By Kristy Ojala
Tears and sporting events are really best reserved for moments of victory… a winning kick sliding through the goalposts like a needle flowing silver thread, or an awestruck, juicebox-sized Olympic gymnast with tiny droplets squeezing out of her glittery eyes. But elsewhere in sports? Crying shows weakness. Crying signals defeat. Crying is therapeutic, often cathartic. Crying can give you puffy eyes that require Preparation H and make you lose focus. Crying is for bad rock videos. There’s no crying in baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse, yoga (OK, maybe when you open that heart chakra), karate, and especially not in running. EVER.
Too bad my brain didn’t get that memo during what was to be my first 17 miler on this planet. It was a total bonk run—the kind where your legs feel like two sawed-off oak tree trunks, your head buzzes like it’s full of Mylar and Nyquil, and your nutritional levels hover somewhere between “Uh-oh” and “Wow, that hot dog looks good” (if you ever see me eating a NYC street vendor dirty-water dog, look around you because there is probably a zombie apocalypse coming your way). In hindsight, maybe it was simply the long drive home from Maine the night before, the weird road food, or fall allergies.
At 11 miles, my hip was hurting badly and felt like it was composed of headcheese, an amputated fist, and some rusty nails. I burst into tears right next to some couple sharing a romantic moment under a shady tree near the Central Park Reservoir. I like to think I distracted them from saying things they’ll regret later.
Frustrated, I finally had to stop and admit defeat at 13 miles. Even getting to that took a lot of walk breaks, self-psychoanalyzing, and a dedicated running partner who refused to leave my side for 7 miles.
There are less than TWO MONTHS to go until the NYC Marathon on Nov. 4. My mother has booked her flight and hotel. My late-sleeping friends are ready to rise at ungodly (pre-noon) hours to hoist funny signs and orange wedges before I enter the no-man’s land of the Queensboro Bridge. My sweet man is ready to haul my picky-picky-picky post-race snacks to the finish line. And what am I doing? For lack of a more eloquent phrase, I believe I am slightly losing my s**t.
Betty and I just got back from a much-needed vacation before this dreadful run. I took her to the beach, but she is clearly no bathing beauty. She’s the type of gal who likes to hang out inside, impatiently flipping through fashion magazines while wearing a silk robe. Because of her I usually avoid beach running, the enemy to all who suffer from ITBS. But due to scary New England weekender traffic on a road with no shoulder and a lot of blind corners (remember Stephen King’s tragic accident while he was biking along a country road in Maine? These are tales from him that truly haunt me, not Cujo, not Christine, not time travel), I had to cut the road run short and take Betty for a beach jog. The ingrate has been cranky ever since.
Last night, I returned to chiropractor Dr. Doug desperately in need of an intervention. Every time I get up from my desk, I gimp along like Frankenstein. It hurts to carry my purse on my right side, because I already feel like I’m leaning in a V8 commercial kinda way. People are starting to make fun of me. My nickname in our beach house was “Peg Leg.” When I was in a kitchen store after my last long run, my leg was dragging along and it scraped a bunch of pot handles on a bottom shelf, knocking them over and creating a clattering ruckus. Horrified, I nudged them back with my foot and hobbled out into the street in shame.
My late grandmother had several hip replacements, none of them successful. She used to get out of a car carrying her right leg like a prosthetic and placing it on the pavement. The way I am walking right now is the way she walked for at least 15 years. I am sorry I did not appreciate her suffering more.
Your hip is not something you really think about until it becomes an uncooperative player in your daily waltz. Please, people, hug and squeeze your hipbones tight tonight. Show them some respect so they don’t get any ideas and form a union with your glutes, quads, hammies, knees, calves, and every other muscle group and demand more pay for overtime and weekends off.
Dr. Doug: “Why are you limping?”
Me: “My hip is so tight. I feel like the Tin Man. Everything hurts. Help me.”
DD: “Maybe you should do some cross training and take a few days off, try the elliptical or something with no impact. And ice.”
Me: “But I have to do 17 miles on Saturday. Does this mean I can’t do my 8 tonight?”
DD: [GIANT eye roll] “You runners. Yes, you can do your 17, but you need to do this smart or you’re not going to be helping yourself heal. Try walk breaks every few miles to decompress your spine and reset your body from doing more bad-form running. Trust me, I get these 2:30 marathon guys coming in who swear by The Galloway Method.”
Me, suppressing tears: “That’s what I used to come back from my last injury. So I’m back at zero again?”
DD: “I’ll see you on Tuesday. Get some rest. And stretch that psoas!”
According to the October issue of Runner’s World, you should stay positive to boost performance. “Most elite marathoners don’t talk about poor workouts,” Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., a sports psychology consultant, told the magazine. “They focus on what went well in the workout.”
In my experience that is 100% true. Let’s think positive here. I’m still running. My weekly miles are about 20% lower than they should be, but I can get a lot further if I add in more core and strength training. I have a support system. I can rest more. I have my health. I’m not dealing with GI issues anymore (knock wood).
So, baby steps. I’m dusting off my old Jeff Galloway marathon training plan, which calls for regular walk breaks in your longer runs. This morning I went on a slow-moving-sloth baby run of 2.7 miles. It was a lot better than Tuesday’s 4 miler, with more discomfort than actual knife-stabbing pain. And, this is the Goldilocks of running weather: Not too hot, not too cold. It’s juuust right. For breakfast, I put an ice pack on Betty and treated myself to oatmeal and a nice “Bro Smoothie” from Jamba Juice. I’m all about the pineapples, cherries, fish, seeds, avocadoes, green tea, leafy greens, maybe a little wine. Anti-inflammatory foods will get you further in this life than a good cry, I suspect.
Pray for me. And hug your hips, dammit.
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