Sick Day

Creeping out my back door on a perfect day in May,

Body aching, still in sweat-soaked pjs at 10 am;

Weak and dizzy from an unplanned, day-long fast,

Screeching red-shouldered hawk pierces my pounding brain.

 

Wind moves the tender spring leaves of white and red oaks;

I sit in filtered shade, cool wind evaporating sweat on my forehead;

I hear chickadees, Carolina wrens, and a pair of barred owls;

Raucous, joyful noise surrounding a quiet body and throbbing head.

 

I watch two blue jays share a tasty morsel;

For me, a piece of toast, no jelly,

Plus half a cup of black coffee—enough to prevent a headache crescendo,

Austerity seems best for a raging belly.

 

A gorgeous day for working in my garden, or running on trails,

Meanwhile my muscles ache like I’ve done both;

[I haven’t, of course; I’ve been in bed for the past 15 hours.]

Frustrating, to waste this perfect day.

 

Instead, I sit quietly (and queasily),

Listening to the drum of a red-bellied woodpecker,

Watching for the upside down nuthatch,

Absorbing the soothing green canopy and cooling breeze.

 

I don’t feel much better, but perspective helps.

Maybe patience is the lesson nature is teaching me today.

From my chair, I can see tulip-tree flowers, high in the canopy,

Sighing, I know that it’s a lesson I won’t remember long.

 

The shifting sun aims its rays on my face,

My head can’t take the blinding brightness, so I head back inside;

Pausing to scan a nearby sweet gum for the cardinal I just heard calling,

Accepting, reluctantly, the gift of stillness, and the healing pace of nature.

IMG_9524

Ocean of Stars

I want to lose myself in the night sky,
Shiver in the November air,
Lie by the sea among grains of sand.
I want to feel dwarfed by the universe
Tiny, and inconsequential.

Perhaps then my cares, too, will seem small
Fear drifting away with the outgoing tide
My heart growing lighter
So I might twinkle again,
Just one of a billion stars above my head.

To DNS or DNF

*To DNS or DNF–that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of a run unstarted
Or run the race and risk a sea of troubles
And by so doing: to die, or at least screw up my leg
And continue my IT band issues: to start, to run until I can
Run no longer; and by DNF, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That flesh is susceptible to? [Hell no!] ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly not to be wished on anyone. To start (or not), to run,
To run, perchance to Dream. Aye, there’s the rub,

For in the grand scheme of life, my IT band problems are self-inflicted and trivial.

Umstead marathon was supposed to be my last big race, but I had to sign up for the Medoc Spring Race, a race styled after Dipsea with a staged start. It’s only 7.5 miles–the perfect distance, plus a fun format to keep me out of a post-season slump.

Then my running buddy decided to drop from the Umstead 100, so I was no longer needed as a pacer. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail 50K is the same weekend, on Sunday. Here was an opportunity to squeeze in an ultra on my home turf. The timing after Umstead was perfect. Steve emailed me and asked, “which distance did you sign up for?” “What kind of idiot do you think I am?” I retorted. It was another two weeks before I actually admitted—um, THAT kind. [He wasn’t surprised.]

When I first went to Mimi, the ITB issue seemed bad, much worse than I thought. I knew my left side was out of balance, but not the extent—weaker, less flexible, limited range of motion. I emailed Bull City. The 12 mile distance is full. It’s 50K or bust.

But, I have made so much progress in two weeks that I have guarded optimism, perhaps too much. Why not start and see how it goes? It’s hard to know how much better I am, though. The only thing that caused pain was running downhill. I’ve done two flat runs with zero pain.

If I consider the distance, my ITBS, and the fact that I would like to be in reasonable shape to run well at Medoc, it seems ridiculous to even start the 50K. Why would I risk the setback on my PT and careful strengthening to do a race that is not my A race, a race that I signed up for out of serendipity?

It’s not just a 50K run, though. The following weekend, I will speak at the memorial service for my lifelong friend Suzie, who was killed last September on her early morning run by a hit-and-run driver in Eureka CA. I had signed up counting on the 50K to help me steady myself for a much tougher event, one that will take everything I have.

I could accomplish this in other ways. But the singular effort of running a long way and the need to focus intently on the trail allow me both time and space for my brain to wander and my heart to find peace. And Suzie loved running trails.

It seems unlikely that I can go the full distance, and I do want to run Medoc with my son Stephen and my friends two weeks later. A friend told me that my brain and body will reach an agreement at some point and I’ll know the right decision.

I’m not afraid of pain, which is temporary. I’m afraid of the setback, of having to start from scratch again and extending the recovery time. If I thought I could run the 15 miles to the dam without causing additional problems, I’d do so happily and call it a very successful DNF. It’s hard to imagine that I’ll be able to run much farther.

My heart and brain will find the right answer. I just can’t see it yet.

*A line from a poem or story gets stuck in my head, and there’s no going back. Acknowledgement and apologies to: Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. “To Be, or Not to Be” [Internet]: Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_be,_or_not_to_be