[ Ed. Note: Travel and schedule have left me several weeks behind, weeks in which a bunch of somewhat interesting – or at least blog-worthy – occurrences came about. Brace yourself for an attempted catch-up onslaught over the next few days! ]
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that when last I wrote, I didn’t disclose all. I harbored a guilty secret, a plot in my mind that was about to hatch, one born of pure obsessive compulsiveness, and one that a corner of my mind suggested might not be a very good idea. But I knew I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – resist.
To thy own self be true, right? Easier said than done when you don’t really know the truth (or, so it was said in that famous movie line, you can’t handle the truth). Dr. Foot Doctor had indeed set the schedule. While still in the boot, start with the recumbent bike in the gym (check!), then graduate to the elliptical (check!), and when boredom from those torture devices reaches a fever pitch, it will be time for escape. Then, upon exiting the confines of the Dreaded Boot, walk for a week before starting to jog, slow and easy, using common sense. “You’ll know what to do,” or something like that, I think he’d said. But would I? How does one really pick the date to venture back into the pool, waiting long enough to come at the event whole enough so as not to break again, but not waiting so long as to suffer more damage from atrophy and sloth? The truth is usually not simple.
Boot Escape Day had been set for the weekend of October 12th, but with His Blessing, I’d moved it up to Wednesday the 9th. Why such precision in reporting? Simple: if Escape Day was the 9th, Try ‘N Jog day, a week later, would be the 16th, right? Now, we all know that bodies don’t heal on these exact schedules, but… to thy own self be true, right? So wait the week till the 16th, right?
And it so happened that on the 16th, I’d be in Pennsylvania with Dearest Daughter the Elder on yet another college tour. And it so happened that Pennsylvania wasn’t on my Official Obsessive Compulsive list of states in which I’d run (in my second lap that is, since I’d hit it in my youth, but to a true O-C, that’s a different list!). This meant that I could add a state to the list, but I’d have to do it by stretching the spirit while skirting the letter of the law on when I should, in fact, run.
We’re not talking about a far distant or obscure location that I wasn’t likely to get back to at some point fairly soon, like the upcoming trip to California, so the need to add this state to my running list really wasn’t so critical as to risk re-injury with a slightly accelerated return to the roads. But Pennsylvania nagged. I pass through an edge of it frequently en route to family gatherings with never the chance to stop and pop in a few miles. No, it’s not obscure or far, but I’ve been running over eight years and it hasn’t happened and it was simply time to fix that. But oh! The cloud of Catholic Guilt hung heavy! Was this a good idea, or simple foolhardiness?
The truth was that the five-plus-hour drive had left me stiff and sore, and it wasn’t a stretch to announce I needed to get out the morning for a stretch, at least a walk, and perhaps a jog, leaving DDE to drag herself awake in the hotel room. I conveniently left out the detail that days earlier I’d plotted a three-mile loop and committed it to memory. You know what happened before I write it.
After a warm-up walk across the parking lot, it was simply impossible not to break into a jog, or at least something that barely resembled one. I can’t be too critical of my pace since there are many for whom that pace is a normal event, but suffice to say that a casual glance at my watch – actual accurate timing being out of question – hinted that I moved no faster than I had a week and a half back while power walking the Main Street Mile in the Dreaded Boot. Perhaps this was a preview to me at eighty?
And it was a joy. No worries about timing street crossings, just pause, smile, and wave. No worries about sucking wind when you’re barely working, barely breathing. No worries about performance, pace, or time. No worries at all, really, other than being sure to take the one up-slope ridiculously slow, and, well, yeah, one big worry. I sure hoped I wasn’t hurting myself. After the surgery, the recovery, the clots…that would be a shame, and just plain stupid.
But if I seriously thought I’d hurt myself, I wouldn’t have done it. And in truth, that pesky Achilles started to feel better while I ran. Endorphins? At that pace, hardly. It just loosened up nicely. I’d pay for my morning joy later in the day, while walking gingerly around that college campus, sore enough to give me real worry that I had indeed been foolish. And I’d back off for the following week just to be sure I wasn’t compounding stupidity with idiocy.
But in hindsight, I know now that my intuition was right. The later-in-the-day pain was a payment worth making. Not so much for adding state number twenty-one to the running list, that obsessive desire which perhaps pushed me a bit ahead of plan, but for jumping back in the pool, feet first.