Training: Sept 5-18

Yellow has always meant "day off from running". I am living in a world of yellow.

I was originally going to title this post “Cross-training: Sept 5-18” but then decided against it. Although “running” has always been synonymous with “training” the fact of the matter is that I can’t run at all anymore. So cross-training is my only training. Therefore, “cross-training” is now synonymous with “training.” I may as well drop the compound and save you a few milliseconds of download time.

A week and a half ago I joined a gym. Now I spend much of my time there. I feel like I’ve been going there for six months.

Cross-training is a total grind, let me tell you. It takes hours. There’s a lot to do: spinning, ellipticalling, weights and circuit training, general stretching/strengthening, and lots and lots and lots of pool running. And it’s all indoors.

Outside the windows of the gym the air is cool, crisp and dry. It’s perfect running weather. I have a terrible feeling that, after suffering through probably the hottest summer I have experienced since moving to NYC in 1984, I will miss the fall entirely and — if I’m lucky, that is — find myself out running in another brutal winter.

But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I need to focus on the here and now. The exploration into what’s wrong with me continues next week. Or at least I hope it does. The person Sandra wants to send me to is proving difficult to get hold of. In the meantime, I am bracing myself for the worst. Sandra is starting to say things to also prepare me for such eventualities. Things like, “I did this pool running for two months when I had IT band syndrome and ran a good marathon afterwards.” It’s helpful and not helpful.

I got incredibly depressed on Friday evening. Meaning “in tears on the couch with vodka” depressed. I don’t usually do this, but what set it off was trying to run and failing again. Reading about stress fractures keeping people out for six months was also a contributor. And, really, it’s looking at my race times and seeing that the last time I made any real progress was two years ago.

These days, I have a tremendous amount of time to think about things while I’m driving to and from the gym, and plodding along in the pool. I often find myself wondering why I’m so driven to continue. One insight emerged during an interview with Houston Hopeful Julie Wankowski (to be published soon) one evening this week. She described her first sub-3:00 marathon in magical terms. It was one of those rare, ellusive “perfect” races. Such races are transcendental (see also: Flow). Those experiences are among the few during which I’ve felt most alive, masterful and accomplished. I offered to her that those magical races are what keep us striving mentally, despite failure, stagnation, injury and other setbacks. And they keep us training. Or, in my case, cross-training.

8 Responses

  1. I think we all have an abusive relationship with this sport — it beats us up, but just when we’re ready to leave it all behind, it gives us something tiny that gives us hope.

    I keep running because I believe I get more out of it than it takes from me.

  2. Great comment, Cris.

    I find it hard to ignore the fact that the more you read about biology, evolution and physiology it seems clear that humans are not really meant to run at 90% of our VO2 max for 2-4 hours at a time and that marathons are not really the best thing you can subject your body to.

    And yet.

    We all get something out of it. Something physical, sure. More mental for a majority of us, certainly. Everything from mental clarity to discipline to swaggering pride.

    I’ve been a runner for 23 years, making it part of who I really am. But I still see that in the future I could (and might have to) identify myself not as a runner but as a yogi, or “just” an athlete in a more general sense.

    Julie, hang on. You have gotten more from running than it has taken from you, so far – even with the current situation in the tally. Don’t ever think it is too late or that you can’t wait it out a little longer.

  3. We’ve all been there (and I have the empty bottles of vodka to prove it!)

    But seriously, you’ve got the incredibly bad fortune to have a mystery injury in a place that’s tough to heal. Its pretty hard to look on the “bright” side when everything feels so…bleak. Concentrate on doing what you have to do at the moment, and try not to think about the actual road ahead. Obviously, all of this is much easier said than done…but I have to think cautious determination plays some role in recovery.

  4. As someone who is sharing your pain right now (supposed to be training for Houston, some seemingly bizarre injury that was finally diagnosed as a stress fracture) I loved your post. And, I share your vodka drinking depression (though I seem to be drinking more wine then even usual). I am trying not to actually loath the psychological torture machines, since I am not sure inanimate objects are worthy of emotional scorn, but it is hard. And, I am in awe of your ability to spend as many hours as you are cross-training, 1.5 hours is about my max limit (and I can only stand that about 2 days a week). I am going to try my first spin class this week, I know the instructor so I am hoping to have an easier introduction than you ;-).

    Chin up. I like to think that it is this kind of adversity that actually defines “true runners” from those who, “I used to run until I hurt my X”. You are a runner, and as such, you will run again. You just have to keep plugging away.

  5. Hang in there JT. I presume that you’ve already read Julia’s blogpost about healing stress fractures (recognizing I’m the only Dr. that has diagnosed your injury as such). Though I haven’t had a stress fracture in some time, I read her post to apply more generally to injuries. I put a little bookmark in my brain when I read her advice to let your body put its energy into healing for a while (meaning get tons of sleep, don’t go crazy with cross training). I think this is good advice that I will use if I have another injury, stress fracture or otherwise. I went a little overboard, I think with cross training when I hurt my achilles. If I had it to do again, I would have taken the first couple of weeks much easier and gradually worked my way back to cross training insanity.

    • You presumed wrong — and I’m glad you mentioned it. It’s an excellent post. I’m glad Running Times has hired her to contribute.

      I am ignoring one piece of advice and using this opportunity to shed some fat, although I’m hardly starving myself. I’m napping more days than not. And I’m taking “easy” days during cross-training just as I would when running, and it’s been a pretty gradual buildup.

      You? Go overboard? I don’t believe it!

  6. You’ll get back, I’m sure of that. Good luck with the diagnosis — hope it’s less than six months.

  7. That sea of yellow is hard to fathom and you get major, major props for working so diligently. I so hope it’s not as bad a diagnosis as has been mentioned. I won’t even say the S word. Hugs, Julie.

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