Saturday, October 2, 2010

Writer's Block

It has been awhile. Since writing my last post, months ago, I have laughed, cried, smiled, frowned, eaten food, dispensed that food, slept, walked, worked, played, drank liquids, dispensed those liquids, yo-yoed, played the violin, played the piano, read books and some other stuff.

To choose an action, to choose a verb from the laundry list above that best describes the past several months - mainly summer - is easy enough. Frown. Unfortunately, that has been the best I have been able to do. "Put on a happy face!". No thanks. I will frown. Honestly, I have had no choice in the matter. I do not prefer to frown. Frowning has come as the natural result of years of physical, emotional and spiritual struggle. In this case, frowning has little to do with free will, just as deciding where one is born is a matter of embryonic choice. A frown is the outside manifestation of a person at the end of his wit.

"This is all that I can do!"

"World, this is it, a frown! Well, this, or curl up in a ball in the forest coated in honey."

"I will not smile. I will not misrepresent a minor truth. If nothing else, I will be true to myself. Feigning a smile does nothing but placate a social norm at the expense of one's dignity and self-respect. No thanks!"

Fighting an invisible enemy is difficult. He is invisible. Fighting a visible enemy is also difficult. You can see the lines on his face.

Fortunately, I feel like I have been smiling - genuinely smiling - and laughing - seriously laughing - more frequently lately. This is a good sign.

Since my last post I have been diagnosed with moderate to severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. Shitty! But wait. No. An answer. Finally, I have an answer to the million dollar question - why do I hurt? - that has been plaguing me the last couple of years. The answer is RA. RA is an acronym that stands for Resident Assistant or Advisor, and is also the name of an Egyptian sun god. A minor deity, but a deity none-the-less. RA, of course, when unpacked stands for Rheumatoid Arthritis. That is what I have. My body has effectively turned on itself, attacking the very joints that it formerly was so eager to protect. Admittedly, I can't see any of this happening, the attacks. I would like to. I would love to be able to, actually. Be able to see precisely what it is that my body is doing to itself. I know what it feels like and looks like from the outside; dull, throbbing pain in my wrists, sharp pins and needles in my knees and general weakness and fatigue in all of my other joints. So it goes.

Fortunately, I say fortunately again, because it is fortunate, there are some great treatment options for RA in 2010. Though the list of side effects of all of the medications developed for RA start with nausea and end with death, the sort of relief that they promise is, well, relieving. I began a once-a-week injection called Enbrel three weeks ago. By the way, each injection, self-administered, costs about $500 (about $24,000/year). Thank the Lord for wonderful health coverage! As yet, I have not noticed any improvement, but am told that it takes 1-2 months of regular dosage before patients experience the "Wow Effect". I like that. The "Wow Effect". That sounds lovely. I have not been wowed in quite some time.

Tangent: the last time that I was wowed was about 2 years and 4 months ago, when I descended into the Snake River Basin from the southeast and had my first Teton experience.

Also, in the meantime - the time between starting Enbrel and feeling the "Wow Effect" - I applied for and received a medical marijuana license. Yesterday I bought an eight of an ounce of "White Rhino" from a local dispensary. Marijuana, I have discovered is a wonderful long-term alternative to nighttime pain relievers like Ibuprofen PM and Tylenol PM. The MJ - another acronym I have decided to use - helps me relax and sleep like a baby or an adult that sleeps really well. Just a hit or two before bed. That is all. I have no interest in getting stupid with the stuff. I am very capable of being stupid, sans drugs. F'em. Just kidding. The beauty of MJ is this: a couple of hits before bed, I sleep like a baby, pain-free and wake up in the morning - when I choose to - without any sort of hangover. Yeehaw. I plan on experimenting with different forms of MJ: edibles, lotions, strains, etc.

The point of it all - the MJ stuff, Enbrel and whatever else comes down the pike as a solution to the RA problem - is to gain relief so that I can function at full capacity, undistracted by the dull sensation of throbbing joints. F that. Seriously.

