23 November 2014

Mindless Gap

Yeah, it’s been a month since I posted. And no, it’s not been a good month. It’s been a month of negative progress, centered on a rather poorly executed – and therefore not very fruitful – training break. I didn’t use my head too effectively on this one, which is why I’m calling it the Mindless Gap.

The bright side of the story is that a couple of folks chimed in to debate my assessment of Baystate. To their eyes, what I called a failure to finally run that smart race was nothing of the sort. I take their point and appreciate their support. Let’s reclassify the effort and say that it was smart, I just wasn’t able to hold that smart together the whole way, but I held it long enough to get the job done.

The dark and scary side of the story is that the Calf of Death, which terminated my joyride at mile twenty, was only getting started…little did I know. I did find it rather amusing that my post-race pain was far more asymmetrical than ever before. The port-side muscles were in full mutiny as the forty-eight-hour burn reached apogee, clearly having taken the brunt of babying the starboard-side Calf of Death. As usual, it’s always those right-leaning factions that cause the problems.

But more than usual post-marathon muscle protestations were at work. As I puttered though my usual week-after recovery slogs it became clear that the compensatory single-sided-soreness in the quads (or, in this case, quad) wasn’t the issue. It was that Calf of Death, joined in evil with the Nasty Knee, leaving me kneeding to call off the party for a while. I checked the two-hundred-mile month box with a day left in October, and shut it down for a few days.

But only for a few days, as Election Day arrived, and I simply couldn’t stand idly by and let a right-winger own my space, whether it be the one attached to me physically, or the one threatening to put a sour name on my district. It was simply beyond my ability to resist a bit of mobile campaigning. After all, if my local statehouse representative was good enough to have supplied a tech shirt back when I marched in the local parade for her, well, let’s face it, tech shirts demand to be run in, and the least I could do was to sport it around town to rouse up the electorate a bit. Succumbing to a bit too much irrational exuberance, I popped in ten fairly quick miles, gleefully including a pass through her opponent’s neighborhood, calling out for votes from all I encountered. The evening found her happily returned to her seat, and me ruefully wishing I’d stayed in my seat. The Calf of Death wasn’t at all happy.

Thus we arrive again at the age old question: How long does anything take to heal? And how long can you stand to wait? Especially when you know that every day off means two days to come back, or probably more at my advanced age. Even more so when you know that only in recent weeks did you finally, after months of waiting, excise those last few pounds, finally reaching fighting weight, and you wonder how long until they creep back on. And to pile it on deeper, knowing that your last cholesterol test, in a word, well, sucked, and that Lady Doc wants a retry in a few weeks, a retry who’s chances of improvement probably depend on the kind of test cramming that can only be done on the roads.

Not to mention the question of retention of sanity. Not running means not having that crutch that staves off the effects of the crazies all around. But I knew I had no choice. Pull the plug again.

A week seemed like a month. I found myself explaining to people how I wasn’t running at the moment due to some injuries, getting ahead of the situation because I just knew that it would appear so obvious to them, as if they’d see some sort of black mark on my forehead that read, “Slacker” or worse, despite knowing they probably hadn’t walked around the block in a month. Such is the irrational mind of a grounded runner.

A second week seemed like I’d fallen out of my lifestyle. I found myself worrying that it might be too easy to slip into Normal American, drink (lots more) beer, eat beef jerky and cheeseballs, and slouch in a Barcalounger every night wearing a stained wife-beater tee shirt. Dear God, what if my mind rotted to the level of channel surfing to Fox News?

I exaggerate, of course, but a couple days on business travel in the Big Apple and the amount of caloric consumption that accompanied screamed that I had to get back on the roads. Much more of this and the scale dial will certainly start spinning (even though it’s digital), and my newly taken-in slacks will have a very short half-life!

All of these thoughts, and it was only sixteen days off. Twenty-one if you counted the days before Election Day, but really, only sixteen off in a row. For some people, that’s just a healthy break.

Friday I pulled the lever and scuttled a few miles. Three stinkin’ miles and my quads were mildly sore the next day for the club’s donut run. Add the gym back into the mix, and a day later the upper body was complaining as well. But those are good pains. I like good pains.

I don’t like bad pains. The Calf of Death. The Nasty Knee. And they’re really no better than they were. Three days of light runs, and really, no progress. Back to Square One. It’s very disheartening.

Were I always smart, rational, and in control of all impulses, I would have simply said, “A month off”. I might even have said, “Put the Calf of Death in the Dreaded Boot” and make it heal faster. But I’m not always smart, rational, and in control of all impulses.

Thus I ask myself if this Mindless Gap accomplished anything at all, besides reminding me of how much I love this sport. Then again, that’s not such a bad accomplishment, now, is it?

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