04 October, 2013

The Winter (and Spring) of Our Discontent (UPDATED)

UPDATE at bottom. Title is now more like The Winter (and Spring) Whole Freakin' Year of Our Discontent

If I had a dollar for every time that I cursed the weather this past winter I could finally afford a better-driving car - or at the very least replace that flat tire we've been driving around on since last November.
The sheer length and depth of steely cold that blanketed our region for what seemed like six solid months took me by surprise and caused no end of frozen eyelids, stuck nostrils, numb fingers, and chronic slow jaw. Worst of all, I blame it for my first running injury since tripping over that one kid's butt cheeks when he rolled in front of me as we rushed to escape the bucket of water tipping over our heads at the splash pad. (Doing that one over again, I'd probably just take the soaking since nothing could match the scolding I got from all the mothers watching - as if I was the first dad who'd ever done such a thing.)

Over the course of several weeks Plantar Fasciitis (PF) insidiously sank its pins and needles into that nameless spot it favours, just ahead of my left heel. I had wrapped up my training for the Around the Bay 30 km race in March and still managed to eke out a modest PB. For better or worse PF tends to disappear once a runner warms up, allowing said runner's optimism (to say nothing of distance and pace) to soar, which only further inflames the tissues and ensures more mornings of tender exits from bed.

Perhaps it was my aging old-fart body fed up with The Big Freeze of 2013; it could have been old-fashioned laziness; carelessness; false confidence in my base fitness and resilience... whatever the excuse, I swore off my routine of post-run stretching so I could get inside sooner and for this reason alone I think I brought on the PF. My own worst enemy, I went from nearly 90 kms/week to zero faster than you could say stupid age grouper who should know better. As the wind chills finally subsided from sub-human to merely sub-zero I tried to venture back onto the roads only to find PF's trademark painful numbness waiting to greet me the morning after like a meaty hangover. 

With the incredulity of a cowboy whose horse ran off with the saddle, my life slowed to a hobbling walk. I faced an uncertain future. Will I ever run again? And if I could, would it ever be as quickly? Is this the beginning of my own Great Downward Slide of decline, and if so, does this mean no more gaudily-coloured shoes? Worst of all: when I could ever eat another PB&J guilt-free? 

They say time is a great healer, but there's not much accounting for all of the collateral damage that occurs in its passage. While waiting for the PF to slowly meander out of my life I explored my alternatives. Swim training was out of the question because I was already grouchy enough. Cycling on the garage trainer was scotched by another first when that intimate affliction that begins with 'h' and rhymes with asteroids befell my netherdistrikt. Thinking that the universe was trying to tell me something, like... say, "Time to ditch the Spandex and take another look at bird watching," I cross-trained almost exclusively by crawling the walls from morning until night.

Then it happened.

One July morning I made it all the way from bed to bathroom to second slice of toast in the kitchen before I realized: I don't feel a thing. Not in a frosh-week sort of way, either - my feet simply felt blissfully unremarkable. I sluggishly emerged from my home within a few days, anxious to reacquaint with my territory the way a bear might on wrapping up its hibernation. The sunlight, the wind and the birds had re-jigged into summer mode, waiting for me like I owed them money. It was hard to jog - not from muscular atrophy (though that likely explains why my socks kept sliding down) but because of second-guessing every footfall, overthinking every tentative stride. I was convinced PF was just waiting to  jump out from behind the next bush to trip me. But it never did. With no fanfare whatsoever my body simply said it was go time, and after all of my frustration, who was I to argue? The Old Dog, New Tricks World Tour can now resume. And this coming winter there's no reason for me to play the victim role like I'm living in some Hans Christian Anderson tale. I'll be sure to find a warm way to get in my post-run stretches - I'm already sizing up a couple of the neighbour's cats to slip inside my jacket. I figure it's worth a shot; if it's not effective at least it should be interesting, and it sure beats PF.

*UPDATE: Who's the Ironman now, huh, tough guy?! I haven't run for over three weeks. The ODNT World Tour has ground to a halt, on hiatus until further notice. It turns out the hernia repair I had when I was 17 months old wasn't the last one I'd need before I cashed in my chips.
Make up your damned minds, already! Do you want to see the scar or do I blow out my candles?  
In '61, if what my older sisters tell me is true, I think I caused my first hernia by trying too hard to fart so they could keep lighting blue angels off my ass as I bent over the side of the bathtub. While the downside was they had a big box of matches, the upside was that my backside quickly caught fire (they were laughing so hard at my pyroflatulence that they couldn't hold the matches still) so Mom came running and doused my diaper, effectively limiting the extent of my hernia. So they say...
I suppose there's no point calling it warranty work at this late date. Looks like we got a smoking deal on the anesthetic anyhow, so who am I to complain? And they certainly didn't skimp on the stuff; I can only recall being three sheets to the wind and trying to breastfeed off every nurse on the floor. Good times...
This go round, a good half-century later, the soreness set in a few days after I moved two sofas to our basement with the intermittent help of my teenaged son. When I say intermittent, I don't mean he was coming and going throughout the ordeal - he simply wasn't always lifting when I was. Hardly ever, in fact. It seems we had different definitions of what, exactly, is meant by someone saying, "Okay... ready... NOW!" I was tugging and pulling in vain like some Arthurian wanker trying to yank the damned sword from the damned stone, and one time, frustrated that we were making no progress and we had so very far still to go, I looked around behind the sofa base and saw my pride and joy standing aside impassively, arms folded, clearly waiting to hear a sensible plan. It is not like my hulking offspring didn't want to help, he's just smarter than me and - like any self-respecting teen - didn't want to make an effort if it wasn't guaranteed to yield results. I couldn't promise that. I knew from years of shoving these gargantuan crusts of furniture up and down the throats of houses and apartments that we sometimes have to lift and get after it and make it up as we go. It is only when we are fully supporting the weight that the veils are lifted, and we see the taunting relationship between the true dimensions of our loads, the extents of our Duchamps staircase descents, and our cockeyed plans for both. The bottom line is that I learned as much about my own limits of communication that day as I did about the chronic weakness in my abdominal walls.

The sofas are now in the basement, where they shall remain until needed for setting up that promised colonization on Mars. With any luck I'll be scheduled for surgery before then.
In the meantime... the discontent continues as I soften back to the squishy state I was in five years ago. Maybe this detraining is actually that chance I've secretly coveted to catch up on some tv series I've missed out on. Hey, I've got two sofas to choose from!

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