Sunday, November 25th One of my biggest fears post-accident is that I won’t PR again. There are so many unknowns as I work through recovery. I’m pretty confident I can run 3.1 miles but I still don’t know if I can make it to a half marathon. I don’t know what my hip will be able to tolerate and what will be my breaking point.
I purposely leave any indication of my paces out of this story. I am not an elite athlete. I’m not a sub-elite athlete. I would consider myself to be middle of the pack. There will always be someone faster than me and, in most cases, there will be someone slower. Accidents like mine could happen to anyone - fast, slow, just starting out or lifelong athletes. The struggle of recovering and dealing with the unknowns, are the same for anyone who can’t do what they love.
I set my alarm for 5am to go for a run before the kids woke up this morning. Today, I completed four miles running 10 minutes on, one minute off for a total of 36 minutes of running and three minutes of walking. My body feels normal. My legs, my hip, my feet, they’re all fine. I struggle to regain my cardio fitness. I can’t believe how hard it is to breathe through these short miles. I turn the pace screen off on my watch so it’s not even a consideration when I’m focused on staying steady and taking it easy. At the end of my run when I checked the data screens, I was happy to see I’m settling back into what would have been my easy pace before my injury. It gives me hope.
When I got back to my house, the kids were already up with Brad. I showered and got ready to tackle the day. While Brad went out for his run, I made the kids eggs and toast which paused the whining for a couple minutes. After a brutally cold week, the day was shaping up to be much warmer outside.
After Brad returned and showered, I got a message from Barb. She was going out for a bike ride and asked me to join her. With the warmer temperatures, it could be our last opportunity for an outdoor ride until spring. Brad encouraged me to go. Miraculously, I was able to unearth my cold weather biking gear. It hasn’t moved in a year.
I met Barb shortly after getting dressed and we went out for a ride. I was a little uneasy at first but having Barb as my guide calmed my nerves. By the end of our time out on the roads, it felt normal to be on a bike again. Even better, when I got back home, I realized my pace on the bike was roughly what it would have been before my accident. Everything about this day felt normal.
Monday, November 26th After last week’s chaos, I feel like I’m recovering from the flu this week. My body is dragging. It is taking tremendous effort to keep up.
I returned to PT this morning. I started off with a 10 minute run on the treadmill to warm up. Then I moved onto another series of jumping - one foot, both feet, up, down, side to side. It was tough.
At the end of my session, Dr. C and I discussed my run progression. This would be my last appointment for a week. He told me I could run 15-20 minutes, take a two minute break and repeat. It should get me to the 4 mile point I’ve been working up to.
I spent the rest of the day cramming in a whole week’s worth of emails, meetings and croissant production while trying to do laundry and pack for my trip to Austin, TX for The Running Event, a trade show for retailers in the running industry.
Tuesday, November 27th And so it goes, I set my alarm for 5am and got up to run with the Fueled by Doughnuts group. I was still a little achy from PT yesterday but I knew I had to keep moving if I want to keep healing. For the first time, I didn’t have to ask if anyone wanted to walk/run with me. I was prepared to go out with the group and use the conversation to pull me through the miles. The cardio part of running is still very difficult for me, more than any pain from the muscle aches or bone aches.
I made it up the Claremont hill and kept going all the way to the water fountain in Anderson Park where I stopped for my 2 minute rest…2.2 miles into the run. Rather than cutting it short and heading back for a total of four miles, I decided to continue along with the group. Chatting with Barb, Ariel & Clio took my mind off my shortness of breath and helped me to complete all 5 miles of the group run. I couldn’t believe what I accomplished. For the last 15 weeks, I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be able to build mileage again and here I am, five miles later, no worse for the wear.
Shortly after the group run, Brad and I were en route to the airport and on our way to Austin. Our flight arrived mid-afternoon. We checked into our Airbnb and proceeded to walk miles and miles around Austin, eating BBQ, tacos and drinking some local brews. I was wrecked!
Wednesday, November 28th We spent the morning walking around downtown Austin and the afternoon meeting with vendors at the conference. There was a lot to take in. Nutrition, shoes, clothes, hats… The highlight of the show was our meeting with Meb. We talked about our daughters and running and running with our daughters. He showed us pictures from his youngest’s most recent 5K. It never ceases to amaze me how this sport unites so many people.
