Last weekend, after spending six days without running once, I found myself responsible for leading a group of about 50 elementary school kids in a 3K community run. Of course, I had no intention of running, but a couple of the grade threes took off at a four minute pace and I had to keep up. This run was on city streets, that although controlloed by police, there was still traffic moving...so off I went. Running faster than I have for months.
Later that day and throughout the evening the pain in my right heel that I had managed to mollify somewhat, returned with a vengeance. It was at that point that I started thinking about surrendering to the pain.
Up until this point, and on the advice of the crackerjacks, I was still running. My mileage was way down, but I was still going out and logging a few kilometers. The new, intense pain made me think differently. If you have ever had a bladder infection, or an anal fissure or a bad case of asthma or strep throat, you will understand how I felt. Something as basic and fundamental and natural as peeing or shitting or breathing or swallowing suddenly becomes so painful, that you don't want to do it. You do everything you can to avoid it. That's what walking had become.
Running wasn't a problem. I run on my forefoot. It was the stopping, the starting and everything before and after any run. Running has become so natural to me. But I was afraid of doing it.
An appointment with the physiotherapist the next day confirmed that I should not race my upcoming half ironman-distance race in early July, nor the Olympic (Standard) distance race the week later. And perhaps the Marathon planned for September was iffy.
Instead, I should focus on running for one minute, barefoot on the treadmill, or grass or sand. And build up SLOWLY from there. Also, to correct the slight issues with my form, I was given a bunch of other exercises, including toe/leg raises on stairs and lunges and modified squats. I toyed with the idea of running barefoot and naked on the treadmill, but, like naked beach volleyball, certain laws of physics do not agree well with a lack of bodily compression...nuff said.
The idea of running barefoot is to allow the fascia in the foot/heel to gradually become re-accustomed to the stress I'm putting on them. Although my PT is not a forefoot running proponent, per se, looking at the wear pattern of my runners, she questioned why I even wear stability shoes...maybe neutral shoes or even something more minimal would be appropriate?
I haven't quite bought into that, but she helped me formalize me decision. I was preparing to be DFL, but now I was to be DNS. Contrary to a good friend's advice, I wasn't willing to just do a bit of the race and DNF. I considered his advice, but I just couldn't justify the expense of traveling to a race (and spending over $600) for a race that I knew I would not be finishing. For some who have never completed a race, I can see the courage and the merit of that. I've had a personal best in this race, I've done an Ironman, or three. There would be no honor or pride. Although I will miss the exceptional organization and goodwill of this particular race.
So it is not an overstatement to say that once I made this decision I became somewhat melancholic. I have never DNS'd before. And my whole season was evaporating right in front of me. And no, I was not really heading the conclusion of my previous blog.
But as the week progressed, I was forced to get to work by bike (my vehicle exhausted it's last cough). I also decided to swim a little and I swam a lot. I also just grabbed my bike and rode after dinner, something I don't do normally.
Then I got to thinking about this checkered flag I was waving. Sure it heralds the end of the race. But was it really a white flag (with black squares) or a black flag with white squares? A white flag means surrender, but a black flag is a symbol of anarchy! What I have been going through lately has been quite anarchistic.
I have to return to the beginning. This is a great chance to look at the fundamentals. To get stronger and maybe, hopefully, to rise above these setbacks and comeback better, faster and wiser than before.
In Hebrew, Shalom means peace, completeness, and welfare. It can also mean goodbye and hello! Similarly, Aloha, in the Hawaiian language can mean love, peace, compassion, mercy, as well as goodbye and hello.
Aloha can also mean the breath of life.
Ultimately, the goal of any triathlete might be to say Aloha to Kona at the world championship. I might still make it there one day.
For the time being though, I'm starting my engine and getting back on the right foot - if I can - and more closely heeding the recent advice of Chuckie V. and looking closely at Plan B.