"It's amazing how your body is a chain of events....I don'tI did everything the way I was supposed to. Something hurt? I took a day off. The easy comeback run still hurt? Take another day off. Still hurts, even running really, really slow? FIVE days off. I stretch. I foam roll. I Advil. I rest.
think any athlete is ever 100 percent." - champion pole vaulter Stacy Dragila, on the various aches and pains she's gone through as she returns to training after achilles surgery.
And here I am, more than a week later, still wincing when I put weight on my right leg, or bend over, or sit up a little funny, still feeling something not quite right in my lower back or hip or somewhere in that general vicinity. I skipped a meaningless 10 miler that I was signed up for last weekend, but tomorrow is an actual team points race that I was really actually looking forward to, and now it looks pretty stupid for me to even try running the thing as a tempo.
And almost just as worrisome, cutting the running out of my schedule hasn't bothered me one bit. Last week I was waking up naturally at six AM and now my mental alarm clock is perfectly happy to give me the nudge at 8:30. I can't honestly say that I miss the running even slightly. I don't like the nagging pain, but I sure don't mind the extra sleep. Is this a bad thing?
I'm really not sure where I go from here. I'll see Bruce, my acupuncture, massage guru guy, next Tuesday. But if I don't start to see some sign of improvement soon, my plans for a really intense summer of training might turn out to have been a bit premature.
Let's hope the needles do the trick. My right butt cheek spent 45 minutes impersonating a pin cushion this afternoon and I get to go back for more proper puncturation on Thursday. Acupuncture really is a very unique kind of pain and if you've never gone, it's a little hard to describe. The actually passage of thin metal shaft through skin is imperceptible, but once the point hits it's mark and the practitioner wiggles it around a little, it creates an intense, dull ache all through the muscles in the area and sharp, almost electrical jolts along the nerve system. I'm not quite sure I really understand how it works, but it does seem a really direct way to inform your insides that they really need to get their act together.
I still don't really know how this injury happened, but my current theory is that it stems from a tumble I took my first night in Havana. I was tromping around the back yard with the dog and I went to leap gracefully over a tree root and somehow missed. I managed to scuff up a shin, a knee and the side of my face, badly jam two toes and apparently land with my entire weight on a small area of my right quadricep. And then I lay stunned in the dirt long enough for a biting ant colony to discover and attack my left calf! Not the way to begin a vacation, by any means. I cleaned up the blood and iced my thigh for a while before going to bed and tried to be grateful that I hadn't broken anything. I jogged 4 miles at about 10 mile pace the next day so I could still say I got in a 70 mile week, but then was smart enough to take the next day off. The aches and pains faded through the week and even though I really did feel fine running, I still took two full rest days. Then back in New York, three days into my return to higher mileage, the back thing started aching.
So who knows if it's related. Everything in my right upper leg seems tight and achy, so it's quite possible that it's all connected. It's just funny that such a violent muscle bruise took a full week to really affect me and then when it did, the pain showed up in an entirely different location. Either that or the cause is something entirely different altogether, but it's quite possible that I'll never know for sure.
Somewhere in central Jersey this weekend, I was standing amid the clamor and havoc of a seven-year-old's birthday party, but continuing to obsess about my inability to run without back pain. I had just been reprimanded by the bowling alley party hostess for stepping onto the wood floor without the proper, approved footwear after I had frantically chased my cousin's toddler a quarter of the way down one of the lanes. He was a sneaky little monster that day and was hellbent on getting a strike the most expedient way possible...none of that inefficient ball rolling for him. I'd gotten a couple of fingers looped under his collar and in the process of trying to scoop him into my arms, his feet slipped forward on the oiled wood and his head snapped back. I got my other hand under his head before it hit the floor, but inflicted a nice little wrench on my already cranky hip. So smarting from the shoe misdemeanor and with Josh's frustrated wails still ringing in my ears, I retreated to the popcorn and pretzels on the tragically unmanned bar. While there, I discovered that the edge of the bar was a pretty effective instrument for massaging the muscles of my back. I sat there on the bar stool for a while, like a bear scratching an itch on a forest tree, just shifting back and forth, rolling the hard, rounded edge into the tense tissue on either side of my lower spine. And what a treat to get up and realize that the aching had temporarily disappeared, though the shrieks and whines unfortunately continued around me.
So when I saw Mr. Acupuncture today, I told him about the bar room massage technique and he concentrated on basically that same small area. The electric spasms went off immediately when he did his wiggling needle trick and I really had to focus to try and stay relaxed. After he stimulated all of his little trigger points, he left me on the table for about half an hour and I swear, I could really feel something happening. It's hard to describe this part, but I concentrated on deep breathing and the feeling that the tension built inside the muscles with each long inhale and then dissipated and dissolved as the breath flowed out.
There was a brief shock of sharp pain when each needle came out and I felt all tight and sore as if I'd been sitting in an uncomfortable position for hours, but by the time I'd walked the 17 blocks back to work, I was feeling a whole new glow of optimism. I think that was it. Whatever was out of whack back there....I have this feeling that today's treatment really finally got to it. I'm still going to take one more rest day just to recover from the acupuncture, but Thursday morning I'm going to slowly (and very cautiously) begin the process of trying to be a runner again.
It's been a challenging week for an awful lot of reasons, so I'm really trying to focus on the deep breathing in general to try and give my body its best chance at healing. Today marked one year since I lost two colleagues in a car bomb incident (who I did not know) and very nearly lost another (who I did work with fairly often). What struck me most was thinking about all the pain and grief and loss that revolved around that incident and then multiplying it by what every family goes through when they receive that call or answer that knock on the door. This May has been the deadliest month of this year for US troops in Iraq, the third deadliest since the start of the war, and you know that means there are around 900 wounded that we barely even hear about.
I know we get immune and since I stare at these violent images all day long I have no choice but to harden myself to most of it, but it pissed me off to see a commercial today glorifying GMC's participation in a program that sends thank you notes to soldiers. Screw the stupid thank you notes, why aren't we sending armoured vehicles? I don't understand how we can send our military into a war and not mobilize the civilians to make some sort of material sacrifices themselves. It's just too easy for people to support some amorphous military action in the pursuit of some amorphous fight against terrorism when they don't have to do a darn thing themselves to contribute to the cause. At least the ones who send thank you notes are thinking about the kids running patrols, but I want to know what the average Halliburton executive has done to personally contribute to helping the soldiers who are supposedly bringing democracy to Iraq.
Though who am I to talk? I dont even know what I'm personally capable of doing to help since I don't use gasoline, don't own any extra body armor that I can spare and didn't think we had a reasonable plan when we headed to the desert in the first place.
At least tomorrow's big story will probably be about the whales in California finally making it back to the San Francisco Bay. Breathless coverage of animal news usually infuriates this girl's hard news heart, but for once I think it's probably exactly what I want to watch.