During last year’s Bix race, somewhere around mile four, my calves felt as heavy and hard as stones. Around mile six, my (awesome, specially fitted, expensive running) shoes started to seriously hurt my feet. As I crossed the finish line, I was struggling not to limp, and I wondered if I would find blood in my socks when I took them off. All I wanted in life was 100 gallons of cool water to drink, and the promise that I would never have to stand, much less walk or run, ever again in life. Though I had walked a little less than half of the distance, I had completed the entire seven miles. Finishing was the only firm goal, and finishing in less than two hours was a great hope. Both the goal and the hope were realized, as I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:56:29 (no, I don’t have that time memorized…I cheated and looked it up on the blog from that day!)
I limped home, showered, and drank like a camel stocking up for a Sahara tour. I laid down on my couch to rest a bit – and that’s when the exhaustion really hit me. I wasn’t maybe I should take a nap tired. I was oh, sleep is overtaking me by force, and my thousand-pound legs will never be lifted again tired. Throughout the sunny afternoon, I kept surfacing into consciousness with a vague feeling that I should get up and do something. I would feel the awful ache – especially in my legs, but really all through my body – and before I could process further or attempt movement, I would tumble helplessly back into sleep, more or less against my will. It was like I had been drugged.
Late in the day, I woke up enough to drag myself ten steps to the kitchen and eat, though my arms had now joined my legs in weighing 1000 pounds each. I thought I might blog. Then, I realized that thinking was too tall an order, and typing was out of the question, and sitting up straight was an unreasonable demand, and I went to sleep again. Eventually, I did manage to write a bit, between rounds of helplessly being imprisoned by sleep. But I didn’t “play” on the internet that day. Didn’t even call up a movie on Netflix to watch on my iPHone. Really, all I could do was sleep.
I did manage church the next day, but that was all. That whole day too was a blur of pain and naps. I had really given everything in me, finishing that race. Neither my pre-race training of running 2.7 miles three times a week for about a year nor the hundreds of miles’ worth of nice long bike rides (30 to 50 miles each) that I had regularly taken had not been enough to make me strong enough to do anything more.
Fast forward almost a year. I’m currently running roughly five and a half miles, three times a week. When I first bumped my distance up to five miles, my body’s reaction was a similar yet lesser version of that race day reaction. My feet hurt for the rest of the day, all day long, clear up to bedtime on run days. Not that’s a little sore hurt. More like I have to concentrate hard not to make feeble noises and pathetic faces with every step hurt. Sore enough that I iced my feet, elevated my feet, downed Aleve relentlessly, and avoided walking if at all possible. Sore enough that at work I took the elevator, even to go down just one flight of stairs, because the thought of the impact of walking down steps made me want to cry. I felt exhausted all day, with everything in me crying out for a nap, and I struggled occasionally with nodding off at my desk momentarily in the midst of typing out minutes or taking notes or other activities that are generally enough to keep my mind awake and alert. I would fall asleep at night with my feet still throbbing from the morning’s run.
But that’s getting better! First, the exhaustion stopped happening, but the pain held on. Then, the pain came down to manageable-with-Aleve level. Then it came down to sore, but no need for pain meds level. Today, after running 5.7 miles this morning…no thought at all about Aleve. There’s a little soreness, but it’s so little that I don’t notice it unless I stop to ask myself while I am walking whether it hurts. Scripture says our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, and I can testify to that LOUDLY as I watch the way my body heals itself over and over, no matter how I punish it. How it gets stronger over time. How hills that used to make me want to puke and/or die might still challenge me, but the challenge isn’t enough for me to dwell on how bad it was afterward.
On race day this year, I can’t go into a coma afterward. Instead, after the race (and obviously a shower) I will need to get in my car and drive 4 hours to try on my wedding dress. Last year, this would clearly not have been an option. This year, I don’t think it’s even going to be a hardship. While I am still basically the same SIZE I was this time last year, my fitness level is a whole other world than it was then.
Makes me wonder what July 2014 will look like for me, fitness-wise! Exciting days ahead!