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.

6 Responses

  1. I like this post a lot. You’ve been dealing with a heavy amount of trouble and I’m so sorry to hear this, but that optimistic attitude is gold. It’s also super smart to use the treadmill till you can trust your body for longer outings.

    Btw, I recently came up on this article on Christine Kennedy, which I consider to be a touchstone for continued belief in the future (having had my own collection of running problems for over a year). She’s fast, in her 50s, and had 5 years where she thought she was done before returning to competition. http://www.runnersworld.com/masters-profiles/christine-kennedy

    • Coming from someone who has had heavy amounts of trouble herself, your comment means a lot. I like that article. Thanks for pointing me to it. I can’t tell from your blog if you’re running or not. I am sorry about the gummy poisoning, though.

      • Lol, thanks! The poisoning was after 17 days off for bronchitis after building back from an SI joint situation (if it’s not one thing, it’s…). So I’m once again back in the start-up lane but this time it feels good. Did my first 10miler in ages on Sunday and today will be my first consecutive 7th day in months, so keep the faith, girl! You will NOT be injured forever, it’s just a matter of letting your body do its stupid shit for a while longer. Hopefully, a very little while longer. Cheers, sweetie.

  2. That was a biggie. In bad luck terms you’re America’s Mark Webber. And here is me stressing about a couple of weeks off running due to a sore arm!

    I’m sure you’ll be competitive again. Every five years there’s a new age-group to look forward to. You’re a good runner. Maybe look outside the box to get your muscles/body aligned and balanced. Like the Alexander Technique book that Flo’s been reading or Feldenkrais (which I can recommend). Good luck and hang in there!

    • Thanks, Ewen! I had to Google Mark Webber. Nothing I have seems “career (cough cough) ending” so I have hope I’ll be running fast again eventually. I certainly know I have patience and tolerance for tedium. It’s making peace with the slowing of age I’m now most worried about. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

  3. Forgive me my ignorance, what’s going on with your back? I’ve not visited blog-land lately so I am completely out of the loop. I knew you were having some troubles but wasn’t sure of the extent. Healthy, happy vibes coming your way. Glad that some things are on the up for you.

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