This is a big week for me. Tuesday afternoon I return to the hospital, where new x-rays and an orthopedic surgeon will lay it on the line. I’m anticipating a good, but not great, prognosis.
To recap: One morning in late May I got out of bed and hurt. I ran anyway. I did some online research and began self-treatment for a groin pull. During a marathon two weeks later, the pain got worse. I ran anyway. Afterward I was diagnosed with a similar hip injury as cyclist Floyd Landis, and now I’m spending the summer trying to keep blood circulating through my femoral neck while bone fuses back together, lest it wither and be replaced.
With the decreased mobility, I’ve spent a lot of time at home reading questionable literature and watching way too much television. It’s one thing to admit being addicted to Project Runway, and quite another to realize I’m too emotionally invested in So You Think You Can Dance. This weekend I pulled out a favorite movie from our DVD collection, an unusual documentary called Koyaanisqatsi. The word is Hopi for “life out of balance.” That imbalance is reflected on a grand scale in the film, as in nature versus modern society, but it also illustrates me before this injury, and even explains how I got it.
I always hated cross-training. So I ran almost exclusively. And at times I ran a lot. I ran out of habit, and I ran out of need. I ran when people were waiting on me, and when everyone else was asleep and didn’t know how long I’d been gone. I worked the same muscles in the same way running over the same hard surfaces and that’s not good over time, especially when it’s a long time. I also got swept up in the commercial side of running: investing a lot of financial capital in big races. Those expenditures, I reasoned, must be matched by my output. And when I didn’t rise to the occasion, I felt like a bit of a failure, even if that goal had been arbitrarily set from the start.
During all this training, I spent most of my other waking hours mainly helping other people make a lot of money. Yes, that’s the way the world works, but quite a few of those extra hours spent on the job should have been dedicated to people more worthy, be they family or friends. And yet, when given the opportunity, that time went into trying to run faster and farther.
To ease work pressures and the angst from poorly managed priorities, I ate a lot more than I needed. I began making deals with myself. For every English muffin, I’d add a mile. So, on days that the schedule called for 4 miles, I might run 6 to put more food on my plate. I behaved like an exercise bulimic, except I wasn’t compulsive enough to actually balance the books. One English muffin quickly traded for two, slathered in butter and consumed with a promise to burn it off at the gym later. A promise always trumped by time.
So Tuesday I will not be told I can start running again. I can’t yet walk that long without needing my crutches. But I do think my right leg’s now strong enough to let me drive short distances. And that opens up a long list of possibilities. I can volunteer again at track club events, reconnecting with people who’ve been a force in my current life. I can start using the Aquajogger belt my friend Mark lent me last month to do some early morning pool running. (Sorry, Joe, no swimming yet.) I won’t be dependent on everyone else’s gym plans to get in my 30 minutes on the stationary bike. Soon, I’ll amble over to Starbucks without the “walking sticks” and have my hands free to carry my own fruit Frappaccino. This, folks, is progress.
But, oddly, I’m no longer in a hurry to pick up where I left off. Yes, I want to run long distances again, but I also want my sleep and I want to stick to this healthy diet I’ve adopted -- two things I fear will be compromised if I once again try to squeeze in too much. I want to continue the congenial car conversations with my husband at the wheel and continue to reclaim my backyard from the spiders and thigh-high weeds. I want to be home when my high-schooler is ready to talk about her day as a camp counselor and to appraise the college kid’s outfit before she takes off for her summer job at a La Jolla clothing store. And I need everyone in this house to listen to my conspiracy theories when America votes off the wrong dancer Thursday nights on Fox.
It took a long time and a serious injury, but I think I’ve finally done it. I think I’ve finally discovered my ideal pace.