31 December 2013


I know you’re all sick and tired of the “Year in Review” assault which comes at you from all directions about this time, so I wouldn’t dream of adding to that pile of mush non-news. But on this New Year’s Eve, it’s worth noting that there’s always hope, and some of that hope tried to peek above the murk in these waning days of the year.

It’s been a roller coaster, from the top of the game at Boston in April, to the slab for the Big Achilles slice in August, and then even lower for that clotty adventure in September. Trying to recover from the pitfalls of the second half of this year has been more than a little disappointing. Surviving the Attack of the Platelets, thanks to being in good shape, was great (and I’m not belittling that, I wouldn’t be here otherwise!), but at the end of the day, or the end of the year as it may be, my Achilles, along with a good portion of the rest of my left ankle, still hurts, often a lot, and in a clearly related news flash, my training still falls into the range of mostly crappy.

But it’s time to put the dismay and gloom behind me. While Dr. Foot Doctor rightly preaches patience, Diabolical Physical Torture-meister pretty much declared me on the right trajectory this week. Do your exercises, stretches, heat, mantras, by all means be lovin’ those anti-inflammatories (which are, of course, performing quite nicely!), and go for it, but there’s not a lot more I can do; it’s up to you.

Indeed. Damn the Torpedoes! New Year’s Day is coming, and it wouldn’t be right not to show up at some event, so I went ahead and signed up for my New Year’s favorite, the Freezer Five. I held no delusions of grand success when I did so, but I also knew that otherwise, the first real deadline would be our Hyannis relay in February, already dangerously close to Boston, and without something nearer in front of me, it’d be hard to turn up that extra notch. Nothing lays it on the line like laying it on the line. Wednesday’s race needs to be a bit of a test, a warm-up so to speak, a return to the world of the living, even if I don’t expect to race well by previous standards. Not wishing to take a test without at least some cramming, I notched a few encouraging runs over the last couple days.

Sunday marked a first foray back into double digits since before the surgery. I hit one of my go-to loops for a ten-miler, and turned up the heat a bit, resulting in my best post-slice road pace by a significant margin. Dearest Daughter the Eldest, who happened to be leaving for work when I was walking it off immediately afterwards, did report that I looked like hell, but considering that I hadn’t approached that standard of effort in a long time, I took that as a compliment.

That under my belt, our local Highland City Striders club set out en masse last night to visit our Central Mass Strider friends for their Monday-night pub run, a very casual quasi-race, really more of a hard workout, really more of a whatever-you-want-to-make-of-it workout, followed by what one of our club-mates likes to refer to as amber fluids. It’s only three miles, so if you’re not warmed up, forget about any decent pace, but with temperatures dipping below twenty and a biting wind whipping up the street, nobody felt like warming up. I settled for some Achilles stretches and about a tenth of a mile jog to assess the atmospheric nastiness. I expected nothing in return.

Then something cool happened. A ray of hope pierced the cold, windy, long-term-disappointed gloom that’s been hanging over me for months. We gathered outside the pub, we shooed the traffic away, someone said go, and… I went… far quicker than I’d expected possible, seemingly effortlessly at first, and at reasonable effort as the miles cranked on. Perhaps it was merely numbness from the cold, but things didn’t really hurt much. Not stiff. Not sore (it would return later on the warm down, but hey, take it when you find it). Overjoyed. I ran with one other, the two of us well distanced from the laid-back pack. I let him go at the end, not worrying about winning something that can’t be won, something that nobody cares about winning, and wondering if there was still any tradition of the winner needing to buy a round. I let him go because I wasn’t interested in hurting myself, just seeing what the body would produce. And it produced three miles at nearly a minute per mile faster than the already quicker ten-miler the day before. It produced a ray of hope. Maybe this darn thing will actually heal. Maybe there will be another good round of racing from these legs. Maybe…

Happy New Year, wishing you rays of hope in whatever you seek.

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