Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Running in a Winter Wonderland

We had a snow day here in Eugene that closed down all the schools.  I spent a cozy lazy day at home with the family enjoying the snowy scenery from indoors.  Mid-afternoon I decided that it was time to head outside for my Tuesday run.  Since my injury, I've been sticking with bark chip and dirt trails. I started with just a mile twice a week and over the last couple months have gradually built back up to four mile runs twice a week and six to seven miles once a week.  While races are still a ways off in the future, I am thrilled to be running pain-free and interacting with my fantastic running peeps.  My favorite easy 4 mile loop is on Pre's Trail in Eugene's beautiful Alton Baker Park.

As I pulled into the park, it started snowing again.  There were many runners out on the trail.  We shared hellos, waves, nods and knowing smiles.  Kindred spirits were we running in such chilly conditions in the snow.  I had a lovely solitary run as the snow fell around me.  I let my mind wander and my senses take in the pretty sights from the snow dusted trees,  the ducks and geese swimming in the canal and the golden leaves crunch along on the trail.  I thought about my post-injury return to running and how much more I appreciated the sport now.  It doesn't matter how far or how fast I run.  It's about the joy it brings me and how it allows me to connect with nature.  I thought about how much I was looking forward to my upcoming Thanksgiving morning run with women who I had bonded with over many, many shared miles.  Before I knew it, my run had come to an end. I was re-energized and full of gratitude.

There and Back Again

I was giddy with excitement and joy after our fantastic stay at "Out and About Treesort".  I had mixed feelings about what was in store for me over the next couple days.  Our next destination was Ashland, Oregon where I was supposed to run the Siskiyou Outback 50K.  Unfortunately this would be the first race I would scratch.  Nonetheless, I have never been to Ashland, had already reserved and paid for a hotel for two nights and most importantly had my running partner, Laura, along with several other friends to cheer on as they participated in the race. Dammit, though, I wanted desperately to be out there running this gorgeous course and tackling another challenge that I had painstakingly trained for.  Could I set aside my disappointment and put on a happy face for the people that I so cared for?

There were a lot of tears this weekend. Tears of sadness at the finality of missing out on this race.  Tears of disappointment that my friends would run this race without me.  Tears of pride as I watched my running partner stoically take on the challenge of running her first 50K.  Tears of joy as I watched my running partner cross the finish line with a huge smile on her face knowing that she put her whole heart, soul and ounce of strength into this race.  Even though this event was four months ago, it remains a bittersweet memory.

When I returned from my tour of Southern Oregon, I would be placed in a walking cast for a minimum of three weeks.  My foot just wasn't healing on its own.  I hoped like heck that the cast would heal my foot for once and for all so I could get back to my running.  I'll spare you the details around those three weeks in the cast.  They were rough on my physically and mentally.  I was not a pleasant person to be around.  The cast and I went many places together. We spent a week at the horse ranch in Bend with family, floated down the Deschutes River, hung out at a brew pub in Portland with my BFF, celebrated a friend's 40th birthday with live music, sweet treats and karaoke, limped around BBQs and family trips to the park, pool, frozen yogurt place, sweated during lifting sessions at the gym, logged countless miles on the stationary bike, swayed to my favorite band as they played an open air concert, supported my husband as he ran a 50 mile race in Mt. Hood, camped in our new VW Eurovan a couple times.

When the cast came off, I expected to magically be healed.  Boy was I ever wrong!  Both feet hurt now. Perhaps I shouldn't have done so much while in the "walking cast"?  While the PF rupture healed itself, it formed excess scar tissue and developed plantar fasciitis.  My "healthy foot" developed tendonitis from having to compensate from the weaker one.  I was seeing red.  Enough with western medicine! An acupuncture friend thought she could help me run again.  I saw her twice a week for several weeks and started taking Chinese herbs.  Within three weeks of treatment, I had my first pain-free day in months!  I wasn't running yet, but I regained my optimism that I could get through this injury that somehow had come to define me.

Carpe Diem Baby!

For a gal who spent nearly every waking moment running or thinking about running, finding something to replace that gaping hole was a formidable challenge.  I didn't know it at the time but I'd be sidelined from running for the next four months.  Most of that time I would be off work for the summer.  Fortunately my family and I had a very full summer schedule.  I longed to escape from my normal life and routine so I wouldn't miss running so darn much.  There's more to life than running, right? Well, I was determined to seek it out and enjoy every minute of it!

