Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pride Cometh After A Fall

I was going to recap yesterday's 5k. I'll still do that this week. Today's initially innocuous run just took precedence in my tiny brain, though. Fair warning: there are some gross photos and fairly raw emotion included. Drama? Yes. Long-Winded? Mmm. Hm. Tempted to keep reading? Probably not.

If you prefer to spend your time reading something funnier, lighter and more intelligent, please visit my sissy's new blog and enjoy this post.

Having not run more than 17 miles since my mess of a marathon in December, I planned to knock out a solid 20-miler before this much-anticipated event. Training has been solid. Other than some overall fatigue, I've been feeling great. So, when preparing for this morning's long run, I set a goal.

Keep it easy, but finish with an average pace you'll be happy and confident about. That actual number's not important to the story, but I had a small range in mind.

Unfortunately, even after a relaxing night, good sleep and plenty of hydration, I woke up feeling pretty groggy and un-motivated. Coffee helped and I was out the door with little trepidation. It was (Florida) cool, very damp and foggy. The morning was still dark, quiet and almost silent. Everything was shrouded in creepy, heavy mist and it was too early for even die-hard dogwalkers to be out.
not quite as dark as this run ,but you get the idea

A lot of my runs begin this way. Normally I enjoy the peace. It's a chance to clear my thoughts, plan my week, set small goals and focus on happy moments my family and I have spent together, recently. Today, though, the dark miles passed very slowly, both physically and mentally. Yesterday's race was taking it's toll on my legs and I ran out of happy-go-lucky way too quickly.

Sunrise happened and helped my mood, immensely. And then it didn't. Oddly, for me, I felt very lonely. While most of my runs are solo, I was suddenly craving company. There were overwhelmingly ugly feelings of jealousy towards my running buddies I knew would be enjoying their miles with friends, today.
where were all these guys when I needed them?!
Then my phone rang. Sometimes, while "in the groove", the distraction can be a slight annoyance. Today's call was perfectly timed, though. My dear, sweet husband wanted to know where I'd be so he and the boys could come offer "on-course" support. We picked a place and I hung up with a smile to replace my former, sour frown.
Miles 8-14 were mostly a blissful blur. I threw in a challengingly faster mile, turned on my audiobook and looked forward to seeing my guys in a short while. The weather prevented me from even working up a real sweat. My legs were getting achy and fatigued, but in a good and normal way. The city was wide awake, finally, and the bevvy of new activity around me was a welcome distraction.
When I came up to The Husband and Middlest, sans vehicle, I realized they'd be hoofing it with me, for a bit. That brilliant idea was such an awesome surprise! Middlest rode his scooter (not so fast!) in front of us, and The Husband and I caught up on fun stories while he tried to slow his (much fresher) legs. After a couple sips of water, I left him with my half-full handheld as it was getting annoying to carry. With less than five miles to go, and the temperature being so lovely, I'd be fine without any more fuel.
They honked, waved, cheered and drove back home. I returned the wave and rallied my heavy legs to finish this run strong.
Quick disclaimer : "strong" and "fast" are not interchangeable, in this particular context. I'm a firm believer in the benefits of running my long days at an easy pace.

