Monday, August 22, 2011

Small victories

I returned from my Thursday run drenched in bliss, and a decent layer of sweat, after successfully executing my three-mile uphill run and three-mile downhill shuffle/hike with only a few encounters with the invisible searing knife of pain. I felt as satisfied as I often do after finishing a 50K, or a day-long bike ride, even though my accomplishment was comparatively small. When one's ability to move pain-free is taken away, even for a short time, and even by a relatively minor injury, every new movement suddenly feels like a gift.

Today I accomplished an even stronger run, covering seven miles with a consistent running stride and only walking a few of the steepest descents. Earlier this week, I struggled with the jarring impact of each step, which sent a stabbing sensation through my elbow that I referred to as "jiggly pain." That impact soreness has mostly abated and I can now run (slowly) without issue, although I'm certainly not out of the water yet. I was reminded of this today when I picked up a half gallon of milk and felt an electric jolt that nearly caused me to drop the carton on the floor. When I grip things with my right hand, I engage an arm muscle that triggers what feels like exposed nerves in my open wound, and it hurts something fierce. I still drive one-handed, and feed myself with my left hand (even with chopsticks during my birthday sushi dinner, a feat I was quite proud of.) It feels like it will be a while yet before I can grip handlebars and steer a bicycle.

Still, I have been genuinely enjoying my short and slow runs (short I guess only by some standards. Five to seven miles is still enough to get my heart pumping.) At first, I was so grateful for my renewed ability to even get out of bed without pain that I convinced myself I could live out my life happily as a five-mile-a-day jogger. But as pain diminishes, so grows my desire to go longer, higher, harder. And even though I feel a sort of post-crash disillusionment about mountain biking, I still salivate when I pass cyclists on the road. I am itching to get back out there in a real and challenging way, to energize my body and fuel my creativity. And yet I have this most annoying injury, this hole in my arm that cuts into the muscle, still open and oozing and shedding bits of gravel after ten days. It's hurt me physically like nothing I've experienced before. And yes I'm grateful it's not worse, and nothing's broken, and I will recover. But I admit this has been a hard lesson, an unsettling reminder of just how quickly and easily health and vitality can be ripped away.

Still, every movement is a gift, and maybe it's good to receive a refresher course on building from the ground up, every once in a while.


  1. Hang in there, Jill. It's better to be careful and not risk re-injury than to force things and end up taking MORE time out. I'm on injured reserve myself, hopefully be back on my feet by the end of the week.

    (You can read about my saga here: It's quite an adventure!

  2. Glad to hear you are back on the trails in whatever means you are able Jill! I suspected this wouldn't keep you down for very long.

    I don't think I've ever been hurt as bad as this one that you are dealing with (it sounds awful!) You just never know which of your 'hurts' will heal completly and which will linger around for a while. And there are those injuries that you shrug off quickly and then DECADES later come back to haunt you. I guess it's all just proof that you haven't been too-much of a couch potato (that's how I choose to look at it). I turn 51 soon (YIKES!), and every one of my annoying aches and pains has a story behind it.

    There's that saying about living life to the fullest...sliding sideways into the 'final finish line' all worn out and broken, shouting "ye-haw, what a ride it's been!" You won't get that watching TV.

    Heal fast!

  3. Hi ! i really like your site and all you do ! nice !!! Good books also..
    I follow now from Barcelona, Spain!

    Come on !



  4. I'm very grateful to be a five-mile-a-day-jogger ... at age 58+ most of my friends and co-workers view me as some sort of freak because I run (almost daily), race in 5k and 10k events, etc.
    You will recover, and you will return to running & cycling and doing many other adventurous things!!
    Just don't dis us older folks who are those "short distance" runners. :) I'm sure that wasn't our intention tho!!

  5. I think that's just a cardboard cut-out of a jogger you take with you and place on the trail for a photo-op.

  6. I agree with Z-Man, take a look at how similar he looks in both photos. haha

    I love the last sentence of your post. Six years ago, I had to rebuild my running from barely being able to walk 100 ft. And on Sunday, I'm running my first 50K. I think more people would be happy with their lives and themselves if they just remembered that one simple thing.

  7. Sorry, I want to hike, that wasn't my intention at all. My 58-year-old father trains at these same "short" distances and still surpasses me when we embark on day-long hikes together. I'm almost inclined to believe that longer distance training doesn't even necessarily help me complete longer distance events. But longer distance training is fun!

    Z-man — that's really funny. I didn't even realize I captured Beat in the exact same stance. I made him slow to my pace for my birthday run.

    Karen — Good luck in your 50K. I plan to click into your blog to find out how it went. And you're right. This minor injury has sparked a whole new appreciation for my body and its ability to simply move. This appreciation is too often masked by ambition.

  8. I so hear you on what you told me! There are some things for each of us that, no matter what else we do and how well and how short/long, that level of "oneness" exists with only one thing, and we are not the same without it. When injuries or whatnot strike, this is when we truly discover our honest feelings. Just like when we move away from people we love (but weren't so sure before), or loose something that was aimlessly hanging around. But the type of connection we get when we are passionate, truly passionate, is so unique...
    Sadly for me, I don't bike or swim (in regards to your comment). I can swim from A to B for about 40 min, but I don't do it correct, so it's not the aerobic exercise for me (besides the connection, but we discussed that:)). Same goes for bike. I am petrified of biking. I can go on a flat/incline dirt road, wide enough to fall, when nobody is around to weave through, no turns, no downhills. I never learned to bike as a child. It would be ridiculous if I tried it as a crosstraining now. Spin class - yes, indeed, doesn't hurt my heel. At least I get my HR up. Outside, I won't even survive:)
    I finished Odyssa book - I am envious and can't wait to retire (according to her, and common sense, through-hikers are kids after college or retirees). What she had done and felt was fascinating (not same level as if someone who'd never done endurance would feel when reading it). May be not super-professionally written, but very inspiring and totally from the heart, and it felt it.
    Starting on one of yours:)

  9. Jill, you are an awesome writer. I am half-way through Ghost Trails, and no disrespect to Jen's achievements, but you're captivating. I hope you keep your passions alive - riding and writing alike:)

  10. Glad to hear you are on the mend! Crashing sucks, but without it, mountain biking would be less rewarding. Crashing once in a while is a reminder of how good it feels to have a good run. Each ride we clean a dangerous section or survive a high speed descent is another ride we cheated death. It makes you feel alive.

  11. Thanks Olga! That means a lot to me.

    Jeff, I agree to a certain extent. But as I learn more about myself as a mountain biker, I've realized that my greatest moments aren't based in danger or exhilaration, but in physical challenge and distance — basically, the grunt of cycling, the slogs and climbing. It's enough to make me suspect my adrenal glands aren't fully functional. But in any case, I'm much more of an endorphin junkie who accepts that what goes up must come down.


Feedback is always appreciated!