Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pain-free...what a concept....

On a Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I ran the farthest I have run since last July, and I ran my fastest per-mile time ever. No, don't ask me for the numbers. They are NOT impressive in the world of runners. They are only important to me, as I work up from "I can't do this", to "I think I can, I think I can..." 

I ran pain-free, and that’s the part that got me thinking.  But first, you need the backstory.

Last Spring, in my "Before" life, I started training for a half-marathon for the first time in my life. I had never been a runner in my life. I was eager and had no idea what I was doing.

I ran too fast, too often, too long.  I paid no attention to form, or working up my mileage slowly, or running only every OTHER day,  and within about 6 weeks, I was in such pain that I couldn’t make it through even a mile.  It turned out that I had a stress fracture in my heel, achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and pain in my hips and knees. 

And I couldn’t fix it on my own.  It wasn’t enough to simply focus on form, cut back the miles, walk more and run less, stretch, do exercises, use various muscle rubs,  wear different shoes, buy expensive inserts... although I did all those things.  So, I went to a sports-medicine doctor who x-rayed my painful foot and gave me the news:

I had to give up on running.  Period.  For six weeks. 

But I just couldn’t let go of my plan to run my first-ever half-marathon, so I discovered cross-training:   I hobbled to the pool, wearing a boot-cast, strapped on my waterproof iPod and my float belt and I jogged in the water. I looked ridiculous. I really missed running, but there was no way that I could continue to run, even if I'd been given the all-clear. It just plain hurt too much.  

And one day I decided to hop on my bike (leaving my boot cast at home) and try riding along the miles of trails around here. Even though my bike at the time was the wrong size, too small, I knew within just a couple of miles that I had discovered a brand-new love. I LOVED riding my bike ! ( Very soon after that realization, I bought myself a right-sized bike, and we have been together ever since.  )

As the race day drew nearer,and my six-week forced rest ended, I hobbled through short, easy walk/runs, and continued to ride my bike and water jog.  I really wasn’t healed all the way, though. It still hurt like crazy. On race day,  I ran those 13.1 miles and finished with a big smile, but I was in an awful lot of pain.  That was July 29th, 2012.

 I hadn't run more than a few steps (ok, one 5K with my kiddo in November) until just 2 months ago. 

But my recent Saturday run showed me definitively that time away has healed my messed-up feet, ankles, knees and hips, and as long as I take it easy and follow all the rules I’ve now learned about how to do this right, I think I’ll continue to run better and better.  

On Saturday’s run, as I revelled in how much better it is to run pain-free, I was struck by the parallel to another area of my life where I’m inexperienced, did things wrong, and now I'm hurting: relationships.

Yes, I KNOW it’s too soon. I know that by whatever "Rules" are out there on this subject, I probably should not have been dating so soon after Andre's death, but again... I'm breaking rules in my search for my new life. It's been a difficult and very lonely 18 years of being Andre's wife and keeper, and I am longing to finally be loved, and be in love. 

And I know it's too soon.  

I can know that, intellectually, and still not experience that to be true, just like I knew, intellectually, that I needed to be careful about training to run a half-marathon, but it didn’t stop me from doing what I felt somehow compelled to do, and I made some really dumb mistakes that got me hurt.

Feeling like I needed to "sneak" the beginning of my new life, but also feeling a bit defiant of “what everybody will think”, I stuck a toe in the waters of dating, and I met someone pretty special in late November.  

However I was not prepared for how intense things could get, after being so lonely for so long. (Ok, bring out the chorus of "DUH !!!!" )  Starting in January, things started to go badly, get worse from there, and there's just too much pain in that situation for me to keep "running" there.

And as much as we both wish that we could just “cut back the miles a little” or “run a little slower”... Or, in relationship language, be "just friends”, I can’t do that.  There are stress fractures in my soul at the moment, and as long as I keep trying to run in that relationship, I’m just adding deeper pain to my life. 

My pain-free 5.5 miles has helped me realize that only way to someday run pain-free is to stop running completely, in this relationship, to shake hands or hug, and walk away with grace and a smile (even if the tears are flowing). There are a couple of loose ends to wrap up soon, but that's what I know I have to do.

I'm hoping that there’s a bit of life-cross-training of some kind that will put me in touch with that “new love” that I found in riding my bike while race-cross-training.

Or maybe I just have to wear my “boot cast” on my heart and get used to the idea of being alone.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped-for; the conviction of things not yet seen"  (Hebrews 11, v. 1)

So, while I take the time for my stress-fractured heart to heal, I will continue to lace up my sneakers and put in my careful miles of training toward the big race in June (If you haven't visited my fundraising page for the American Brain Tumor Association and my run in the San Francisco Half Marathon, now would be a good time..click here. ) , and I'll just have to keep trusting in what I do not see yet. 

I'll see you on the running paths and bike trails... I'll be the one who looks like she's running in slow motion, getting passed by the kids on tricycles.


And sometimes, I have to admit, I'm not always the "Little Engine That Could"... the "I think I can, I think I can..." girl. Sometimes, I'm more like this one:  

There goes my G- rating for this blog... Some strong language might offend sensitive viewers.  Sorry, y'all. 

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