Friday, August 10, 2018

The stories behind the miles

I ran 50 miles this week. It's just a number. It's a lot and it isn't a lot, depending on who you ask. A lot is relative. I will humbly defer to others to tell the stories of long distances and fast paces and amazing runs because they do it far better than I ever could. And the story I want to tell is not that I ran 50 miles this week. It's that it took me over a year to get back here and in that time I did more not running than running.

The last ultramarathon I ran was the inaugural Many on the Genny in June 2017. The next morning I found out that my dad had died suddenly. Then I got plantar fasciitis, was in denial about it for a bit, then finally took some time off to rest and heal. I did yoga and strength training and climbed the Jacobs Ladder. I got a road bike and Pete and I biked around a bunch of lakes. I fell off the bike, cried, declared that I was never riding a bike again, the promptly got back on the bike (since we were still 15 miles from the car at that point). I ran slowly and built my mileage back up very slowly. Most importantly, I lived. I laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed. I grieved and I loved and I let myself be loved. I volunteered and banana-ed and walked on stilts. Of course I missed running when I wasn't running. I missed it deeply. But my life was full of other things - running was just one temporarily missing piece. I knew it would be there for me when my body was ready for it again. And I knew that the better I was at resting, the sooner I would be able to run pain-free. Even when I started running again, I only ran 3 days a week, then 4 days a week, then occasionally 5 days a week max. I did all the other things I wanted to do. I rested at least one day a week, two if I needed it. I was conscious about giving myself an abundance of sleep and nutrients and especially compassion. Experience gives you perspective and this time I knew that my body was right. I needed this time off, to do other things, to feel all my complicated, overwhelming feelings and not run away from them. It sucked, of course. I would never choose injury if given the choice. But this wasn't my first time at the terrible no good very bad rodeo and this time I had promised myself I would do it better.

I read my old posts from when I had tendonitis in 2012 and they were depressing as fuck. But years later I can laugh about it. Because I now know it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My doctor at the time (who was awesome and reminded me of The Dude) had said "Are you sad because your ankle hurts or does your ankle hurt because you're sad?" And he was right. I was so sad I couldn't run because I needed running as an escape from my life. I needed to be a runner because I was failing at being in a relationship and instead of realizing there was something wrong with the relationship I was in at the time, I kept thinking there was something wrong with me. But I learned. Slowly, painfully I learned. I made friends with cross-training and strength training and trails and myself. I followed my heart to the places and the people that made me feel happy and alive, that accepted me for who I was and didn't make me feel like I had to shrink myself down to fit their version of what I should be. Injury #1 in 2012 led me to the trails, to my tramily and to Pete. Injury #2 in 2017 led me to embrace rest instead of resist it. And that's the story. Not that I happened to run 50 miles this week. But everything that led me to it - the people and the lessons and the person I became along the way. That's where the magic is.

But since you're here, there are stories I want to tell about this week too. It was an especially awesome week in a summer of awesome weeks. Some nights I stayed up way late. Some nights I went to bed at 7:30pm. I hit my highest mileage in over a year and didn't even do a "long run." I wasn't following a training plan, I was just living my life. I got to run four 5ish mile runs between 6:00am on Saturday and 1:00am on Sunday and hang out with my friends all night at Mighty Mosquito relay. I got to run solo miles at Cobb's Hill. I got to run with Eric and Sheila at Letchworth and it felt like all the very best parts of who I used to be and all the things I'm looking forward to all wrapped up into one gorge and rainbow and bug filled run. I got to run our usual Thursday morning breakfast club run (where we meet at 5:00am and run to kill time until the bakery opens at 6:00am).

And this morning, alone in the dark at Corbett's Glen, I was trying to reassure myself that the glowing eyes illuminated by my headlamp were from something cute and probably uninterested in attacking me. Or at least from something smaller than me. Then my face hit every single spider web in the whole damn park (ewwww. and also, sorry my spider dudes for wrecking your dark web). Something reminded me of my dad and I teared up for a moment. This is the feeling that I could never name. It feels like sadness and heartbreak and gratitude and aliveness. And in that moment I realized that heartbreak is not your heart failing and crumbling into pieces, it's your heart bursting open, expanding so that more love can get in and be given out. It's everything there is. Then I felt a weird knot in my right glute and I was like is that what a piriformis is? Like a butt knot? (Trying to remember the names of body parts is like being introduced to 10 people simultaneously at a party. I will immediately forget all your names and then have to make up nicknames for you in my head until you friend request me on Facebook. Sorry, I am terrible). At that moment, I saw two large rocks up ahead and then this happened:

Me: I could massage my glute on that rock! Is that weird?
Also Me: Yes. So weird. But also kind of ingenious.
(Sits on rock and rocks back and forth using the rock like a natural foam roller. Not like I actually know how to use a foam roller. I mostly just lay on it until it gets all wrapped up in my clothes and I give up).
Still Me: Good thing it's 5:30am and no one else is here to see you looking like a spiderweb covered, rock grinding weirdo in the woods!
(Laughs hysterically at own self. Oddly, glute feels better, from the rock or the laughter? We may never know. Runs home to tell everyone on the internet about it).

And it's only Friday. There is so much more adventuring to do this weekend. So many new stories to be made. I'm so excited I can hardly wait.

Photo by Eric Eagan

Photo by Sheila Eagan

Photo by a table at the Village Bakery

Lyric of the moment: "I see your soul shine through to your eyes, when you're here. The moment you stop looking, wherever you go, you'll be in the right place. You'll never know the difference it makes, when you let go, and give up the chase. I'll come find you one of these days..." ~Vance Joy "One Of These Days"

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