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I haven’t been able to run for the last two months.  Anyone who has had any amount of contact with me (in person or on the internets) will no doubt have heard about this before.  I don’t respond well to having one of my favorite things taken away.  It affects my sleep, my energy level and my overall attitude and though I tried to sub in other types of cardio, I haven’t really had a good adrenaline rush in a very long time.

I’ve been to the doctor, got a proper diagnosis (grownup alert!), got some pills, took them, did the recommended PT exercises, and actually went running pain-free on Friday.  Now I have to conquer The Fear.

When I was working at the library one night, a student came up to the reference desk and spent a tremendous amount of time with my co-worker.  I was busy myself, so I wasn’t really paying attention, but after the student left, my co-worker turned to me and asked, “Do you have any ideas on this one?”

It seems the student has a friend who was always athletic.  A while ago, she got inured, something like an ACL tear, and ever since then has been terrified of hurting herself.  I blinked at my co-worker, “Is that really something you can write a psych paper about, or is that just learning and conditioning?” If the stove is hot, you learn not to touch it; in figure skating, the first thing they teach you is how to fall safely.  Likewise, and I don’t really know anything about ACL injuries, but most sports injuries come from overuse, or from doing something wrong–so you try not to do something wrong.

Torn adductor, I blame yoga

In my case, I can’t quite pinpoint what I did wrong. I’ve had torn muscles in the past, and usually you can actually feel the muscle tear.  You take a step, and there’s a popping feeling followed by a tremendous amount of pain.  I never felt a pop for this one, which was why is was so hard to diagnose and treat properly.  I’d rest for a week, my leg would feel ok, and then I would try to go for a run often barely making it across the street.  When I was able to go for a longer run/walk, I ran about 1.5 miles and walked 4.5.  When I felt a slight twinge, I backed off and walked, which is something that this particular injury had left me unable to do as well.

The next morning after that test run, I woke up feeling fine.  I rested a few days, and went out for a four mile run/run (with a minimal amount of walking).  It felt great, I was maintaining a great pace (for an injured girl), and the act of running actually made my back pain go away.

The next day was race day.

If this had just been a normal race, I probably would have skipped it.  If this had been a 1/2 marathon, I would have known I wasn’t ready, but this was the Jamestown Bridge 10k, which is not only a really, really awesome race, but a distance I could actually handle.  So I had to do it.  Also, I was such a geek about this race that I was actually the first person to register for it–yeah.  Numbers 1 and 2 are reserved for last year’s winners, but I was number 3.

I ran over that–over and back.

Of course, running up and down that steep of an incline is a bit taxing, but I was prepared to take it slow and steady.  I met up with a friend and her mother before the race, and we made the plan to stick together and plod our way through the course.  She was also recovering from an injury, so at the start line, her 60-year-old mother took off like a shot, and we starting plugging our way down the on-ramp.

What ended up being strange and interesting about this experience was the fact that I was struggling.  My back had a ridiculous twinge, my leg felt stiff, and the previous day’s four miles just seemed like a beautiful dream as I hobbled along and eventually walked sending my friend ahead of me.  Near the end of the race, I saw the 6 mile marker meaning that there were only .2 miles ahead.  So I started running, tentatively at first, and then settled into my natural (if a bit slower than usual pace).  It felt perfect.  It felt like the previous day’s run instead of the plodding and drudgery of the first four miles of this race.

What I realized is in my terror of re-injuring myself and pushing too hard, I really hadn’t pushed hard enough at all.  It is harder on my body to run at an unnaturally slow pace than it is to run faster.  I used so much effort to slow down, that I wore myself out.  If I had attempted this race at a 10 minute mile pace, not only would I have finished with a much more respectable time, but I might not be so sore today.

Therein lies my conundrum: How can I know how much I can handle, unless I try and risk re-injury?  This conundrum sucks.

My next race is May 6th and it’s a 1/2 marathon that  I’ve run twice before.  My plan is to just not overthink it.

