Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Zen of Injury


If a New England is the runner's doldrums, then there you have an explanation for the infrequency of my 2009 postings. Having gotten hurt playing soccer, I'm happy to report that I'm on the mend. I'm glad to report that I logged 35 miles last week, but - most importantly - I'm particularly pleased that I have managed to handle this injury with minimal drama and virtually no self-pity. There are a few reasons for this.

While I had PTSD-inspiring visions of my 2005 groin tear, this injury has been only a strain. I am in the best shape of my life, and while being a dedicated endurance athlete means that one's chance of injury increases, I firmly believe that our bodies adapt and become more adept at healing themselves when faced with the inevitable challenges to the homeostasis which is regular training. I find that my body, mind and spirit thrive on mileage now, maybe not when I'm testing my limits, but certainly when I'm knocking off regular 50-mile weeks.

The timing of this injury was also about as ideal as possible. I'd already decided not to do a February marathon. It's been around or below zero (at least in the early morning) for much of the past few weeks. Being forced to exercise indoors without having to sacrifice any perceived sense of being "hardcore" has been just fine by me.

Most importantly, though, I kept some perspective on this setback, which made me realize how minor it is. Recently, our nanny's baby was born 12 weeks early, my father spent weeks hospitalized with pneumonia, my mother's knees are not fully healed over 15 months after having knee replacement surgery and people all around us deal with cancer, job loss and other bona fide hardships, it just seemed stupid and petty to wallow in my own disappointment because I had to exercise on the elliptical machine and stationary bike for a week or so, instead of being able to run outside. Since I was hurt, I have skipped a grand total of 1 day of exercise. I'm running again, and plan to run a half-marathon on February 15th. My continued healing and resulting training schedule will dictate that day's goal. Could be a PR; might be an easy long run; may involve trying out my goal marathon pace and seeing how it feels for a few miles.

So, the "zen" of the title of this post is really nothing more than my own realization that there are many things more significant than my own strained groin, and that acting as if that is not the case betrays an ugly selfishness which I'd like to believe I have outgrown. Perhaps the collective sentiments surrounding the assumption of office by our 44th President has something to do with this, as well. Among the nation's top priorities, my groin does not factor in prominently.


I'll pretend that you asked, so I will answer. I have thought about returning to the "scene" of last spring's marathon crime, Burlington, Vermont, but am close to deciding instead to run the very intimate, potentially quite fast Sugarloaf Marathon in Eustis, Maine. The course involves some climbing in the first 10 miles, but then loses elevation for the next 16-plus. While Vermont ends up feeling kind of "big" thanks to the many relay runners, Sugarloaf may have 200 runners. I'm hoping that the combination of a lower-key atmosphere, along with a successful training cycle and nice weather, will allow me to run a better marathon, ideally one which reflects my true "potential" at this point in my running life. Of course - though I'm not saying that this would happen to me - with 200 runners, the risk of being last starts to creep into the neurotic's mind.

I may sign up in the next couple of days for Sugarloaf, but may wait until after the February 15th half-marathon. The registration fee is less than half of the big-city marathons, and the reviews of the course and race organizers are overwhelmingly positive.

Like it or not, I will keep you posted.



Billy said...

I like it - do continue to keep us posted. I myself have yet to run a smaller marathon, but I can definitely see that as being a plus on many levels.

Digging the positive attitude ESG - keep at it.

Preston said...

Heal Quickly!