Thursday, December 27, 2007

Running Pains

I awoke at 5am to the sensation of a lightning bolt striking my spine. Proceeding this event, a cup of water tumbled onto the side of my pillow while my son was falling off my bed. The jolt that shot me out of bed actually ended up keeping me in there most of the day. My head's turning radius diminished to near nil and the soreness locked down half of my back.

But after icing and heating and icing and heating and rubbing and heating and stretching and heating, my legs took over. I laced up and went for an easy run hoping that would turn my evening around. As my husband saw me leave he yelled "be careful" but I know he was thinking it is okay to take a sick day, even on a running day.

And as I waddled through my neighborhood, involuntarily looking straight ahead, I began to ponder how healthy this running addiction really is. As predicted, the endorphins kicked in around 8 minutes, numbing the throbbing in my head that 8 Advil couldn't. My pounding feet weren't exactly massaging my neck, but my morphine was being released and I could finally deal with the pain the way I wanted to. It got me thinking that perhaps there is another angle to the story how runners live longer. Running doesn't just strengthen your heart and bones, or fight cancer and diabetes, or simply diffuse anger.

Running makes you more tolerant of pain.

Between the feet aches and the muscle aches, the ice packs and the ice bathes, the sunburns and sweat in the eyes, shin splints and physical therapies, the blisters and bunions, the sports tape and its removal, the nasty-tasting gels and nutrition bars, the swollen knees and throbbing IT band...running hurts. But we keep getting out there because of (among other things) the endorphins; they make it possible to do more under harder conditions.

And as we age, it's no secret that our bodies fall apart. No matter how much you workout, ingest or tuck, the aches and pains just keep coming. But I think what separates those just waiting to die and those actively creating a few more worthy memories is the ability to deal with the pain. Perhaps it's having the running drug itself, or just the confidence to know that 'you've pushed your body before so you can do it again.' Whatever it is, the need to do a few miles was more powerful than my mother's voice in my head saying "sleep it off." My neck is still stiff, but I feel good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Filling in

My dentist had me scheduled to replace a filling yesterday. He would have to give me a localized numbing shot and refill my prescription for the big fat NSAIDs. I dropped the boy off at preschool and drove over the Key Biscayne Bridge. The day was going to suck, not only is my head going to hurt, but it'll be my 3rd day in a row without a run. And driving over my favorite training spot was just rubbing salt into the wound.

You didn't get my message? Oh, honey, the doc had to switch you to January. I'm so sorry you drove all the way out here for nothing.

Ahhh...the Gods must run, too. My shoes were in the car.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Down in the basement of my gym, I am a part of an elite team known as "Swimmer." My membership of this group is not merit based, certainly not, no one would confuse me for "experienced." Rather, I am simply one of a handful of people who actually use the pool.

I find it spectacular - in a four lane pool, I've never seen more than 3 swimmers. I have thus combined my swim workout with my meditation time. My concentration is normally only broken when I hear someone drop a massive dumbbell onto the ground, which is the ceiling, above me. In this under-the-table, "I know a guy in Hialeah that can do it on the cheap," permit -optional city of mine, I sometimes have visions of the 2nd floor of the gym crashing down into the all-but-empty swimming pool...and a guy from the wrecking crew 2 weeks later yelling to his buddies "Hey, I found a swim cap- was there someone down here?"

So despite that sporadic thought, I love spending my 45 minutes there. Often times, it is my goal to just outlast the occasional dipper who comes out for 5 - 10 minutes of laps. As of yet, I've never gotten into the pool after someone and gotten out before they have. I'm vain like that. On Wednesday, I decided it's time I step up my routine; from one mile in 35 minutes, to whatever I can accomplish in 60 minutes. I was doing well, feeling good at 30 minutes and then a guy got into the pool.

He did a couple laps, pausing to stretch for long periods of time in between before trying a couple more. After gaining the equivalent of a 3rd grader while pregnant and struggling for many months to regain my strength, I've learned never to make any sort of judgement about other athletes, even those one might insist on calling "athletes." They might be having a bad day, be coming off an injury, struggling with a life threatening disease, whatever it may be -all I know is they are trying. So here's this 30 something man, the only other soul in the pool, putting along. And then he stops, just about the time I'm getting tired yet I have 10 more minutes. But he doesn't get out of the pool, he sits on the steps and he watches me. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And suddenly, this "Elite Swimmer Team" I'm on no longer seems that cool. The very rare chance of someone else coming into the basement isn't as relaxing. The idea that I'm working harder than I have in a long time and am on the verge of exhaustion doesn't seem so wise.

I start judging. Only, I don't think he's recovering from an injury or having a bad day...I think he's watching me tire myself out, like a wolf waiting until the deer is too weak to run. It scares me, more than the dumbbells up above, but not enough to get out of the pool.

I kept swimming, because he doesn't know I'm an endurance athlete. Despite feeling like I couldn't take another step at Mile 23 on my marathon, I finished. After seven drug free hours of labor, I bore my child and walked out of the birthing center 4 hours later. I've lived on the streets for a year, I've cried for 12 miles, I've finished a 4 year university in 3 years. I am an ENDURANCE HUMAN.

And I outswam him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


For the last 10 months, I was a bit overconfident in the idea that I just might have some natural talent for creating another being. Really, I've been two-timing Luck and Manifest destiny, pretending that if I bought that size four dress and committed to being a half marathon group leader for 5 months, certainly I'd get pregnant! It affected me in subtle ways I'm just now understanding.

Among other (more important) things, it's impacted my training. I've become overly cautious, perhaps not working as hard as I should. Even the 1/2 training pace I volunteered to take is comfortable, not really challenging. Certainly, I've procrastinated registering for races too far in advance for fear of the "No Refunds" policy.

No more. I'm taking charge again. I'm going to work my butt off, pushing farther, going faster, because, damn it, I want to. I have the time. I have the motivation. I need the distraction.

I officially signed up for the ING 1/2 (like I should have 5 months ago when it was half price) and I've got my eye on a long distance Triathlon in March. I don't expect to place in the top 2/3s, but I do expect to finish.

Monday, December 10, 2007

12 miles

The morning I was supposed to lead my group to their first 12 mile run - I stayed in bed. I turned my 4:45 am alarm off and let my body ride the handful of Valium I had taken the night before. And for the first time, I didn't feel guilty about missing a run - I couldn't spend over two hours with acquaintances and not lay bare that my good news had come and gone so quickly.

I waited until the afternoon when my son was sleeping, then went on my own - twelve miles: my recovery run. Six miles of crying, until I crossed the Big Bridge overlooking the bay: people waterskiing, sailboats with sunbathers, dozens of families fishing. I saw five spotted rays. The endorphins were kicking in and I felt myself healing. I turned around to go home to my beautiful son and amazing husband. They are enough for me.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Running for one

For a little more than a week now, my body has been playing tricks on me. Or perhaps it just pitied me and tried to throw me a well-meaning bone of hope. From the halting of my rhythmic calendar to feeling the waves of the pool even after I get out, I thought I was running for two. Turns out, I'm still running for one.