We met my cousin Mike for dinner after the show. Mike and I grew up together in Maryland. Our birthdays are only one month apart. We both ended up in the restaurant industry so we’ve always connected in ways the rest of the family will never understand. He’s lived in Austin for the last five years. I think it’s been more than 10 years since our last visit together.
Thursday, November 29th A year ago today, Brad and I met for the first time. We had planned to meet earlier in the week. He was the photographer at the last Upright Citizen’s Brigade show. We were going to meet after which was a feat for me considering I hadn’t stayed up past 9pm in years. I fretted over what to wear, crowdsourcing ideas from Lizzy & Hillary. A few minutes before my train was scheduled to leave, he called to say his job was running later than expected and we would have to postpone our date.
I was relieved when he suggested we meet for a run a couple days later. Dating was new to me, running I could do. I didn’t need to worry about what to wear or what to say. After all, I’ve been leading a group of strangers on runs for the last two years, this would be easy. Jess was convinced Brad only wanted to meet me so he could get entry into the sold out 5K Doughnut Run. It was an elaborate scheme.
We arranged to meet in Brooklyn. I dropped the kids off at school and headed over the Verrazano for the first time since I ran over it at the start of the NYC marathon. Our five mile run along Shore Road, under the bridge, was mostly unremarkable. It was unseasonably warm and the sun was bright. I wore a tank top and shorts. We talked about our kids, our jobs and our families. The conversation continued long after the miles and it would have kept going only I had to rush back to finish making Malachi’s birthday cake. It was his 7th birthday and I was going to surprise him with a cake when he got home from school.
I never believed I would be able to recreate our five mile run this morning, to celebrate a year together. Even last week, it seemed out of reach. Brad stuck with me for, what had to be, painfully slow miles for him. We took a five mile tour of Austin, along the Colorado River. It wasn’t the Hudson but it would have to do.
A year ago, I didn’t think it was possible to have unconditional love and support from a partner. In my experience, it didn’t exist. I’m grateful life has proven me wrong. I’m thankful to have someone by my side who doesn’t only support me but also challenges me to be a better person, a better mom, and a better baker. If that’s not enough, I laugh a lot. In fact, when my kids were first introduced to Brad, after our pizza dinner together, on the ride home, Keegan told me he never heard me laugh before. It was true. I didn’t laugh much or maybe not at all. Thanks for all the miles and the smiles, Brad!
Friday, November 30th - In early November 2015, I moved the bakery production from Walnut Street to Label Street and Walnut Street became strictly retail. The facility was supposed to be open in August in time for our summer camp. When summer came and went, I started getting more nervous every day closer to Thanksgiving. We were beyond max capacity in the tiny Walnut Street bakery. The Label Street space was home to a new bread oven, doubling capacity, a new doughnut fryer, also doubling capacity and a sheeter which rolls out the dough to an even thickness. Until the move, we were still using rolling pins and hoping one baker’s half inch was the same thickness as another baker’s half inch.
Carolyn was the Production Manager. She had just returned from maternity leave after her second daughter was born. The rest of the team was a hodgepodge of skill levels. The Assistant Production Manager was a recent culinary school grad who I promoted from within shortly before Carolyn went on leave. She was very talented but being in her first management role, still had a lot to learn about the bakery business. The other two key bakers on the team came to Montclair Bread Co as yoga instructors. They both wanted to learn more about baking and thought it would be a fun place to give it a try. I had high hopes for these two newbies. One was excellent with customers and very organized. I started grooming her to help me with higher level management projects.
Earlier in 2015, there was a woman, Jessica, who had been stalking me at the bakery. She waited for me to arrive one morning and gave me an envelope with her resume. She explained that she was working at Magnolia Bakery in NYC and was over the commute. She loved my bakery and was eager to join a growing business. She was overqualified and I couldn’t afford her.
In August, I hosted the company BBQ in my back yard. I entrusted all the organizational and planning tasks to the staffer I was grooming for upper management. The day before the event, she went completely MIA. She didn’t answer phone calls or respond to emails. No one knew where she was. In fact, no one knew where she was for an entire week!!! I was able to piece together information from the catering company and the rental company. The BBQ went on without her. In addition to being a staff event, I also offered tickets to the party as a kickstarter reward. Little did I know, Jessica and her husband were in attendance. I didn’t even realize, when I was sitting next to her that Jessica was the same woman who had been stalking me with her resume, however, through the whole meal, all I could think about was calling that woman back. I needed a real professional to help me run the business and she was it. Two weeks later, Jessica accepted a position as Director of Operations for Montclair Bread Co. When my baker finally reappeared a week after the BBQ with a sad story, I fell for it and took her back on the team but in a reduced capacity with less responsibilities. Maybe I contributed to her delinquency? Maybe she couldn’t handle the pressure?
