Ah yes, I have become one of those unfortunate writers who wrote a few pieces and then disappeared. I wanted this journal to be about running and races, but both components are currently missing from my life. Coupled with a three week office-is-closed vacation, I find myself in a superior state of boredom. Normally, hearing others claim to be bored makes my dentate gyrus hurt, but my full admission is here in writing! What happened?
In actuality, the “niggle” first presented itself ~7-8 months ago, but wasn’t anything more than mild discomfort. I have noticed that my path to injury is on trails and mainly downhill (more impact?), which is unfortunate because I really enjoy them. I didn’t experience too much pain or discomfort following the last two ultra-distance races, but two long Saturday trail runs seems to have been too much for my left lower leg, ankle and foot. At first it was just some tightness in the peroneal tendons and I wasn’t too worried. I know from experience that light pain can and will quickly progress into a major injury if left untreated, but I ignored it.
The pain and tightness progressively worsened after a trail run about 4 weeks ago. There was a good mixture of uphill and downhill, and I didn’t take the downhills too aggressively. However, the body sometimes takes the helm and despite what the mind wants, it decided enough was enough. Over the last 4 weeks, the pain has become significant enough to relegate me to the elliptical. I am incredulous as to how I spent hours on this machine in year’s prior. Aside from mental restlessness, this injury has invited mental reflection on past injuries, silver linings and a mini identity crisis.
In the past, being sidelined by an injury left me furiously trying to maintain fitness. I would get to the gym at 4:55am, wait outside with the rest of the early birds for the doors to open, and then hop onto the elliptical machine for 75+ minutes of aerobic work. Though the amount of reading that I accomplished during this time was impressive, it wasn’t the best way I could’ve spent my time. I would strength train my legs off in the hopes of preserving muscle tone. Borderline obsessive? Probably. One resulting nugget of great was my foray into cycling. Something was wrong with my ankle and foot, so I started to put a lot of miles on my bike. I learned so much about that sport, made a ton of new friends, and met my first boyfriend. Though it would probably take another semi-serious injury to get me back in the saddle, it was a fun few months. In fact, I am a much more confident rider than I was before the cycling stint and there is a small sense of security that I have a “backup sport” which is both outdoors and in the endurance category.
Another memory which just refreshed was when the slowly-forming fracture in my tibia finally became enough to stop me, literally, during a run. I was running on the beach with a friend, gritting my teeth while my leg screamed at me, and I decided that maybe running in the sand would help. My friend eventually had to sprint home, get his truck and pick me up. I really shouldn’t have even started that run. I spent a few post-diagnosis hours planning the 6 weeks of non-running training in my head, but I ended up enjoying a fairly standard exercise regime consisting of classes at the gym, strength training, some cycling, and some time on the elliptical. My goal was one hour per day of activity, at least 6 days per week. It felt good AND I was giddy with excitement to start running again. In fact, I dropped my marathon PR by 7 minutes almost 5 months later. Holding the fresh x-rays, I was angry and frustrated, but 6 weeks later, my attitude had softened and I realized a) I’m not an elite athlete, this isn’t my bread & butter, b) nobody will love me any less for not being able to run, c) I have plenty of years left to train and build. In fact, the unplanned rest is probably a welcome break for my body.
Truth: I definitely have a slight “obsession” with running and exercising, but it has been dynamic and ever changing. In my late teens/early 20s, it was simply about slimming down and controlling weight and food. Once I discovered running, it became about faster times and personal records. I went from 5Ks to half marathons to 50K races, discovering new limits, new distances and new terrains. Somewhere in there, the goal of a training run changed from “how fast can I run this?” to a free therapy session. That’s when a new level of enjoyment was born. However, I still (obviously) made mistakes. Now, I am content with a sweaty 45-60 minute elliptical session and throwing weights around. I plan to run again when I am healthy, but in what capacity?
This post doesn’t feel finished and I feel slightly lost, but that’s okay.