An injury has snuck into my life and tried to steal my identity.
I am a middle-aged mediocre athlete and a writer. My favorite events are endurance triathlons and marathons; I love to bicycle, too. In 2009, I ran (slowly) five marathons and trained for a 50-mile trail run. I also crammed in some 75-mile-and-up bike events.
All of this I do with my husband — it’s like date-time for us. To raise three kids, work full-time, and train for and complete these events, we have to strip all the extras out of our lives. So instead of movies, TV, and books, we watch DVDs and football while riding our bikes on training stands, and I listen to books on audio while swimming or running. Eric rocks out while he runs to 70’s music that the kids won’t allow him to play in the house. We also pick fun places to run and bicycle where we would enjoy hiking (a date/excursion) like Huntsville State Park, and we schedule our “adults only” weekend getaways around athletic events (Austin for the Longhorn Half Ironman, for one). It works for us!
Unfortunately, I have hypermobile joints and am hyperflexible; I also have relatively weak hips and ankles. The increase in mileage last year to 60 miles a week running on uneven trails caused my chronic plantar fasciitis — annoying but not so painful I couldn’t work around it — to flare up. When we ran the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon in November 2009, it felt like a hot bolt shot from a cannon up through my heel.
Overnight I went from running 60 miles a week to zero. The withdrawal from runner’s high has been painful and emotionally erratic. The weight gain has been frustrating (What, you mean I can’t have bread pudding with chocolate sauce after every meal anymore?). The condescension of my orthopedist has been infuriating: be patient, don’t run, see me in a year, try therapies if you want but nothing works except time. And the loss of this activity with my husband and for my husband has been awful. He won’t run if I can’t. It’s a double whammy.
I am able to bike, and I am encouraged to swim. I hate to swim; who wants to get cold and wet. . . and wear a bathing suit? My theory of swim workouts is like inventory management: Just-in-Time I do the minimum training to survive an event.
But I couldn’t run; even walking was difficult. A few months ago, we went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Kenny Chesney concert. Just walking from the car to the stadium and through the fairgrounds and back caused “gasp out loud” throbbing pain. We’re talking about lifestyle and identity though, not about functionality. I’m aware that I am blessed compared to others with worse injuries and conditions. This does not stop me from whining about it, of course!
I want to run again. I want to marathon, I want to Ironman. So the prescription was to NOT run and to do physical therapy. I have quite a routine: Strassberg sock at night, stretching, ankle strengthening, alleve, hot tub, ice, ultrasound, massage, ART, orthotics, special shoes — I’m doing it all. Patiently (for me). [Please don’t blow this picture up — I’ve gone way past razor stubble, here.]
Long term, I must give up our beloved but uneven trails in favor of flatter terrain — I can still run with the gators at Brazos Bend, but only on the groomed trails — and I need to forget about the ultras. Even more, I need to re-engineer my running style.
Exciting news: This week I began running in VFFs, and from the outset I must visualize and adopt my new form. “Weight forward, no heel strike, weight forward, no heel strike, weight forward, no heel strike,” I chant as I plod. So, for you runners out there, enjoy this description of Chi Running from the master, Danny Dreyer. And check out this video, below, on Chi Running.
Song choice for the soundtrack today: Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger and I Will Survive. It’s not as if a dementor has stolen my soul, after all. I’m still me, and if nothing else I was able to use all my temporary new-found time to write this year.
Happy trails to you. I’m jealous. But I’m on my way back.