30 January 2007

A Painful Confession

I know, it's been a while. Tempus fugit, indeed. Anyway, some of you might be wondering where I've been the last week or two, and when I plan on resuming this whole thing (or indeed if I'm even planning on continuing at all). Have I lost interest? Could it be that I'm just waiting out the cold weather now that winter has actually arrived? Did I get all lazy? What's the holdup with starting in on the second half? Let me quickly begin by affirming that yes, I still have every intention of continuing, though it might not be for a while. But it's not simply a matter of sloth or the desire to wait for warmer weather, however, that's keeping me off the streets at the moment. So, by way of explanation, I offer the following overly-complicated and unnecessarily self-indulgent tripartite (or perhaps quadripartite) confession, replete with needlessly pretentious Latin introductions to each part:

I. Quod me nutrit me destruit.
Running is supposed to be good for you, right? Or at least that's what I've always told myself. But everything needs to be done in moderation, I suppose, and I've never been one to be particularly moderate about anything. So I'll go right out and say it – I've been in a substantial amount of pain for quite a while now, and I'm running out of ways to deal with it. With the exception, of course, of taking an extended break and hoping that my body will, indeed, heal itself if I actually give it enough time to do so. What started as occasional soreness in my heels last summer has by now become more or less constant pain throughout most of my legs – not really any acute discomfort anywhere, but rather a chronic and pervasive tiredness and achiness that never goes away. Seriously, except for those few hours a week when I'm actually running (oh, those endorphins!) even the basic process of walking is proving painful. More disturbingly, I've been experiencing a weird numbness from time to time (especially from the knees down), like when your legs fall asleep or something. History of compulsive behavior notwithstanding, even I know that's probably not good.

The most vexing aspect of all this, however, is that I haven't been running all that much by most objective standards. I've averaged maybe 35 miles a week over the first half, which many runners would consider a pretty moderate total (non-runners will have to take my word on this one). So if it's not the mileage, why am I hurting? Is it that my typical run is close to nine miles long? That I usually run at a pretty constant pace of around 7.5 minutes per mile? That I do the absolute minimum amount of stretching after a run (and, if the subway's right there when I get to the platform, sometimes none at all)? The answers, I'll sheepishly admit, are indeed yes, yes, and yes. Most runners (the smart ones, at least) mix up their weekly runs so there's a nice complement of short and long, easy and hard, slow and fast. And any good runner knows how important stretching is. Again, my rational self knows all these things, but the compulsive self is fixated on the accumulation of unique miles, all else be damned.

II. Cuiusvis hominis est errare, nullius nisi insipientis in errore perseverare. Sure enough, almost everyone I know (or, at least, everyone I've confided to about the pain and numbness) has urged me to take a break and rest up for a while. Again, the rational side of my brain realizes this is because they care about me and don't want to see me injure myself more severely (or more permanently), but the compulsive side brushes their admonishments aside (or worse, interprets them as a challenge to my resolve) and vows to press forward. Now, however, I've got to agree with them (and with Cicero, apparently) and admit that continuing to run at this time would not only be potentially physically destructive but monumentally stupid. And so it's not without at least a modicum of anguish and wounded pride that I hereby pledge:

Although I haven't run in twelve days, I'm going to take an additional four weeks off with the hope that my body will undo all the abuse I've heaped on it over the last seven months and heal itself well enough that I can continue with this project and finish up running all of Brooklyn by this fall.

So there you have it. Maybe now that it's out there for everyone to see (or at least my dozen or so regular readers), I'll have to follow through or risk even more wagging fingers and well-intentioned cautionary advice.

III. "Haec olim meminisse iuvabit," said Aeneas to his shipwrecked crew after the storm. And, with a similar admixture of irony and optimism, so say I. Maybe, after I finish this whole thing, hindsight will render the next several weeks not as the extended period of discouragement and frustration that they seem now, but merely a brief interlude in which I gather up the strength and energy to see things through. That's what I'm hoping for, in any event.

