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Oh, the Ironing! Sh*t Gets Deep Episode.

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My visit to the physical therapist this past Tuesday reveals that I do not have a sprain OR a strain — rather, I have an inflamed posterior tibialis tendon.

She recommended over-the-counter orthotics insoles and said I could try out a five-mile run. By the way,  my tendon became aggravated with my old running shoes so the new ones are not to blame. Mommy loves her new running shoes. Smooch smooch smooch.

The next day, Nikki and I met our friend Beth out at the lakefront. I was going to try my five-miler, and they were pushing for eight or more (and in the end ran nine happy miles).

I was two miles into the run when the pain started. I have a pretty high pain threshold, I think, so when I say something hurts like an “aie! aie! aie! Motherfreaking Fuck!” you can take my word for it. But I ran the five, then promptly took of my shoe and sock and slapped an ice pack on that bitch.

It was a great day out, and Nikki and Beth seemed to take forever to get back. I imagined them running joyfully, feeling the ecstatic freedom of movement,

the path gliding beneath their feet, the lake breeze lifting their sails. Those jerks.

The next day (yesterday) the whole thing was still pretty hurty, so it was a good time to really start feeling sorry for myself.

Why me? I thought. I’d just begun to find real joy in running. I’d just begun to run distances I’d have never imagined I’d have been able to run just a year ago, and it was exhilarating. I was looking forward to running. I was having fun. And then it all came crashing down. Crashing down not just any old way, but in a way that turned running into a more painful and unpleasant experience than it had ever been before.

Oh, the ironing!

And there are the well-meaning friends: “Don’t do it! It’s not worth it! There will be other marathons! Pain forever! Ankle amputations! Woe! Woe! Woe!”

And other well-meaning friends, speaking through subtext: “You’re crazy. What you’re trying to do is idiotic. You are destined to hurt yourself. You are destined to fail. Don’t even try.”

So the doubts come creeping in. Who do I think I am? I’ve never been sporty. On any team sport I ever played, I was always the bench warmer. I was never the fast runner or the athletic one. I could never do pull ups, never do push ups, and failed the president’s physical fitness test. Seriously, who am I trying to kid? This is too much. It’s too hard. My body does not have the ability to achieve this, and so now it is rebelling against me. My tendonitis is punishment for hubris. This whole marathon thing was simply not meant to be, not for me, not for me…

This is the time where it would be appropriate to bitch slap me.

In fact, I have enough common sense and perspective to go ahead and bitch slap myself. Because right now, today, at this very moment, I have friends who are struggling with cancer; who are struggling with diseases and degenerative disorders that makes every day of their lives difficult and painful. And I have a boo-boo on my ankle boo-hoo and maybe I wont be able to run the marathon in Prague. Poor me!

But that’s me being rational. If only the voices in my head always demonstrated such calm common sense.

So I take a step back, take a long look at myself,  and ask, what’s at stake here?

Why does this matter so much to me? And why now?

Okay, so I mentioned all that stuff about not being strong, not being athletic. But in the past few years, that has been changing. I’ve been getting stronger and I can do things I was never able to do before. When I visualize what I am running to, it is to a strong, healthy, lean Kathie. It is running to a Kathie who sets tough goals and achieves them, even in the face of obstacles. It is running to a success story, a happy ending, a personal triumph.

Okay then, but what am I running from? From, on one hand, the opposite of all that I just mentioned. But I also must consider a lovely family genetic history that includes obesity, diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism, and cancer; where those who have died prematurely include my maternal grandmother (cancer), my father (alcoholic suicide/accident), two aunts (cancer), an uncle (heart attack), a half sister (cancer), and, two years ago, my own sister, Laura, who died from a freak sudden pulminary embolism. She was in her mid-forties. Is family destiny, and if so, can destiny be outrun?

This monumental goal — finishing the Prague marathon — has, on some semi-conscious level, come to symbolize these fears and aspirations for me.

Rational mind kicking in again: that is way to much weight to put on one single event. Especially an event that I decided to participate in seemingly impulsively (it wasn’t until I took this close look that I began to consider whether/how much my decision may have been made as a subliminal response to my sister’s death). Rational mind, here, is totally right on. It is putting way too much on this one event, and way too much pressure on me, as well. But, people, we have very complicated reasons for wanting to push ourselves past our perceived limits, just as we have very complicated reasons for not doing so.

