Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Different Value

I’m reviewing the situation … I think I’d better think it out again!
Fagin, in Lionel Bart’s “Oliver”

I had a great running season last year: I was 100% injury free; I set some PBs for certain distances; and I ran my first ultra. I established some lofty goals for this year and was out of the gate on January 1.

The best laid schemes…

A week ago I was running on a nearby trail when I slipped in some mud. My right leg went violently out in front of me and in a split-second I knew I had pulled a hamstring. I nursed it over the next 24 hours and it was starting to feel better. I was walking a little awkwardly, as you do, but there was reason to hope.

Two days later I was heading down some stairs into the subway during a rainstorm and the same leg slipped out from under me on the slick floor as commuters streamed by on all sides. The pain was transcendental, and a voice in my head said, “Your season is over.”

I may have been a little dramatic with the prognosis but there was no doubt that I was seriously hobbled and that the healing is going to be very slow. The trail event I had signed up for this Saturday will go on without me, and I’m doubtful I will make it to my target race in July.

I have to be philosophical. I’ve had my share of injuries over the years, but not as many as some people I know, and they have always healed completely. I’ve also raced while in sub-optimal shape: once a marathon when I had a bruised rib; once an Ironman after a bike crash that left me unable to swim for several weeks before the event; once, a century in Death Valley, shortly after tearing my acromio-clavicular ligament. In all these cases I went on to have an enjoyable day.

My book. Written by me.
At the moment it is physically impossible for me to run. When I get back into training, it will be on the bike or in the pool.

We had a manic winter, buying a new house and listing and selling our old one. We are moving at the end of this month. May also signals the publication of my first book, Dr.Bartolo’s Umbrella and Other Tales from my Surprising Operatic Life, a memoir of my years as a singer. I have been to one launch event and there is another two weeks from now. Because my publisher is a small one with few contacts in the music business, I have been doing a lot of the marketing and door-knocking myself. I am loving it all, but it wears a bit.

Adding into this my work with my editing clients and my attempts to write some new material, an outside observer might say that I am as hyperextended as the leg that slipped out from under me. I am not big on kismet or messages from the ether, but I can’t help thinking that something cosmic is trying to say, “Slow down.” Not to mention, "Watch where you're going."

A hot day at IMC
It is in my nature to want to set goals and work towards them. When I have to drop or re-evaluate one I feel lost and bereft. When my head is not full of plans, it feels empty. But surely I am more than my goals. An enforced idleness such as the one I’ve just slid into might be an invitation to look differently at those goals.

When they ran out of water on the bike course at Ironman Canada several years ago, I became badly dehydrated in the last half of the marathon. Every time I tried to run, I felt like throwing up or passing out. So I walked. As I moved slowly back towards town, I felt the warm breeze blow over my skin and watched the twinkling lights across the water grow closer. It was no longer a race I was in, but a journey through the pitch-dark stillness of the night. I let go of the frustration of not being able to move quicker and simply embraced the pace. And eventually I made it to the finish line.

My plans had not worked out that evening in Penticton, but I believe there was value – a different value – in what I did achieve. I think to be an endurance athlete is to be prepared for any change in course, even one that requires a redefinition of the objective.

New destinations
With my current injury, I am at that Ironman again, out at mile 20. I will have to see my objectives differently. And slowly, eventually, I’ll get there.