Sunday, August 21, 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.