Friday, April 19, 2013

The Boston That Wasn't...Regrets and Revelations


I need to write this for me, and it is in a sense, my way of sorting things out and putting things in proper order. I know everyone's out there writing comforting, empowering, deep and meaningful stuff...I'm not there yet. Please forgive my ongoing Boston obsession and related issues. It will end soon. Or not...

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I'm lying on the table at In Motion Rehab connected to the e-stim machine. This is where I've been everyday since injuring myself 10 days ago. My hope had been to get to the start of the 117th Boston Marathon, but my body had other plans. And so instead of running from Hopkinton to Boston on that pitch-perfect New England spring day, I 'run' 7.5 miles on an indoor track in the midst of a spring blizzard in Boulder - 13 laps to a mile - and I'm feeling pretty damn sorry for myself.

All I think that whole day is: "Dammit. I shouldn't be here!"

And as electricity pulses through my posterior, I hear about it. I hear Gene and Luz and Heather talking in the other room - there's a tone of disbelief, as I piece together what they're saying. Henry Guzman calls the office. His Lennox Hotel window overlooks one blast site.

Two bombs have just gone off near the finish of the Boston Marathon.

Instantly pictures of blood covered sidewalks, disembodied limbs and chaos begin circulating through the internet. I drive home through heavy snow, sobbing and shaking with grief and disbelief...

And that's been my general state all week. I have been unable really to deal with much this week. After the injury, then the loss of my 16 year old dog, the difficult days before Boston when I felt I should be there - and feeling that life is supposed to be good right now - and it isn't...and now this??? Enough already.

And for the rest of Monday I am inundated with calls, emails, messages, texts...neighbors knock on the front door - Some are friends who think I'm in Boston and check to see that I'm okay. Others send well meaning and heartfelt messages - "I'm so glad you aren't in Boston."..."You weren't meant to be there. You are where you should be."...

And all I can think, ALL I can think is, MY god. I wish I was there.

So for the past several days I've been trying to sort through what I've been feeling - and why I've been feeling it. I haven't slept more than 3 hours a night since first injuring myself back on April 3rd. My brain won't ever turn off. I wake at 2 a.m. and lie in bed until 6 a.m. thinking - pointless thoughts, regrets, churning and churning, chaotically, over and over and over. Nothing sorted. Nothing resolved. Just gunk. Gunk.

And then yesterday I get out of bed after another sleepless night and find myself, at last, completely unable to deal. For the first time in 16 years of teaching I realize that I need to take a "mental health day".  Lecturing all day just is NOT going to happen. I can't even imagine trying to discuss philosophy today. No way. All I can muster is slumping on the couch wondering what the hell is going on?

And so I spend the day trying to sort through the flotsam-and-jetsam of my thoughts and emotions. And here's where I arrived...

Not being in Boston was hard at first - I tried to stay away from the internet all weekend because everyone's posts made me burst into tears - and then even harder after the horror struck. I kept thinking "Damn. If I had had plane tickets that I couldn't cancel then I probably would have just gone. Damn you Southwest and your flipping liberal cancellation policies!!"....and a plethora of other nonsensical garbage flows through my mind. If only...if only...if only...

Between the debacle in NYC in November and Boston now - I can't help feeling fairly doomed on the running front. And that's when I realize the connection. The NYC Marathon, as I tried to convey months ago, left me feeling bitter and angry - New Yorkers and runners around the country called me, and all the other runners there, selfish and disrespectful. Even though I knew why I went (to help my family in NJ and to support my NJ friends who planned to run) I deeply regretted going. Flying home from Newark I wished I had never seen what I had seen: the destruction of where I grew-up, and the fierce animosity directed at runners - from both runners and non-runners alike. I saw a mean side of New Yorkers and runners that proved hard to shake. I felt very alone through all of that.

Now, fast forward to Boston - All I wish is that I was there. Now of course the two situations are importantly different, and I'm not trying to equate a natural disaster with human evil - but what suddenly dawned on me was this: I'm now grateful that I went to NYC. Oh, it sucked, and the NYRR handled the race and the 'resolution' horribly - But I did what I could do and that's all I can ever do. And if I hadn't gone, I may have had similar regrets I now have about Boston.

