A cheery hello from the bowels of failure and disappointment

Since it’s been about six months since my last post, I’m checking in. I know you’re still reading — or at least some of you are! I got 92 hits last week alone on my wildly popular post “How to lose weight when you’re 46 years old and genetically disadvantaged.”

I’m still chronically injured. I run 2-3 times a week, 6 miles tops, for a few weeks and then I get injured for a few weeks. Rinse, repeat. I have faked myself out several times and planned out elaborate training schedules after the period of “basebuilding.” As if this was what facing reality looks like. No, there will be no training. There will be no basebuilding, even. There’s just week to week, seeing what my body will do next.

There’s some kind of weird imbalance issue on my left side. Everything that’s wrong is on the left side: left foot tendon issue, left Achilles, left sciatic nerve pain. So I don’t really know what to do except wait and see and make it a goal to try to run when possible.

It sucks. But I have other things going on in my life and new ways of defining myself, so it’s not the disaster it was a few years ago. But it still sucks. Silver lining: I’ve discovered how pleasurable it is to walk. And I’ve only gained 10 pounds.

See you next year.

Injury. Patience. Optimism.

In my last post I laid out my ambitious plans to run 3 miles a day for the upcoming week. I managed to run four days, totaling 17 miles for that week. Then I headed into the next week with high hopes and promptly fucked up my back. Still, I traveled 28.5 miles that week, 8 of them walking. I also gave up my office chair and converted my desk into a standing desk (because I couldn’t sit for 5 minutes without sending my back into spasm).

By the end of the week my back issue had abated. Then I went out of town to a rental cabin where I Did Nothing. I didn’t run at all for 5 days. I did nothing for 5 days except lie around sleeping, reading and writing (in a bad office chair at the rental). Came home. Went out for a run. Suffered shooting sciatic pain on one side after 1.5 miles. Hobbled home. Took the next day off. Marveled at how fat I’ve gotten.

So the grand total for last week was 1.5 miles.

Here we go again.

This week I’m committed to running on whatever days I can. Much as I hate to, I will run on the treadmill until my injuries subside. I can’t stand heading out for a run and wondering at what point something will stop working, and I’m stranded miles out and have to do the walk of shame back home. Plus I’m too fat to be seen in public.

I’m really not that fat. Not nearly as fat as I used to be. I haven’t weighed myself in a few weeks, but the last time I did I was about 8 pounds up from what I’ve held at for the past 18 months. That has got to go.

I eat salad every day. I snack on apples. I don’t drink beer. Or anything. Except when I go out, which is rare. Okay, I had a beer on Saturday, the day of my 1.5 miler. But I was being social. Tomorrow I’ll go back to the gym and lift wimpy weights after a month-long absence.

So let’s talk about optimism. With the exception of a brief window in late 2011 and early 2012, when I ran a couple of PRs and was not injured, the last four years of running have been THE SUCK. I have usually been injured with something, on and off. I’ve been injured non-stop for over a year now. I’ve got PF in my right foot — which I’ve had since a year ago February — plus intermittent achilles issues on both sides. This makes it hard to run, impossible on some days.

I’ve also been, uh, challenged in my personal life for 1-2 years, depending on which personal debacle you use to start the clock. I don’t write about everything here because it’s personal and also involves people close to me. But trust me — I’ve been clawing my way through an Irwin Allen-scale shit storm for many moons. And, you know, it has not been all bad by any means. Some great things have happened in that time too. But the bad has usually outweighed the good by a significant margin and the nature of the bad has been just, well, relentless. I had a stretch of very bad luck, which is how math works sometimes. Bad luck comes in double digits. The sorry state of my running just fit right in. After awhile it was just, Eh, whatever. Why not pile on bad running too? Whereas in the past I have looked to running to help me deal with other issues in my life, to provide me with a physical and emotional outlet plus a source of focus and accomplishment, I didn’t have that this time around. It was just another thing that wasn’t going well.

