august 17/YES!

Knee injury.

Day Thirteen

Today is the day that I hopefully find out what is wrong with my knee and how much longer I will not be able to exercise. I’m really nervous.

To help with my nerves, decided to write a poem. Today I’m trying out a ballad. Before writing my own, started to memorize “Casey at the Bat.” Only made it through the first stanza:

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.”

Went to the doctor and I’m feeling much better. Got the best news I could hope for. I can start exercising right away. Swimming, biking and running. Yes, I can start running right now, as long as I can handle the pain. I begin physical therapy on Tuesday.

Decided to finish my ballad, combing stuff I wrote before and then after:

Before

She sat there in the waiting room, staring at her book,
wond’ring what would happen, when the doctor took a look.
Would he watch her as she entered, walking with her limp
and notice that her knee was swollen, blown up like a blimp?

Blimp is not quite true, I’d say, but swollen nonetheless.
Just enough to make it hard to walk without distress.
She would tell this when he asked, and others things as well
like all the times her knee gave out, and when she almost fell.

By all the times, I might add, she just means one or two
.
Sometimes when she tells a story, facts aren’t wholly true.
This happens when she’s nervous or is trying to make a rhyme.
Besides straight stories bore her, she hears them all the time.

Would he tell her to lay down and do the straight leg test?
Would she fail again and he’d say, “1 year of bed rest!”?
Oh, that dreaded straight leg test, haunter of her dreams!
Surely failing it cannot be as bad as seems?

After

She just met with the doctor, and could you even guess,
the outcome of the visit was almost pure success?
Her kneecap had slipped out, but then slipped back in place.
No lasting damage happened, she only needs a brace!

Things she heard were not all good, like the part about pain.
And how the quad’s not firing due to fear and the brain
refusing to send signals to tell the quad to move.
She’ll have to do lots of work to get it to improve.

She isn’t bothered by this news, she can take the pain.
All she cares is that the doctor told her she could train.
She won’t be running fast, or even every minute,
but, ‘bout the marathon, she still gets to be in it!

I swam a loop at open swim! I swam a loop at open swim! It was very windy and choppy. At one point, it felt like I was being lifted into the air. Pretty cool. I love swimming in rough water. Some day, I’ll have to swim in the ocean.

What I did today after finding out that my knee was okay and that any pain I felt was normal and not a warning of further injury:

  • Took Delia the dog on 2 walks.
  • Swam almost a mile.
  • Walked up and down the steps at full speed, and without bracing myself on the railing.
  • Walked over 4 miles total.

Answers to the questions I asked yesterday:

When can I start running again? NOW!
When can I start walking for more than a few blocks again? NOW!
When will I be able to swim again? NOW!
When will I be able to be outside again? NOW!
When can I walk my dog again? NOW!
When will I be able to stop reminding myself, every time that I get up from a chair or the couch: “nice and slow, Sara”? MAYBE NEVER, WELCOME TO 43 SARA.
When will I be able to write about more than injury or how stiff my leg is or how I failed the straight leg test again or about how long it’s been since I ran? NOW!
Is there any possibility, that if I walked most of it, that I could still do the marathon on Oct 1? YES!

Knee status: Much better. Feeling more pain because I’m pushing it harder.

Treatment: no RICE, just a brace and physical therapy starting next week.

august 16/?

Knee injury.

Day Twelve

Woke up a little sore, as usual, but managed to walk down the steps using both legs. Progress.

Had difficulty deciding which poem to memorize this morning, finally settled on the one I had intended, since yesterday evening in the car, to memorize: “Luke” by Mary Oliver. My method for memorizing is not to pick the most important poems ever!, but the ones that I want to keep. Tomorrow, I think I want to memorize another dog poem, this one by Jane Kenyon: “After an injury, walking the dog” (https://poetrying.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/after-an-illness-walking-the-dog-jane-kenyon/)

I love all of “Luke,” but especially:
and easily
she adored
every blossom,

not in the serious,
careful way
that we choose
this blossom, or that blossom—

the way we praise, or don’t praise—
the way we love
or don’t love—
but the way

we long to be—
that happy
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.

I have not run in 13 days.

Biked for 26 minutes. Felt pretty good. If I can’t run, hopefully I can keep biking.

