In college football, sometimes an offensive player moves the ball forward and gains a few yards, but then the defense pushes him backwards. The rules give the offensive player credit for the gained yards–forward progress–rather than spotting the ball further back.
I think, on the opening Saturday of the 2014 college football season, this is a decent analogy for my running these days.
I’ve made some progress–a few pain-free five-mile runs, which is an improvement over the way things went in July. A couple of times, though, something road-blocked me and caused me to take a few steps back. This really messes with my head, so I have to work on acknowledging the improvements and not letting those backward shoves get me down, because in the end, I get credit for forward progress.
Last Saturday, B and I headed out for a bike ride. I was frustrated about my knee but still wanted to get some exercise, so I figured we’d meander through our neighborhood and the adjacent one for an hour. But 1.5 miles into it, the derailleur hanger on my bike snapped in half. The chain dropped off the gears, everything locked up, and I skidded to a stop. The street had recently been covered with a layer of gravel, which I think saved me from launching into the air. But it was nevertheless a catastrophic mechanical failure.
There was nothing to do but walk home. About halfway, a kindly neighbor offered help or a ride, but I was so annoyed with the whole situation, I was determined to walk it so I politely declined. B rode alongside me–he didn’t want to leave me to walk alone, even though his bike was perfectly functional. But I wasn’t great company. I just let him chatter on about his Minecraft world and sulked silently.
That evening, B went to a sleepover at a friend’s house, so I decided to go out to Brushy Creek trail and try to run. I figured if the run was a bust, I could still walk. I managed a sloooooow five miles–it was about 7pm and almost 100* when I started–and I can’t decide if this is my typical “the August heat is making me slow” situation, or if I’ve lost endurance due to this knee problem. Probably a little bit of both. But at least my knee didn’t hurt.
Sunday I rode B’s bike (yes, our bikes are about the same size these days…) for ten miles, and Monday I went to core class. Everything felt pretty good, and I never tried to run two days in a row. But Tuesday evening when I went out to run the neighborhood loop, I only made it a quarter-mile before bailing for home because it hurt again. Back to the sports doctor on Wednesday, then another bike ride. Thursday I tried again, and I felt okay. It was more of a three-mile run-walk, really, but I can live with that because it represents forward progress.
This week was a busy one–school started Monday, and for the first time, B attends the school where I teach. It’s been fun watching him navigate middle school and hear about his classes. He loves his teachers and his enthusiasm is infectious–I really enjoyed my new classes as well. But by Friday night, I was exhausted. I decided I’d sleep in, then try to run when I got up. And that worked pretty well.
Overcast sky and thick humidity greeted me when I left the house. I cut through to the adjacent neighborhood and headed to the middle school track 1.25 miles away. There and back, plus ten laps on the track, gets me five miles. At first I was skeptical about the knee. It twinged a few times–I guess that’s the best way to describe it–but it was minor.
My strategy is to run two laps, take a water break, repeat. But somehow I miscounted. About halfway through I had to stop and shake something annoying out of my shoe, and I guess I lost track of laps. Because when I thought I had one more left, my watch said I’d run 3.75 miles, which is my stopping point. Hm. That felt kind of nice!
I ran the 1.25 miles back to my house, my ponytail dripping and my stomach growling. But my knee felt okay. It’s not 100%, and I feel like my gait is all wonky, but today I ran (not ran-walked) five miles without significant pain.