22 September 2008

It’s Over. It Worked.

It’s over. 72 days straight, running every day without a break, until today. The streak is dead, long live the streak! No remorse, it served its purpose. It was a slump-buster extraordinaire.

June was a tough month. I’d been nagged by an increasing discomfort in the ball of my right foot since early in the year. Like most introspective runners, I listened to my body. But it was only having a pleasant conversation, not yelling at me, and certainly not loudly enough to say stop.

These things either go away or they don’t. After a while, when the answer is ‘don’t’, denial can only carry you so far. But by June I couldn’t ignore it. Dr. Google (a.k.a. Internet, MD) told me my trouble lay in the sesamoids, two little bones and a bunch of ligaments under the ball of my foot. But Dr. Google wasn’t so good about telling me what to do about it. I backed way off on my training, dropping below 100 miles per month for the first time in almost two years.

The ‘moids didn’t respond well to taking a rest. Simple stuff like mowing the lawn hurt more than running. June slipped into Despair, a newly coined month made just for times like this, sandwiched conveniently before July when I had a race planned in Vermont that had induced a family vacation. My family, of course, was looking forward to going up north just for the fun of it. I, on the other hand, was deflated at the prospect of having to skip the very race that spawned the trip.

As the days of Despair passed, I considered radical action. Yes, that which we dread, the Established Medical Profession. Those who have but one answer: Stop. I made the call. Worst possible outcome, worse than an immediate cease and desist order: three weeks to an appointment! Despair Doubled! Three weeks? Do I run? Do I not? What if I not when I could have? What if I do when I shouldn’t have? What about Vermont? What about…oh, perish the thought…

A little sweet talking, and they call me back in 2 hours with a cancellation! There is a God! A quick x-ray at the local hospital and by 2 PM I’m in the chair. It gets better. Dr. Footdoctor is married to a marathoner. He gets it. A glance at the x-rays, and his first words, “You don’t have to stop running.” Not only is there a God, but He is really, really good.

Nothing’s broken, nothing’s likely to get broken, fear not, the good doctor says. Diagnosis? I’m getting old. A little arthritis in the big toe is limiting its motion and putting more stress on the ‘moids. Some good meds to knock down the inflammation, a pair of insoles, good to go. Run.

A wave of relief. Despair melts away into July. Even a return a visit a couple weeks later to knock down some lingering inflammation with a cortisone shot doesn’t phase me (painless, by the way, but the Novocain shots beforehand fall between excruciating and torture). The foot feels good again! I’ve got a prescription for mileage. Let’s go. And why stop?

So I didn’t, not since taking Friday, July 11th off. 72 days blows away my previous Second Lap longest string of 3 weeks, though it can’t hold a candle to my First Lap 375 day extravaganza at age 17. The numbers racked up: 10 weeks averaging 60 miles per week including a new (Second Lap) biggest week and three 20+ milers preparing for Wineglass.

But the numbers weren’t the point. The point was a break-out. June was a low. Mentally I was down and out. The streak blew that away like Hurricane Ike puffing on a beach umbrella. Now, at marathon minus two weeks, the base is there, the long runs are there, there’s not much more to add, it’s just time to taper, heal the sore spots, and stay loose. And admittedly, there are a few sore spots, which is why the only prudent thing to do is to call it a day, hang up the streak, and take a day or two, or, radical thought, even three, off.

We play games with our mind to stay excited, motivated, and engaged. But when it’s time to move on, we move on. At least until next time.

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