Wasatch Back Ragnar 2013: Runner 11
Relying on Another's Righteousness

a Summer without Running

After my fall at Ragnar, I did some physical therapy on my sprained ankle. I stayed off of it (read: zero physical activity) for three weeks and then I started exercising again. Just walking, but moving at least. I read a book, The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution, which is about how slowing down your physical activity and being thoughtful, alert, and mentally open during your cardio will help you lose more weight than will getting into your "zone" and then going as fast as you can. So I started my walking routine with lots of hope that even though I wasn't running, I'd be able to maintain my fitness level at least, or perhaps even lose a little bit of weight. (Something I can never, ever do, stupid thyroid.)
 
Yeah: not so much.
 
The thing with walking is...it's just so slow. Even though I'm not a slow walker (I walk a 12:15-minute-mile and I'm going as fast as I can, pumping with my arms enough to garner occasional rude comments and rubber-necked stares from strangers), it still takes forever to walk anywhere. And even though I pushed myself, walking as quickly as I possibly could, I'd finish 45 or 50 minutes of walking and still feel like I'd hardly exercised at all. No happy runner's high. No satisfied exhaustion.
 
In July, when I went to youth conference with Jake, I couldn't resist running. The cabin where we stayed was in the mountains of southern Utah. Don't think sandstone cliffs or siltstone hoodoos, think actual mountains. Except the dirt was red. Red dirt roads carved up the mountains through towering, jade-green pine trees. Cabin landscape
I brought my running shoes and the first morning there I went running, and even though I'd promised my friend Julie I'd stay with her, I found myself keeping up with the teenagers who were also running (I'm certain they were running slower than normal). The pounding of my heart, the uphill tug on my quads, the flying swoosh of downhills, plus the morning light and the pine scent in my nose and the red dust my feet kicked up: 45 lovely, exhilarating minutes of running. And my ankle didn't hurt at all.
 
Didn't hurt, that is, until about an hour after my run, when it swelled considerably. And started in on that dull ache.
 
So I resigned myself to the fact that my sprain wasn't healed yet. I thought about the conversation I had in the medical tent at Ragnar, when the first aide guy (the one who goaded me into running my last leg by saying "there are tons of runners out there right now with far worse injuries than yours") told me that if I ran on my sprain, I might prolong my healing time. Obviously he was right, so I put in another month of walking.
 
Three or four times a week, I went walking. Sometimes Kaleb came with me; he'd go on his scooter and I'd hustle to keep up with him, and we'd talk and laugh and point out interesting things. Sometimes I went alone; I listened to The Blind Assassin instead of music because words fit my walking tempo better than music.
 
But I still came home feeling like I hadn't really exercised.
 
At the start of August, we went to Idaho to have a graveside ceremony for Kendell's mom, who is buried in Alta, Wyoming, which is on the west side of the Tetons. The hotel where we stayed is right on the Teton Scenic Byway, which is a road that runs right in front of (obviously) the Tetons. I had imagined the run I'd go on all summer, but when the time came to actually go, I didn't think my ankle was up to running yet, so even there I just walked.
Tetons in the Distance
(I so wanted to have a transcendent running experience on this road. Instead I walked, and it was beautiful but just not the same.)
 
At the end of August, I decided I'd start adding running in to my walks. Maybe, I thought, if I start out really, really slow, and just run for a few minutes at a stretch, my ankle would be OK. The first time, I just ran for one song, and I did that a few times. Then I ran for five minutes. Then, on Labor Day, I ran for ten entire minutes, along the newly-paved path on Ironton Hill in Provo.
 
Ten minutes, it seems, was too much.
 
Cue swelling. and a sort of squishy feel in the joint, and pain, too. Nothing excruciating. Just annoying. 
 
To say that I'm frustrated by my injury is an understatement.
 
For one thing, The Slow Burn book is just a bunch of lies. I slowed down, but I've only ballooned. I don't look like a runner anymore. I look soft. I feel soft. I dread seeing anyone because I'm afraid they're thinking holy cow, Amy's gained weight. This fear is particularly bad when I am with family because I can hear what my mom is thinking: Amy is getting so heavy. (She'd never say that, but I think she is thinking it.) (I hate the word "heavy" used in the weight context; it strives to lessen the sting of "fat" or "chubby" but really just draws attention to its attempted kindness.)
 
But the other, bigger thing is this: I miss running. Everything about it, even the bad things, like constant blisters on my foot pads, bra chafing, waiting for red lights to change, and two showers a day. (Those are the only negatives I can even muster up.) I miss putting my running shoes on and actually running away from my house. I miss the breathing and the swishing of my legs and the pounding of feet. I miss driving past a place where I ran that same day. I miss the way, after a quarter mile or so, I'd slip into my running zone, which is a place that is both thoughtless and thoughtful; my anxieties quieted and let me stop thinking all the time, which in turn let me really think. Moving swiftly down a trail or along a sidewalk. Hearing people yell out odd things at me. Pushing myself up a long, steady hill and finding I am stronger than I thought. I miss the satisfaction at the end of a run, the tired muscles and the raspy lungs and the ache in my pelvis that added up to feeling like I'd really, really tried.
 
After Ragnar, and aside from my one run in Cedar Canyon, I've barely run at all this summer. I'm not training for a fall half marathon. I've never once grown the goatee of sweat I get running on hot summer mornings, nor felt the welcomed coolness of late-August sunrises. I've run underneath no trees or beside no flowers. I've hardly bothered with the river trail in the canyon.
 
I haven't been myself.
 
And honestly: I don't know what to do. In all reality, my ankle bothers me more now than I did during my first weeks of walking. Carrying heavy boxes makes it swell. Walking without my brace makes it swell. Shopping for very long makes it swell. And it just...it feels weird.
 
Maybe because I  feel weird, after a summer without running.
 
For the past two weeks, then—ever since it swelled up again after my ten minutes of running on Labor Day—I have gone back to not moving at all. Not even the seemingly-pointless walking. I've iced it nearly every day, and none of this mamby-pamby ice-pack-wrapped-in-towel. I mean full-on, sticking-my-foot-into-ice-water icing.
 
I'm continuing, like I have all summer, to do my PT exercises.
 
But I don't think any of it is helping because really: it just hurts all the time now. Hurts going up stairs, or if I wear a shoe that has even a hint of a heel, or if I dare try to clip my toenails. This is what I've been reduced to, long bouts of inactivity, a slowly-widening body, and Kendell clipping my toenails.
 
I keep talking myself out of going to see a doctor because really, what's a doctor going to say? And because, to further complicate matters, there's the issue of our recent insurance change to a high deductible plan. It makes going to the doctor feel like an abysmal financial failure.
 
I have to say that my summer of not running? Totally not my favorite.

Comments

Julie

I am not the prolific runner you are, but I am in a similar experience. I have been plagued this last half of the summer with Achilles tendonitis. I had a long bout with it three years ago. It flared again, as I was really starting to get back into a good groove after a sporadic running winter. Just when I think I may be getting close to a few minutes of running, the ol' twinge-and-ache will return. I'm not inclined to push through it either, since Achilles problems plagued my grandfather (he had to give up farming) and my brother's popped entirely while playing with his kids. That required surgery. In my family, the Achilles tendon is our Achilles heel. I wish I had good advice for you. Good luck and may you be blessed with a speedier than hoped for recovery.

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