Putting this into words a day or two too late, but still better late than never, as they say.
A Meandering Intro
Lately I’ve been feeling down. It’s never a good feeling when your body betrays you at the moment that you need it most. It delivers a shock to the system and to the psyche, more than anything. Like a forced full-body submersion in an ice bath. I would hate to put myself through that, personally. So drawing a parallel to that and your body giving up and quitting on you, failing to deliver and perform its intended function, failing to match expectations.
I mean, picture this, right — it’s like you’re reaching out your hands, and there’s a glittering, multi-colored firefly that you want to catch. It’s like a golden, surefire “bird in the hand”, isn’t that what they say? Picture not only the image of that, but the desire that must surely live deep within your heart and soul. To reach out an arm and want to touch something so desirable, something just out of arm’s reach. You can almost scent victory. Like the barbecue roast of a medium-rare, mouth-salivating burger. So unbelievably tantalizing. Like you’re the fish, and the bait is being dangled right above your head. There’s no way you’re not gonna go for it. That’s outta the question. That bird is basically in your hand already. It’s possible to have your cake and eat it too, why the hell not?
Anyway, the moment is gone. Blown away and scattered into the wind, like an excruciatingly slow, drawn-out exhalation of breath. Gone. Vanished. Dissipated, like smoke and mirrors. Maybe that’s all it was to begin with. Smoke and mirrors. It’s like you have lofty goals, and one day the all-too-flimsy house of cards that you’ve been trying to painstakingly build for weeks on end, comes crashing down on your head. It was never meant to be.
All you’ll have left is what if’s. A future that never came to pass; and no one else will know the truth of the matter. Except, there is no fear of the latter. For this is my blog, and within its storied hallways and corridors, I have graffitied the truth of my mind, penned it and etched it into the walls permanently in my blood, for all time. But eternity is a long time, and furthermore an elusive lie. Nothing is built to last forever. All that glitters is not gold; and even gold does not last for an eternity. Because eternity is an impossibility, one which our minds are not made to comprehend fully. Besides which, one cannot with utter confidence say that a coin or souvenir made of gold (or anything else really) lasts for an eternity. Because eternity is a long time. Way, way too long for our minds to comprehend. A lot can happen in that time. The gold coin can switch hands. The gold coin can be melted down, and remade into golden earrings (for example). The golden earrings can be accidentally dropped into the depthless waters of the ocean, on one seafaring voyage aboard a cruise ship. Centuries later, the golden earrings (which was once a gold coin) can be rediscovered, and subsequently donned by someone boarding a spacecraft heading to a New Earth. Whilst in transit to New Earth, it’s conceivable there might be an onboard malfunction, and the space shuttle would blow up, scattering the golden earrings into outer space. Even more centuries later, the golden earrings might be recovered by a spacefaring team aboard their small space ship. It is promptly sold, and exchanges hands; eventually the new (and final) owner of the golden earrings, an extremely affluent and well-off patron, is on the planet that was “once” New Earth, before wars and plague turned it into a shadow of its former self. There is a new global war once again. Very soon, a large spacecraft appears above New Earth, makes a long list of demands which are met with silence and abrupt dismissal, and so without further ado it proceeds to its next phase, which is to detonate an anti-matter weapon to completely annihilate the planet. Well, as luck would have it, Gold’s melting point is 1,064 degrees Celsius. The destructive anti-matter force would likely be able to deliver over 100,000 degrees Celsius, if online sources are to be deemed credible. Thus, the gold would be utterly annihilated. Destroyed. Long, long before eternity had a chance to even yawn. So, the point of this whole ostensibly pointless (and hopelessly meandering) story is just that — nothing is built to last forever. Even this blog, and even this post, might not last a hundred years from now. Not even the tiniest fraction of an eternity. Everything fades in time. Even gold, so-called precious element, coveted beyond belief, lauded for its chemical properties — even gold, with its incredibly high melting and boiling point, and outstanding tolerance to fire and fury and even nuclear detonation — even gold, it cannot last forever. Because the error in that misguided belief is that word alone, “forever”. It’s hiding in plain sight, mocking you with its inherent deception. Forever is an unbelievably long time. Like a tiny four-by-four well, whose depths are infinite. You could spend an entire lifetime diving into that well and trying to find the bottom of it, but you wouldn’t be able to find it, not in a lifetime, not in a hundred lifetimes. Because that’s what “forever” is. Nothing can last that long, even an assumably permanent thing like gold. Even if it can, no one can prove that a thing will last forever. This seems a bit ridiculous, but it needs to be said. Eternity is forever. This blog, and this website, is like a boat sailing on the straits of time, which is itself beholden to eternity, its master. Eternity exists outside of Time. But in secret, it needs Time to exist, because without Time, Eternity itself wouldn’t exist, at least as it currently is, just by its lonesome. Suffice it to say, even this blog likely won’t exist three lifetimes from now; and I have no such illusion that it will either.
Anyway, where was I before I got sidetracked and lost my train of thought?
I suppose I was saying how there’s something just beyond your reach, and you basically know deep inside you, in your heart of hearts, that if you close your eyes, blindfold yourself, and reach out your hand, you will successfully trap that multi-faceted firefly in your hand. Like catching a unicorn, quite literally. Victory will be yours at long last. And the feeling will be incomparable. That is what this felt like. But then suddenly, it’s like your body breaks out in sweats. A fever comes on. You have a sudden lump in your throat, like an apple core stuck in there. Swallowing itself is so hard. And then, while you contemplate swallowing, and while you’re distracted by this innocuous thing, the moment passes you by. The chance, the opportunity, is gone. It was so fleeting, you didn’t get a chance even to blink, to take it all in. To really roll it around the mouth, like finely aged red wine. It’s just gone . Gone in the wind. Maybe it was never meant to be. Blink once again. Maybe it was never there to begin with.
Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. In a nutshell it is, anyway.
How It Happened
I suppose I should slow down then, right, and clearly enunciate what the heck I’m on about?
Well, it’s my left leg actually. I recall that I mentioned in a previous post that I had been having more trouble in my left leg, more so than the right one for some reason. On the last benchmark I participated in, the one mile run on the treadmill, I managed to successfully devastate my legs. Both of them, but for some reason it was my left one that took the brunt of it. If I was limping, it was mainly due to a weak left leg. My right leg was still extremely sore and the calf muscles there seemed likewise shot to all hell, but my left leg seemed worse off for whatever reason.
I ended up resting up, and letting them heal. Which was the smart move, by the way. The right move. The only move, some might say. Immediately following on the footsteps of that, the weekend after that I went for an aimless, close to 23-mile walk-run outdoors. That shattered both my legs yet again. I think both legs equally the same this time, at least. Minor win of sorts, yet a monumental loss that drowned it out. I rested for a while yet again. Then the weekend after that, I ran about 8 miles outside, at an average 6:54 mile pace. That wasn’t totally bad. The day after that, I ran almost a whole half hour on the treadmill, and logged a little over 4 miles. I would normally have given a rest day, but in two day’s time there was another fitness benchmark of sorts. A demanding 22-minute run. And I wanted to ensure I was in good enough shape to tackle the run at my target pace, which was just a .1 shy of an 11 MPH — a 10.9 MPH.
I feel that’s where it started. My left leg, near the knee, or perhaps there was a small stretch of my tendon or muscles in the back of the knee and near the calf muscles, but I felt a noticeable pull there during that treadmill run on Sunday, and I got the sense that I ought not to push myself. I was able to successfully complete that almost half-hour run without any lasting damage to my legs. But still, after that run that day, I also felt it — like, my left leg wasn’t fully healed up, and even treadmill or not, I couldn’t run yet because it wasn’t healed up yet. I could only walk, and perfectly fine at that.
So, the next day I took the customary rest day before the benchmark run. I usually give a rest day before, to give the body and the legs time to heal. I swear I did everything right that day. The preparation went flawless. Ate good foods for anti-oxidants, carb-rich diet, high fiber, high potassium, high protein, nuts and even hemp seeds which was new to me, healthy fats like avocado, as well even salmon for dinner, for that omega-3 boost! There was honestly little more I could have done on the nutrition and diet side. I loaded my body up for energy, and I tried to pitch just the right amount of energy — too little, and I would be exhausted before the end of run tomorrow, and too much and I would gain unnecessary weight and fat that would just slow me down and hinder my progress. It was like balancing on a tightrope, but I feel I did it just right. At least, as well as I could manage it.
Then the next day dropped. Woke up at 5am or so, and I was nervous, especially since I’d had only less than 6 hours sleep, which was not uncommon but also not desirable before race day. I debated for a long time on whether I should eat a full meal or not. In the meantime, I broke my meager fast with a banana that was just starting to ripen, if memory serves correct. While debating, I had some morning green tea, which helped clear my mind, and I realized something — I realized that I still had nerves, and I was anxious going into that benchmark run, and I realized too where that anxiety stemmed from — it was from fear of not being able to match that seemingly insane pace I’d set in my mind, and more and more that was starting to seem as an all-too lofty goal, especially one that was impossible to achieve. It was also the anxiety of not having consumed the right food, or not wearing the right things to the run, like having on the wrong shoes, the wrong gym attire, etc. It was a real headache to manage all the minutiae of this affair, and ensure that I got “all the ducks in a neat little row” as the saying goes. To alleviate this pressure, now that I had clarity of mind, all I decided to do was switch it up a bit. I needed to don that attitude of “do what I want, just go out there to wing it and have fun, doesn’t matter if I have to pull back if I get too tired, just live a little”. So, donning that new jacket of sorts, all I then had to do, was treat this as just another day, another fun, challenging little run, minus the nice scenic view that you get from running outdoors. To get myself psyched and firmly entrenched in this mindset and on board with this paradigm shift, all I essentially had to do was switch things up a bit, and be bold, and go out of my comfort zone to try something new, even if that thing didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to. This then is exactly what I did. I had packaged oatmeal that was slightly unhealthy but also healthy, that I hadn’t touched in a while. It had those healthy nuts, like chia seeds, flax seeds, but it was loaded with sugar and calories. Probably not the ideal thing for a first meal of the day, especially when breaking a fast in the morn. So me deciding to break the ice, decided actually to dunk my head in the ice bath. What better way than trying something new, indeed! So I had that oatmeal, that cane-sugar-loaded oatmeal. The one that I usually try to avoid. Seems funny to say it, but that’s what I did. I added two tablespoons of chia seeds, as well as some fresh berries to it, just for a bonus energy boost, and also because I was running out of time to just make a smoothie, which might have been the smart thing to do. Anyway, the breakfast was perfect. An hour and a half or so before early morning gym class, which should be plenty of time for the food to digest, and energy and nutrients to be absorbed into my system. I calmed myself by having another cup of tea, and sipping the hot tea while lying my body flat, in order to relieve pressure on my legs; since I would be putting high pressure and high demands on them shortly.
Time flew by, and before I knew it, it was less than a half hour before the workout. I ate two dates, and then donned a sleeveless and a shorts with pockets that I honestly felt weighed a quarter-pound more than they should, along with my go-to race day Saucony shoes, and then I headed off.
Got there just at class start, and unfortunately I could not sign up for treadmill first. That was a huge bummer. As I focused on the body exercises, I tried not to lift too heavy, or expend too much of my energy there. It’s always tough to balance these things. Then it was my time to shine on the treadmill at last.
I had tried a mock running gait even before coming to workout, and felt there was something wrong still with my left leg — particularly my left knee, or a tendon behind it, something like that. It just felt uncomfortable to run. That was really odd; I don’t think I’ve felt it before. Anyway, I shouted that down, or just relegated that piece of info a piece of my mind I’d rather not contend with. The deal here was, I just sorely wanted to get this benchmark run done and over with, and then I would give my legs all the time they needed to heal or whatever. After all, I’d given them a rest day the day before. What else could they ask for? It seemed almost criminal to ask much more of me.
So I went in, did some customary leg stretches, and off I went. Just in line with everyone else on the treadmill. Like someone fired one of those race guns into the air, and off all the sprinters went, scrambling away into the distance. Anyway, I think I maintained a pace of 10.9 for about a whole two minutes. For what it’s worth. And then I had a sudden acute pain in my left leg. I kid you not, it hurt like a mother trucker. I actually felt it too. Not like a snap really, more of a pull. Like a tendon or muscle was stretched thin to its limits, like a thin strip of beef jerky stretched over a tight wire, and hung out to dry. That’s what it felt — like I was being stretched too thin. Grimacing in pain, my hand leapt to my leg, and I might have yelped a bit, and I also hit the big “pause” button on the treadmill soon as I could. The dude next to me asked if I was ok when he saw that, but maybe just out of courtesy rather than true concern, which fit me just fine. I said I was fine, thanks. Went through the same thing with the coach too. It seems good to have people care about your well being, in hindsight. Of course no one wants you to kill yourself on a fitness benchmark. The implicit goal is to have fun, but especially to avoid killing or maiming yourself in the process. Which I totally dug, by the way. Unfortunately I also realized I have a bit of a competitive streak in me, and there’s no way I’m going to let this go. Because to walk it out for the next 20 minutes or so, would be akin to welcoming shame, and walking with my ears stinging red, and my drooping tail between my legs.
So, despite it all, despite the knowledge and undercurrents of fear that this run might truly exacerbate the pain and issues in my left leg, knee, and tendon, I knew deep down that I had to continue on with it. I had to persist, and keep on. For science, and all that. Or well, just to make a new personal PR, if nothing else. If I can’t achieve my target of over 4.00 miles in that run duration — which I’d correctly calculated would be achievable by a sustained pace of 10.9 MPH over that set duration — then I would have to settle for less. It’s just that… I’d never in my wildest dreams pictured that the limiting factor here would be my legs. I mean, maybe my body, my heart, my endurance, sure I’d accounted for that — but my legs? I had definitely not counted on that. So it just completely blindsided me, that something last minute like this could happen. I just did not see it coming.
Still, I tried to make the best of a bad situation, as they say. I resumed the run after a good half-minute or so, initially at a walking pace, and then I pumped it up again to a pace of a little under 10. I think it was a casual 8 MPH I started at. I tried to do above 10, but I got that same pull in my left leg, and fearing for them and not wanting to risk aggravating it by busting a tendon or pulling a muscle, I eased up and took it at a more casual pace to start off with. I ran 8 MPH for about a minute. Then I bumped it up to 9 MPH for a little under two minutes. Slowly, still testing the waters at this point, I bumped it up to 9.5. This is the pace I maintained for a good portion of it. For at least ten minutes, I stuck at this pace. It looks like I actually tried to bump it up to a 10 in between then, but my legs screamed at me, in particular my left leg which was the problematic one, and it was just a no-go, it was not possible. So I eased up. Then, after a good ten minutes in, ever so casually, I bumped it up to a 9.7, held for a minute or two, and then finally to a 10. It strained my legs a bit, but thankfully they could handle it this time around. No acute leg pain, just a dull throb. So it was, that I held a pace of around 10, sometimes a little over, for the remainder of that grueling, taxing endurance 22-minute run. At the 20th minute, I bumped it up to an 11 MPH, a little under my push intensity, and my legs didn’t scream at me yet. At the 21st minute, the last minute, I bumped it up yet again to a 12 MPH, the last speed increase I could manage. I remember — and this is important — but I was barely out of breath at that point. Meaning, that my body was fit and was fully capable of handling me cruising at an even 10 MPH for the whole duration of that 22-minute run.
I feel that had my legs not been the limiting factor on that run, I would very likely have been able to achieve my goal of a 10.9 MPH average for that endurance block. Alas, we will never know. At the last minute, the 12 MPH speed almost caused my legs to give out. I felt that same, familiar acute pain in my left leg again, but it was strangely dimmed now, as if the intensity and pace at which I was running at, caused any pain to be rendered negligible by comparison. Maybe it was the adrenaline rush. They say that adrenaline rushes can block out pain for most people, or at least distract from the sensation of the pain. Perhaps so too it was in my case.
Anyway, finished that too-long 22-minute run with a 3.61 miles complete. A personal record (PR) for me as well, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. The important thing to note here is that I was barely even out of breath at the end. I had reserve ammo left in the tank. How else was I able to achieve a speed increase all the way to 11, and then 12? I was barely winded at the end. Hence, my endurance was intact, which was superb. I truly feel I could have shot past and achieved my lofty, idealistic goal of 4.00 miles complete, had not my legs ambushed, and hampered me. Taken the wind out of my sails. It’s like I reached out to cup the sun in my hands, but suddenly the sun had set, and there was no chance of that for me. That’s a real strange feeling. Like having the breath stolen from you. How can you steal a breath, one might ask? But that’s the entire point. Having something that you least expect to happen, happen. When it does, it seems like the end of the world. One feels gutted. Brought low. The one thing I’m thankful for, is for persevering through all that shock and the very real promise of pain. The amazing thing is that my left leg sustained me through all that. It’s like there was a tendon in my left leg near the knee was stretched extremely taut, about to snap at a moment’s notice, like a three-hundred-year stack of dynamite that could blow at a moment’s notice (as it becomes unstable with age). This was exactly my fear and my thought process in that half-hour I had on the treadmill. What if I damage my knee? What if that tendon or muscle or whatever in my left leg just snaps unexpectedly? What if it leaves me in the dust amidst a sandstorm, alone and naked and afraid and scared and orphaned, and I never make it out of there alive? What if strength and body deserts me completely, at the moment when I need it the most? These are sobering thoughts, and normally would act as a cautionary tale for me.
The truth is, there are some things to be thankful for. I completed the 22-minute benchmark run successfully that day. Maybe (or well almost certainly) did not cover the distance I was counting on clearing. I did not get over 4.00 miles like I dreamed and planned it in my mind. I did not even do over an average 10.5 MPH pace, like I had expected on, in case I needed to fall back to that pace if my target pace got too intense or unmanageable for me. In fact, the part that shocked me to my core, was my pacing on that run was not even above a 10 MPH pace on average. That’s a low blow to the chest, if there ever was one. A sobering thought.
And yet, there is that to be thankful for. That my left leg, even on the verge of complete shutdown and failure, cared so much that it decided to stick with me. To willingly cast its lot with mine. That it understood the game, understood the stakes, and decided to put up with my insanity for just a while longer. It lent me strength. My legs, they allowed me to haltingly run, albeit at a too-casual pace, and finish the benchmark, and seemingly with flying colors too at that. Yes, I cleared the leaderboard first at my local gym. Of that I am exceedingly proud. So thank you legs. Thank you, to my left leg. And to my left knee. And the tendons and muscles of my left leg, which were clearly about to snap or pull at the drop of a hat. But thankfully no hat was dropped. This was tantamount, and they delivered on that. Of that I am proud. And I am honored. So thank you. Even if all did not go according to plan, it was not a complete face-plant, not a complete disaster. Not a fiasco by any means. It was salvageable. Indeed, it was salvaged. My legs helped a great deal. They pulled through it. They are the real champions here on that day. So thank you, legs. Thank you, to my left leg. I dedicate this one to you. I aim to give you now the rest, the respite, you sorely need, to heal and to improve. And if possible, I promise to strengthen you so that you be stronger going forward. This I owe to you, if nothing else.
In case it wasn’t apparent, I feel like I busted my knee. The whole remainder of that day, I could barely walk. It happened even immediately after the treadmill run, in that selfsame gym class itself. I could barely walk on two legs. Something about the knee on my left leg didn’t feel right! I couldn’t do any of the stretches after workout. The ones that bent my left leg really hurt, so I gave up on them.
I actually ended up limping back to my car, and I was honestly afraid that I wouldn’t be able to manage that. Going up stairs was a real challenge, because I had to walk extra slow. Going down stairs was even more slow. One leg at a time, and easily took two to three times longer to descend stairs.
Anyway, I’ll cut it short here. I’ll update this page tomorrow, as it’s getting kind of late now. I hope I covered the main points. I’ll update this as time allows tomorrow.