Being injured for a long time hurts. And by "a long time" I mean anything more than a couple of months. Any time you're hurt as a runner, it's likely to flash through your mind that you're never going to run again. But when the days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months and there's no end in sight, that flash becomes a slow, painful burning in your heart, at times smoldering quietly, and at others (like when you see a high school cross country team running down the bike path, or have an ad for a marathon pop up on your social media feed), it flares into a wildfire of self-pity. We talk about "quality of life" and how important that is for everyone. A runner without running is a shadow, a partial person.
Feels like that to me, anyway.
Suppose that means I should have a better life outside of running. Suppose I do, to be honest, but when that piece is stripped away suddenly, it takes some getting used to.
Back at the beginning of September, when I took those first few tentative strides for a half mile or so, I fully expected my knee to blow out at every step. Louie still hurt most of the time, and it was hard to believe that I'd ever stretch out that half mile to a mile, then two, three and more. Run fast again? Not bloody likely, mate.
But running (fine, it was more jogging than running, but whatever - I never found a dead body, so...) seemed to actually help, so I kept at it. Still scared, still tentative, but consistent. I may have trouble remembering to do that cross training crap or floss my teeth, but I can run every day. It was still summer, warm and humid. I felt so dreadfully slow and heavy and my legs would go weak and my heart would race. Walk breaks every mile, sometimes less. None of those runs made me very confident that my running career would resurrect much past a vegetative state. Quality of life? This feeling is obviously why most people don't like running. It sucked a lot.
Mrs. Dave encouraged me, as she usually does, by reminding me that I needed more than a couple of weeks of hot summer running to feel good running again. She's wise like that. She was right, of course, so I embraced the suck as cheerfully as I could and prayed for fall. Of course we all so that every summer, amiright? Near the end of the month, I think, there was one day where the temp was 65 instead of 85+ and it felt so nice. I felt like my three miles was three miles, not 13 and that I wasn't going to die before I made it back home. The next day was warm and sucky again, but I had renewed hope. Sort of like when I used to golf, and once or twice in a round of eighteen I'd hit a ball that when straight and medium-ish far and that would be enough for me to believe I could actually learn to play golf.
Anyway, I'm not going to rehearse the whole month of October, but I feel safe in announcing that I'm feeling like a runner again. This knee is not 100% better. I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that it may hurt from time to time for the rest of my life. But running doesn't seem to bother it any more than not running - in fact it seems to help, and it's at a level I can accept. We'll see what happens when I try to put some serious miles on it, but for now I'll take what I can get.
So, about this past week.
I've been stretching out my long run by a mile each week since the end of September and did seven a couple of weeks ago. Last Saturday was supposed to be eight. Not that there's been an actual plan or anything. Just that I looked at ten miles as a milestone for deciding that I could start training for something. During the week I'd had one run (Thursday) where I went five miles instead of my normal weekday four. Adding things up for the week I mistakenly thought I was going to get to thirty. Even posted it somewhere. Then realized that my math was off and I was going to be only at 29. Probably no one else would notice and 29 is practically 30. Could have left it there, but no.
There was a minor internal debate about 8 vs. 9 for Saturday, but it wasn't very spirited. I knew I was going the extra mile. What I didn't know was how I'd feel as I neared the end. The previous week's seven had given me quite a smackdown in the last mile and a half. It was about all I could do to finish. As the temps have become more fall-like, my pace has been better, and I thought if I was careful with it early one that I'd be good for the whole nine. It was cool and cloudy. Had the whole morning free, so I waited until after sunrise. 8:45-9:00s for most of the way.
Then, about seven miles in - just over an hour of running - it happened. All of a sudden, it felt SO GOOD to be running. I wanted to run ten, twelve, fifteen miles. I'm not quite that silly anymore, so I satisfied the urge with a mile that was 30 seconds faster than most of the others I'd run that morning. Then I eased home a little slower, but still floating. Almost two months to get high. Worth every mile.
After running nine whole miles and feeling great, I decided that I can probably do a half marathon now. But where? Well, why not Rehoboth? There will be Loopsters there, after all. Mrs. Dave is on board. Just have to figure out logistics and finances. Turns out I have some miles on Delta I can use. Turns out that RunEatRalph volunteered to taxi a Loopster or two from and to the airport at the days and times that I would be traveling. All I need to do is find a place to crash Friday and Saturday night (since the party house is already full - bound to happen since I was so late pulling the trigger on this). I decided that if three things aligned today it would be a sign from the universe that I should run Rehoboth (provided the knee holds up).
- The race is still below capacity.
- There are still seats on the flight I want.
- I can find a hotel/airbnb within my budget.
Final decision will be this afternoon or evening.
Couple of weeks ago I'd run one fast mile in the middle of one of my three milers. I had to walk some for mile three that day. Since I've now sort of penciled in a half in five weeks I figured I ought to get some quality workouts in, so I did five on Monday with three tempo miles. They were 8:00, 8:19 and 8:17, which I suppose it about as good as I should expect about now. But it was the first real effort run other than all the effort that went into those sucky days of September and the first half of October. Didn't die.
Tuesday was an easy four and then I carved the 2018 Schultz Jack'o'Lantern. I may have forgotten to do strength training, but it wasn't my fault. They've been laying cement in front of the fire station and I didn't notice a section of sidewalk they'd done at the corner and stepped in it. I stopped, went back and apologized for messing up their fresh work. The foreman sent a guy over to smooth out my damage and it was all good. But since I had to wash it all off my shoe and then dry it after, the other stuff slipped my mind and there you go.
Wednesday was my first interval day since last November. I had chopped up the training plan I used for Rehoboth last year and made a six week "get ready to not die in Delaware" schedule. This had 400s for the week but somehow I had 800s in my head (probably because I didn't actually look at the schedule that day) so I did 4 of those with 400 recoveries (ala Yasso), and a total of five miles. 3:49, 3:40, 3:41 and 3:42. Good enough for QR #2. And a good set up for a night of handing out candy. A decent number of trick or treaters, but more were older this year than previous, and I only gave out half of the bag Mrs. Dave had given me to use. Should have been more generous.
Yesterday I felt like I was recovering from the 800s, but still did my four with a short break when I saw a car in the street with it's flashers on. At first I ran past. Everyone has a phone and no doubt they'd called somebody to rescue them. But it was about 5:00 pm and there was a lot of traffic. Not a safe place to have your car sitting in the middle of one of the two eastbound lanes. So I went back and asked if they were OK. A woman and her daughter, on their way home from work at the Embassy Suites and they were out of gas. So I offered to help get them at least to the next street corner and out of the way of all the cars zooming by at 45-50 mph. It was only 25 yards or so. We got it going just fast enough to get the rear end of the car around the corner. After that I did most of my strength stuff, but figured pushing the car was a good replacement for the squats.
And there we are. Hope your Halloween was appropriately spooky and that your running is not.