I'd gotten about a quarter-mile away before I tripped on a minuscule crack in the sidewalk.
My body went flying and skidding. As was the case with my last fall I simply didn't have any spare energy to try to stop the crash. I slid on my palms, scraped my arm, hip, knee and hand.
Two things registered, immediately.
1. OW!
2. There was a line of cars waiting to pull into the church entrance where I was hideously sprawled and a dozen or so congregation members, in the parking lot, staring at me in horror.
Fact Number 2 got me to my feet faster than I could've ever imagined. I surveyed the important damage (Garmin ok? Ipod still as intact as ever?) ,while I ran away from the humiliating scene. My body, while bruised and stinging, was still moving as it should be. That fact, along with the realization that my phone was in the handheld water bottle I'd sent with my husband, forced me to continue this run I so desperately wanted to abruptly end.
When I reached the 16th mile, and remembered that the next few stretches would be full of tall (Florida) hills, I finally paused my watch and fully stopped to survey the damage. I guess I was hoping that it was much less benign than I thought it was? I stopped the exploratory searches when I saw this:
spoiler: I survived and took pics after the run
While I now, rationally, realize it's simply a scraped knee, at that moment it was enough to drive me to actual tears. Frustration (why does this keep happening to me?!), Embarrassment (which isn't an emotion I generally succumb to), Exhaustion and Defeat overwhelmed me. Glancing up the steep hill, I saw people coming, so I slowly and sadly stumbled on. The thought crossed my mind to ask them if they had a phone so I could call my husband for a ride. By the time I reached them, though, my stupid crying fit was over and I'd decided to keep running. My pace was abysmal, my spirit was dead and my freaking bruised hands hurt like a b*#)%!
With everything now aching, inside and out, I shakily managed to switch my ipod back on to drown everything out with some music. When it started filling my ears, brain and heart, it was like a switch was flipped within me, as well.
I picked up my head, focused on the wisdom of Van Halen ("Right Now? It's Everything!") and my form, and destroyed the next hill.
Now, well into the seventeenth mile, I stopped looking at my watch but remembered my earlier goals for this training run. My legs started churning out beautiful-feeling movements but my breathing stayed soft and easy.
When Dave Grohl started singing about his "Hero", there wasn't a doubt in my mind he was referring to me.
Thinking back to my very first 20-miler, and the overwhelming sense of emotion and pride I felt when I knew I was going to finish it strongly, I started to get choked up, once again. That run had been prior to my injury, . While I'd managed to heal and get my fitness to a place where I could giddily complete my very first marathon, I'd very rarely felt "back", during my subsequent runs.
Here's the thing about running. It can, without warning or provocation, turn into an absolutely spiritual experience. It's not something you can plan or force. Some miles, some races, some impromptu jaunts with friends, just totally morph into something that cannot be explained without sounding like a complete dork. This, obviously, doesn't stop me from trying...

When I finished today's 20 miles, and realized they were, overall, even faster than my pre-injury ones(complete with fall and blubbering like a baby!), I couldn't decide whether I wanted to holler, cry (again) or just let my proud smile overtake my tired face.
So I did all three.
bruised & bloodied hip
curious about how I managed to scrape the palm AND back of the same hand


  1. First of all - how absolutely SWEET of your husband to suggest and come out to see you mid-run. That is amazing!

    And now..ouch!! I am so sorry to hear about the fall. :( the best part of this is you getting back up and getting through it - and LOOK at that, even faster than before. Definitely something to be hugely proud of!
    This was not an easy run but you did one heeeck of an amazing job!

    1. He and the boys do that a lot. Hard to imagine how I'd make it through a long run without them. ;)
      Thank you!

  2. Have you considered the possibility these things happen just so you can come up with really cool blog post titles?

    On a more serious note - glad you're mostly okay, and proud of you for finding such deep reserves of strength and resolve. :)

    1. I just make a list of cool blog post titles and them do whatever it takes to creat a scenario in which I can use them.

      ...and thanks. It was really "only a flesh wound"

  3. Have you noticed you can be alone for HOURS and the only time you see someone else is right before/after an embarrassing fall?
    Glad you're ok! Your fall/ triumph is kind of overall inspiring, though.
    Makes me ready for our freak warm-up coming tomorrow and Tuesday so I can tackle my next long run- yes, I delayed it for the weather (and because I've been sick... but mostly for this unusual warm weather!).

    1. you are exactly right! The other time people show up is when I'm doing hill repeats. No cars, all morning, until I'm gasping and heaving up a hill. Then, one appears out of nowhere to force me into the grass.
      Hope your long run went well!

  4. You're the most inspiring runner I know. For real. I can't think of another person that would persevere the way you do.

    1. *blush*
      I think this just means you need to meet more runners...

  5. New reader, and I"m so sorry you fell! I usually keep to my treadmill during the winter UT months, but it sounds like Florida is beautiful all year round! I look forward to hearing about the 5k

    1. welcome!! If you can make it through running in FL, in the Summer, you def get your reward in the winter. :)

  6. Ahh, but in my best Toy Story Soldier voice - "You charged on soldier! And that's what mattered!". I'm in a funk because I keep getting hurt WALKING not running. What in the world? Seriously, who does that???

    1. ugh. That's me on skis! I don't fall until I'm standing perfectly still.
      Hope your foot heals up even better than new. :)