In which I seek solace from a dead poet

I recently purchased Tim Noakes’ seminal work The Lore of Running. I had to put something into my Amazon cart to get free shipping and I’d always meant to buy this book. So I did. It can best be described as a compendium of running physiology, but shot through with a whole lot of wisdom.

Weighing in at 931 pages, it’s not a book I can see myself reading through cover to cover. Instead, I keep it on the dining room table and once or twice a day, when I’m having breakfast or lunch, I dip in and read a few pages. Today I ventured into the chapter entitled “Training the Mind”. I thought I’d pick up some tips in preparation for the day that I line up for a race again.

But it seems I could not escape my current predicament, even by studiously avoiding chapters about injury. There, on page 556, a section entitled “Psychology of Injury” began. On the next page was a subsection: “Typical Response to Injury,” which enumerates the mental stations of the injury cross in a form that would make Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proud (except…what, no bargaining?):

  1. Denial: At first, the athlete refuses to accept that the injury has occurred and simply denies its possibility. Examples of runners who ran to their deaths, denying that they could possibly have heart disease, are detailed in chapter 5.
  2. Anger (rage): When the injury can no longer be denied, the athlete becomes enraged and blames either the doctor, a spouse [ed. note: oh, yes — that’s why runners should always hitch their wagons to other runners, who will call them on their shit], or some third party for the injury. Occasionally, athletes will blame their bodies for this betrayal and may even subject it to further abuse, for example, by continuing to run. [ed. note: or, in my case, by consuming tremendous amounts of wine.]
  3. Depression: When denial and rage no longer work, the athlete moves on to the (penultimate) state of depression.
  4. Acceptance: Finally, the athlete learns to accept the injury and to modify ambition to accommodate the inadequacies of the mortal body. When this occurs, the athlete is likely to be over the injury.

That last line bears repeating, in case you missed it: When [acceptance] occurs, the athlete is likely to be over the injury.

Isn’t that tragic?

But probably true.

I am almost afraid to note this, since I’ve had so many false alarms over the past couple of weeks. But I think my original problem (crippling muscle knots) has abated almost completely and I have actually replaced that problem with a new one: a pulled adductor muscle. Maybe it’s a compensatory injury from my wonky walking, but I’m more apt to blame it on the insane pedaling I’ve been doing on the stationary bike over the past week.

The past few days (and especially at night and first thing in the morning), the adductor magnus, or maybe it’s the brevis, hurts a lot. I did three hours of cross-training yesterday, 2.5 the day before, most of it on the bike. Today I didn’t do anything other than take a hot bath and, earlier, wander the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond, not buying things (sometimes I do this for no apparent reason, sort of a reverse osmosis consumerism). If I do anything tomorrow, it will be going to the Y and trying out my water running equipment. But if that irritates the problem muscle, I won’t proceed.

So. To review. The good news is that the original problem seems to be going away. The bad news is I have a new problem. But I’ve dealt with adductor strains before — I even trained with one for 10 weeks — and they are not a big deal. I know this particular monster and it’s not that scary.

Might this be a light I see? I know better than to hope when the right thing — the only thing — to do is to simply wait. I almost hate to trivialize T.S. Eliot by applying his words to something as lightweight as a running injury. But, on the other hand, I think he had a lot to say about accepting hardship and even quietly embracing it as a worthy experience unto itself (if one accepts that things that are worthwhile are not always necessarily pleasant):

I said to my soul be still, and wait without hope; for hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith. But the faith, and the love, and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

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