Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I suck at being injured.

I’ve been running a long time (not at once—that would be a record). Though I had run for exercise a couple of summers earlier, I started running for good in January 1984 (not a New Year's resolution). I had no real idea what I was doing, which I think is part of the reason I stuck with it. So here I am starting my 29th year of running, and I’m injured.
You’d think after so long, I’d be better at this part. But being injured sucks, and I suck at it. I get frustrated, moody, depressed. I struggle to find some other physical output: I’m a junkie, and I know it.
I’ve been injured before. I’ve even had a couple of surgeries, something that I laughed at when I was in my 20s. Thank Jim Fixx, none of my injuries has been major (not even the surgeries—a little meniscus tearing after 20 years or so). This one won’t be either, I don’t think. My right calf, long a problem, is tight, and unlike general calf pain, this one is pin-pointed. It’s been persistent: September, October, now December—each time down for a week or two. The hardest part has been the recurring and non-traumatic nature of the injury.

Every injury has come with the attendant perspective battle: I don’t need to worry about the next race I’ve already signed up for (Harbison 50K), I don’t need to think I’ll be fat and out-of-shape by the time I heal. This running epidemic in my life has long been about, well, the long run. Often I’m asked what I’m training for, and sometimes I answer, “I want to run when I’m 80.” I’ll volunteer at Harbison, or run one loop of the two, or use the race to go a long way (it’s been a long time since I “raced” anyway). PRs don’t matter, right?
I repeat platitudes. I do more core workouts. I whine. I look in the mirror. I repeat platitudes.

Tuesday 12/20 5 miles on Cottonwood in new shoes, Montrail Rogue Racers, my third pair. My calf was a little tight, but nothing big.

Wednesday 12/21  2 miles on Cottonwood. A little ways on the trail, and the familiar pin-point pain in the right calf hit. Decided then to turn around and head home. I was pleased with what I saw as restraint.

Thursday 12/22 off

Friday 12/23 Planned a long-ish run at Croft, but backed out with my sore calf.

Saturday 12/24 Bagged the planned long run.

Sunday 12/25 no running

Total  7 miles

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Week ending December 18

Tuesday 5 miles on Cottonwood 
Wednesday Car breaks down in rough neighborhood. By the time I get it towed it’s time to pick Quinn up at dance.

Thursday 7 miles at Croft Felt really dead-legged, which does not bode well given the lack of running the past two weeks. I bought some “adrenal caps” to see if the solution to this summer’s weakness works here.

Friday Turned around after 5 minutes of my run today. Yipes.

Saturday Volunteered at the SPACE Jingle Bell 5K. The course is almost entirely on the Cottonwood Trail, one of my favorite places ever. SPACE is a great organization that does good work in Spartanburg County (so I, a board member, say…). Spent the afternoon Christmas shopping with my offspring.

Sunday Felt like do-do. Thought I’d listen to my body, but proceeded to beat myself up for the rest of the day. Not even shopping with my young’uns could pull me out of this one (well, not completely).

Total 12 miles

Sometimes, well, you know, sometimes you’re lazy, and sometimes you’re not feeling great. Sometimes you go anyway, and have a great run, and sometimes you go anyway, and it sucks. I’ve said that running—the habit, not the act—has been my way of fending off laziness for the past 28 years. This week I worried that if I started, I was just going to turn around anyway. So I packed it in, spent the day with my kids, didn’t think about running…much.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Visit with my Parents: Week ending December 11

Week ending December 11
Monday: You know, I almost never run on Mondays.
Tuesday: A late afternoon meeting gave me a good out on a chilly and rainy day.
Wednesday: Picked my parents up at the airport in Charlotte. All of us were frazzled by the crowds. Had a good dinner with great people--EO, Betty and Christy.  
Thursday: Off to Greenville early to see Lydia perform with her Vocal Diction class. We picked up Mary Fulp on the way, and got to the school with plenty of time to spare, as it turned out, an extra half hour, in fact. We dined in the hallway, a gourmet meal from the Zaxby’s down the street. Lydia was, as always, very impressive.
Friday: 7 miles  Snuck off with Bristol to Croft.
Saturday: Rode in the Pacolet Christmas Parade in honor of The Reverend Scott Spencer, an avid cyclist who was killed while riding this past September. A great turnout on a beautiful morning made the event especially moving. We all met up at noon--EO, Betty, Mary Fulp, Christy and I--for lunch at the hotel. That afternoon we went to see Quinn in The Nutcracker. Quinn loves performing, and he looks so natural on stage.  After the cast party, we drove to Greenville to have dinner with Lydia. We had a long and wonderful day. I am a lucky man in many, many ways.
Sunday: 6 miles  Decided to sleep in, and ran easy on Cottonwood Trail. 14 x 120 yard striders on the football field felt smooth and easy. Feeling like a 40 minute warm-up is a) I guess what it takes, and b) another reason to see the chiropractor.
Total: 13 miles  
Having my parents here was a real treat. They arrived Wednesday, and left Sunday, a longer stay than usual I think attributable to their intention to slow down travel in general. Seeing Lydia’s recital on Thursday and then Quinn’s Nutcracker on Saturday gave us more time to just talk, and I don’t think they’ve had a double-header like this before. 
I always appreciate seeing EO in action, too. I don’t know why exactly, but I am always soothed somehow, fears allayed, by seeing him. He gets around confidently, I would say, though he gets tired through the day. He loves being around people, and gets a lot of energy from it, chatting folks up and meeting everyone. He often wears a name tag. 
But he uses a walker, and shuffles, and stops to talk. He loses track of his thoughts sometimes, sometimes my mother reminds him. They are adjusting to a new part of their 56-year relationship. 
My mother says she has become a better driver since EO stopped driving. She also helps EO remember when to take his medication, and how much. She misses the man she married, he misses being him. They don’t walk like they used to, in part because EO’s walker keeps them from holding hands, which they do whenever they get a chance. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Pick up your feet"

