Monday, January 17, 2011

The return. (Triumphant? To be determined)

One of the best lessons I learned really well as a wee person was not to say anything at all if I didn't have anything nice to say. This is totally a good strategy when it comes to making friends and not insulting strangers. Possibly not the best strategy for blogging.

I'm an all or nothing sort of person. I've been criticized for seeing life in black and white. What that usually means is 110% commitment to people, tasks, goals; it means fierce loyalty, epic ambition and total passion for whatever has captured my interest. But the flip side also means that I can take things pretty hard - getting overwhelmed when negative things start piling on top of one another until they're more cluttered than my kitchen counter.

Lately I seem to wait until every dish in the house has 
been used before I wash them - it's terrible news. 
In my defense this particular mess is (mostly) the debris of 
a birthday breakfast - happy you day, BFF!!

The unfortunate truth of the situation is that I've been so focused on what I don't have, the ways that my new year is not living up to the big expectations I had and the fact that my life in general is not fitting into the plans I painstakingly made for myself. It's easy to get caught up in frustration and sadness, but it's a terrible excuse for living. Blinded by unemployment, injury, debt, loneliness and probably the post-Christmas-at-home blues too, I've completely overlooked what could be the greatest opportunity of my life.  I have been on the lookout for over a decade for an opportunity such as this. Never before have I been so completely free of binding commitments to work, school and life. I hearby and wholeheartedly resolve to make the absolute most out of this once hidden, now obvious chance of a lifetime.

Which leads me to three quotes from which I am currently drawing inspiration for a truly epic kickstart/restart to my life. Here's one, appropriately enough for any US readers on MLK day: 

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase. --Martin Luther King 

Taking a chance means stepping off into the unknown. The status quo is comfortable - a terrifying thought when the status quo means being unhappy. Change requires bravery, hard work and faith. But it can reap the greatest rewards. Especially when that faith is accompanied by an absolute determination:

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing. 
--Abraham Lincoln

It's not about the tools you have, the people around you or the best-laid plans. Of course those things help. But you have to be ultimately, completely committed to making it happen in your own head before you will ever see any changes that you want to make. And finally, perhaps most importantly, that resolution should be directed towards finding peace, contentment, maybe even joy, because:

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. -- Abraham Lincoln.

Someone, I can't remember who, tweeted that quote recently. Through the fog of discontent that settled around my shoulders last week, I saw it and was struck by it. I truly believe in our own power to make ourselves happy and to make the changes we want to see. It's amazing how sometimes the simplest things like that can get lost, but maybe they're all the more powerful once found again. I'm planning some race-displacing, training-altering big life changes that I really think will make me happy - and I'm starting to get excited about it.

I spent my unplugged time doing some serious thinking, but also more of the same old stuff:

I biked.

I drank enormous protein shakes and braved
the extreme cold.

I did p90x and read. Not at the same time.

I got The Long Run for Christmas, and I loved it. I remember reading an interview with Matt Long in Runner's World magazine years ago, and being captivated by the story. It's truly an amazing tale of survival and indomitable will. I would have been moved to tears reading it regardless, but I felt like it was just what I needed, when I needed it. Last week I received permission to test out my orthotics on two short runs. So I did. And realized I was going to need to borrow some of Long's amazing willpower to get back to doing what I love most in life.

My first run was a 25 minute loop around the neighborhood. The sidewalks were a mix of snowy, icy and clear, challenging my footing. And although I felt the support of my orthotics, I didn't feel any knee, hip or foot pain. Sweet first steps. My next run, a few days later, was inside on the treadmill - 1% incline at a nine minute mile pace (my regular speed). I was told that I could go longer here, because I would have the option of stopping and/or taking out my orthotics if they hurt. Unfortunately, I did start to hurt. In my knee. Again. At about 33 minutes in, my knee started to fill up with awfulness. I focused on my form and tried to breathe through it, but it began to grind and send pains up and down my leg. Angrily I punched the treadmill's speed down to 3.5 - a slow walk. Ninety seconds later the pressure had dissipated and I ramped things up again back to where I was. I felt like I was reliving the crummy memory of my last run before my doctor-ordered break, because just like before, the pain built up faster on the second round - I ran for ten minutes before I had to stop to prevent my knee cap from taking off out of my joint like a rocket. Run ten, walk one. Times three. Anger, denial, sadness - I went through all the steps - again - on the treadmill. 

However, I did not break down in tears or throw the orthotics into the trash. I got off the treadmill and got onto the bike and did an e-spinning workout, to remind myself that there are other athletic activities that I love. Then I went in the steamroom (for the first time) to sit and think. After several lungfuls of water vapor, I concluded that even if I have to use the Jeff Galloway method, and run-walk my way through my next marathons, hell, all my marathons, I will do it. This pain will not doom me to a life of not running, and it will not limit me to doing 5ks and 10ks. And it will not put a stop to my ambition, my dream of cracking 4:00. I can do that even with little walk breaks - I'll sprint-walk! And I will get better - even if I have to spend every day doing physio. If Matt Long can be an Ironman after being run over by a bus, surely I can with an incomparably minor knee issue. Nope, this is not the end. It's still just the beginning.


  1. You're right this is just the beginning. You're not doomed, the only different between stepping stones and stumbling blocks is how you choose to use them.

    There is so much waiting for you. So very much. And it's just there for the taking.

  2. I would say just take it easy on the running for now, and ease into longer runs over time. I bet your orthotics will start to feel better soon. Running with orthotics is a big change for your body, because it basically is a whole new stride for your body to get used to. Technically with orthotics you are running biomechanically perfect, since they are custom fit for you. So I bet you will start to feel good on runs soon. Take it easy and good luck!

  3. Girl, I am so sorry you have been having a hard time this year!! I LOVE your new perspective....AWESOME QUOTES. I am totally an all or nothing person too so I understand. Keep us updated and be easy on yourself:)