Questions I’d like answered by my doctor, my body or both.

When can I start running again?
When can I start walking for more than a few blocks again?
When will I be able to swim again?
When will I be able to be outside again?
When can I walk my dog again?
When will I be able to stop reminding myself, every time that I get up from a chair or the couch: “nice and slow, Sara”?
When will I be able to write about more than injury or how stiff my leg is or how I failed the straight leg test again or about how long it’s been since I ran?
Is there any possibility, that if I walked most of it, that I could still do the marathon on Oct 1?

I’m hopeful that my drs appointment will go well tomorrow. My leg does seem to be getting better. What’s wrong with it, I wonder? Why can’t I pass the straight leg raise test? I’m sure it’s something that I couldn’t even imagine, something that I’ve never heard of or thought of.

Knee status: stiff, but better. can walk, mostly. failed straight leg test again.

Treatment: RICE

august 15/BORING

Knee injury.

Day Eleven

Seems like the rest helped some yesterday. My leg is feeling better. I think I might be getting a bit bored of writing about injury, since not much is happening with my leg.

I have not run in 12 days. 
I have not swam, more than a few hundred yards, in 14 days.
Will I be able to swim across the lake, at least one more time, before the end of the season? I hope so.

Memorized Robert Frost’s “Out Out” after randomly encountering it while browsing poets.org. Reading the first line, “The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard” I remembered that I had memorized this poem in high school. Was it for English class or just on my own, during the summer when I memorized poems and then recited them in the Iowa cornfields while detassling corn?

Biked for 16 minutes in the front room, with my bike on a stand. Watched the 2009 5000 meter women’s world championships. Felt good. After I was done, walking seemed a bit easier. Still trying to avoid walking too much today. I’m planning to try swimming again this afternoon.

Went to the lake to swim. Hard to kick, still. Managed to swim 400 yards by kicking with one leg and dragging the other. Not sure if my knee will be okay before the end of open swim season, but even if I can’t swim, I can go to the lake to walk in the water. I can almost walk normally in the water. It’s calming, even when it’s freezing, which it was yesterday. Reminds me of the lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Swimming, One Day in August”: “It is time, now, I said/for the deepening and the quieting of the spirit/among the flux of happenings” and “I went down in the afternoon/to the sea/which held be, until I grew easy.”

Knee status: walking must closer to normal, still slow but even less limp-y than before, can’t do a flutter kick in water without pain, failed the straight leg raise again.

Treatment: RICE.

august 14/REST

Knee injury.

Day Ten

3 days until my doctor’s appointment.

This morning, I memorized two more of Mary Oliver’s poems: “Swimming, One Day in August” and “Invitation.” I’m currently enamored with Oliver and her focus on attention and the natural world. Both of these poems come from her collection, Red Bird, which I love.

I’m hoping to do more resting and less walking today, especially stairs. I wonder, could this help me to heal faster? It’s so hard. How does one sit still and not go crazy?

Right now, I have too much
Energy.
Sitting still is so hard. I
Twitch my
Left leg, the non-injured one, repeatedly.
Every part of my body wants to move. I want to jump out of my
Skin! Who can just
Sit in a chair without moving?

This last acrostic poem is brought to you by restless legs, a little bit of anxiety and a lot of coffee. Maybe I would be less restless if I didn’t drink coffee in the morning?

I’m trying not to walk too much today. Finally am forcing the kids to walk the dog. Spent the morning on the couch with my leg straight. Reading Sophie Hannah’s Agatha Christie murder mystery, Closed Casket. Now, it’s the afternoon and I’ve moved upstairs. Sitting on the bed, with the computer on my lap. Writing and then reading. I hope this helps, because it’s no fun.

Knee status: still a bit stiff, doesn’t hurt at all. Continuing to walk slowly. Failed the straight leg raise again.

Treatment: more RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevate), with an emphasis on the rest.

august 13/DNF

Knee injury.

Day Nine

Today is the triathlon, the one that Rosie and I were supposed to do together. The one that would have started a tradition of racing and training together. We’re not racing, mainly because of my injury but also because we hadn’t trained enough. I am less disappointed and more resigned to the inevitability of our failure. If we attempt to do this again next year, we will need to train earlier.

