(With thanks to my running friend, Jody*, for her unintentional contribution to today’s blog title)
* all names may or may not be changed to protect the innocent. You’ll both just have to guess which are real and which are fake.
I’ve always been clumsy. In second grade I fell and skinned the same knee three times in one day. It took years for that scar to mostly fade. Running on the playground at school I jumped off the irrigation berm, flying, but failed to nail the landing. I woke to see the principal hovering over me. Broken arm. One time I stepped on my own finger. (I was trying to fix my shoe). I flew through the air off the seat of my brother’s dirt bike landing on my chin and broke my jaw, had to walk a mile back to camp in shock. Broke the same toe twice in five weeks on door jams in the house I’d lived in for twelve years. One Sunday morning after a church carnival while cleaning up I fell climbing out the back of a semi-truck trailer and broke my finger; looking down I saw it forlornly hanging sideways.
I’m not scared to jump
I’m not scared to fall
If there was nowhere to land
I wouldn’t be scared
At all … all
Because falling’s not the problem
When I’m falling I’m in peace
It’s only when I hit the ground
It causes all the grief
(Florence + The Machine, “Falling”)
I think I’m clumsy because I most often fail to be present to the moment. I rush and hurry and think ahead or behind, but fail to notice the moment I hold. And, sadly, I so seldom realize that I constantly do this. First-born, type-A Yankee (not really a Yankee, born to parents with South Dakota heritage I grew up in Arizona but when you move to Memphis, Tennessee that pretty much counts as Yankee, not that I mind. It’s mostly true). Hurry hurry hurry. At one point in my life I thought I might need to quit running. I decided to walk for exercise. It lasted about two days. I kept thinking, “If I were running, I’d be done by now” – I guess so I could rush to the next thing.
This is also most likely why I lose everything. Keys, purse, wallet, glasses, shoes, clothing, cups of coffee. Two days later I find the congealed dregs of coffee in a cup I set on a shelf in the laundry. Keys can be pretty much anywhere in the house. Finally found my sunglasses after a month and a half: on my BRFF, DJ’s*, head. I thought, “Those are nice looking sunglasses.” She said, “Hey, like my sunglasses? Want them? I found them.” I said, “Hey, are those my sunglasses?”
“Here – try them on, they’re prescription, I found them in a box of Women Run shirts.”
Nice. Thanks. Now I have two pair since I finally gave up and bought new. Now I can lose two pair.
Maybe after last fall when I spent those steroid-hazed days waking at 2 and 3 a.m. exhausted, my butt falling off or trying to, frustrated and frightened that I might never get to run again, maybe that still sticks in the back of my mind now.
One: at any given point running, just as anything in life, your brother, your job, your security, your own sense of self, whatever, can be taken away from you. Now you see it, now you don’t.
Two: you’d better rush to embrace it, scoop it up and hold it tight, hoard it or try to find more, just in case. Maybe you can hold onto part of it if you just have enough. If you have 110%, and you lose something, do you at least get to keep the extra 10%?
Eleven. Exactly. It’s one louder.
Of course you don’t. And, yet … maybe next time…
After Tupelo I started to doubt myself. I’d had the best training I’ve ever had, I had the best plan I’d ever had thanks to one of my besties, Heather*, and I felt great until mile 21. Then I felt like road kill the rest of the day. Barfed in the trash can. Could hardly eat. Exhausted, trashed, hurting. The next morning I woke, lying perfectly still I wondered how much pain I would experience in a moment when I tried to get out of bed.
NONE. A twinge in the quads on the stairs, that’s it. I did a three-mile walk/jog shake out that morning and felt great. I looked down at my legs. Right, where were you at four hours in yesterday, eh? Innocence. No reply. Legs are not taking the blame.
Last Sunday I did the Road Race Series 10K and nailed that sucker. This is the race that put the nail in my falling off butt’s coffin last year and this year I nailed it. Finished just under 58 minutes, not bad for a grandma coming off a POS marathon seven days earlier. Of course the next four felt like shit but I got 10 done and headed back into taper for the Stank, still planning on the 50K because, dammit, I’d better, what if I never get to do one again? Better rush to hoard that extra 10%.
By the way, speaking of a 50K trail run, I’ve found the perfect tone-and-lift-your-butt solution: run a couple dozen miles on tough trails. This morning my legs feel fine: hamstrings, quads, but my butt is not trying to fall off, it’s trying to leap off and run away, finding another, calmer quieter home.
Some other BRFF’s were also planning to do it, crazy nutjob Heather, crazy nutjob Stacy, crazy nutjob Jessica, crazy nutjob Kelly (insert asterisk to all names here as above, I’m tired of typing them). Heather, a cougar, had never done longer than a marathon, but she does her marathons so fast I think it counts at least partially. Stacy has done bunches, plus marathons and a couple 50 milers (I bow) and Jessica is an animal, a cheetah, running, biking, roller blading. I just met Kelly last week at the 10K and it is obvious she is awesomely strong. Stacy was just out for a stroll, apparently, and said she would run with me. Man, it was great. She set such a great pace for me, and I will be damned if I am not going to hang onto Stacy if she is going to hold back for me. The first loop felt awesome other than falling – twice – both times hitting the same hip and rolling. I couldn’t see what I was tripping over because I couldn’t wear my glasses. It was so beautifully cool that they kept fogging up, useless, so I stuck them on top of my head where the nose pieces immediately got hopelessly tangled. Useless, tangled in my hair, at least they didn’t fall off my head and break, but I couldn’t see details on the sandy beige ground flying by under my feet.
After the race Heather and Stacy both said that on the final loop they kept looking at familiar parts of the 8-mile loop thinking, thank GOD I don’t have to see that tree again, I don’t have to see that creek again, I don’t have to see that aid station again – I never had that thought because I saw nothing but sandy beige, just look at the trail and Stacy’s feet, don’t fall on your butt again … don’t fall on your butt again …
The second loop was a bit tougher but I was getting into a groove and feeling decent. Third loop I knew I would be glad when this was over but I knew I could do it, I knew my legs were really tired and my BFOS butt was pinging like an out-of-tune guitar put up to eleven, but even if I had to slow down on the last loop I was pretty sure I could still have a very nice PR.
A few hundred yards from the end of the third loop I fell again. I was completely astounded, I’m running I’m running I’m. Not running. Dammit. Stacy was looking at me. “That hurt. This one hurt.” I sat there for a minute and tried to stand up. It took a couple tries. I lifted my arm to brush my hair back and it wasn’t quite right. This morning I think I’ve strained the bicep tendon although I landed on my hip (again, same spot, it’s nice and purple now) I also nailed my elbow just right, I guess, to strain my upper arm. I walked for a minute and I knew. Now I was limping, favoring my right side which was only going to end up torquing my left side, possibly causing more issues, not to mention probably falling again with tired legs and a lopsided stride. I told Stacy, “I’m done. I don’t want to quit, but I think I should. I just don’t want to take the risk on the last loop of falling again and causing serious damage.” Stacy agreed and we walked to the finish line. “I’m DNF,” I told them, and I felt fine about it. I let go of my 10% and went back to my car where I had some ibuprofen and a beer at noon on a Sunday. Sitting in my camp chair I cheered the runners passing by while I waited on Stacy, Jessica and Heather. It was a good day.