Well, here I am. There you are. Reading this, if you are. Life is not so bad, smiles on genuinely happy persons indicate. Yesterday, I smiled. Today, I smiled. Frowning, it turns out is a lot of work. Look into it. The idea of frowning being a lot of work. There is an old wives tale or urban legend or some rumor of frowning requiring more facial muscles to engage in it's frumpy formation than a smile. I don't know if that is true. What I do know is that "you can't fake it hard enough to please everyone, or anyone at all". To thy own self be true. Thanks Emerson. Instead of feigning a grin, find reasons to smile. Then you will. Then it will be full of truth.

I am on the up and up, I would like to think. Maybe someday I will run again. Maybe that someday is soon. Maybe it is not. It does not matter. In the words of someone else, "there is more to life than running."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009: A mixed bag

Since this is a running blog and another year of running has come and gone, it seems appropriate to pull out some highlights and lowlights of 2009.

April 2009: After 7 months of training, 17 of 17 members of my running club from Centerville Elementary School completed the Great Falls Icebreaker, a 3-mile road race through the streets of Great Falls. Myself and my "project runner" (he could hardly walk, due to weight complications, at the beginning of the program) finished in 1 hour and 3 minutes. Since that race, he has gone on to lose 20 more pounds.

April 2009: April 2009 marked the end of my ill-fated running experiment, I hit 6000 runnings miles in 365 days, from May 2008 through April 2009. I averaged 18 miles/day for 365 days. Ill-fated, because of the long-term damage incurred...

May 2009: After crashing and burning during a 30k race and failing to be able to get out of bed the following day, I decided to take a month break. No running for June.

July 2009: I was hired to pace the Missoula Marathon Boston qualifying women. I paced a group of 4 women to the finish, just within the qualifying mark. 3 of the 4 crossed the line with me a bit hot on the pace, 4 minutes fast. I sprinted back down the course and picked up the last of the woman and sprinted her in 15 seconds ahead of the qualifying cut-off. It was a glorious moment.

August 2009: Dropped out of the Elkhorn 50 miler at 50k on track to set the course record. My right knee was giving me heck and I didn't feel comfortable pushing it for 19 additional miles. I ran back to the start and worked the aid stations for the duration of the race.

September 2009: I broke my 2nd metatarsal in my left foot during a 70 mile barefoot running week (120 total).

November 2009: Recovering from my break, after breaking free of "the boot", I hammered out 967 miles on the exercise bike, in November (31 miles/day avereage, 46 miles/high).

December 2009: I was accepted into "The Greatest Race on Earth", the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, a 47 miler deep in Copper Canyon, Mexico. The race is a celebration of running, pitting gringos vs. the greatest long distance runners on Earth, the Tarahumara.

December 31st, 2009: After a long Orthopedic visit, x-rays and an MRI on my left knee, it was discovered that my medial miniscus was torn, requiring Anthroscopic surgery. Not the greatest end to the year, but so it goes. This, of course, came as little surprise after what I had subjected my body to 2008-2009.

All told, 2009 was a year of extreme highs and extreme lows. I cherished and continue to hold dearly the highs (the Icebreaker and the Missoula Marathon) and have learned much from the lows. In the end, I am optimistic and positive that 2010 will be an even better year. It has to be. I will make it so and Lord willing, it will be a year of change, new and wonderful. I am ready.

Friday, January 1, 2010

End of an era

Well, it is over, the end of an era. It just so happens that this blog coincides with the changing of a year. Completely coincidental. This is the end of the era that I thought myself invincible and immune from injury. I broke my foot in September and found out this morning that I need surgery on my miniscus in my knee - scheduled for Tuesday of next week. This has been an end that I have been anticipating since the waning days of 2008, just over a year ago. I did not heed the warning signs and pushed on. Now, here I am, broken down and inert.

I pray to God that this is not the end of my running days. It can't be. It won't be. I will be posting updates next week on the surgery, recovery and what the future holds - Copper Canyon is not completely out of the picture, but that image is dimming.

Happy New Year.