Monday, September 10, 2012

Learning to Fly Again

I wrote this blog a couple of weeks ago but didn’t want to post anything saying that I was healed in case it didn’t last.  But yesterday, after starting back to focused training two weeks ago, I competed in the Cause Canada half marathon.  I finished 2nd woman and am really happy with my time of 1:30 given how hilly the second half of the course was.  More trail than I was expecting for sure.  I have a lot of work to do between now and Toronto on Oct 14, where I will once again attempt to do a sub 3hr marathon if I can stay healthy and injury free.  And if not, that's OK too.

It’s 8am and I’m the first of four women to get up at a Rhonda’s cabin, where we’ve come for one of the last weekends of summer.  I’m usually the first one up and with no cell or internet service I am thrilled at the idea of a few moments of total peace, looking out the window at Upper Kananaskis lake before the others get up and coffee, breakfast, and trail running begin.  Not two minutes into my book and out of the corner of my eye I see something hit the window.  Thwack.  I go over to the full wall of windows and look onto the deck.  Sitting there is a tiny little chickadee, completely stunned.  I sit down beside the window in silence and watch him as he tries to flap his wings, tries to move his legs and almost topples over a few times.  More time goes by.  He’s breathing quite heavily, scared for sure.  He keeps trying to walk and I’m worried that his leg is broken and that his fate is sealed.  He blinks, looks like he's falling asleep, breathes, sits some more.  And resigns himself to total stillness.  There's nothing I can do so I stay on my side of the glass, just watching.

“Dude, I get it.  I went through the same thing.  I know how you feel.  You’re just flying through the trees on a Sunday morning, enjoying the sunshine, carefree.  You’re pretty high on life.  You look ahead and see trees, not realizing that in fact it is a bank of windows reflecting the forest behind you.  Bang.  You’re on your ass and you don’t even know what happened.”

That pretty much sums up what happened after the Phoenix marathon.  I was high on having accomplished something I didn’t think was possible or within my reach.  I had narrowly missed my "sub" 3 hr marathon goal by 52 seconds.  So I had set a new marathon goal and was working hard at it, and training was going so well.  Micheal Smith, of RunSmart had agreed to write a program for me and with each workout he sent me, I laughed at their seeming impossibility.  But somehow I was getting through them with the times he was asking.  I felt invincible.  Sure there was pain but I thought it was manageable. 

But the pain just kept getting worse and worse no matter what treatment I tried, how much time I took off (and I truly did take a good two week chunks of time off, on a few occasions).  I had never dealt with an injury that wouldn’t just go away, that I couldn’t heal and get past.    It was infuriating but only because I wasn’t really paying attention.  Had I been, I would have seen that my path was a reflection, a bank of windows and I was headed for a major crash at full speed. 

I’m hesitant but today was my fifth day running in a row, completely pain free.  I am about 6 weeks post PRP, so this is just about the time that it should be taking effect.  It has been seven months of pain so great that I was in tears every time I tried to run.  Of feeling like I had forgotten how to run.  Of putting a stone in each of my shoes so that that pain would take over and act as a pressure point rather than the Achilles pain.  I felt like I was an awkward colt who didn’t know how to gallop.  Of one race after another being crossed off the calendar, of watching everyone at TransRockies and really missing being there for such a great week of friends and trails.  And in case you haven’t seen it, this was pretty much the ongoing conversation I would have.

About a month ago I decided I should maybe just accept that the season was shot so I bought a road bike and have been loving it.  I’ve done two PRP treatments with Dr. Balharry in Canmore (last one was in July) and have hardly run since.  I’ve been working as hard as I can on core strength and engaging my glutes.  And just now, just in the past few weeks, have things started to turn. 

Remember when you were a kid and you would shoot baskets and say things like “if it goes in, he likes me”, or “if it goes in, i’ll make the swim team”.  Well I kind of had that chat with the bird this morning.  Come on little guy, show me that I can fly again. 

A few minutes later everyone came down to the kitchen and the day got started.  We went out for an incredible trail run up to Elk Lakes.  It is the most amazing feeling ever.  Truly it feels like flying now that I can run again without pain. 

I’m hoping this means that there is a possibility of doing a fall marathon, but if it isn’t meant to be I am ok with that.  There are races all over the place all year long.  Right now, I am happy when I come home from work, grab a quick dinner and am out the door to meet friends for a long ride in Springbank, or even just the time on my own with some music or a podcast in one ear.  The rides have been amazing and I feel like I can go forever without getting as trashed as I do on a long run.  My energy is great and while riding certainly takes a lot more time than running to get an equal workout, it’s also been a new challenge, and has at least given me back the social/active time with my friends.  The weather has been stellar here so on the weeks I don’t have the kids, my evenings have been riding as the sun sets. 

I had my eyes set on a goal and was just enjoying the flight after my marathon in January.  But had I been paying attention I would have seen that the path in front of me was a reflection, not more forest to fly through.  I should have known that that many repetitive miles on road and treadmill would take it’s toll.  I’m a born trail runner, never had I spent that much time on flat, letting a machine set my pace.  Had I been paying attention I would and should have seen this injury coming.  Nevertheless it stunned me and just like that little bird, there was no point in fighting it, I just had to wait.

And I will continue to wait, and listen to my body until it is ready to go again.  No more attachment to some unrealistic goal.  But I’m also more excited than ever to get back to training because having had something I love taken away from me, I now appreciate my sport so much more, and how careful I have to be with my body. 

The good news is that when we got back from our run today, I went immediately to the deck.  The bird was gone.  Sure, he may have been taken by a huge crow and if so, then that was his fate, but I’d like to believe that after waiting patiently to regain his balance, that he was able to resume flight.

*As a side note, there was also a tiny splat of whitewash where he had been sitting.  If I was a life coach I would have taken a picture and written something like "drop your shit and get back to flying".

A HUGE thank you to Susan and Dr. Balharry, who made the PRP treatments possible for me. And to my friend, running buddy, and brilliant physio Somer Willson, and Marda Loop Sport Physio for your ongoing treatment of my broken body. :) I would not be running without you guys.