So now the clouds are parting. My personal life seems to have finally achieved some badly needed equilibrium. Some very good stuff is happening on almost all fronts. This is emerging, oddly, in conjunction with having thrown up my hands and decided to back off and stop trying so hard and expecting anything at all except more calamity. I had started bracing myself for more water landings, treating the future as a fist poised to fly. Truly. There is a kind of liberation that comes from having a bunch of really terrible stuff happen and coming through it dented, scratched and with parts missing, but more or less intact as a human unit, ready for more assault. Facing the future after a couple of years like this feels like a kind of dare I’m presenting to Fate and Fortune: Go ahead, you two. Keep throwing garbage at me. Your arms are going to get tired eventually and I’ll still be here, fuckers.

I’m working my ass off right now to get a foothold in several areas. Again, where is personal. But I want to not give the impression that I’ve become complacent or hopeless. I was pretty hopeless for a while. I’m not anymore, and that includes in the realm of running.

I would like to be able to train for and race the 2013 Fifth Avenue Mile — and by that I mean train for it consistently and race it well. Not limp through the thing. That’s what I want. I may not get what I want this year. Or ever again. Maybe my days as a competitive runner are over; I’ll be injured forever. Wouldn’t that be awful? Yes, it would. But I don’t think that’s the case, any more than I think terrible things will continue to happen to me and people close to me every single month of the year, forever. If I did then I would have stopped running months ago. To Say The Least.

Maybe I should stop running now. But why would I choose to stop running if there’s a chance I can run well again? I could spend brain cycles thinking about the worst that could happen or I could spend them on the opposite. It takes the same amount of time and the same outlay of electricity. But here’s the thing: thinking about the worst thing seems like a way to ward if off. But it doesn’t. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. And you’ll be no more prepared for it if and when it does. You’ll just already be in a terrible mood. So why not spend that time and energy considering a positive outcome instead?

If I can run on the treadmill tomorrow then I will. That’s what I say every day now. That’s all I can do. I’ll wait this thing out. If I’m still alive, then I’m winning. It’s a strategy that’s worked out in other areas. I’m optimistic that it will work here too.

One day at a time

Last week I ran 4.5 miles. GO ME.

Right. So running is vying with Learning Swedish on my list of priorities. And I don’t even want to learn Swedish.

Last weekend was the Scotland Run 10K, a race in which I got a PR last year, mostly owing to having maintained the 5K fitness I’d killed myself to obtain all fall and winter. I think if I’d raced that this year I would have been lucky to break 50:00, such is my state of current neglect.

I had plans to train for races this year. 5Ks in the late spring! A summer relay in Vermont! Track racing! The mile!

Honestly, I have no idea what I’m going to do. Right now I’m looking at running from an AA perspective: One day at a time. The first thing I have to work on is running more than once a week. I can already tell how out of shape I’ve gotten. Running now feels awful. So I don’t run, and I get more out of shape, and it feels awfuler.

So here goes: I’m going to try to commit to doing a 3 mile run, every day, for the next week, starting tomorrow. Today I will go for a walk.

Next week I’ll make it 4 miles.

If I can hack that for 2 weeks, then I’ll start throwing in longer runs. No “training runs” until sometime in the summer, after I have rebuilt a decent aerobic base and gotten rid of my various lingering injuries.

I have no other running commitments. I can’t take the pressure. I need to like running again before I can think about training for anything.

Training and trying vs. giving up and getting fat

And. I’m back. Maybe I’ll post more than once per season in 2013.

When I wrote that last post I was depressed and stressed out. Could you tell? I was also injured. I pretty much stopped running in any consistent way for the next couple of months. I averaged 8-10 miles during the weeks in which I ran. Many weeks featured no running whatsoever. I stopped going to the gym altogether. I’ve gained 6 lbs, and it would be a lot more had I not been a total calorie intake Nazi.

I’m now free of all Achilles issues and I have extremely mild plantar fasciitis in my right foot (yeah, I know; it’s been there for a year now). But it goes away after two miles on the treadmill usually; some days it’s not there at all. I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to run with no pain, it’s been so long. I started running fairly consistently about two weeks ago, usually 4-5x a week. I’m mostly on the treadmill due to ice/snow on the running path. I’m around 20-30 mpw average now with no major issues. About once every 10 days I do a slightly faster run. I am in remarkably good basic aerobic shape, considering all the neglect. I started doing weights again, once a week, two weeks ago too. Next week I’ll start going twice per week.

