Before I get to the meat of this post, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who sent me advice, condolences and empathy. I can't believe how many of you have experienced the same back problem. I've got another post queued up where I'll share some of the advice I got and some helpful links. For now, I'll just say....take care of your low back, especially those of you who are, have been or will be pregnant!
The last run I went on, on Monday before Tuesday's interdiction on running, was great. Normally I do hard stuff on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but the PT appointment on Tuesday was at 7 a.m. and I knew it would be hard to do a long hard speed workout, shower, eat a decent breakfast and still make that on time. On the surface front of my mind, I planned to run after the appointment. But a nagging little voice deeper down was already whispering that it might not happen that way.
So my fartlek workout--7 two-minute intervals at 10K pace with one minute rest in between--was accomplished on Monday. After a two-mile warm-up followed by some stupid fumbling with the Garmin and my new iPod Touch, I finally got in a groove. My paces for the seven intervals were: 8:23, 8:23, 8:16, 8:22, 8:16, 8:08 and 8:05. The total distance was six miles. None of that will set any records, of course, but after the nasty cold and the UTI it felt good to do something hard and still feel strong.
You already know about Tuesday's news and the sad 40 minutes on the bike at the gym.
Yesterday and today, I woke up to my new routine. All spin class/bike, all the time. The spin class I attend is at 6 a.m. on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday/Thursday. Yesterday's class was fun: the instructor, Sheila, had us in a circle and made us all say our names. During the class, if your name was called, you had to sprint by yourself for 15 seconds while the rest of the class watched. I got called on three times despite my weird name! And today's class, taught by Terri, was also great--lots of "hill" work, sprints, good music. I'm not allowed to stand up or jump, but when everyone else did those things I ratcheted up the "road" to a good leg-burning equivalent.
I'm no stranger to spin class. It's been the Monday morning workout in all three of the plans Greg McMillan has written for me, and before that it was my cross-training of choice under the Run Less Run Faster plan. But I admit I haven't always poured myself into it with the same passion I put into running. That's changed now. I wore the Garmin and kept an eye on my heart rate, making sure it was at or higher than the recommended 120 beats-per-minute threshold for as much of the class as possible. I ignored most of the "recovery" segments. My plan is to lose as little as possible of the hard-earned running fitness that showed itself in Monday's fartlek workout.
Between the climbs and the sprints, I had much less trouble keeping the heart rate up in spin class than I'd had alone on the bike on Tuesday. The one worry I have is that these 45-minute spin classes are too short. At next Tuesday's PT appointment I'm going to see if there's any way I can supplement with something weight-bearing, like hill walking for 30 minutes on my break at work.
Last night I started reading a book I won last fall from Erin of See Mom Run Far, Meb Keflezighi's Run to Overcome. Meb, who I saw win the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston two months ago, really did overcome a lot to get there. I skipped ahead to the chapter about the pelvic stress fracture that forced him onto a bike and into a pool for several weeks after a disappointing performance in the 2008 Olympic Trials. His coach, Bob Larsen, wrote:
There were a lot of blows for Meb when you add it all up. Here's someone who was running as well as ever till he got sick 10 days or so before the  trials marathon....The second blow is he comes back, tries to get in shape, realizes something is wrong, that it's pretty serious and it's going to take quite a bit of time and effort to overcome.
If you're guaranteed a gold medal, sure, you'd go through all of that. But there's no guarantee with this thing. You're doing it all on blind faith that you're going to come out okay. You've got to have a lot of faith in yourself....
Meb's a great example for me right now. I can still see him sitting up there, the winner of his race, having been through far worse than what I'm dealing with. I want to win my race too. I want to wear my own private laurel wreath. Sitting there on that bike, I see that Boston Marathon unicorn with every sprint, with every tick of the heart rate monitor.