So I mentioned that my dad remembers “tripping on the last step” as the first symptom he noticed of Parkinson’s Disease. He told his doctor, who said, “Pick up your feet.” He’s still mad about that.
I tripped on the steps the other night. Sunday around 8 o’clock, after running eleven miles on tired legs,  I just caught the toe of my sandal on the tread. I’ve probably done it before, right? I’d mentioned to my doctor that I’ve had some dizziness when I turn suddenly (again, usually after running far or hard). He told me that’s part of getting old, which sounded vaguely like, “Pick up your feet.”
From what I’ve read, PD is genetic, but there seems to be an uncertain hereditary factor. It appears in direct families, like father-son. According to my mother, late-onset Parkinson’s is not generally hereditary, something that makes them feel better, she told me. My parents worry a great deal about the ways their genes may be harming us, from my brother’s collapsed lungs to my sister’s Celiac disease.
Last Saturday I ran seventeen miles on obscure and rough trails, and I don’t recall losing my balance or tripping at all. I never felt very comfortable, but just kept adding more miles with right or left turns. But everything after the first fifty minutes came at roughly the same level of “uncomfortable.” I stopped on the drive home at a football field to run 10 x 120 yard barefoot striders.  
I know that my legs are tired, that my feet ache a little, and that tripping on a stair is related to fatigue more than anything else. Right?
If it’s true that my father’s grandfather may have had Parkinson’s, that his father may have had Parkinson’s, that his sister had a form of Parkinson’s, well, I don’t know. 
As long as I can remember, I’ve thought that an hour or two or six in the woods was a great way to spend an afternoon no matter how uncomfortable or even bad the run felt. Today was another good example, and I kept running with the discomfort, and finished feeling like I could run another ten or fifteen miles at the same deliberate pace, which I’ll do on January 7th at Harbison.  
During those hours running, I didn’t think about having tripped on the steps, being too busy figuring out why I felt like crap and whether to turn left or right. But I’m thinking about it now, and feeling especially glad to be able to run like that. I’m thinking about the fifty-minute warm-up. I decided whether to turn right or left based on adding miles or not, and chose more miles each time.
I’ve felt a lot more emotional about turning 50 than any other birthday. I feel a little like I’m running out of time to have adventures the way I like, and no matter how fast or far I run, I’ll never outrun that one. I feel the kind of urgency that I felt when I was 21, only older. All that’s not unrelated to my running new distances--new PRs, new limits. I can’t run as fast as I did in my 20s, so I might as well run a long way, something the 20s me would never have conceived of. 

EO focuses on walking now, and gets around well with a walker. He and my mom went to Carlos Agudelo’s dance class for Parkinson’s patients and caregivers. They enjoyed it, enjoyed Carlos who also teaches Quinn ballet, and stayed for the discussion afterwards. I still chuckle about dropping my parents off at dance class.
I try to celebrate all my victories no matter how small--like when there is enough cheese for the mac-n-cheese recipe I like, or when the light stays green as I coast down the long hill to the coffee shop, or I run seventeen miles in the woods.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Week ending December 4

I haven’t run on a Monday in several years. Tuesday was Dickens of a Christmas, a community festival downtown. Snidely Sidewinder’s all up in that.
Wednesday November 30  5 miles on cottonwood
Thursday December 1 7 miles at Croft
Saturday December 3  18 miles at Croft, including 10 x 120 yards barefoot at football field. Never felt great, but kept adding miles. Could have run more.
Sunday December 4  4 miles at Croft: could not have run more.
Total: 34 miles
I didn’t run Friday because I felt a little tired in my legs, and thought that I should save for the Saturday planned long run. Didn’t feel great during that run, either. Chiropractor visit in order. This summer I had an adrenal problem, and took a supplement made of cow and pig endocrine system parts--on the disgusting side, but it helped. I wonder if that’s what I need--and what will determine which voodoo doctor I go to.
I decided to register for the Harbison 50k on January 7 because I have several friends who will be there, and because it’s less likely than Tsali to have a gnarly weather component. I still am not as excited to see the trails, though Seth tells me it’s pretty. I’ll add that there is the matter of the finisher’s award.
from the Harbison 50K website