Our summer kicked off with our annual trip to Camp Silver Creek for three nights of old fashioned summer camp fun with the whole family.  My best friend and her family were joining us this year which made it all the more special.  I wasn't able to get around as well or be as active due to my painful foot but nonetheless had a fun time being off cooking, cleaning and entertaining duty.  It was so nice to just be able to enjoy my family's sweet company and appreciate the simplicity of living in a tiny cabin out in the wilderness.

 The cabin in which we spent three nights.

 Boating in the pond.
Yay for Trickle Falls!

The next trip that we had planned was a highly anticipated trip to "Out and About Treesort". Steve and I had booked a two night stay for our family in a tree house resort in the quaint town of Taquilma near Cave Junction, Oregon.  It was an absolutely amazing retreat.  We lived high up in a lovely treehouse, swam in the river fed natural pool, lived out our Swiss Family Robinson dreams with tree forts, rope swings, rope ladders and hung out with other families during meal times and evening campfires.  The highlight was getting to practice the art of living fearlessly during my two and a half hours on the ziplines and adrenaline rushed Tarzan Swing free falls.
 Kassidy swinging from the trees.
 Hanging out by the pool on a hot sunny day.
 Me finding my inner child on a rope swing.
 My final ride along the zipline
 The Elementree Treehouse where we spent three lovely restful nights.
Surrendering for a 25 foot free fall and 55 foot total drop on the Tarzan Swing.  What a rush!

It was the BEST vacation ever. I'll never forget it and can't wait to return to this idyllic setting.  Now this is living the good life!  When one door closes, a window always opens.  It was time to tackle my "bucket list" and suck the marrow out of life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Now What?

I shared the doctor's news with my husband and my running partner.  At this point I wasn't sure if I was going to follow his recommendations or throw caution to the wind and run the race anyway.  As far as I was concerned even a DNF (did not finish) was more favorable than DNS (did not start), right?  I am not a quitter.  It certainly wouldn't be my best race but the least I could do is give it a shot.  If worse came to worse, I could run the 15K instead of the 50K.  I had invested so much time and energy into this race that the last thing I wanted to do was throw it all away.  I decided to try a little run. If it felt okay, I'd go for it. If it didn't, I'd be pissed as hell but would accept the fact that I would not be able to run this race.

The next day I optimistically suited up for a run.  God, how I missed running.  I hit the bark chip path by my house and took it nice and easy.  Less than a mile of slow painful lumbering, all my race hopes were snuffed out.  Last month I ran a marathon.  A few weeks ago I ran 23 miles on trails.  Today, the week before my highly anticipated, totally paid for and planned 50K, I couldn't even run a mile.  The closest I would get to this race this year would be as a spectator cheering on my running partner and other gals that I knew that would be running that day.

The last four weeks of not running had been excruciating.  I wasn't seeing and running with the amazing, fun women I run with once or twice a week.  I wasn't getting the exercise I needed and sure as hell wasn't getting the endorphen rush that I've come to rely on.  Seeing runners and hearing about their running turned me into a sulky green eyed monster prone to nasty verbal outbursts.  Jealousy is not an emotion that I'm accustomed to nor one that I do well.  I tried to suck it up and to be happy for those fortunate ones who could still run.  This didn't work so well.  It just didn't feel authentic to commiserate with my husband when he had a tough run or a friend who was jumping out of her skin because she was tapering.  What were they complaining about?  At least they got to run!  I wanted to run but honestly didn't know if I would ever be able to do so again.

I tried distancing myself from anyone and everything remotely related to running.  I isolated myself from others, hid facebook running contacts and blogs, tucked away my running logs, books, magazines, posters, jewelry, clothing and even music.  While it felt good not having running stuff broadside me when I was least suspecting, I felt more alone than I had ever felt before. My own husband and many dear friends are runners.  Suddenly any social interactions with runners felt awkward.  No one could say the right thing to me.  Don't ask me about my injury because it's still there. Don't ask me about my running plans because I don't know what they are.  Don't tell me I'm lucky to still be able to swim and bike because that's not how it feels.  Don't tell me I'll be back running because you don't know that that's a possibility.  Don't tell me you about your runs, prior injuries, inspirational stories or quotes.  This not only didn't work but turned me into a person I was ashamed to be.

Running, running, running. I couldn't seem to escape it.  It was all the buzz.  I must have been so annoying with all my stories of races, runs, athletes, running gear, books, training not to mention my upteen million facebook status updates around running.  Sheesh, running ad nauseum!  I was so over it.  Now all I needed to do was to find some other way to occupy my time and energy.  It was time for me to separate from running and find myself a new addiction, one that I daresay might even be more satisfying than running.