Sunday, August 21, 2011

Running on Bad Days

Why is it my Achilles and shins always feel wonky the day after a massage? Didn't run on Friday and yesterday battled a fever and pounding headache. Unsure if it is stress or a virus of some sort. Any time I don't get to run I fear I have moved into a dangerous space - like being caught in the inner, vicious circle of a busy round-a-bout with a broken turn signal.

Being back at work is an adjustment. Having spent most of the summer alone with my thoughts, it is a kind of shock to my mental system: all these words and ideas intruding into an orderly space. I wonder if this isn't a little bit what it is like to struggle with autism? I am beyond edgy and, not having been able to run, I feel myself being wound tighter and tighter by every word I overhear on the train. Every word spoken directly to me causes me to pause in anticipation, to see if this is the one that will crack the lid I have on it all.

I woke to the sound of the rain this morning. Now, sitting at my desk, the hollow whistle of the wind between the wood of the window frame is kind of lulling. Not in a good way, though. It sort of flattens everything so that the past comes to the surface and all the colors blend into the kind of mud and slate grey that is a rainy day like this.

The birch tree is shaking like it is having a fit of some sort.
But it is doing it silently.

And sort of out of tact with the window-whistling.

So. Where does it come from on a day like this? Where do I find the catalyst that gets me to put my shoes on, pull on a raincoat and go running among the fitful birches?

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Not Feeling It

Satisfaction, that is. Ain't got no.

It's back to work after the weekend and I can't figure out what I did with the summer. It has come and gone, that is obvious enough. The plums in the front yard are weighing down the branches and will be ready to pick by Monday. The buttercups are gone and there are just dried stalks left, snapping over the mossy grass in the fields where the sheep are all nearly grown.

The white swans are less hostile, but in some ways, the gray flock of juveniles is even more intimidating.

And I was supposed to end the summer with a finished libretto in my hands, a renovated kitchen and hall, and a strong body - one ready for the marathon (now just one month away).

Instead, my ankle is complaining, I'm slightly anemic and some of the aching has returned to my joints. I have a couple of hand-written pages of brainstorming in place of a finished libretto. And the house? The house, which was supposed to be nearly finished, is still in chaos. The hallway half-painted, the kitchen still with exposed electrical wires and a great hole in the wall where we tried to pry the old tiles down.

I want to run away and sit on a beach in the Mediterranean with a book and a drink. I want a vacation - now that it is over.

I am trying hard to stay in the moment. To revive my negativity fast, focus on the insanely busy year I had, and sort of break off my year in something besides seasonal chunks when I evaluate my accomplishments.

I haven't done sh*t for the last 7 weeks. I seriously cannot account for my time: television, social networks... I haven't learned to cook. I haven't planned an herb garden. I haven't come up with a viable plan for world peace or one for the utilization of the little slivers of soap that accumulate on the ledge of the bathroom sink.

While the world has turned and the sun bounced up and down on the horizon these long summer nights, I have squandered it: it being sun, summer, free time...

It's already 10:30 on Friday and I haven't yet run or swum. I haven't organized the basement or the office as I have sworn to myself to do every single day the last two weeks.

The plums are almost ripe!
After finishing yesterday's DM virtual 4M.
Finish line: my front yard.

(No I don't wear make-up when I run.)
Can I pack a summer of satisfaction into two days?

The sun is out today. I have the car, a clean bikini, unread books and a picnic basket.

Maybe I need to start packing.

What does "free time" mean to you?
Is it to be squandered or do you feel an obligation to fill it up with stuff you can point to as accomplishments, or evaluate in terms of productivity?

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heroes and Health IMHO

Last week, I ordered my cap to help fund the shark protection Diana Nyad needed. When it arrives I will wear it on my runs as a reminder of what it means to be strong and healthy.

Nyad had to leave the water after 29 hours - 31 hours short of her intended swim. No - She chose to leave the water.

Our culture is rife with role models who have pushed themselves to the brink - or over the brink - with heart attacks, anorexia, OCD exercising and the like. We boast about blackened toenails and dry heaves, and laugh at pictures of runners losing control of their bowels. Even the first marathon runner keeled over when he arrived at his destination and still we all think it was so cool we want to do it, too.

At 29 hours Nyad realized that, the way things were going for her in the water, it could no longer about completing the swim she envisioned. It could have been about pride and about "just doing it" -  if she were a lesser person.

But I believe that when "just doing it" risks damaging one's overall health, when competition (even with oneself) takes precedence over a celebration of human physical ability, it is no longer a reflection of a healthy human endeavor. Being willing to damage one's body for the sake of pride is not a reflection of a healthy human mind.

Obviously, I am not an elite athlete. I never even had a glimmer of an ambition in that regard. I swim slower than lava seeping onto the ocean floor and am terrified of fish. And my math skills are so bad that I can't participate in the upcoming swim meet even "for fun".

So you could, quite understandably, write off my remarks as justification for not pushing myself so hard I get dry heaves after my runs, or for my taking off 7 days of running last week to let my achilles un-swell and de-junk.

Even so, and whether she would like it or not, Diana Nyad is my fitness role model in more ways than one.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Run or Not To Run (or: My Glistening Achilles)

I have confidence in my massage therapist.

About ten years ago I fell down a flight of stairs and damaged a muscle in my back. I had spasms for weeks whenever I lay flat on my back. For a decade I have felt vulnerable, like a creature with an open wound.

A creeping - of what the doctor called bursitis - burned just around the edges of the wound, up over my shoulder and down my arm. Weekends of 18-hour stretches at my desk finally gave way to 5 am runs, and I finally gave in and let the massage therapist stick his needles into my wounded back.

There is no more creeping or burning. I no longer feel like a slug with an open hole.

I have confidence in my massage therapist... But.

Why is it that my Achilles tendons, that don't make much of themselves normally, always feel bizarre for a few days after he massages them?

On Wednesday he ran his finger and thumb along my tendon and asked if it didn't hurt: "Yeah, well, when you do that." He told me to be careful that it doesn't become a chronic problem.

I had scheduled a long run (29K) on Thursday, but put it off because my Achilles just felt "weird". A little odd and almost painful. Rest.

I didn't run on Friday either, because the Achilles of my right leg keeps making an awkward little spectacle of itself: not like an injury, but like a spoiled toddler who feels a need for attention. Like a toddler who got a lollipop from a stranger and now demands one at home.

I am looking at my training schedule this morning and wondering how hard to push. I am reading about how to diagnosis tendinitis, and something about the "glistening appearance" of the tendon - which isn't much help since I am not about to peel back the skin to expose the poor thing.

How high is my pain tolerance? Is this dull ache a sign that the toddler is about to snap, or just a little bit of theatrics? Would it help to run with an ankle bandage for support?

Advice requested... How do you gauge your pain and push quotients?

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

As Good A Time As Any

It isn't Wednesday or Friday. It isn't even the first of the month. But staring at the pile of clothing and ... things... in the basement, it is clear this is as good a time as any to begin my consumerist fast.

The pledge: I will not purchase anything for myself beyond food and hygiene products until January 2, 2012.

I would take it further if my children were grown and didn't have birthdays coming up.

This is not going to be easy since - at this moment - I am remembering that I am heading to New York in October. A theater ticket doesn't count, right? I mean, my battle here is with things, not experiences.

Oh, crap. What have I gotten myself into?