Looking on the bright side, a month or a month and a half off from running will allow me to spend some quality time on the dissertation, an activity that would definitely benefit from a little more attention. In fact, I'll probably take five or six days and drive back to Iowa City, to meet with my advisor and see some old friends. As for staying in shape, the Greenpoint Y is a short walk from home, and I'm thinking that there are most likely plenty of ways to start one's day that are worse than spending thirty or forty minutes in the pool.

Finally, I'll continue to post here whenever I have anything worth sharing (and probably even when I don't), and there are still a few dozen photos in the Runs Brooklyn archives which I could dig up and post as well. So do be sure to stop by from time to time and see what's up. With any luck, I hope to be back on the road around March 1st or so.

IV. Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum viditur. Then again, you probably knew that, right? And bonus points for identifying the individual whose portrait appears above. In any event, here are a few more photos that until now have managed to avoid being posted:

houses and wall, sunset park
Somewhere in Sunset Park

auto repairs, bed-stuy
Lexington Avenue in Bed-Stuy

morning in williamsburg
Sunday morning in Williamsburg


At 10:53 PM, Blogger stephanie said...

Sorry to hear that your legs need a break. But better a month than six months. (Which I could tell you all about, it's not pretty.) I agree that varying your mileage would help, but you're a pretty experienced runner so no need for my advice.

I did want to give you the name of my old massage guy, which might actually fit into your grad student budget, and might be useful to you.

Fission Herb Center
Mott St b/w Hester and Canal, down the astroturf alley mid block

The decor is uh, lacking, but I think it's now $40/hr and Fan was good with working on my running fatigued legs.

I hope that this isn't annoyingly unsolicited.

Good luck with that GPT Y pool! (Brings back memories of my stress fracture days.) And congrats on all of your progress to date. I'm thoroughly impressed!

--stephanie, formerly of Greenpoint

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Blabberon said...

Count me among your twelve.

I really like your words and photos.

Maybe you should have run all the streets in Fort Bragg as a warm up!!

Take your time on the healing part Gary and keep the blogs coming.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun!


At 6:09 PM, Anonymous humbled said...

So, are you going to offer a translation for those of us lacking a classical education?

Your plan for rest and recovery makes a lot of sense - here's hoping the pain and numbness and other worrisome symptoms respond. Your avid readers want you to heal (and maybe even finish that dissertation).

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Thanks, all.

Stephanie, it's great to hear from you! Thanks for the massage info -- I may use it yet. Hope school's treating you well.

Ron, I always appreciate the kind words and encouragement. BTW, I love the neon sign pictures!

And "humbled," you could probably get dozens of translations just by cutting and pasting the phrases right into the little google search box on your toolbar. But I'm betting you know more than you're letting on...

In any event, numerus IV is of a much more recent vintage than the first three, and translates roughly as "whatever is said in Latin sounds profound." This principle is particularly useful, of course, in those instances in which what is being said is completely devoid of anything even resembling profundity in the first place.

At 1:05 AM, Blogger I broke my right wing said...

I would guess that the picture is a French king based on the dress, and from the red hair maybe one of the Charles.

At 7:55 AM, Blogger Gary said...


Terrific guesses, but... I'll give you a hint: the guy in the picture is both a Catholic saint and former English monarch. That ought to narrow it down. There's one last (and kind of obvious) clue in the title of the post.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger I broke my right wing said...

"Edward the Confessor", I thought that British monarchs had a plain purple frock with a fur trim though. Also on the injury front, you should try bioflavinoids (or foods rich in them, such as black currants). In addition my physical therapist had me do a bunch of stretches in between my other things for my foot/calf. Lastly, you could change it to a "walking Brooklyn" for the time being, since you cant run, and I remember you saying that you had most of the neighborhoods near you left. Just a Thought.

Hit me up when you come to Iowa City


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