I’m a laid back person, I’m a bit proud of that fact, but I’m finding more and more that it gets in the way because I have little-to-no experience in standing up for myself.  It kind of goes along with the way that I cannot get deals from people in retail either when I complain about something defective, or just when I ask nicely, but extends into the rest of my life where I just cannot complain about anything and get satisfaction.

I was raised on the ethos of hard work–nose to the grindstone, take care of yourself and you’ll go far kind of thing.  Well, maybe you won’t go far, since my parents seemed to never want me to be anything more than middle class (perhaps not even comfortably middle class), but that should be all you want!  Ask for too much and you’re just greedy.  Because this is ingrained in me, I just stiff upper lip my way through life not letting things get to me, and now I’ve gotten to the point where when I try to get worked up about things and stand up for myself, it really comes off insincerely.

About five years ago, I had just started running semi-regularly.  I bought a pair of proper shoes, and was up to about three miles on the treadmill.  I was feeling pretty smug about it.  Then one day, I felt an incredible amount of pain in my left foot.  I stopped running, started walking and it subsided a bit, but as soon as I tried running again, it became unbearable.  I switched to the elliptical machine and used my heel rather than front part of my foot, and it seemed to work out.

Later that night, I went to Target, and my foot started hurting so badly, I could barely make it out of the store.  The following morning, it was completely swollen and a lovely shade of greenish purple.  Because I never go to the doctor, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the situation, so I called my father.  My rationale was, he’s been running marathons for 20 years, certainly he must have had or seen something like this in his life before, he’ll advise me.  Basically what he ended up telling me was, “quit complaining, just keep running.”

This is not the first time my father has given me terrible advice, and my protestations that I couldn’t even get a shoe on my foot much less run in this condition were ignored in favor of repeating the same few words over and over “quit complaining, just keep running.”  So I decided to take my mangled foot to the doctor in the hopes that if nothing else, he or she would give me good painkillers (which usually give me a headache, but it’s worth a shot).  The doctor determined that it was a stress fracture, said there’s nothing he could do about it, and sent me home with a bill.

This is why I don’t go to the doctor.

Despite these setbacks, I’m trying to keep up with my quest to be a little less laid back and a little more assertive, but the problem is that I just keep forgetting.  A while ago, a car was parked illegally in my street, blocking part of the road in a way that was both unsafe and annoying. I remembered Jewish Friend telling me that she frequently calls the police for vehicular complaints, so I tried to do the same.

“The car is in the middle of the street!” I asserted.

“It’s not pulled over to the side?” the police man asked.

“Well, it is pulled over, but it’s a really narrow road.”

He just sighed, “We’ll get it when we ticket at 2am.” Then he hung up on me.

Are the police supposed to hang up on you when you’re not a deranged, hysterical person?  It seems wrong, and it hurt my feelings.

Last night at work, there was a huge booming sound on the roof followed by a power outage in half the building and a post-apocalyptic hum.  We lost the phones, and one of the children’s librarians came running down the steps saying, “we need to evacuate, there’s a smell.”  So my co-worker told me to call the fire department.

I scanned the phone book looking for the fire department non-emergency number.  Turns out that there is no such thing, and if you need the fire department, you call 911, which does make sense when you think about it.

So I made my first 911 call, feeling like at any moment I would be arrested for tying up an emergency line, and almost apologizing to the woman on the other end for wasting her time.  It was an emergency, we had a building with 100 people in it and no idea what was going on, but I still felt like well, I don’t actually see flames/no one is bleeding from the eyes, surely this doesn’t warrant a 911 call.

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers the other day, where he discussed a couple very famous plane crashes and determined that a lot of the crash could have been avoided had the pilot in contact with the tower been a little more assertive and emphatic about the state of emergency.  While reading it, I scoffed at the pilots, amazed that while a plane runs out of fuel before crashing into John McEnroe’s dad’s house they would nonchalantly tell the tower “We’re low on fuel” instead of “We’re out of gas!  Emergency!”

I would never make it as a pilot because I probably would have done the exact same thing.

I’m a work in progress.