Memorized two poems this morning: Emily Dickinson’s “Nobody” and Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.” Now I want to experiment with putting them together into a found poem:

You only have to Love.
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you— Nobody—too?
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
tell me about the mountains and the rivers,
the clean blue air, the livelong June, an admiring Bog.

Whoever you are, no matter how good,
the world goes on, harsh and exciting.
Announcing despair, over and over, it calls to you.
How dreary! Don’t tell!

You do not have to advertise.
You only have to love the world
as it offers itself to your imagination:
the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain,
the landscapes and the deep trees.

You only have to love the family of things:
a Frog, the wild geese,
the soft animal of your body,
Somebody!
Nobody!

Walked around the block with Scott and Delia, the dog. So slow, but less limp-y. Discovered that uneven ground is difficult. Why is that? Tried to walk more than a block but my knee felt like it might give out, so we turned around.

As of noon, still can’t raise my straight leg. I’m invested in this test as a marker of progress, but is it? I wonder what the doctor will tell me on Thursday?

Tried biking, but it seemed like a bad idea, so I stopped.

Knee status: most likely not a quad tendon rupture, still sore and stiff, occasionally gives out, can walk very slowly, still can’t do the straight leg raise.

Treatment: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), don’t try to do too much walking even when the dog looks at me with her big eyes, hoping that I’ll chase her around the house. Keep reading, crafting and memorizing poetry.

august 12/Relief

Knee injury.

Day Eight

Fluctuating mood. Fear and resignation, then optimism. It’s a rupture. It’s a tear. No, it’s neither. Something worse? Something better?

Memorized Shel Silverstein’s poem, Sick. So fun! I’m surprised at how much it has improved my mood and my energy level. I think I should memorize a new one every day.

Scott is running his 18 miles this morning. He’s almost done. I know this because I’m tracking him on my phone and because he’s been posting pictures to Instagram every time he stops to walk. I love his pictures. I’m slightly jealous, but only slightly. Those really long runs were never fun for me. Always a struggle. I’m a little relieved that I don’t have to run one this weekend or next weekend or until…? I’m also relieved that I can just appreciate and celebrate his effort and not worry about how my runs compare to his.

Walking feels scary. Like every step could do irreversible damage. Could it or is that just my overactive imagination? Thanks google and all of your “helpful” search results. Is there a word or a phrase for the hypochondria that is fueled by looking up conditions on google? Why yes, there is: cyberchondria. Wikipedia defines it as: “the unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomology based on review of search results and literature online.”

Are my concerns unfounded? No, but they could be a bit exaggerated due to the number of times I’ve read over and over again that not being able to raise your straight leg while sitting on the ground is really, really bad news, which is something that I absolutely cannot do right now.

Decided to text my good friend, who happens to be a doctor, and get her opinion on my knee. She doesn’t think it’s a quad tendon rupture. Very relieved. Could be something with the patella tendon, which is not great, but doesn’t seem as bad as a quad rupture. She did not tell me to drop everything and get to the emergency room, which is all I care about right now. My doctor’s appointment is for this Thursday. I’m fine waiting to see a doctor until then. I feel instantly better knowing that it most likely is not a quad rupture.

Straight Leg Raise

  • rise starlight age
  • arise, great slight!
  • large tight raises
  • I light a grass tree
  • I get light as tears
  • eight large stairs
  • sigh, art lies great.

Knee status: most likely not a quad tendon rupture, still sore and stiff, occasionally gives out, can walk very slowly, still can’t do the straight leg raise.

Treatment: Chill knee with ice. Chill anxiety with bad television. Avoid Dr. Google. Keep reading, crafting and memorizing poetry.

august 11/Rupture?

Knee injury.

Day Seven

To race or not to race, that is the question.

Uh oh. I googled “knee injury can’t lift leg straight” and not being able to do this seems to be a bad sign. Fractured patella? Quadricep Tendon Rupture? I’m trying not to panic, but both of these usually require surgery.

I’m not experiencing much pain, so I think it’s doubtful that I have anything too severe. Other than the first few moments on Saturday night, I haven’t had much pain at all. Just stiffness and soreness. Even so, it’s stressing me out.

