Thursday, April 23, 2009

thoughts in rehab

So if you've wondered where I've been since Ragnar (besides the usual rounds of mommying and housework), I've been in Ragnar Rehab. Rehab for a runner refers not to going cold turkey on the endorphin addiction we carry - are you kidding me?? - but trying madly to rest an injury while simultaneously maintaining the running addiction at the highest level the injury will allow.

The fallout for me of running 38 miles and change on a downhill road course has been a nagging knee pain that emerges about 30-45 minutes into a run and only subsides when I stop to walk. Downhill seems to make it worse. Despite casually trying to ice my knee after my runs, and then less casually decreasing my runs to 3x a week with cross training, I started feeling it ache occasionally even when not running, and decided the casual method wasn't working. A little research convinced me it might be ITB - a common long distance runner knee malady - so I continued the icing and reduced running further to 2x/week only on trail, hoping the softer surface would reduce impact on the joint and allow healing to progress. Finally, my husband and a couple of my Ragnar teammates made "go to the doc, dummy" comments, so I bit the bullet and went to the doc. Since then I've had an xray, seen an orthopedic specialist, and got an MRI for which I am awaiting results with the proverbial bated breath.

In the course of the past few weeks in runner's rehab, I've decided it's not so very different from rehabbing less healthy addictions. For one thing, the primary addiction is starved which leads to funneling energy into various other, lesser addictions - in my case, spending a lot of time swimming, cycling, hiking, ellipticalling, yoga-ing, basketballing, racquetballing, and lots of other -ings in mad attempts to attain the calorie burn and endorphin rush of my sport of choice.
Secondly, the seriousness of my efforts increases in direct proportion to my desperation for the addictive agent in question. The more unattainable running becomes, the more I do the work - the ice and heat and exercises necessary to achieve my goal. Runner's rehab echoes that ugly cycle of desire, denial, fear, frustration, and occasional lapses that rehab from unhealthier addictions seem to generate. I ice, it feels better; I try to run, it feels worse. One step forward, two steps back. I cross train, it feels better. I miss a couple nights of good sleep, it seems to ache more. I try Motrin, and get a rebound ache after it wears off. One step forward, 3 steps back. Progress is agonizingly slow, roller-coasterish, or seemingly non-existent.

Third, both addictive and injury rehab seem to involve lots of pondering one's life, choices, and patterns of behavior. I deal with thoughts like "how did I get here?", "why does God apparently want me here?" and "what would life look like without this?" I may not come up with coherent answers, but pondering seems inevitable.

Fourth, both require support. Support from longsuffering friends and family willing to listen to me whine about how hard it is and only occasionally tell me "I told you so", or "go see a doctor" or "time for intervention;" and support from addiction/injury professionals who have the expertise to help me out of the hole in which I find myself.

In fact, the one differentiating factor from addiction rehab is that my ultimate goal is to return to the addiction that precipitated this pain in the first place, without causing the injury that resulted. My goal is to dance that fine line of training that takes me to my physical edge without sending me hurtling over into pain, injury, and overtraining. To be the best I can be, within reason (and sometimes without reason). To "run and not be weary, to walk [if I have to] and not faint" (I think Isaiah was a runner). To inspire others to be all they physically can be, as much as possible in this life, if for no other reason than that God designed us with these amazingly strong and versatile bodies and probably didn't intend for us to abuse them by sitting on a couch watching TV or staring at a computer for what ends up being years of our short lives. Speaking of which... I'm done. Time to get on with living.