Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Bunion, an accidental death metal concert, and returning to running

I remember being so damn happy when my physio gave me the go-head to run again. I remember waking up early, doing 35minutes of the most painful foam roller ever, doing my exercises, and heading to the gym in the dark. I got on the treadmill, and walked for a minute. Then, finally, after over four months of no running, I increased the speed to 8 miles an hour and ran. For a full minute. I got to repeat the run/walk 5 times. Afterwards, I was winded.

So it's been a long 2.5 months. From there, I went up to 7 minutes total running, 10 minutes total running, started to run together 2, and then 3 minutes at a time. 15 minutes of total running was a cause for celebration - that didn't happen until April. It wasn't a smooth build. Along the way, even the tiny amount of running I did, when combined with a hard grind, was enough to send the new muscles I was finally learning to use into spasm. I got so sick of the gym that some weeks all I did was yoga, my 2 or 3 allowed runs, and weekend hikes.

The thing is - I could feel things changing. So I kept rolling out the new and painful body parts my physio identified and wasn't reckless...more or less. My sports doctor gave me his blessing to start building, sensibly - suggesting things like run/hiking trails. Like Sea to Summit, for example. Which was good he mentioned it - because I did it the weekend before. And I'd also done the run up / do grind / run down workout that was suggested.

The Bunion
The evening before I got the okay to start running, I did a fast grind. Then, after showering, I put my very dirty running shoes on without socks. The next day, I woke up with an aching outside of foot next to my little toe. The next run I did, wedged into my narrow-fit shoes, the outside hurt. Everything else felt great. I watched with interest, then mild concern, as the small bump on the outside of my foot grew larger and more painful each day. I tried ice. I tried advil. I tried wider shoes and excessive googling. None really seemed to help. I emailed my foot dr and physio pictures of what ended up being a huge ass infected bunion. (It's actually a bunionette - which sounds more dainty and feminine but is actually not at all either of those things. I'm not putting links in because really this is something you don't want to google to see pics of, ever).

However, since running itself in wider shoes was pain free (provided the gross bunion from hell didn't touch anything) - I kept at it. Friday evening had me doing 40min to an English Bay sunset. Saturday had me up early to fasthike up to Garibaldi Lake (complete with way too much extra clothing and unnecessary snowshoes - do not let a semi-neurotic redhead decide on a gear list) and run/walk the downhill. And then Saturday night had me at a concert where I finally got diagnosed.

As a sidenote; it's been a long, long few months. Being able to crank uphill to the early light through the trees, eat sandwiches at a picnic table next to the brilliant sun on snow, then feel the strength in my legs as I dropped over roots, over rocks, and let the speed come to the smell of pine needles and the heat rushing up in warm waves - it was worth the patience, all of it.

signature Alex thumb picture

outdoors is heaven

Death Metal
Saturday night found me in sandals (no other nice shoes fit by that point), meeting up with friends to attend something called "Taco Fest". I was semi-distracted by work that week, and I'm not always gret at doing any due diligence at the best of times before saying yes. I thought it would be lots of tacos (who doesn't love tacos!) with live music in the corner. No.

The first clue was arriving at the location to be greeted by a bunch of people in the smoke pit out front. I think most were already pretty drunk. It was 8pm. The second clue may have been that we were the only people not wearing leather / fishnets / studs (we were wearing, amongst us: a men's lululemon top, white tank top with a lace shirt over top, a tight dress with stiletto heels, a sundress, and ripped jeans - okay those may have been appropriate). The third clue was when a band called "Satan's Cape' took to the stage. We are not hardcore people. We are people who like our baked goods, discussions of Strava, and Taylor Swift. So when the drummer on stage took off his shirt, and when the two large men with beards nodded rhythmically while yelling "Fuck!", we realized we may have been slightly out of our element. At intervals, loud, large men would throw up their hands and yell 'TACOOOOO!". Actually, Nic also did this.

We are very excited to return to this event next year and bring more friends.

After about two hours, several tacos, and one drink apiece, we decided to leave. To make light conversation, I started complaining about my bunion. Nic's girlfriend is studying to be a nurse, so she whipped out her iPhone flashlight and took a look. And yes, it was not a sesamoid fracture or a huge spur - it just need antibiotics and lancing ("I wish I could lance it myself - it's so satisfying!". Nurses are intense).

Armed with that diagnosis, a prescription for antibiotics, and one somewhat interesting lancing experience, I am on the road to recovery...really, the same road I've been on since last October. I don't know if I'll ever leave the damn road.

This isn't the same body I had a year ago - the one that got injured, never really recovered, and then got even more broken.  And, really, this isn't the same head, either. You love what you love, and when you love something enough, you are willing to pay the price of admission. My price of admission is a year and a half of never quite being right: the easy speed, being able to go, and not worry, and keep on going, the trust in my body. I don't believe people ever come back, really. I don't believe that's a bad thing. I may always need to be more careful. I may stay slightly curvier, and never be as fast as when I was 28, and also may never be as sleepless and sad and so damn anxious and running with times I never knew were possible, and they still weren't enough, not nearly enough, I was only as good as my last race and there was always someone better,

I don't think it'll ever be perfect, either. There will always be the bunions, the aches and pains, the days off and maybe weeks off. And because I love what I love - I will take the weeks so they don't become months. I will take running most days over that sharp, edgy speed. And I will love what I do, because I spent the last seven months fighting for it.