Teri Masters: Making friends with aches, pains and torrential rains

Teri Masters is a 37-year old mom of 3 living in Truro NS Canada. Her marathon experience taught her that she could push herself further than she ever thought, making “friends” with those aches and pains that accompany 26 miles. She fought torrential rains and winds to finish the Prince Edward Island Marathon in October. For the full account of race day, read her blog post about Prince Edward Island Marathon.

This is Part I in a two part series.

Has weight loss ever been an issue for you?

Well, despite what some people seem to think, I have not always been “fluffy” in the weight department.  My weight was pretty normal until I had kids – and even a couple of times between them! But when they were young, I had trouble consistently committing to some sort of fitness routine. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, but I could only get out for walks a few times a week without the kids. Even this was not something I could count on, due to changing schedules and the amazing ability of three children to be sick at all sorts of inconvenient times. And being realistic, taking three kids for a walk was not active enough; it’s more of a ramble when any one of them are too old for a stroller and too young to keep up. So 2 pounds up, 3 pounds down, 4 pounds up, 3 pounds down….and…15 pounds later, I’m sitting in clothes I do not like and feeling unenergetic and sluggish.

What changed?

My youngest went to pre-school, and I started a flexible job. Suddenly I had something I had not had in almost 10 years – time.  Shortly thereafter, I joined a Curves gym and did circuit training. I lost a couple of pounds and inches but nothing was fast enough for me. So I took up hockey and a few other activities. Then a friend suggested we join a Learn-to-Run group. We had both run in the past, but I wasn’t very good at it. Although I enjoyed it, I felt I was NOT a runner. I had not really figured out what a good runner was, I just figured it was not me. But we did join the Learn-to-Run program, and we went through it with ease! I never realized how easy running was when done properly! I had instruction! I started slowly and built up to times and distances that were attainable. I’m not saying it didn’t hurt; it was occasionally uncomfortable, but it was do-able! I was excited!  And the pounds? The inches? They started to drop off at a slow and constant rate! I was losing a couple of pounds a month and I still am! While I have left gyms and do some other activities for fun, running is the constant. And although my weight plateaus at times, I don’t worry about it. I’m at a healthy weight with healthy habits and I keep running. The weight thing is taking care of itself.

When/why did you decide to run a marathon?

One of my running friends has been the catalyst for all of my longer distance running goals.  After I was comfortably running 5K distances, she pushed me to 10K. When I could do 10K races, she suggested a half marathon. I thought she was crazy; I cannot run 21.1 km! But I found a training program and I followed it. Against my better judgment, I comfortably ran my first half marathon and the Johnny Miles Running Weekend (New Glasgow, NS) about a year after I took up running again. Then I followed a more advanced program and ran my second half marathon about 6 months later at the Rock ‘n Roll half Marathon in Las Vegas.  I was kind of hooked on longer distances by then. But when another friend suggested we run a full marathon so we could get matching tattoos, I balked. No WAY can I run 42.2 km! I actually have no idea when I decided I would do it. I did look for a training program and ended up following a basic Running Room program to ‘finish’ without ever really committing to the marathon itself until I was way into training. Before my third half marathon last spring (2010), I had picked the Prince Edward Island Marathon for its user-friendly course and rave reviews from racing friends who encouraged and advised and pushed me along. The people I started to train with? None of them ran the marathon in the end. We had a whole group and a whole plan and it sort of petered out. But once I had told people I was going to run a marathon, nothing was going to make me back out, short of broken bones. I was determined to prove to all the people who said I could not or should not do it wrong!

I understand that no one was all that that interested in your training. Is this true?

As much as I wanted to talk about my training, no one was all that interested to listen. I hope I did not talk about “nothing but,” but I am aware that I was fairly single-minded and might have talked about the marathon more than I should have. I did start to hold back – when people would ask about my whereabouts, I would tell them “same old stuff” and not talk about things that were really exciting for me. 🙁 What a bummer!

What did you enjoy about training? Not so much enjoy?

The fun of training and planning for a marathon was very exciting! It was a total confidence builder to do the first couple of long runs and end them feeling wonderfully energetic. I was running with a great running partner, the awesome summer weather made me happy; and we were running neat new routes and having a great time. During August and even into September, everything about the training and running was pretty great. Later in September there were some low times. It was challenging to find a balance between being a parent, working full-time and coaching high school Cross Country. The stress was exhausting! I usually did my weekday runs when I was with the Cross Country team, but that meant that I was constantly out of sync with my training program. If the team was doing hill repeats, I did hill repeats. If they had an easy day, I had an easy day.  If they were having a meet, I had to run at an earlier time and take away from work.  But I would like to think my parenting suffered least because they always came first.:)

You had some late stage injuries. What were they?

Late in the program, I was feeling tired and had some familiar and disturbing aches and pains – a pain in my ankle that hurt when walking and pain in my knee when I ran more than a couple of km.  I had to stop reading blogs and advice sites online, because I was becoming convinced every pain was a strain or a stress fracture that was going to intervene with marathon training. I had a few runs where I assessed how and what I was feeling, and corrected a few things in my stride that I had been doing badly. For example, I had pain in my right hip so I was leaning my whole body to the left to compensate, including my head! I had pain in the ball of my right foot so I was under-pronating to compensate, and ended up with knee pain. Once I got some moleskin and covered the ball of my foot, I ran with the weight more centered on my footfall, and the knee pain lessened remarkably. But really, at the end of a training program, you DO hurt and you ARE tired and some of that just had to be put up with. In fact, those last long runs were no fun! My 32 km run was brutal- I was tired feeling so much pain by 20 km, I wished for a car to take me away. Making matters worse, I was assessing what I had done wrong while I was still running the disastrous run, which was mentally fatiguing. I called for a ride home and barely made the 32 km. Confidence was low by taper tim; because I had had a few bad runs, I was sore all the time and was quite convinced going into the taper that there was NO way I could do the marathon. What was your marathon goal prior to race day? As far as I told anyone, my goal was to finish on my feet. If I was pressed, I threw 5 hours out as a goal. I joked to people who were pushy about times, “if I’m still running at 6 hours out, someone should come and scrape me off the road!” My secret goal was 4:30. If I doubled my best half marathon and added a bit for “tired,” I could attain a 4:30.  I’m not fast. I don’t ever expect to ever be fast. My goal is to keep improving.  I want there to be something better about every race I run. A better time. A better feeling. But not a “fast” finish. I didn’t tell many people about my time goal, because if I wasn’t able to attain it, I didn’t want to see anyone’s pity as they said, “Awwh, it didn’t go well?” I was running my first marathon and the last thing I needed was for someone to make less of it than it was – my first and a really cool accomplishment.

Melinda Hinson