It’s probably nuts to talk about goals at this point. But I have them. I always do, in the back of my mind. The goal over the next month is to be able to run 30-40 mpw free of injury. I will probably do most of the runs on the treadmill since I think the reduced impact has helped me to heal. I will continue to do at least one faster workout per week. I will also do some trail running in Van Cortlandt.

Come April I’ll start doing 5K training again. Then I want to race a 5K in late May or early June. No time goal. I just want to get back to racing. Then if that goes well, and I remain injury-free, I’ll focus on the Fifth Avenue Mile again in late september. It’s the only NYRR race I still give a flying fuck about doing well in. I’ve also been invited to do the Green Mountain Relay again in late June. If I can get short legs (no giggling) — and my teammates are cool with my not racing them all out — then I will probably do that again, because it’s fun!

I still want to crack 20:00 in the 5K. I’ll be 48 in a few weeks. I’m probably an idiot for wanting this, because that way lies more injury, failure and frustration. But I’m realizing that if I don’t have some sort of racing goal it’s nearly impossible for me to care about running anymore. So it’s either train and try or give up and get fat.

Oh, well

I’m injured again. This seems to be a perpetual cycle. My right Achilles got tweaked on a run a little over a month ago, a new problem on top of plantar fasciitis on the same side. Since then I’ve nearly stopped running altogether. I’ve gone running once in the last three weeks. It was four miles on a treadmill at the gym. It hurt, so I stopped.

So now in addition to not being able to run without pain I’m also rapidly falling out of shape. That’s a vicious circle — the more out of shape I get, the more unpleasant it is to run, and the less I want to run, so the more out of shape I get. The days are shorter now. It’s dark. We also had a hurricane and Nor-easter that totally fucked up our lives for two weeks. I guess I shouldn’t minimize the impact of that event. I was trying to deal with life with no heat, power or connectivity. Running and tending to my Achilles was the last thing on my mind.

I need to start running again, if only because I’m gaining weight. I do belong to a gym and sometimes I think that if I can’t run that I should at least go and do the elliptical just to get back to some semblance of basic aerobic fitness. But I can’t bring myself to do that. I hate the elliptical.

I would like to run the Cherry Tree Relay (a 3-person relay in Brooklyn in March) again in 2013. I am sort of assuming that I’ll be able to train again and at least not be embarrassingly slow. But I don’t know why I’d assume that.

A year ago I was on an upswing after the Fifth Avenue Mile, a payoff for patience and faith after a couple of years of disastrous running. Now I’m injured, out of shape and the owner of a rapidly expanding ass. I’ve also got competing pressures and priorities that are pulling me in other directions, like writing/performing and the need to make a living, among other things.

I feel my age, my body’s lack of resiliency. I wonder if I’ll ever run well again. Where’s the faith?

God, this sucks.

I’m closing comments. Just venting. We’ve all been here before.

Other running stuff (not deep thoughts)

It’s Twofer Tuesday on RLaG. You get TWO posts!

Here’s other stuff that’s going on.

I was tempted to do the Randall’s Island Zombie Run, but at $60 it’s expensive. Plus, as I wanted to go as a zombie, I’ll be all overachieving and need to get plastic gashes and such. It’s coming at the end of a huge month in terms of personal and professional commitments. So I’m going to skip it.

Our household NYRR membership lapses in November. I truly don’t give a shit. I’ve barely run any NYRR races and have been soured on them as an organization for various reasons lately. Their races have just gotten too crowded. When I get back into racing I’ll probably return to CT, NJ and Rockland/Orange counties where there are wide open spaces, fast ladies and cheap trophies aplenty.

