Archive | March, 2010

Buzz Buzz Blah

19 Mar

Its hard to write a blog. Because when, on Wednesday, you write things like you’ll be “unstoppable in mind” and that you’ll “keep a positive attitude”, and then you spend the next two days after that being a totally cranky bee-otch, well, you might appear a little hypocritical.

Truth is, Wednesday feels like a long time ago. I’m annoyed by this knee brace. I’m on day four of wearing it, and it’s getting less and less comfortable. It fits invisibly under only 1 pair of jeans, which I’ve now worn for 3 days in a row. I’m not in pain all the time, but every once in the while the pain shoots through my knee like a burst of electricity- when I’m walking, or I turn the wrong way, or when I first get out of bed in the morning. The nice weather makes me want to be outside: running, biking—anything! And yet I can’t be. I can’t run in tomorrow’s race; I’m not even supposed to walk it.

It’s not the worst possible thing that could happen, and I know this. I’ve only been out of commission for less than a week. I know that wearing a knee brace is not that much of an inconvenience. I know that whatever is actually wrong with my knee is probably not a huge deal, and that I can handle a few weeks of restricted activity; at least it’s probably going to be weeks, not months. I also know that letting negativity buzz around in my brain has never gotten me anywhere I want to be.

But right now, on this day, in this moment, I’m totally bummed and I can’t seem to shake it.

Bumblee Bee…Sidelined.

17 Mar

“The worst that could happen will almost certainly not happen. And even if it does, you’ll find a way to handle it.”

This is part of my mantra, the Ralph Marston quote that has propelled me through so many days. I’m holding strong to these two sentences in particular, now more than ever.

The words popped in my head after I got a text from James on Monday morning that said “Promise me that no matter what the doctor says, you’ll stay calm–we’ll get through whatever it is.” I haven’t let any of these words leave my mind since.

As I mentioned last week, Sunday was my first 5K of the season. Yay! I was excited to get back into running. I was excited to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our first 5K. Lola, James, and James’ brother and girlfriend were all running. It was a St. Patrick’s Day race, and we were all in the spirit with green shirts, green hair, green socks. The day was fighting against our positive attitudes with its gray skies, windy gusts and drizzly rain, a stark contrast to last year’s race, when it was warm, sunny and bright. As we were lined up, waiting for the race to start, the wind started blowing even harder. Lola turned to me and said, “I guess this might be a warning, that everything is going to be harder this year.” Her prediction turned out to be right; it foreshadowed what would come next.

I was maybe a 1/4 mile into the race when my knee started to hurt. I had experienced some knee pain in the last race I ran, back in November. But that was a longer race, I thought that the extra miles were what strained my knee, and I’ve been taking it easy since then. I was concerned about longer distances, but it never crossed my mind to be concerned about a 5K. I may not be fast, and I’ll probably never think they’re exactly “easy”, but I’ve run enough now to be comfortable with a 5K. I still get a little amped up before a race, but I’m no longer nervous because I know what I’m in for. There’s comfort in the familiar— knowing how my body will feel, knowing how to regulate my breathing, running to the beat of the music that has propelled me along so many miles.

This knee pain was familiar too. It was the same pain I felt at the end of the last race I’d run. Except I was at the beginning of this one. I had miles to go.

I slowed down considerably. James had passed me within the first few steps of the race, and now I watched Lola fade into the distance, too. I was stunned that this had happened. Still, I thought it could be simple– mind over matter. But by the time I turned the second corner of the race, I was barely running. And now, compensating for my injured knee was causing the pain to shoot down to my ankle and up to my butt. Even so, I was determined to keep running. I thought if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to start again. I passed the first mile mark, still running. It was getting increasingly painful, and eventually I had to stop, walking when the pain got to be too much, running when the pain had eased enough.

I always feel like a race is a competition against myself, not anyone else. For me, it’s always mind versus body. When I’m running, I have to ignore my mind when it says “I’m tired. Why are you doing this to me? I want to rest.” I need to ask my body if it’s tired, if it needs to rest. Most of the time, the answer is no. This time there was a different battle raging in my head. My body was saying “Stop”. My mind was saying “Keep going”. Every time negative thoughts started to overwhelm me, I would think to myself: “If it doesn’t hurt enough to cry then you can keep on going. And you aren’t going to cry because you are not a baby.” Repeating this to myself kept me putting one foot in front of the other, even as the distance I could run without stopping became shorter and shorter. I repeated it as the firefighters on the rescue cart passed me by. Twice. In my mind, getting on that cart was never an option, neither was not finishing the race. I would have kept on going if I was the last person, if I had to walk across the finish line dragging my bum leg behind me. I wasn’t giving myself an out. I didn’t want an out. I just wanted to finish the race.

