Sunday, June 04, 2006


This morning, at 8:30am, I did something that I haven't done since I was on the rowing team in grad school (many years ago): I went for a run. I've never liked running. They made us do it in junior high—three times around the Capitol Hill (Seattle) reservoir was a mile. As soon as I was out of view of the gym teacher, I'd break into a walk. My best time was a ten-minute mile.

Other sports, I liked. Basketball, softball, swimming, soccer. I had a basketball hoop on the side of my carport when I was in grade school. I played on a softball team in the fourth grade and I still play on one. As a kid, I rode my bike everywhere and didn't even mind the big hills. I went (admittedly, complainingly) on many hikes with my parents. I took ballet when I was very young and again after I graduated from college. I tagged along to Mom's yoga and tai chi classes; I still take yoga classes frequently. One exception is gymnastics—I could never get the hang of the cartwheel or most anything beyond a somersault. But more than that, I hated running.

When I started rowing at Chapel Hill, I started running. Land practice was two or three times a week. Land practice meant running. The first year I was on the team, all we ever did was run. The next year, the coach introduced some weight lifting, which I liked, but we still kept running. I was never able to run the full route. I'd always walk part of it, though less and less as time went on. But the further I ran, the more my right knee hurt. I decided that if it were still bothering me after the next run, I'd go see the doctor. The very next time I ran, I completed the route without a break. My knee hurt more than it had ever hurt before

I kept my promise to myself and went to see the sports medicine doctor. He diagnosed me with "patella tracking syndrome" aka "runner's knee." Basically, my exceptionally mobile kneecap (patella) was rubbing the tissue underneath it and causing inflammation. My tight iliotibial (IT) band, which stretches from the top of the hip to the outside of the knee, was pulling at the kneecap, causing it to torque and also contributing to the pain. The advice was to take heavy-duty anti-inflammatories and start physical therapy. And to ice after every practice. The coach gave me gym workouts to substitute for running and that was the end of my running career.

A few weeks ago, thinking about my upcoming trip to the West Coast, I worried about missing two weeks on the water. I don't want to lose the fitness gains I've amassed and I want to get right back into the boat when I come home. I won't have access to a gym while I'm away. And walking won't be sufficient. Push-ups, sit-ups, sure, I can do that stuff and maybe work on some knee-strength building—but the cardiovascular work is what I'm really going to miss.

That's when I realized the only thing to do was run. Two weeks ago I bought a good quality pair of running shoes. They sat in the box for a week. I wore them around the neighborhood last Sunday. Today, I took a ten-minute run. I interspersed it with a few minutes of walking, but it was more running than walking. I'm not saying it went well or that I enjoyed it. But I will do it while I'm gone.

I've been icing for a few weeks already. Every night when I get home from practice, I fix a quick supper then set myself up in front of the tv with ice pads on both knees and a third draped across my right shoulder. I feel like I'm falling apart—but I also feel good. This week, I was much less exhausted than the last two weeks. I am sure I'm making progress. The regatta was nerve wracking, but also enjoyable.

These next two weeks will be a test for me, since running is one of my least favorite things to do. I may not get the run in every day—but hopefully I will. What with the time difference, I'll be up early and I can fit in ten or fifteen minutes most days. I also hope that time off the water will help my shoulder heal. I think I have a pinched nerve in my neck and it needs serious rest. This down time will be good for me, if I have anything to say about it.

Grateful for: a running break.

PS I have almost finished the Stella story and I will post soon. In the meantime, I'm hoping that Pele will provide the guest post she is considering (nudge, nudge), which would actually be about dating! We can hope.

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