The big problem: my quad muscle isn’t working at all, or not firing, which is how they phrase it in injury-speak. It’s kind of freaky to test it out and to see how I can’t get it to contract at all.

Biked 3.5 miles with daughter to drop her off for her camp, then biked back. No pain. Except for when I had to unexpectedly stop and land on my bad leg. Not excruciating pain, but pain. I think I’ll spend a lot more time with the bike on the stand. It feels good to bike.

To race or not to race, that is not the question. To pick up my race packet even though I’m not racing, or not to pick up my race packet, that is the question.

Okay quad. 
Fire when ready.

Just requested a doctor’s appointment to make sure that I didn’t do anything really bad to my knee.

I don’t
Need this right now.
Just leave me alone, you
Unnecessary derailment. You
Repugnant spectre.
You destroyer of dreams.

I might be overreacting. Stirring up
Needless worry.
Judging every twinge of pain or limp as if it signaled my
Undoing, which it doesn’t. Not
Really. I’ll run again or swim or something.
Years from now this will make a good story.

When I hear rupture I think of spleens not quad tendons. 
Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here. 
Who says I have a quad tendon rupture? 
No one. Yet. Or maybe never.

rupture: 1. open hostility or war, 2. tearing apart of a tissue, 3. sudden split, burst, complete break. Open hostility between mind and body. A battle between fear of what might be and a desire to stay calm and not worry until I actually need to. A ripping and shredding of the tendon and the possibility that I can race the triathlon with my daughter on Sunday. A bursting of a marathon bubble?

Knee status: until doctor’s appointment, unknown. My assessment is too distorted by fear and anxiety over whether or not I have a rupture and will need surgery and will be recovering for 6-9 months. If I hadn’t learned about this possibility, I’d probably say I was doing okay. Stiff, sore, not much pain. Walking without crutches.

Treatment: Remind yourself several times a day that it is very unlikely that you have a rupture and that you shouldn’t assume the worse until you meet with the doctor. Take lots of deep breaths. Distract yourself. Write, read and memorize more poetry.

august 10/BRRRR

Knee injury.

Day Six

My movement continues to improve. Still stiff and walking awkwardly, but not as much as yesterday. Feeling better, happier.

Progress!? Went swimming again with daughter. My knee felt weird and stiff and it hurt, a bit. What was wrong? Was it that I couldn’t bend my knee to do a kick? Or was it hard to have my knee extended while horizontal in the water? Not sure, but I mostly swam with my arms and, occasionally my left leg. I might have been upset about this but I wasn’t because when I got out of the lake, my knee felt much better than before I got in. I was able to walk over 1/2 mile with my daughter. I’m hoping to go swimming again this evening.

Maybe I’m feeling better because I had a good morning. Inspired by two separate online essays, I memorized a poem: Gerard Manly Hopkin’s “Spring and Fall.” I remember first reading this poem in high school and loving it. So fun to memorize. Trying to find a poem about injury/illness, I came across Shel Silerstein’s “Sick”: “I cannot go to school today/said little Peggy Ann McKay….” I think I need to memorize it next.

Today’s poetry challenge: Rondeau
15 lines: 1 quintet, 1 quatrain, 1 sestet
8-10 syllables
refrain (r): first few words or full first line of quintet
rhyme scheme: aabba aabr aabbar

A Morning Swim, After the Rain

The water is too cold today.
No sun to warm it, not a ray.
A drop of water hits me and
makes me long for warm, dry land.

Yet, knowing that I have no say,
that I must swim, I must obey,
I bravely enter as I’d planned.
But the water is too cold.

Just feet from shore, I feel dismay.
My googles fog, the world looks gray.
My hurt knee cries out a demand
of pain that is too much to stand.
That’s it! I leave without delay.
Besides, this water is too cold!

Swam again in the afternoon. This time, 440 yards. Knee still hurts to swim. Not sure why. Decided it was too risky to do a loop. What if my knee popped out in the middle of the lake? It was tough not to swim.

Discovered while sitting on the ground with my legs extended that I can easily lift my straightened left leg, but my right one refuses. It will not lift. And when I grab my right foot to raise it, it hurts. Is this a bad sign or just the last of the injury?

