cave" to these beautiful mountains might take my mind off of my knee.

The first four miles were meant to be a warmup, so despite feeling an extreme amount of pain (like an 8/10 on a 1-10 pain scale), I pushed through since I knew based on Friday's progression run that the pain would likely decrease once I got to the HARD sections.

Sure enough, it did and I was able to complete the workout...albeit, feeling like death due to the dry air (let's not even TALK about how disgusting my lips were post-run). And then I stopped running and was pretty positive I broke my knee. Slight exaggeration, but my GOSH was the pain intense. I texted Coaches Jen and Dave to fill them in.

Luckily, for the next few days, I was able to just relax and soak up the sun like I think normal people do during Spring Breaks, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of Ryan riding his bike up Mt Lemmon or Kristina running a kick butt track workout. As any athlete knows, it is SO hard to be out of training/competition, so it broke my heart to not be able to do more fun things that Kristina had planned because of this random injury.

 Yep. This is the scenery climbing Mt. Lemmon. Can we move?!?
Ryan eating his well-deserved cookie at the Cookie Cabin at the top of Mt. Lemmon.
Don't worry, I totally had some too despite simply driving a car to the top.

How's this for irony: I have all the time in the world to focus on my training....and I can't even train. All negativity aside, I do realize this is just my body's way of telling me that this shift to more of a "run focus" is hard on me and that I need to do a better job of seeing the "signs" and catching them before something freakish like this happens again.

When I had my blisters, I kept telling myself, "You'll look back on this in a week and wonder why you were upset about it." When I had that weird pain on the outside (little toe area) of my foot, I kept reminding myself, "This, too, shall pass." For some reason, it's hard to think that way with the knee thing going on...maybe because it is SO much more intense and more obvious than the previous flare ups. I am hoping that in a few days from now, I can just look at this as my body playing an April Fools joke on me:)

For now, Ryan and I have a race to prepare for. I can't believe this is our FIFTH year of putting on the Egg Shell Shuffle 1/2 marathon and 5k. Shameless plug: for anyone wanting to run a 5k or 1/2 this Saturday, we'll have race day registration this year. Go to for more info.
So blessed to have had a wonderful few days with these people :)

Sweet medal for ALL finishers :)