And I did. It took nearly 42 minutes. So much for beating last year’s time (although last year’s time was 39 minutes, so apparently an injury doesn’t make me that much slower than I was last year!). Once I crossed the finish line I was struggling to keep the tears from flowing. I spotted James and Lola and I’m pretty sure some tears escaped at that point. Not from pain, but because I was so disappointed and frustrated. And now that the race was finally over, for just a few minutes I allowed myself to be worried.

I saw my regular doctor on Monday and he’s sending me to an orthopedic doctor. I couldn’t get an appointment for two weeks, so for now I’m armed with a bottle of anti-inflammatory pills, a knee brace and a positive attitude. While I won’t know for sure until I see the orthopedic doctor, my regular doctor said I would be lucky if in 4-6 weeks I could run again (I’m determined to be lucky). He thinks I’ll probably need a little bit of physical therapy. Then, if that doesn’t work, he said it would probably mean an MRI and possibly surgery. But that’s worst case scenario, one that I’m not even thinking about at this point— this is where the Ralph Marston quote comes in. The worst that could happen will almost certainly not happen. And even if it does, I’ll find a way to handle it.

I can’t lie, there are moments when the disappointment rises up in me like a wave—sudden, strong, knocking my positivity off balance. It’s not fading as the days go by. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about standing on the sidelines at this weekend’s race, but I know I won’t like it. I already know that the thought of not being able to run for weeks– just as the weather is getting nicer, the sun is shining more and the days are getting longer– feels like a cruel punishment. Which is funny, because with my love/hate relationship with running, sometimes running itself feels like punishment, and yet not being able to run feels so much worse.

Still, I consider myself resilient. If I can’t be unstoppable in body, I can be unstoppable in mind. I’ll keep my knee brace on all day. I’ll take glucosamine & chondroitin in the hopes that it will help my healing. I’ll follow the acronym so many runners already know: RICE (rest, ice, compression & elevation). I’ll take my anti-inflammatories twice a day, as directed. I’ll flavor my dinners with garlic, ginger and red pepper, all thought to decrease inflammation. I’ll take my place on the sidelines instead of in the crowd of runners ready to race (for now). And I’ll cross my fingers, keep a positive attitude, and hope that this is just a minor bump in the road, as overcomeable as any challenge I’ve faced before.

‘Tis the season

8 Mar

This Sunday marks the first 5K of the “season”. I’m sure many runners would say there’s not really a running season, but as far was winter running goes, personally I’m far too clumsy to run in the snow. Also its freaking cold out and I really hate the cold. And I go into semi-hibernation in the winter. But now, as the temperature rises, so do my hopes that spring is finally here. The sun was peeking through the blinds this Saturday morning when I woke up, and in between the slats I could also see slices of blue sky and clouds— the good kind of clouds, puffy white ones, the kind that always look like something else, that mesmerize you with their infinite possibilities.

Not only is this Sunday’s 5K the first of the year, it’s also a special one in my mind because it is the first race Lola and I ran a year ago. It is our 5K anniversary, if you will. Tradition says the gift for a one-year anniversary is paper so it’s appropriate that on Sunday we’ll be pinning on our paper race numbers, an anniversary gift to ourselves as we celebrate not only a year of struggle, success, achievement, perseverance and the happiness that has come with it, but also another wonderful running season ahead.

Those race numbers might be just paper, but they represent so much more. I have them framed in my bedroom. Seeing them hanging on the wall is a demonstration of my determination, a reminder to myself of what I can achieve, and how far I’ve come. My eye always goes to the green and orange race bib, the first one I ever pinned on.