Knee status: continued improvement, still walking slowly, swimming is difficult.

Treatment: ice once for 10 minutes, no ibuprofen, loosening up leg in cold water.

august 9/Stiff

Knee injury.

Day Five

My knee felt a little sore in the night, but it seems okay in the morning. Mostly stiff, a bit swollen and occasionally weak. I feel like walking is easier and that I should try to stretch out my legs and work on walking normally, but is this a bad idea? Is it too soon?

Last night, walking all the way from the parking lot to the beach was challenging. I had to walk so slow! Or was everyone else walking too fast?

There once was a girl who felt free,
she could run, she could fly, she could be
then her knee she did hurt
shortly after dessert
now she’s stuck to the ground like a tree.

The theme for today is: stiff. I’m tired of using that word, over and over and over again. What are some other words I could use?

stiff.
if 
stiff 
is too stiff, 
and boring and tedious, 
why not try other words instead:
rigid,
tense,
firm,
inflexible,
graceless,
resistant,
tight,
unyielding,
unbending.

So many of these fit, but today, I think graceless works best. A lack of grace. Awkward. Clumsy. Forced. Inelegant. Rough. Ungainly. Today, my walk is graceless.

I googled “ways to describe knees sore legs,” hoping I might find some creative inspiration. Most of the top search results were about how to describe knee pain to your doctor. I should probably read through these articles because I’m always explaining things wrong. Or too oddly. I get strange looks from doctors and not too many answers. There’s a problem here: I like strange descriptions that are weird and wonderful and imaginative. And some part of me is stubbornly attached to this strangeness, making it hard to express myself clearly or simply. But, it would be nice to be understood, at least sometimes.

Walked with Ro and the dog to Ro’s old school and back, which is 1 1/2 blocks each way. 3 blocks in total. 3 graceless blocks that I’m very grateful for.

In gratitude:
today I walked 3 blocks.
3 graceless blocks.
that’s about 2 more blocks,
than I could walk yesterday
and 2 3/4 more blocks
than the day before that
and the day before that,
the day when my knee firmly decided
that walking was not happening?
3 more blocks than that day.
oh, these simple accomplishments!
so satisfying when noticed,
so taken for granted when ignored.
today, I noticed.
how could I not?

If day four is tedious, day five is dangerous. Feeling a little better, I could try to do too much. Feeling a little more hopeful, I could move beyond the is to the as, turning my actual feelings of pain, swelling, injury into simile or metaphor or life lesson. It would be easy to reduce my injury to a valuable and necessary reminder that I have limits and that I should always pay attention to my body and how I move it in the world. As Foucault says in one of my favorite lines of his: this shift to metaphor isn’t good or bad, it’s dangerous. Metaphor produces distance. A sense of removal. They offer a space to reflect and assess but can also signal a refusal to dwell in the discomfort and to, as Marie Howe explains in her interview with Krista Tippet, “actually endure the thing itself.”

Walked from the car to the studio at a pace that felt slower than a snail. Thinking about the super sprint triathlon I’m supposed to do with Rosie on Sunday. How will I be able to run—or even walk—a mile by then?

Did 15 minutes on the bike in the front room. Watched Alma Ayana, the Olympic champion, dominate the other runners in the 10000 meters at the World Championships. Wow! She lapped about half the field and finished almost a minute ahead of the next racer. My knee was okay. Actually, I enjoyed biking, except for the last few seconds when I felt a sharp pain. Was it my knee letting me know I was done biking?

Knee status: stiff, slight improvement in mobility, walking, but snail slow or sloth slow. A few incidents of my knee buckling without warning. For one of them, I (only slightly) hurt my shoulder and wrist as I braced against the oven to avoid falling. Increasing optimism.

Treatment: Ice knee 3 times for 20 minutes. No ibuprofen, extra beer instead. Try to not take out frustration on others. Watch and sing along to High School Musical 2 with daughter.

august 8/UGH

Knee Injury.

Day Four

Still stiff. Still sore. Still hard to walk. Still using crutches. Well, just one crutch and hardly at all. Am I using a crutch or it, as a crutch?