My fear about not following through and finishing this particular challenge is that I tend to be motivated by a combination of goals and momentum working together. Remove either of those factors, and my interest and attention is likely to wane. The immediacy of this goal makes it exciting to me. Four months of hard work leading directly to pay-off. It’s perfect.

And my training had been going great! And I was mentally totally in the game! Until this stupid tendon started acting up. And now it’s all up in the air.

But I will now allow that my fixation on this one singular goal may not be healthy for me. That not achieving it does not mean I am a failure; in fact, maybe it is one of the important set-backs/obstacles in an even bigger challenge (Maybe that challenge is patience? Maybe it is greater self-acceptance?). Who knows? It’s no be-all, end-all. It’s just a race and it looks like it would be really fun. I’d like to run it. Hopefully my posterier tibialis will cooperate to help that happen. Or maybe it wont, and my life, which is pretty fucking happy and blessed in so many ways, will go on.

This afternoon I have an appointment with another physical therapist (Yay, Unsoo!), who will probably be able to tell me whether there is any hope yet of me running in the Chitown Half-marathon this Sunday (signs point to no). I’ll assess the situation then and take it from there.


About lakathie

Literary lezzie and amateur health and fitness dabbler.

5 responses »

  1. Stick with the running. Just set new goals that reflect your temporary limitations. Prague may or may not be, but a sleeker, healthier Kathie will be, in any event!

  2. Whatever happens, listen to Unsoo. She’s wise. And my shoulder has never felt better mostly because I’m still doing my exercises that she gave me. And there will always be more marathons. And we love you anyways. So there.

  3. Possibly can be due to over-training injury (ie the too much too fast rule) or the way you stride. Do you heel strike vs. landing mid-foot ? That can put too much pressure on the ankle/tendons. Do you take any anti-inflammatories ? IE – ibuprofen at night and after a run ? And … RICE. I had run ultra marathons for several years, and suddenly developed very bad ankle problems in both ankles that seemed like tendonitis. It wasn’t. My physio made it worse unbeknownst to him – only the MRI showed it was a different problem and that immobilization rather than stretching was better for what I had. Three years later, I am now able to run around 4 hours again and hoping to do another ultra, and much has healed according to MRI. But one ankle still has arthritis in it (overuse with bad stride) and I take ibuprofen when it flares up. I also take glucosamine, chondroiten and MSM combo pills as they help ligaments, tendons, joints heal and rebuild and reduce inflammation tendencies. I did stop running completely for a few months and did road biking and swimming and yoga instead (I had very severe symptoms that got worse over one summer) – you can use road biking to do training (bike hard!!!) that will keep your aerobic fitness, leg muscles and stamina up without messing up your ankles. It is good to alternate that anyhow when training for longer distances, esp. in flat places where you are just repeating the same motion over and over. Run on grass and trails more than concrete where you can to absorb more impact. Also I decided to start doing alternate training sessions using barefoot running shoes (merrells) which forced me to stop heel striking, and strengthened my whole foot and calf (but calves hurt like a MF the first few times – go for very short first runs on those if you try it). I also found I had some problems with my lower spine being over arched and sacrum locked up (osteopath/chiro said it was connected to ankle nerves as well – sciatic nerve goes all the way down) — altogether all the body work and change to mid-foot striking eventually helped fix the ankle issue. Maybe this advice won’t get you ready for 1 race coming up in 1 month, but depends on if you are liking fitness for the long term or just worried about 1 race. In which case, dope yourself up on ibuprofen and go for it.

    • Wow! Thanks for all the advice. It’s really very helpful to hear what others have gne through and what they learned in the process. I agree that I need to alternate biking with the running to aleviate some of the shock on my joints, and I will try the glucosamene. I just came back from a totally kick-ass acupuncture session, and I am hoping that helps get me through a half marathon this Sunday. Yeah, right now I am just trying to get through the marathon as painlessly as possible, but after that I will be looking for more longterm and wholistic answers (and I am very interested in trying minimalist shoes as well).


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