I’m back…. I hope
After my torn anterior ankle tendon at mile 50 during Lean Horse in August, I intended to take off about six weeks from running entirely to allow everything to heal. My sports med doc was very reassuring and didn't think it was that big of a deal. Just take some time off, if it hurts then don't do it and when you're healed, you can start running again. In the meantime, you might want to think about other sports such as biking or swimming.
"That is all excellent advice," I thought but I also wondered: "how many other patients do you have whose next goal is to run one hundred miles?"
During the last six years I had not taken off more than 7 to 10 days from running. "Who knows what other overuse or degenerative injuries there might be lurking around the corner?" I thought, "It's the off season, what better time to take a break?" Taking some time off would be good for me.
At first, it was difficult for me to not run. Running is an important part of what I do. It is a time of queit reflection where I let the stresses of life fall away, like the golden leaves from a quaking aspen in an autumn breeze. I missed my time of relaxation, meditation, escape and communion with nature.
To avoid feeling too sorry for myself for not being able to run, I devoted my free time into other acitvities which I had neglected. I spent time with my family. Jeanne, Nathan and I cut and stacked firewood. They joined me on trips to Tucson, Arizona and then to Casper, Wyoming.
We threw an Oktoberfest party. I wore lederhosen and sang Bavarian beer-drinking songs (Photo above). Friends emptied almost all the beer from my kegs. So much the better; it's fall and time to start brewing beer again. One of my other hobbies beside ultrarunning is homebrewing. I can't make more beer until I have space to keep it. I appreciate when friends rise to the occasion and help make space in my kegs to store new beer.
We went to a friend's barn dance and I got to jam with other musicians. That was very insipiring. I hadn't played much the past year. Hopefully I'll get to play with others more often. I play guitar, harmonica, claw hammer banjo, ukulele-banjo, Native American flute, and sign/yodel old time folk music of the American West from about 1840-1930. My nurse's mom has lent me her violin so I could start learning how to play. I'd always wanted to play the fiddle.. now I am. The songs were pretty scratchy but I'm already improving. I don't have any desire to be at the level of a concert violinist, I only want to be able to play a few old time fiddle tunes around the campfire with friends.
During these last weeks, I did not write anything on this blog because no one wants to read a long drawn out whining post: "This sucks. I'm injured and I can't run" I avoided reading or commenting on other's blogs- not because I wasn't interested- but because I did not want to be reminded of all the things others are doing while I can't. I'd end up feeling even more self-pity.
Just as I was ready to start running again, I came down with bronchitis. After three weeks of coughing and right before the remnants of that was almost gone, I then caught a cold. I was frustrated and dejected. "This sucks!" I thought. Well, there's one thing I could be thankful for: at least I was sick without it being before any upcoming major races on my calendar, unlike how it had been so many times in the past.
"I'd do anything, just anything, if I could even go only ONE mile," I thought to myself. It's funny how humans, myself included, take so much for granted, including our fitness and our ealth. We don't realize what we have until we lose it.
Yesterday was sunny with clear blue skies, a mild beeze and a high temp of 74 degrees. Even though I still have a trace of cough and reactive airway, I just couldn't stay away from running any longer. It has been almost ten weeks since I've run more than a few hundred yards. If I had to stop and walk back home, so be it. I wasn't going to put off returning to running any longer.
I put Ruby on a lead and my Vibram Five Fingers on my feet. We padded slowly, silently down the gravel road. It was Friday afternoon and we saw only a handful of vehicles. We saw deer, horses, cows, wild turkeys and one other jogger (rare here in the rural Black Hills of South Dakota). The vanilla aroma of fresh-cut ponderosa permeated the warm afternoon air where wildfire suppression crews had been thinning the forest.
I would have loved to run on a trail instead of a road but thought I'd better not push it. I only expected to go a mile or two and see how I feel. The first mile I coughed and coughed and coughed until finally the remnants of post-bronchitis mucous were gone. Running clears my airways even better than a nebulizer treatment. My legs felt well if not strong. The area of injury felt tight but there was no pain. Every few hundred yards I thought about turning back but felt so good that we kept going. At mile 2.5 we finally turned back.
Today, I have few minor tight spots in my hips and calves. That's no surprise, given that we ran 5.1 miles and it's been almost ten weeks since I had gone for a decent run. I will take it easy the next couple of months before I think about races for next year. It would be foolish to push myself too far, too soon and then end up re-injured.
Perhaps a short ultra such as a 50k or a 26.2m trail marathon in March/April might be possible? I have no idea how well I will recover my fitness and whether that tendon injury is truly gone.
I have plenty of time to think about future races. I'm just glad that I'm running again. My only goal now is to simply keep running without injury. Ultramarathoning is all about persistence and taking the long perspective on things. This philosophy applies during races themselves, during those up and down times between races, as well as to life itself.
Enjoy the seasons of running and of life, my friends.
Float softly and quietly down those forest trails.
Run well and run strong.