Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pain, Pain Go Away

As I sit here bundled up in a blanket, foot elevated and wrapped in ice, I reflect on the last few days’ events.  Contrary to what I may have implied in prior posts, I’m not actually a super human runner.  I am in fact, mediocre at best and – if we’re being honest – a bit of a wimp.
Last Wednesday Chris became a newest addition to our running group at work.  Just having completed his first 5k, he wanted to ride the momentum.  We promised to take it easy on him, but we 5-day-a-week runners have different interpretations of “easy”.  The route, I told Chris, was 3 easy miles.  (After which I found out it was actually 3.5 – bonus!)  We started off as a group, and eventually throughout the course we started to spread out.  I glanced behind me and noticed Chris falling farther and farther behind.  I slowed down for him to catch up, and realized he was walking.  Not wanting to abandon him, I kept pace with him, walking and jogging all the way back to the building.  To me, the pace didn’t matter.  I was just happy to get the miles in.  I remember when I first started running with Kerri, and she was so patient with me, stopping every quarter mile so I could catch my breath.  Now Chris was the one that needed the support to avoid getting discouraged, and I was happy to pitch in.  Ironically, today was the day my friend Brian decided he wanted to make his return to running.  He’s been out of the serious running scene for about a decade or so, but wanted to break out of his rut with a one mile debut run on the treadmill.  So, being the supportive running friend that I am, I brought him to my gym after work.  He made it just under a mile while I did another 1.25.  I officially did my charity work for the day.
Thursday Kerri, Todd and I made plans to run at lunch, but at the last minute Kerri was nowhere to be found, so Todd and I ran alone.  We maintained a slow, consistent pace, and Todd repeatedly chirped how he was enjoying this nice casual pace.  Maybe if he repeated it long enough he would start to believe it.  We enjoyed the run, although I mentioned that my foot was starting to bother me.  I would have to really take it easy on the way back.  As we approached the final mile, we spotted Kerri, who was also heading back from a shorter route.  We maintained our “slow, consistent, perfectly enjoyable” pace while Kerri trotted ahead, about a quarter mile up the road.  Finally I turned to Todd and with my head I motioned towards Kerri.  I said, “Todd… look, BUNNY!”  That was the cue.  Todd and I both went into overdrive and sprinted up the hill like greyhounds chasing a rabbit.  I briefly wondered what the commuters passing us were thinking as we charged up the road, and a quick glance of my watch showed we were clocking an impressive 6:20 pace.  By the time we reached Kerri I had to pray to the stomach gods to keep my breakfast from doing its own uphill sprint.  Despite the nausea and the soreness flaring up in my foot, I had to admit it felt liberating running full tilt up the hill.  For that brief moment I tossed out any concerns of maintaining the pre-determined pace, the foot pain, the oncoming traffic, the responsibilities waiting for me back at my desk.  For that brief quarter mile, I got to be a kid again.
That’s where I should end this fairy tale, wild hair flying through the wind as I charged with reckless abandon in the final stretch of my lunch time course.  I wouldn’t mention how, an hour after my run when I left my desk to grab some water, I could barely put weight down on my left foot.  I hobbled around trying to pinpoint the pain and analyze the extent of the injury.  Was this just a pain that would resolve itself, or could it be a show stopper?  Most importantly, would next month’s half marathon be in jeopardy?  The obvious answer was that I would have to wait and see, with an open-ended prescription of “rest”.
The problem with self-prescribing rest is that I also like to perform pain diagnostic tests repeatedly during the rest process.  I am constantly testing and re-testing to see if, by any chance, the pain miraculously disappeared.  About a month ago when my foot had a similar pain, I got out of bed every hour all night long to measure the current pain status.  For the last two days I’ve been catching myself doing those little pain tests and forcing myself to just…“rest”.  After two days of rest, I had to lace up my sneakers and at least test out the foot.  It was feeling a little better, and the thought of taking more than two days off of running, and facing a potentially a serious setback with my training, was just too daunting.  I decided to go to the gym so that I would be on a controlled treadmill and not have to worry about being sidelined miles from home. 
For a Sunday afternoon, the gym was noticeably busier than in weeks past.  Indeed, it appears the newly resolute have come to work off their holiday indulgences.  I wondered how many of these people I would see a month from now.  I chose a treadmill near the end of the row, with a good view of the weightlifters.   I cautiously started up the treadmill and gingerly took my first few steps.  Everything hurt.   My foot, knees, ankles, and back all protested the sudden movement.  Apparently they didn’t like being dragged back from their vacation so quickly.  After a half mile and some slight modifications to my footfalls, I got into a good groove and completed a smooth 4.5 miles. 
The pain wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t worse either.  Maybe as a middle aged runner, that’s all I can ask for.  Only time will tell how my foot responds to today’s activities, and with any luck I’ll be out pounding pavement again tomorrow with the gang.  But just to be safe, I think I’ll be packing an extra ice pack in my bag. J

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