So, now, short of death, I will be back in Boston for 2014, AND I even want to run NYC again.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Running the Risks

"Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up." ~ Dean Karnazes 
So, on Wednesday, April 10th, I withdrew from the 117th Boston Marathon. I also put my 16 1/2 year old Aussie-Samoyed mix, Willa, and my most loyal and steady running partner ever, to sleep after 6+ months of doggie hospice.


It's been a bad week. It's been a very, very bad week, and I don't see much light at the end of the tunnel right now. I know there's light there, but I just can't see it yet.

Right now I should be getting ready to travel to Boston. Right now I should be feeling excited and nervous. Right now should not be what it is - but that's what it is. This reality is not what I had in mind.

Many people have commented that Boston isn't the big deal. Boston will still be there. It's just running, after all, and there is more to life than running. All true statements.

But losing my best friend??? Now that IS the big deal.  She was my steady running partner for 12 solid years, through all types of weather, day in and day out, 50 miles a week for 12 stinking years (and she still ran with me more sporadically until about a year ago)!  That loss is the real loss.

But here's the thing: I know Willa lived a good, long life. The last year has been rough, for her, for us, and we tried to do everything we could for her. The degenerative, incurable disease that hit her seemed just so unfair - but she maintained an amazing, positive attitude through it all - she rolled with it. She enjoyed what she could still enjoy, and accepted her lot in life in a way that I don't think I ever could. I admire that determined, strong, stubborn, willful beast for her ability to stay positive when she could no longer walk. No longer run. No longer do much of what she enjoyed. And yet, she seemed to still find something worth living for. I saw it in her eyes.

But then, something turned. I don't know what it was. There was a new level of frustration she seemed to show. And at 2 a.m., in the darkness of a restless night, as she and I tossed and turned, and thrashed, and gnashed our teeth at the unfairness of the universe, I realized that the time had come. I really don't know why it hit me at that moment - but my heart began to beat out of my chest, and I sobbed for the next 3 hours, having made the decision.

But here's the thing about all of that - We knew that was coming. We knew that was the inevitable end we were going to reach at some time. That is where that path necessarily led. I miss her terribly, but death is part of life.

But Boston - here the path I THOUGHT I was on was not to be. We all know that there are no guarantees with training and racing - We do what we can, but somethings are out of our control. Weather, sickness, injury...these things happen, for better or worse. By all accounts, I was on the path to a PR at Boston. All my training indicated that if the race came on a good day, I would be ready.

And then I turned onto a different path.

And here's the hard part for me to accept - I made that turn. It didn't happen "to me". I made a choice - a bad choice - and in one moment of thoughtless action, 4 months of training seemed to disappear without a trace. I know, intellectually, that that is not the truth - but that's how it feels right now.

And so today, I am not getting ready to leave for Boston. I am not feeling excited and nervous - I am not feeling alive in that electric way I do before a big race - all of that is not to be. I get that we all run these risks when playing this game, but I don't have to like it when things fall apart.

For now, I am in the pit of despair - but this too will pass - and I will again run the risks of training again, because that's just what we do...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Yep! I Sprained My Ass!!!

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on" ~ Robert Frost

It's Wednesday, 12 days from the Boston Marathon and all is well, more or less, with the bod though the mind is having it's ups and downs. My training has gone well with an occasional blip here and there which usually happens at some point during the trials and tribulations of a long marathon training cycle. I've made it through the winter cold, and snow, and sleet, and ice and wind wind wind...And then spring comes. I've made it through a difficult semester with a fairly heavy course load.  I've managed to give reasonably good and rational advice to my runners (though I sometimes don't take my own advice) and they are doing well beyond all expectations. Things are good. What could possibly go wrong now??

Tuesday we have a full April day of deep, good, soaking rain (those storied April showers) - the kind of all day rain that Boulder sees about 3 times a year, and it not only draws out the green world waiting to reveal itself, but it feeds the dry, cold, parched and windburned soul of a tired runner who's ready to sit back and rest - and let it all sink in. And Wednesday dawns moist, and cool - with the clouds clearing away in a light drying breeze, revealing the flatirons and an April bluebird sky.

I'm getting excited about Boston. And then...I SPRAIN MY ASS!!!