Yesterday I took JS on a tour of Van Cortlandt Park. We ran a bit along the South County Trail, which is actually a paved path, and then parted ways so I could go back and hit the XC course for some tempo miles. JS continued going north and eventually his Tuckahoe Road. The path continues north and becomes the North County Trail around Elsmford. I wish I’d known about this path when I was training for CIM, as it has a mile+ gradual hill. In any case, we’ll return, I think often. I’m sick of the running path I’ve been using for close to 14 (eep) years.

The dirt cheap gym I joined is in Yonkers at the Cross County Mall. Blink Fitness is a wildly expanding NY-area gym. It’s $15 a month. You get treadmills, ellipticals, sort of shitty stationary bikes (not spin bikes), FormFitness strength machines and a smattering of free weights. That’s about it. You have to bring your own towels. But it’s $15, people. That’s, like, three beers at one happy hour.

Tammy Lifka, whom I interviewed for my Houston Hopefuls project, just ran a 2:49:02 in Chicago. She has been struggling with her running for quite awhile, but she changed her regimen (and her coach) and now seems to be on a tremendous upswing. I am incredibly happy for her.

Lize Brittin, whom I also interviewed for a Runners Round Table podcast close to two years ago (again, eep), has just self-published her memoir of anorexia, Training on Empty. I read a very early draft of this book and gave some feedback. It’s compelling stuff. The foreword is written by the author of my all-time favorite running memoir, Lorraine Moller. Here’s a review from Kevin Beck.

And finally. Shoe companies are clearing out their 2012 models to make way for new editions. So if you want to stock up on the shoes that are working for you, now’s a good time to pick up “last year’s models” at closeout prices.

Running with sanity

Although I’m rarely a running blogger lately, I nevertheless remain a running runner. I have been running on a steady basis, and doing one hard workout a week since late August. Low mileage, around 25 most weeks. No trackwork. It’s mostly been fartleks (treadmill) and throwing in a few miles at tempo effort over the course of a longer run on hills. We found a dirt cheap gym that’s three miles away, so I’ve gotten back to weekly strength work, now up to 1 hour, twice weekly. I’ve maintained a weight of 124 with some effort. I’d like to get back down to 120, because I feel better running at that weight. I’d also like to get my mileage up to around 40 mpw.

A year ago I was training like mad to run a fast 5K road race over Olympic Trials weekend in Houston. I did not run that race. I did a little racing in the late winter, but then I got injured in March with PF in my right foot (still there, but mild). It’s been a wild ride, the last nine months, with lots of highs and lows. None of them having to do with running, at least not directly. This has been good for me, not only because I’ve recognized the value of focusing on other areas of endeavor, but also because it’s given me a chance to think about my running, where it fits into my life. Perspective and distance are helpful things.

One realization is that I do miss some aspects of marathon training, but I don’t miss the time and energy commitment. Nor do I actually miss racing marathons. I’m still fairly certain that I won’t run another. I’ve also realized that I’ll probably always be a competitive runner. And by that I mean I’ll care about seeing improvement in myself (although as the years pass, that’s all relative) and doing well relative to my peers. I still want to have tangible goals.

I do have a goal right now, which is to break 20:00 in a road 5K. What’s different this time around is that I’m not attaching that goal to any particular deadline or race. I will train during the fall to run a fast 5K this winter. Will it be under 20:00? I have no clue. I have a training plan, but it’s loose. I got so sick of trying to follow a strict schedule, not hitting target paces, going into each “tuneup” or “time trial” race with pressure to see a certain time on the clock. The truth is, some days I don’t feel like running. So when that happens, I usually don’t run. On other days, I’ll go out with a plan to do a hard run, but my legs don’t feel great. So I’ll give them a few miles. Sometimes they come around. But usually they don’t, and when that happens I abandon the workout and try again a few days later.

I’m seeing steady improvements in fitness. But mostly I’m seeing an improvement in how I feel about running. I like it again. Sometimes I love it. I never dread it, and that’s new. I have my first track workout in about five months next week. It’s not even really a workout. It’s mostly going to be me running around a track wearing an HRM to see what speeds I can maintain at various efforts. I just want some sort of baseline at this point.

I have this crazy suspicion that my radical change in attitude and looser approach to training and racing might yield greater success eventually.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers