July 10, 2007

Running With One Eye Closed

I am standing on the corner of the intersection stretching. It is 12 minutes into my 28 minute run. This is the third time that I've run on the road in the past week. It is also the third time that I've run on the road in the past 2 and half months.

The calf pain has turned into hamstring and quad pain. Today my hamstrings are like taut violin strings - I can practically hear the plucking of pain with every step. It's a sad, somewhat discordant song that's called "Vineman is 2 Weeks Away and You're In A World Of Trouble."

It's a chicken and egg thing, Mark Allen told me. The calf injury may have caused the hamstring pain or the hamstring pain may have caused the calf injury. Or maybe you're just chicken - go have an omelet and call it a day.

He didn't actually say that last part, I added it for comic effect, despite the fact that it's not real funny.

For the past 6 weeks I've been running - and I use that term very loosely - on the elliptical machine and the treadmill. Mostly on the elliptical. You meet very interesting people on the elliptical. Like the Israeli woman who was teaching the Iranian woman how to speak Italian. It sounded like a UN meeting without those translation headphone thingies.

90 minutes on the elliptical is tough. It's more mental stamina than anything. My grandfather would say that it builds character. My grandfather is dead. He had a lot of character.

Compared to exercising in the great outdoors, training on the elliptical is like running with one eye closed. By the time I was able to run outside, it was as if I finally figured out how to open my other eye. Suddenly I saw the world in all of its three-dimensional vibrant beauty. I didn't want to go back to the elliptical. I didn't want to close my eye to the world again. I don't like living in two dimensions. I'm really a multi-dimensional guy.

I was supposed to do a 90 minute run today, but the thought of spending an evening at the gym made me ill. Once I've seen the world with both eyes open, there's no turning back. I'll just do a slow 60 minute run outside, I convinced myself. Somehow that'll be better for my legs.

The calf started hurting after 6 minutes. So I stopped and stretched. Two minutes more of running and the hamstring started getting tight. I stopped and stretched again.

I realized that sixty minutes on the road is maybe a bad idea. So I turned around and headed towards home. Which brings us back to where I am right now, on the corner of the intersection, stretching.

Everything below my hips hurts, with the possible exception of a couple toes. Everything above my hips is tired from yesterdays massage, with the possible exception of my ears. Which I suppose leaves me with a few random body parts that are still working. For some reason it makes me feel like the naked guy on the Operation board game.

I'm stretching my left hamstring when I look up and see an elderly man approaching. He's out for a pleasant stroll. He looks friendly. He looks like he'd be a wonderful grandpa. The man is holding a handful of flowers. It seems like he may have ripped them up from somebody's garden. I try to see if there's dirt under his fingernails but can't tell. Maybe he's giving the flowers to his sweetheart. Isn't that special. I wonder if he's got a lot of character, like me.

Our eyes meet.

Good morning! I say.

He looks at me in an odd way and doesn't respond. I quickly pick up on the fact that this is because it is 5:30 in the evening.

It's not morning, I blurt out. It's not. I'm so used to it, this.

My words don't make sense to him. They barely make sense to me. But for some reason I continue.

I'm not morning. It's evening. I mean, it's evening. I'm not... I didn't mean.

I notice that the elderly man starts walking a little closer to the wall, a little further away from me. I've dug myself into a huge hole of dork, and it's best that I just shut up and put down the shovel. But I don't always do what's best, so I try to dig my way out.

I take a big breath and try to muster up something intelligible.

How are you doing? I said as if I hadn't been insane a few seconds prior.

The man looks at me and smiles in that grimacey type of way that you do when you're not sure if the other person is about to pull out a number two pencil and stab you in the shoulder. I notice he grabs hold a bit more tightly to his flowers.

He quickly walks by and disappears around the corner. I glance around me to make sure nobody else is looking, that there is nobody behind me who is going to stab me with a number two pencil. I'm all alone.

I take a big breath, turn towards home and continue the painful process of jogging back. It's a beautiful evening. But maybe I'm not yet ready for outdoor running.


Megan said...

I am still rehabbing my back, so the elliptical and I have become nicely attached. And boy can that thing get boring! hang in there and good luck in the race!