Monday, February 28, 2011

Injury could mean hope

I haven't written much lately because, in addition to my full load as a graduate student in the MFA at St. Mary's College, my new part time job as a freelance contributor to the Lamorinda Weekly and training for the trials, I have been, unfortunately, injured. Before you get as upset as I was last Tuesday, let me say: it's nothing serious and it's going away. Of course, this is not what you think when it happens. I had the workout of my life Monday night (I've never run 8 sub-2:40 800s before) but woke up to a sore ankle that hated going down stairs. I was limping.  

Which is to say, I was also panicking. I had one of those "is this the end of my running career?" moments... because I know, eventually, that day will come. It's scary to think that it could be caused by something benign as a sore ankle (no explosions? no careening greyhound buses?) but such a thing could, if bad enough, keep a person from not only running, but training.

So into the pool I went, per my coach's orders. For five days I became an aqua jogger par excellence. 

Let me tell you, those were the five longest days of my life. If you've never had the joy of pool running (or aqua jogging), go try it out and you'll see what I mean. Strap a floaty belt on and try to run at your local dive pool. Back and forth, or if you're lucky enough to have the pool to yourself, round and round you'll go tracing the pool's periphery. For one thing, you will move slowly. Very slowly. No matter what your effort, you will progress so slowly an old man with a walker will move much faster than you. You might cramp after a hard workout (you will say it doesn't feel hard, but then your foot rolls into a little, tight ball and won't loosen itself and you're in the middle of the pool trying to get to safety while one hand holds onto that foot for dear life as waves of dark pain that make you think you see God or infinity travel from toes to your brain. And then you go back the next day (after you eat a truck load of bananas) and you do it all over again. 

(And if you are me, then you will in all likelihood have some random person walk by and say that I am slow. I don't know why I cause people to say things like that to me; I really wish they wouldn't. I am rehabbing an injury; I am not slow. But that doesn't mean I didn't think, if for a second, how much I'd love to punch that random man in the face-- not that I'd actually do that sort of thing, but you know, it's frustrating enough to be injured; insult is not required to make the situation suck any more than it already does.)

But you know, the pool running has made me stronger. Unlike running which you do in air, the water adds resistance to each movement: the up and down and around pull of the legs, the use of arms-- it all requires strength. I can already notice a difference (hey, who knew I had triceps? And abs? Not much, mind you-- but they are starting to poke out like blades of grass after a winter of snow storms as if to say is it all right if I come around now? But they are there, thank goodness. I was beginning to wonder.) But in addition to requiring strength, there is no pounding on the legs like there is when you run on land. So, if you can stand the tedium, pool running is actually an ideal method of cross training, even when you're healthy. 

And so: today I ran 7 miles at 6:39 pace and it felt like I was walking. I felt strong; and thankfully, no pain in my right ankle. I will build my road miles slowly, but my coach and I have agreed: the pool running, despite its vanilla-ish-ness, is going to be a permanent part of my training regimen for the Olympic Trials qualifier race in June.

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