Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week in Review: 22-28 January, and Fixing Things

Here we go with this again:

22 January: 15 miles (200 minutes), the bitter end of the Winter Beast of Burden 100-Mile Run.

23 January: 6 miles (50 minutes) in Tel Aviv, struggling on a tender right Achilles tendon.

24 January: 1 mile (10 minutes), plus about an hour of walking around Tel Aviv, still struggling with that Achilles.

25 January: 1 mile (10 minutes), plus about half an hour of walking around Tel Aviv.

26 January: 1 mile (10 minutes), and then an all-afternoon walking tour of Tel Aviv.

27 January: Back in the US and A, 12 miles (85 minutes), on a very weird weather day, somewhere between sunny and rainy and cold and warm, all at once. Achilles still not entirely happy, but I managed a "normal" 7-minute-mile pace by the end.

28 January: Up early for no real reason, to run 10 miles (70 minutes), which felt markedly better than yesterday, finishing up at around 6:40/mile pace.

Total Time: 435 minutes
Total Distance: 46 miles

And, one more thing: Last night, when I was resting, I finally fixed my jeans, which got torn during this escapade: For having very little experience with any of this, being partially distracted by the Nine Inch Nails "Lights in the Sky" DVD, and doing this totally by hand, I'm pretty happy with the result:

And I did this, and I wrote about this, because when you read the rest of this post, you'll see that I take pride not only in my craftsmanship, but also in my ability to be a living, breathing metaphor . . .

The most notable omission from my race report (which was written just hours after the race ended, on no sleep, and contained a few spelling errors) was that I ran most of the race on an injured right Achilles tendon. I injured it somewhere in the first 12 miles of the race or so, as I recall first feeling the pain on my first run out, then having a brief debate about whether or not to stop running. Of course, to stop running at that point would have felt really foolish, considering how logistically difficult it was to even get to the race, not to mention the fact that I hadn't even run 10 miles yet. So I tried my best to ignore it, and persisted. Perhaps this injury was the greatest factor in my mysterious slowdown. I think one of the reasons that I've been so sturdy over so many miles is that my body has a pretty good sense of when to sound the alarm and force me to slow down when I'm at risk of injury. Over the course of the race, the alarms were probably going off somewhere, but they were hard to feel, considering that the cold temperatures had a tendency to numb everything.

That said, the Achilles aside (I'll spare you pictures of my foot and ankle being swollen to about twice its usual size), nothing really hurt the day after the race. The 6 miles I ran in Tel Aviv were cut short solely by the Achilles trouble. In a way, that's frustrating, because again, it means I didn't go as hard as I could have. But in that case, had I gone as hard as I could have, I might have seriously injured myself, so considering how well I've recovered, I think everything turned out the best it could.

Which brings me to the philosophical point of this post, which is about fixing things. At some point or another, assuming we're pushing our limits, we are all subject to some sort of illness or injury (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually, or otherwise). What we aren't necessarily subject to is being crippled or limited by it. There's always a way over, around, or through, provided that we're both appropriately patient and active in our recovery. Continuing to push, not harder, but smarter, just below the pain threshold, below that "edge," heals us faster and ultimately makes us stronger.

So in this case, I backed off on the injury, but I didn't stop completely. Short runs certainly hurt, and long walks, although not as acutely painful, were colored with persistent, low-grade pain. But none of the pain was beyond the point of injury, and all of the effort was purposeful, focused on playing with the pain point, finding a way to move past it.

And within a week, I did - today, I ran 20+ miles, finishing the last couple of miles at low-6-minute-mile pace, feeling totally comfortable. In fact, I feel better this weekend than I did last weekend before I ran Beast of Burden. In a way, the injury not only made me stronger through the recovery process, but also because the little bit of forced rest helped my body catch up on its response to the stress of hundreds upon hundreds of miles in the last couple of months.

Not only that, but, as I type this, in 20-mile run afterglow, it's about 50 degrees in the middle of January, and the afternoon sunlight and the sun-warmed air made it feel like early spring on the Baltimore city streets. Just one more thing that's a little "wrong." It always makes me a little nervous when a season seems to be coming before its time. At the same time, in the spirit of welcoming uncertainty and disappointment as opportunities to grow and push limits, it's exciting to have the feeling that this is "fixing" to be one fast year. (I am just barely south of the Mason-Dixon line, so I am allowed to use that word that way.)


  1. Darning is not so hard to do.

    Recovering from injuries sometimes, is.

    But you are pretty young, so that may be quite different from your POV to recover.

  2. Kim,

    Darning is darn difficult for somebody whose only sewing experience dates back to around second grade . . . But strangely enough, I found it to be a really calming, satisfying exercise in and of itself. Which may mean that in the near future I start making clothes . . . uh oh. :P

    But to your point about injuries, definitely, the recovery time from injury varies, depending on the severity. I've been sidelined for as long as four months at one point (stress fracture in college). And there will always be a minimum amount of time required to recover, no matter how effective your recovery strategy is.

    My main point is that a lot of people focus on the setback aspect of an injury, rather than looking at it as an opportunity to get stronger, and maybe not necessarily with respect to running (maybe sewing, for instance). And I think that's an outlook that's valid at any age. :)

  3. The achilles (left one in my case) has been the only major issue I've had, running-wise, in the past three years. I've been able to run through everything else, but the achilles has sidelined me a handful of times for up to three weeks. Miserable. So the fact that you ran as well as you did for 100 miles on an unhappy one is Herculean in my eyes. Hope it continues to improve!