During our move to Label Street, I was distracted. In addition to opening a brand new production bakery, I was training to run my first marathon AND I was organizing the first official 5K Doughnut Run. I tried to keep all the balls in the air but, at times, they fell. On Walnut Street we made do with the space we had. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t professional. When we made the move, my expectations for the team increased. Now that we weren’t just making do and we had everything we needed, it had to be done the right way. Arriving an hour late to work in pajamas was not acceptable. Whining about having someone to wash dirty dishes and clocking out two hours before the end of a scheduled shift, also not acceptable.
I stopped being friendly and fun and started attempting to manage the team and take everyone’s skills and professionalism to the next level. I had Carolyn helping me but every day was a battle. Just after Thanksgiving, Jessica got a phone call from one of the bakers. Three of them wanted to meet her at Starbucks. I told her they were quitting. She said I was over reacting. She returned an hour later to tell me, not only were they quitting but they tried to get her to walk out with them, to convince her that I was the most horrible boss on the planet and no one should have to work for me. They tried to get the entire team to leave with them but the rest of the staff didn’t believe their stories. The mean girls didn’t stop there. After they quit, one of them created numerous fictitious accounts to leave negative reviews on Yelp, Facebook and Google.
I called Carolyn. I didn’t know what we were going to do. Our team of five bakers just became two. Thankfully, one of our new hires, Tom, wasn’t swayed by the mean girls. He stuck around to help us make it work. There was no way we could get through the weekend production without more help. Worse yet, the 5K Doughnut Run was looming and we had to make 1500 doughnuts for the 700 runners registered for the race next week. I called my running buddies. The running club didn’t exist yet.
At 2am Saturday morning, Anne M, Anne A., Anne A’s mom Beth and Cara all came to help make doughnuts. Cara came straight from a night out. The others woke up early to help. I taught them how to roll out the dough, how to cut rings, how to fry them and fill them. Carolyn and Tom, worked with my friends and together we got everything ready to open on Saturday morning. The back up team continued to come in to help me for the next few days while I figured out what to do.
I made a few calls to former co-workers at different bakeries to see if they knew of anyone looking for work. As luck would have it, the company I worked for prior to opening the bakery had just conducted a huge round of lay-offs. Bakers I worked beside and trained for 5 years needed jobs. I scooped them up as fast as I could. Most of them are still baking with me today.
The mean-girl-walk-out became a defining moment in Montclair Bread Co history. Jessica, Carolyn and I banded together to keep the bread baking and doughnuts frying. We grew as managers. We quickly learned what we value most in this company is the community built around it. For me, the walk out gave me the strength to know there is no obstacle too great to stop progress.
Saturday, December 1st I went out for the Fueled by Doughnuts group run this morning. Now that fall marathon season is coming to an end, the miles are more consistent among the runners…the tapers are over, the recovery is over, back to normal. I decided to hold steady at five miles. Jessica and I ran together which is something we’ve never been able to do. I was at the peak of marathon training when she started building miles and when she peaked, I couldn’t run.
The five mile loop through the south end of Montclair was the easiest run I’ve had so far. My cardio fitness is starting to return. I didn’t have any muscle twinges or achy joints. Heidi, one of the orthopedic surgeons in the practice that performed my operation, the one who brought me breakfast when I was still in the hospital, ran with the group this morning too. She told me my form looked so great that she wanted to send my surgeon a video because he would never believe it. Once again, I told her I owe it all to the incredible care I’ve received at Iron PT. Dr. C and Dr. Mayes wouldn’t clear me to run until they were confident I could hold proper form across both sides of my body.
I think back to all the other injuries I’ve had, the ones that kept me off the pavement for much longer and what I didn’t have then was physical therapy or will to recover. I felt sorry for myself and I was depressed because I couldn’t run. I didn’t spend three days a week of focused strength training making sure my muscles were ready as soon as my bones were healed.
I have to hold myself back and focus on running just three days a week. The last thing I want is a setback in my progress. Once the 5K Doughnut Run is complete, I will resume a normal training schedule and see how my hip can handle a day or two at the track. I’ve pledged to keep any races under 10K until June to create realistic, attainable goals for my training in the months to come.