How in the world can this happen?? Well, as a matter of fact it's surprisingly easy to do - and as it turns out, it happened because I decided to have a little fun.

Now I have been feeling some hamstring/glut tightness for quite some time. It would be disingenuous of me to say that I've been feeling in tip top shape, but it wasn't something that really got in the way of running. I felt it, the tightness, but it was easy to ignore. Overall, I've been feeling pretty strong and on target for what I aimed to do in Beantown.

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So the fateful day begins with a long circumnavigation of Boulder as Cecilia and I make a hopeful, yet futile, attempt to run at a track other than the Fairview High School track (since we're on the other side Boulder). Boulder is a runner's running town. We have gobs of tracks. But, that day we discover that most of those tracks are locked and closed to the public (Yay for public education! Your tax dollars at work!). So after about an hour and a half we finally find ourselves back at our usual stomping grounds - Fairview. Now, for someone with tight hammies/gluts, this is probably NOT the best way to start a track session. I see this clearly in retrospect. LESSON NUMBER ONE: Do not sit in a car for long periods of time prior to running intervals of any sort.

We start our easy warm up jog around Viele Lake, finishing at the track. My workout is 16 x 50/50 sprint/floats. Cecilia is running 15 x 100/100 sprint/floats. We both head off into our own little worlds and start our workouts. I do my 50/50s right around my target pace of 11/15 - lose count, but stop when I feel my legs getting fatigued. I AM TAPERING! Listen to your body, dangit - I remind myself. I check through my Garmin and see that I've done at least 16, so I begin my cool down jog. My aim is 3ish more easy miles.

Meanwhile, Cecilia is still running her 100s. By the last one, she's feeling it and we are at about the same place on the track as she gets ready to hit the button for her last sprint. I say, "Let's go. I'll finish this one with you." She crosses the line and we're off...

Now, At this moment I am doing so many stupid things that it's difficult to pinpoint the key point of jackassery that proves to be my ass breaking undoing.

First: I'm done, DONE, with MY workout. Never run another person's run!! Well, Duh!!!
Second: I'm on the outside of the track - because I've been jogging laps. Cecilia is on the inside of the track. As we take off, I cut sharply inside (Why??? We're on the straight of the track!) But I feel that sudden lateral motion - and not in a good way.
Third: And I've made this mistake so many times in climbing, but this is the first time while running - When you feel a little tired do not say to yourself, "Oh, I'm going to throw in just one last _________. "(you fill in to blank with some butthead move). That last effort will do nothing good for you - and it may actually hurt.

And so, with all the odds against me, I try to shoot off the blocks, so to speak, because it seems like fun.

And then I feel the fates kick me in the ass. The pain is sharp, and startling. I've only ever read about these things as some poor sprinter pulls up in the middle of a race hopping to the finish, clutching a torn hamstring or glut. I take the classic - skip, skip, skip...hop, as Cecilia sprints away (this is her fastest 100).

And so it is a long, quiet drive home. Cecilia tries to reassure me that it's probably nothing. As we drive I feel it tightening, throbbing....and there goes a full winter's training. Oh how I want a rewind button. Oh, how I wish I had thought, for just a second, before doing what I knew was a stupid thing to do - but the problem is, running fast can be fun. I was just trying to have fun. Clearly my brain was in my ass that day.

It's now 10 days from Boston. If I can't run for the next 10 days then I guess that's what it's gonna take. Spring has finally settled in here and it kills me not being able to run. I try to comfort myself with the lessons I've learned (and lots of people now are leaping at the opportunity to point out my stupidity - thank you v-e-r-y much!). Yet, there are as many lessons as there are minutes in the day. Will I do this again? No. But I'm sure I will make other mistakes - mistakes that right now I'm not even aware of. 

So I sprained my ass - Well, technically it's my sacrotuberous ligament. I hope it is better in 10 days. But keep in mind that these things can happen to any of us. We are human. Beware of Hubris. I got that lesson - kicked firmly into my ass. But also beware of smugness and too much self satisfaction - for that too may bite you in the ass. 

And now - life goes on. Where will I be in a week - I know not. but I will probably be somewhere, and I hope it's a better place then where I'm at right now.

Now, off to physical therapy...

The Things That Change Us

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” ~ Goethe Sometimes we never "go back" to what we were before....