Expect the Unexpected

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The sad day has finally come that I have to report an injury.  On Sunday morning I was out for a run with my new beau.  Yes, you read that right; Rambling Runner Girl has found a Rambling Runner Dude.  He runs but he isn’t into racing and he isn’t nearly the rambler that I am.  But who is?  Let’s face it, with me around, no one ever really stands a chance to get a word in.  And that’s not me being my competitive self, that’s just reality. Brian is my main squeeze.   He is good to me and he’s good for me.  He grounds me.  He reminds me that I don’t need to go 90 mph all the time.  He makes me laugh.  And most importantly, he accepts me just as I am.  It only took us 30 years to talk to each other, since we went to school together when we were 9.  Well, he was 9, I was 8, for a month.  But who’s counting?  And how’s that for patience?  You know what they say, timing is everything.

So, on Sunday, I wanted to show him one of my favorite places to run.  We started at Al Foster and ran into Castlewood where we bumped into some of my usual running crew.  But since I had to be at work by noon, we didn’t have time to do the route they were running.  We turned back and were making great time.  Then I noticed a funny twinge in my left hamstring.  Another step, hmmm, that’s weird, it feels tight.  Another step, I wonder if I should walk for a bit.  Another step, POP. Ouch!  And we’re walking.

Anyone who has ever run with me knows that I don’t like to walk.  I may, at times, walk a tough hill to conserve energy, primarily during a race.  At some point, you find your pace has slowed so much that walking is just as fast and doesn’t expend the energy that running does.  However, I am not at all fond of walking when I can run through the pain, nor am I fond of walking on a path as flat as Al Foster.  However, the day had come that it was absolutely necessary.  And so, we walked.  Fortunately it was a beautiful day.  A nice break from the extreme cold of this ridiculous polar vortex that keeps coming back around and hitting below the belt.  We got in about 5 miles before my hammy issues, then we walked the 2.5ish miles back to the car.  Our walk had set me back a little, but I still managed to get to work just a few minutes late.  And then I proceeded to hobble around the store with a hamstring compression wrap on for the entirety of the day.  Thank God for Ibuprofen.

This injury is a reminder that, contrary to what I like to believe of myself, I am not invincible.  It’s been a while since I’ve had an injury of this magnitude that has taken me out of the game.  The game of running that is.  But, if there is one thing I’m good at, it’s turning a negative into a positive.  I have taken advantage of the fact that swimming is actually a really good way to rehab an injury like this.  And who really wants to run outside when we are expecting a high of 11 degrees anyway?!

Yesterday, I got up and put my swimsuit on, made my coffee, took some meds and headed to Crestview.  I gingerly lowered myself into the pool, but the water felt great on my tight muscles.  Having an injury makes everything tight.  You compensate, you favor other muscles and ultimately everything is out of whack.  My dad always said try to walk as normal as possible.  But then again, if I’d had a broken leg, he would have said, “You’re fine, just walk it off”.  There is a reason I’m as tough as I am.

But yesterday wasn’t just any day in the pool.  Yesterday something unexpected happened.  I had decided when I got in the pool, I was going for distance.  I had plenty of time, so I was going to see how far I could make it, at a nice comfortable pace.  As a triathlete, we are commonly told to take the kick out of it anyway, but yesterday I had to.  I thought about grabbing a pull float, but decided to fly without one.  So, using only upper body, with my legs trailing along behind me, I went back and forth the length of the pool.  After every 400 meters, I would throw in a hundred meters of backstroke and then back to freestyle.

A couple weeks ago, Coach Andy had talked about “keeping a bullet in the holster”.  I asked what he meant.  He was referring to using the push of one arm to propel the other arm, leading the way out in front, further through the water.  He had frequently in the past mentioned that if I could leave that hand out in front a split second longer, I would begin to find my rhythm.

And then, yesterday, it finally happened.  Somewhere in the middle of the 3000 meters that I managed, I felt it.  I was doing it.  I was hanging that hand out there and pushing myself through the water.  I finally felt the rhythm that is swimming.  I found it.

I’m a runner.  I’m used to step left, step right, repeat.  But with swimming, the alternating movement of the swim stroke doesn’t look exactly like the rote movement of running.  It’s almost more of a dance.  And yesterday, something clicked.  And once I
felt it, I wanted to go faster.  I loved the rhythmic feeling I was experiencing.  It was soothing.  And it was my reward for admitting all my fears, and failures, and shortcomings, but persevering in what I feared anyway.

But isn’t that so true, in general?  When we admit the thing that is really scaring us, the thing that is holding us back, it doesn’t have a grip on us anymore.  Granted it took me a year to get here, but my efforts and sticking with it are finally paying off.  Being “in the wait” is hard, you just have to be patient and persevere, but once you get there it’s so worth it.

Today I went back to the pool.  This was the first time I have ever walked onto the deck of any pool and not felt like a complete amateur.  I’m still not the fastest one in the water, not even close, and I likely never will be.  But I’m not the slowest anymore either.  Today, I didn’t worry at all about my distance.  In fact, I couldn’t begin to tell you how far I went.  I actually meant to bring my Garmin today so I wouldn’t have to count, but I forgot it.  Oh well, there will be other days for that.  Today, I focused solely on technique.  I just wanted to relax and swim and enjoy the rhythm.  I earned that.

Sometimes things just click.  They just come together.  If you had told me a year ago where I would be right now, in so many aspects of my life, I wouldn’t have believed it.  But my patience and persistence paid off.  Although sometimes it was hard to keep the faith, I never gave up hope.

And so, I ask you, what is the thing you have been waiting to do?  What has held you back? What are you afraid of? Fear of hurting?  Fear of failure?  Something else?  For my friend, Dan, it was the same as me; swimming.  While I was primarily afraid of not being good at something and looking like a fool, Dan is not at all comfortable with having his face underwater.  Last year he wanted to sign up for the Racine Half Ironman that I did, but he let the swim thing get in the way.  This year, I am happy to report, he has already registered for his first Half Ironman.  He will be competing with me in Alton, IL at the Border Wars Half on October 5th, just 4 days after my birthday.  My friend Ken has followed suite.  He registered last night.  And he still needs to buy a bike. Now I get to play the role of being the resource, the encourager, the mentor, the “seasoned” triathlete.  I still find this really quite hilarious, but I vow to help my friends however I can, just as others have done, and continue to do, for me.  I can think of no better birthday gift than being present to witness the accomplishments of my friends.  Followed by a trip to Fast Eddie’s to celebrate.  Of course.

So now the challenge is this:  Step 1-Admit it.  Acknowledge the thing that you want to do. Step 2-Try it. If you don’t know where to start, find someone who does and ask for help.  Trust me, I know how hard that is, do it anyway.  Step 3-Stick with it for one year.  And then see where it leads you.  If you need to sign up for something before you feel completely ready, go ahead and do it.  You know the saying, if you wait until you’re “ready”, you’ll never do it.  What are you waiting for?  You never know what adventures are ahead of you, and what rewards they’ll bring, until you do it.  So take a leap of faith.  Put yourself out there.  And expect the unexpected.

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