Expect the unexpected

It has been a while since I last posted.  I have been busy teaching and going to school full time to get my master’s in educational leadership.  This fall has been one of change and growth.  With a few weeks off for the holidays, I have some time to reflect about the past few months.

This summer, I was supposed to train for the Santa Rosa Marathon to qualify for Boston.  I was supposed to spend my time in Florida doing my long runs on the beach.  I was supposed to use my time there to acclimate to the humidity for training purposes.  I was supposed to spend the mornings swimming and the afternoons running getting myself in peak condition for my races.  I was supposed to go galavanting in the Santa Cruz mountains for hours at a time.  I was supposed to run…a lot.  But that didn’t happen; something went wrong.  Somehow, my body decided that it had a different idea, and after a long debate and fight, I finally decided to listen.

Looking back, I still can’t figure out exactly what went wrong.  Sure, I probably upped my mileage too quickly prior to the San Francisco half marathon.  I probably upped my pace too much as well.  I probably made the transition from trails to pavement too quickly.  But every time I started to hurt, I backed off, or so I thought.  But maybe, the issues started well before the half marathon.

After the half marathon, I felt great (physically speaking).  I remember getting home and waking up the next day, and wanting to go for a run.  I was excited by the short amount of recovery time I required.  And then everything somehow fell apart.  After flying to Florida that night, I arrived the next morning feeling sore.  I told myself it must be DOMS.  I went for a run to stretch, but I still had a nagging ache behind my knee.  After cutting my run short, I took a few advil, and figured it would be better the next day.

After a quick run

After a quick run

Every day it got worse.  My back started to ache, my hips were tight.  When I ran, the aching behind my knee became a sharp pain.  This wasn’t what I expected, this wasn’t what I wanted.  I decided to join the YMCA whilst on vacation, and I hesitatingly took the next five days off running.  Instead I spent my training time swimming, biking, and lifting.  I also spent 20 minutes a day strengthening my core.  After my five day hiatus, I tried to run (after taking a few advil), and while it was a bit better, my knee was still not right.  Disappointed, I ended up spending the majority of my training time in the gym, and ran once every few days, trying to ignore the pain.

When I returned home, I went to the doctor.  After getting an MRI on my knee, the doctor said I had a baker’s cyst that ruptured.  It caused some irritation and it would take some time to heal, but it wasn’t anything too disconcerting.  During my time off, my back decided to go out (specifically my SI joint).  Nothing seemed to be going my way.  I felt like my body was betraying me.

exploring trails in Florida

exploring trails in Florida

I have spent the past four months in and out of doctors offices, chiropractors, and acupuncturists, Almost all of my workout time has been in the gym… biking, lifting weights, or swimming.

I have not been running.

Being unable to run has given me the opportunity to think… perhaps too much, about running and why I run.  I couldn’t help but think that there was another component to my injuries.  It was while I was at my acupuncturist that I realized this poignantly.  After an hour of working on me, she said at the end of the session, “you know, I have to tell you, I think that most of your physical ailments are manifestations of emotional issues.”  Woah.  What?  This was something I never heard before from a doctor.  I needed to think about this.

After spending so much time being overweight, I started to see that perhaps, I was merely replacing one addictive behavior with another.  However, as a friend said, “at least it’s a healthy one.”  While this may be true, my unbalanced approach to running created physical/muscular imbalances that I now understand and have the time to correct.  In essence, I am rebuilding my body.  However, the emotional component is just as important.  I am learning that my deep seeded fears of gaining back the weight, of not attaining my goals, and of (perceived) failure have manifested themselves through unhealthy coping mechanisms.  I have been forced to face the facts that I am impatient, I am an addict, and I am a control freak.  Much of that need for control was being trapped in my hips and my back.

Having injuries has forced me to face these issues head on.  I have to allow myself time to heal, I am unable to get my “runner’s high,” and I have limited control over my recovery of my injuries.  It sucks.  But as I am allowing myself to physically heal, I am also allowing myself to emotionally heal.  I find myself asking questions like why do I need to run?  Why do I have addictive tendencies?  Why do I need to be in control?  And so many of my answers find their way back to fear… fear of the unknown… fear of gaining weight…. fear of stasis.
As I slowly return to running, I am taking it one day at a time.  While it is tempting to start running two, three, and four days a week, I know that will lead me down the same road.  I have been learning patience and a new kind of discipline.  I no longer think that I’m only running one day a week, but I now realize that I am running, and I try to enjoy every moment.