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by. A year ago, I was running this 5K based on Audrey’s suggestion, as a “practice” race in preparation for the triathlon. I was about halfway to my weight goal. Lola and I had recently started going to the gym together and somehow she agreed to do the 5K with me. I remember our pre-race dinner the night before, watching Run Fatboy Run and praying that neither of us would take a face plant like that poor guy did. I remember my concern over my finish line photo— that was totally warranted, as it turns out, since the tank top I wore that day turned out to be way too low cut to run in (in my official finish line photos I looked like I belonged in a Girls Gone Wild 5K). I remember my late-night safety pin run, I remember being so so SO nervous the morning of the race. I remember sitting on my parents kitchen floor later that day, after the race, in a semi-daze over the accomplishment.

I don’t think either Lola or I would have dreamed that we’d become almost addicted, running a race every chance we could, leaving us with more free race t-shirts than we can fit in our drawers. I don’t think we would have guessed that through the following months we’d recruit her husband, my boyfriend, friends and family to run with us— heck, I bet we even convinced total strangers to run a race or two. I don’t think we could have guessed that, by the end of 2009, we’d have run in ten races and be planning a similar schedule for 2010.

It’s amazing what happens in a year. Shifting slowly over time like those puffy white clouds, life changes until suddenly you see something completely different. The constant evolution can be scary, but look again, and let it look like something else— like fun, like opportunity, like another great journey ahead. Let yourself be mesmerized by the infinite possibilities.

Two Simple Words

2 Mar

When I was in the midst of all my training, when all I did was eat, sleep and breathe running, when my goal still lay out ahead of me and I was still reaching for it, I had a secret fear. And this fear was in my mind in the form of a question, two simple words:

What’s next?

This fear went against everything I was trying to teach myself- don’t worry too much, don’t think so much about the future, and certainly don’t worry and think too much at once. But still, I couldn’t help it. This fear was real. I brushed it aside, I didn’t dwell on it, but it rose to the top of my mind every now and again. I couldn’t help it. What WAS next? My triathlon goal had a very concrete date- on July 26th I was going to be a triathlete (I didn’t allow myself to question this. It was not a question. I was going to do it). But what would July 27th be like?

I’m sure this fear is understandable. When you focus your life around one thing, and that thing is suddenly, seemingly over….what do you do? I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t think the triathlon defined me, but for the moment, I was defining myself by that goal. It was what I talked about when I saw people who I hadn’t seen in a while. It was what I talked about with the people I saw all the time. It was the biggest thing in my life. It almost WAS me. What would I do without it?

What’s funny is, while I usually tell everyone in my life everything, I never admitted this fear out loud. I don’t think I wanted to let it out in the world; if it was only in my head it wasn’t as real. If it was only in my head I didn’t have to answer the question.

What’s funny is, one day someone gently asked me this very question: “What’s next?”, two words that exposed all of my hidden fears and my answer: “I don’t know”, wasn’t as scary as I’d thought.

What’s funny is, as we continued on in this conversation he asked me what my biggest hope would be. And I said, I couldn’t help it but even after everything my secret daydream was that my Prince Charming would be waiting for me at the finish line.

What’s funny is, the person I was having this conversation with was James. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was my prince. And he was indeed waiting for me at the finish line.

What’s funny is, this whole experience has made me realize that the question “What’s next?” is nothing to be afraid of. It works out in ways you cannot imagine. But it works out.

Something I’ve understood from the start was that nothing in life is predictable. You never know what’s next. But what I’ve learned is, you’ve got to have faith, you’ve got to believe in better days ahead, in the life you can create and the life you can’t, in the possibilities of the future.

I am not naive enough to think this means nothing will ever go wrong, that everything will always be perfect. No. But I believe in the magic of the every day and I can find the beauty in the life around me.

Even though there is too much stress lately and not enough hours in the day, even though there are angry clients and cranberry juice spills on beige carpet and a pile of laundry that threatens to overtake the bedroom that’s only slightly larger than the pile of bills, I still look around and see so many great things happening.

Babies are growing in the bellies of three of my girlfriends– women who are fabulous, women who will make great mothers, who will make the world a better place by raising children who will be beautiful people in every sense of the word. There are smiles on the faces of people whose smiles had been gone for far too long. There’s friends, and family, there are birthday parties and engagements. Love seems to be everywhere. There is music, and dancing. There are so many great moments that none of us could ever have known were next.

And yes, throughout it all, there is running.