Saturday, January 25, 2014


Many times, during a run, I find myself talking to my body.
I am not talking to myself. I am talking to the vessel carrying me across the path.
I have had that kind of relationship with my body for years, decades, really, since I began climbing mountains and trying to find a way to work through the altitude sickness and reach the top. I treat my body as if it has a conscience. It works for me. If it makes me look a little New Agey, well, that's OK.
But before Arizona a week ago, since the Chicago Marathon in October, I'd been in a spat with my body. Cramps ravaged me in Chicago despite a wonderful first half, and I was pissed at it. This wasn't rational, but spats rarely are, even to the point where I refused to acknowledge that I pushed it too hard, too fast. I refused to acknowledge, in other words, that the fight was mostly my fault.
As a result, for the first time since I began running in 2005, I found myself having to push myself to get outside. I almost fell into a depression, and I probably would have, if depression wasn't a selfish luxury that my busy Dad life can't afford. I ran out of habit, or to get my golden retriever puppy out, or a way to escape the house for a half hour or so. I didn't run out of joy. And when I ran, I was silent. I didn't talk to my body at all. I was alone.
I even faked it on Twitter occasionally, tweeting that I was recovered from the marathon, ready to go, blah blah blah.
I now understand what was wrong. Something really is wrong. I've downplayed it a bit on Facebook and Twitter, but I'm dealing with a doozy here, and yet it's a doozy that doesn't sound like it should be a doozy. It sounds like something your 94-year-old grandfather should be battling.
My sinuses are a mess.
Years ago, I'd get a sinus infection with every cold. If you haven't had one, try pouring rubber cement and a razor blade in your nose, then do a lap around the track 20 times wearing a sweater. The Netti Pot took care of the chronic problem for a few years. But I got a cold in late August, while training for the marathon. Then the flood hit, and I worked two weeks into one, most of it under rain and in sewage and rivers, and all of it was emotionally draining. Did I keep training? Of course I did.
The sinus infection that came probably as a result hasn't gone away. In fact, after a brief time when I thought the drugs had worked, the infection's gotten worse.
There's been some pain, a near-constant stuffy head and a general feeling of being run down, like all I can do once my kids go to bed on most nights is go to bed after them. I have seen a specialist, and I'm getting a CT scan in a couple weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if surgery wasn't next.
The only thing that kept me running was Arizona. I was going to run the Rock and Roll Half on Jan. 19, and if I was going to travel to a place to run a race, I wasn't going to suck at it. I may not PR, and the chances of me even turning in a decent race were pretty slim, I thought, but I would not suck. That would be a waste of time and money and my Get Out Of Jail free card from the spouse.
At times, running sucked. My sinuses weren't draining, so all that poison went down my throat, not out of my nose. Fun. So at the start of every run, I choked to the point of nearly puking for at least two miles. After one especially tough run, I was on my knees for 10 minutes, spitting and coughing, at a park while others stared.
Three weeks before Arizona, though, just in the nick of time, my body seemed to rally. I could breathe. My legs, unburdened with speed workouts, seemed bouncy. My attitude improved. So did my outlook on running. I put in some good miles, and I even began to enjoy them.
This led me to the morning of the race. I was in the first corral, the badass corral, having no idea whether I belonged to be there. I always tell people to be thankful before the start of a race. It had been a tough few weeks, and I chose, instead, to wait to see what happened.
At mile 3, when I passed my running partner, I turned to her and said "today's going to be a good day."
I tell people to be thankful because you don't know when some shit's gonna go down and you won't be able to run any longer. One of my closest friends is going through that now. My partner, one of the toughest people I know, had some recurring back problems that day, even though she still finished strong. You just don't know.
This ending isn't perfect. I've felt pretty lousy the last couple of days, and I won't feel myself until doctors fix what's wrong. That could take another two months, and that may be best-case. But until then, I'll think back to that day in Arizona, when I ran my second-best half ever, at 1:36, and I thanked my body many times for responding the way it did.
I thanked my body as I talked to it continually throughout the race. And when I did, it felt to me like old friends sharing a pot of coffee.