Slouching into training shape, 3: slouching out of training shape

Slouching into training shape, 2

If there's one thing I've been lucky to not experience, it's athletic injuries, even while accumulating years and mileage. The left ankle that was sprained in fall of 2001 while playing ultimate is still larger than the right one. And I kicked a rock hidden under the leaves somewhere around mile 37 at the 2012 Ozark Trail Endurance Run, tweaking something deep in my calf muscle, eventually dropping out around mile 50 for my first and only DNF. Otherwise: nothing debilitating. Some IT band syndrome early in 2012 (not recommended—the worst, most-painful non-injury injury, just deeply weird to relieve knee pain by massaging your hip) that took a while to get rid of. But nothing else that I can recall. Resilience isn't sexy, but so what? I'll take it.

What is the difference between resilience and luck? I don't know. Injuries can be bad luck (hidden under the leaves). Injuries can be earned through stupidity. But what's the path that leads to not-injury? Of course that's a nonsense question. It's like asking how I roll so many 4s while playing craps.

What happens is this: something hurts. OK, no big deal when you're Muy Hombre. Just a pain in the right calf, somewhere down low, somewhere you'd expect an occasional pain because you run with the zero-drop thin-rubber shoes. And you think: I've had worse. It doesn't necessarily affect the run itself, it just hurts in the morning. Then it hurts after the run. Then it hurts during the run. Then a two-mile run involves some walking. And there you are.

This is a hard lesson. I tried taking two days off, to no avail. I got tired of limping around the house, around the office, etc. This time I'm taking a week off.

The horror! The horror!

It's hard to take time off something that has, for good or for ill, become entwined with your own self-definition. But it's a long game, right? This is something we're trained to understand as systems engineers: sub-optimize the component to optimize the system that it's a part of. Take a week off, lose a little bit of (planned) training, in order to do better over the long term.

Those words are all very sensible to send out to the rest of the world, but internally it's just... chomping on the bit to get moving... want to push it, but...

It's like that out in the Real World, too, eh? When you're going the same way you've been going, dragging something (like your leg) behind you, losing ground, pushing anyway... sidelined... chomping on the bit to get moving...

I've taken a week off running now, but this week I discovered ("discovered") an exercise bike in the gym. It's a different set of muscles, and different kind of energy to make it ago, and—most importantly—it doesn't piss off the muscle or whatever that was causing the trouble. So that whole time there were options within the constraint, I had just always mentally filtered out the exercise equipment in the gym because it didn't match my vision of myself.

These past two weeks I've been studying web stuff I kind of knew, but didn't really know all that well—JavaScript, HTML, CSS, PHP, etc.mdash;for a project. I had written it off in the past as being something I couldn't understand beyond what I already knew. But I knew more than I thought, it turns out, and with what I've learned about software engineering in Python, R, etc., in the last two or three years, I can make all that stuff dance now. Eight years ago, when I got laid off, I had time time time to learn and do these things, but I didn't have focus or any vision for how it could be used or learned or whatever, and I just didn't understand how to bridge the gap between reading about something and making it exist in the real world. The information was all out there, but I didn't see it—at least not in the right way. But the situation had turned a little bit in these last two weeks, and I got to see it from a different angle, and it made sense. So that whole time there were options within the constraint.

I was going to start running again tomorrow, but I might not—I might mine that cycling vein for a while and see how it turns out. I was going to give up this web programming kick tomorrow, but I might not—I might mine all these ideas for implementing other ideas for a while and see how it turns out. I've got no plan for either thing, it's just fun to push it, get good enough to compete, lace 'em up, go, and let the race sort itself out.

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