Alison’s Blog: Running in a pool on a unicycle, but without the unicycle: the pain continues

deep water running

The picture above demonstrates how Alison has to complete her marathon training runs because of  her injuries.  Deep water running for 10, even 20 minutes might be bearable, but try 90 minutes. That’s just what she willed herself to do recently .  Read on as Alison continues to overcome obstacle after obstacle. I’ve heard from many of you and the answer is yes, she is a remarkable person. No matter the outcome, she is a winner and nothing will stop her.


“63198. 63198.”

No, those aren’t the numbers from the show “Lost”, and I haven’t started repeating numbers at random just for fun (though to a data analyst, that does sound intriguing). 63198 is going to be my bib number for the New York Marathon in November – if I can still run it.

Those following my blog know that I’ve been injured. The small but more painful problem is that I’ve had a pinched nerve in my neck for over a week now (the best way to describe the pain is to tell you to take a relatively sharp kitchen knife, drive it into your dominant shoulder making sure that the pain radiates both up to your neck and down to your elbow; then, leave the knife in that exact position for 10 days). The bigger problem is that I have either tendonitis or a stress fracture in my left foot, which has stopped me from running a single step on land for the past week.

Peter K, my coach and mentor, has helped me tremendously this past week. He has checked in on me daily, giving me tips like how to stretch out my foot. He also helped me adjust my workouts to things my pained and broken body could handle like deep water running and using an elliptical machine. Most importantly, he has kept me focused. Peter has reminded me that this is just one week, and that I’ve been working like a dog for years. One week without running is not going to ruin everything.

Today’s workout was supposed to be a 15 mile land run. In order to keep up my fitness without hurting my foot, I had to do a non-impact workout that would take the same amount of time as the run would have taken – about 2 and a half hours. I decided to do an hour and a half deep water run, and 1 hour on the elliptical. I broke the workout up into two parts for a few reasons: 1) my gym’s pool is too popular for me to swim for 2 ½ hours without getting kicked out because too many people are waiting, and 2) deep water running has got to be the most boring workout ever invented, and I think before I finished I’d probably drown the person swimming next to me just to bring some excitement into the day.

This entire workout was going to annoy me. On the weekends I run at home, so once I walk out of my front door I am where I need to be. To do this workout I had to take the train into Manhattan, which was just inconvenient. When I got to the gym, I begrudgingly got into the cold pool and started my deep water run.

For those who have no clue what deep water running is, picture a person on a unicycle. Then just remove the unicycle, submerge the person up to her neck in a cold pool and strap a flotation belt around her while she pedals back and forth in the pool. And back. And forth. For 90 minutes. Even writing about it is boring me.

I will admit that I started my workout kind of angry. Tens of thousands of other people were doing their long runs, enjoying looking at the colors of the leaves turning, hearing traffic, knowing that they are setting themselves up for a great race in November. And I couldn’t do that. I had to do this annoying workout in the hopes that it would keep up my fitness just in case I can still run the marathon. And if I can’t, I’m doing it for nothing.

The first 10 minutes dragged on. Actually, the first 50 minutes dragged on. But, as my workout progressed, I cheered myself up a little. I thought about everyone who has been helping me. My old college roommate, Leslie, is my virtual training partner, doing the same workouts as me on the same day in Vancouver, Canada. My husband, Wil, has been helping more around the house since my shoulder hurts so much (ever lift a 3 year old out of the tub when you have a pinched nerve? Picture taking that same knife from before and twisting it about 45 degrees clockwise while you dig it into your shoulder just a little bit deeper). My 6 year old daughter, Olivia, has been helping make dinners and carrying packages from the car, though she’s told me, “I like to help you, Mommy, but I draw the line and bathing my little brother.” Peter K has answered my endless texts and emails on how to adjust each workout and exactly what I should say to the doctors to get them to help me.

As much as this workout is painful and boring (and painfully boring), I think I needed it. I needed the time to myself to remember how many people are supporting me, how hard I’ve worked for years, and for the last several months in particular. I know that when I finish my workout I should eat a piece of fruit, and not drown my sorrows in a big ice cream sundae. So, I continue in the pool, back and forth, back and forth, and put one thought in my mind: “63198. 63198.” I will wear that number on November 6th, lined up on the Staten Island side of the Verranzano-Narrows bridge.

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