Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pardon My Temper Tantrum

A pro runner once advised me to never open an old training log while I’m injured—especially one that describes a time when I was in the shape of my life. I don’t use training logs, but I have more than three years worth of emails and training schedules swapped with my running coach and because I apparently can’t resist self-torture, I opened up one of those emails from exactly one year ago this week.

It was seven days before the 2010 Chicago Marathon. Words jumped off the screen at me, as he reflected on the nearly flawless training cycle that brought me to that point. How much “fun” it was. How I “nailed” every workout. How I’d been so “tough.”

Seems like that was a different person, running through a different lifetime. I haven’t received an email like that since. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Hard.

So, to celebrate the anniversary of such a splendid message, I cried at the kitchen table for a couple of hours while hovering over the cancellation button for my next marathon, in Houston. The truth is, a year ago was the last time I felt any confidence in my running—and probably not coincidentally, the last time I updated this blog. To push through one more attempt at being my best and falling short doesn’t seem like a viable option right now. I’m spent, in every sense of the word.

See, in that year, I’ve spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in bills not covered by my insurance trying to figure out why it feels like somebody is stabbing me in my left hip and pelvis every time I run (or cough, or sneeze, or sit too long, or stand too long…you get the point). I’ve endured excruciating treatments that left me with deep purple bruises on a weekly basis. I’ve undergone x-rays and MRIs that yielded no answers. I’ve been examined by doctors who take guesses at what is causing the pain, but can’t say for sure. I’ve been told to cross train, then to not cross train…that it’s safe to run through it, then to stop running completely. To strength train, to not strength train. Stretch, don’t stretch. Do core work, then don’t.

And now I’m done. I’m done putting on a happy face. I’m done with the positive attitude. I’m done handling this privately, maturely, or rationally. I’m done being hopeful that this will turn itself around. I’m done trying to do everything I can to find solutions. I don’t want anybody’s pity or to be told that there are worse problems in life to have or that I’m not the first runner to have a tricky injury that takes a long time to heal. I know that. I don’t need to be told any of it—and although I realize it all comes from a good place, with the best intentions, from wonderful people who are only trying to be supportive, none of it makes me feel less miserable. Grateful that anybody cares? Truly beyond grateful. But not any less angry, sad, or frustrated.

I know that running isn’t everything. My self worth certainly isn’t dependent on a great workout or a best time. But when running—and every other form of activity—is suddenly ripped away, it becomes abundantly clear that it isn’t merely a sport or a hobby, it’s actually a lifestyle. My body and mind crave the hard efforts, the exhaustion they produce, the endorphins they provide. A simple training schedule sent each Sunday provides a natural rhythm to life that’s difficult to replicate when it stops appearing altogether. I still put on workout clothes when I wake up each morning, fully aware that there are exactly zero forms of exercise that don’t require the use of muscles in my lower left quadrant.

So what’s the point of writing a whiny blog entry oozing nothing but a lot of anger and self-pity? Maybe there is no point. But I sure hope a year from now I find myself at the kitchen table reading it and laughing, realizing how far I’ve come on the long road back to good health.