Monday, April 12, 2010

Musings on balance

It had to come eventually, I knew it. That ache in the foot and ankle area that just won't go away with a good night's rest, the tell-tale sign of INJURY. Yes, I admit, I'm injured. What's odd about this one is that I can't pinpoint a moment in my training when I'd gone overboard. I've been relatively conservative this training cycle, increasing no aspect of my training more than 10% each week-- or not increasing at all if I feel like crap. And yet, here it is: the bum left ankle.

I've replayed the last week in my mind countless times. There were the nine miles run at an easy pace on the treadmill on Monday, followed by a 20-miler on Tuesday. And then, the tightness, the swelling and the realization come Wednesday morn that "all systems are not go for take off." And so, I hopped on the spinning bike and thought "OK. One day off my feet. No biggie."

Yet, Thursday I woke, put on my shoes and set out to do hill sprints. I didn't feel all that great (Steve and I had a big fight the night before about... well, what all fights between people who care about each other entail, or in other words, nothing worth fighting about) and so I attributed my fatigue and lack of "spunk" in my legs to my emotional state, not anything physical. Looking back, I regret that decision a lot.

I'm sure you know the rest of the story. Friday: ABSOLUTELY no go. I tried to run, but barely made it to town which is 1.78 miles from my house. I was limping. I felt pain shooting from my left foot, up my ankle and into my knee. I took Steve's truck home to grab my gym bag and then returned to town, determined to get some exercise in. I ended up spinning for 1:40'.

Saturday, I decided to attend my first spinning class of 2010 at the gym I belong to in Tahoe City. As we began our musical journey into strenuous aerobic activity, the instructor (a nice man named Rich) mentioned this was not the usual one-hour class, but instead an hour and forty minute class devoted to extending the spinner's endurance ability. I couldn't have been happier. At least, not until I recalled I was supposed to race on Sunday in Sacramento (I was hoping to FINALLY break 40 minutes for a 10k) and here I was, confined to a stationary spin bike.

I won't lie: I was disappointed. But what shocked me was the calm way I told myself I needed to heal. There's no point in running if it's only going to leave me limping. Or, to quote my coach, it doesn't matter how fit you are if you can't make it to the starting line. And so, I didn't race Sunday. Actually, I didn't do anything. Steve and I went to Sacramento anyway and enjoyed the change of scenery. We watched "How to Train Your Dragon" in 3D (which was a totally cute movie) and then discovered one of the best vegetarian restaurants I've ever eaten at. We also stopped by Fleet Feet in Sac, where I (to quote Steve) glowed and jumped around at the prospect of buying new shoes. Which I did, by the way. I'm going to try Acics neutral cushioning shoe (ironically, what I used when I first started running and which kept me relatively injury free but that I opted not to keep using because my toes kept breaking through the sides of the shoes) as well as a racing flat made by Brooks called "Green Silence" which is made from recycled/reused materials. They look pretty darn cool, too, which also influenced my purchase. :)

And so, what of balance? Something happened to injure me. Perhaps it was those hill sprints, finally, that did me in. I tipped the scale too far over to one side-- trying too hard and overloading the tendons and connective tissues in my foot. And so, now the scale has to tip a bit the other way. I have to rest, cross train and recover. A year ago, I would have thought of this as a "bad" thing. Now, however, I see the necessity of allowing myself to heal. Besides, there are benefits to other forms of exercise as well. Just today, for instance, a very fit woman ("Lisa" let's call her) at the gym commented that she was impressed by my mental fortitude to put myself through a strenuous 2-hour and 10-minute spin workout by myself. "You have so much mental toughness," she'd said. And of course, I'd smiled. Maybe cycling won't make me physiologically stronger, but it will increase my ability to mentally endure, which is also vitally important for distance runners (and dare I say, us writers as well?)

And you know, it was really nice to just visit a town with Steve and not have that burden of a race hanging over me. On Sunday, we woke slowly. I drank my tea and he, his coffee and leisurely found our way to breakfast through streets already lined with green lawns and blooming flowers. There is a beauty in that, too. Plus, I know when my foot is pain-free and I'm out running again, a deeper appreciation of the sport will come to me. Despite pain and setbacks, I know I will not give up. And that, too, is beautiful.

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