Not being able to walk that well is getting old. This is the part of an injury that is tedious. The first day, you’re in shock and you don’t care about anything but getting rid of the pain and the feeling that something is in the wrong place. The second day, you’re a bit elated because the pain is gone and everything seems to be in the right place and it looks like you probably won’t have to go to the doctor—at least not yet—and there’s a glimmer of hope that you might not have to spend months recovering. The third day, you can walk, just a few steps, without crutches and even put a little bit of weight on your right leg. You marvel at far you’ve come in just 2 and a half days! But, the fourth day, that’s when the newness and the shock of the injury wear off. You’re improving, but not fast enough. And it’s hard to gauge how much. You’re tired of icing your knee and getting up very carefully and sitting on the couch or the bed or a chair all the time. You want to walk the dog. To not have to drive the 2 blocks for your son’s appointment. To enjoy the summer day. You worry that you’ve misjudged this injury, that it’s serious and that you’re doing more harm than good. You feel restless and lazy.

Ugh, day four, you’re such a bore!

I’d like to craft a ghazal about my injury, but it’s hard to do a ghazal without sounding forced or too cheesy. Not sure I succeeded, but I tried:

The injury happened on Saturday, so it’s only been four days
but even prior to the traumatic event, there had been lots of sore days.

My knee had felt weird, or slipped out of place, or just not right,
but it still worked. That was then, in the before days.

The days before Saturday, when my knee decided it was fed up with marathon training.
Getting up from a chair too quickly, I felt less shocked, more dazed.

I knew that something was wrong, something wasn’t fitting back into place.
I couldn’t stand up straight. And I wouldn’t be able to for days.

Now, it’s Tuesday and I’m recovering. Slowly. Mostly patiently, but it’s hard.
I ask myself, Sara, how long will this last: months or weeks or days?

Went to open swim. Swam only a few strokes but I knew: bad idea. My knee didn’t want to bend and I was worried that I would be in the middle of the lake and get a terrible calf cramp. No thanks. So, I turned around and got out. I can try again on Thursday.

Knee status: still limping. still stiff, but much better. My optimism continues to grow.

Treatment: Continue to get up out of chairs very slowly. To walk slowly. To move slowly. To be slowly.

august 7/Maybe?

Knee Injury.

Day Three

Another day of trying to not do much of anything. So hard not to be active. Luckily, or is it unluckily, I have nowhere to go today. No excuse to mess my knee up more.

My mom was restless too. When her cancer came back, she would pace around the house. Walking in circles for hours. When she started using a walker, one of us would follow behind her, making sure she didn’t fall. When she couldn’t walk anymore, when she couldn’t really move, she would chew gum. Lots of gum.

Can walk without crutches. Still limping. Still awkward. Seems like good progress.

A stiff knee. A restless spirit. A hopeful soul. A stalled imagination.

Limits. Restraints. Reminders. Recalibrations. Adjustments. Accomodations. A rethinking of goals, expectations, demands.

Look, 
I get it.
I
Must be careful not to
Injure myself
Too
Severely.

Yesterday, I didn’t care. Then I believed it was over. Today, I’m not so sure.

Put my bike on the stand and biked for about 12 minutes. Moving the legs feels good. My legs get so still and sore and tight and bored, just like the rest of me.

Gee knee, it’s NOT swell to see you.

After a day of walking around the house and up and down the stairs, both knees are stiff and sore.

Knee status: Stiff, swollen, less painful, awkward, improving. Can bike and walk. Stairs are getting easier. Also can straighten my knee while sitting in bed or on the couch.

Treatment: slow biking, ibuprofen, careful walking, rest, apply ice to reduce swelling, ingest ice cream to reduce swearing, avoid doctor, introduce a measured optimism, sit outside in the sun and watch the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance live with daughter.

august 6/OH WELL

Knee Injury.

Day Two

Certain immediately. Something wrong. Really wrong. At first, shock. But never denial. Or despair. Just shock. Now, recovery. And adjusting expectations. And acceptance.

Do I move to acceptance too fast? Am I giving up too soon? Will I be able to race with my daughter next Sunday? Will I have to go for another expensive doctor’s appointment? Or physical therapy? Will I be able to run again, even just a 5k at a time?

Confronting the possibility of stopping enables the doubts to creep in. They never enter as enemies, but as friends, bearing gifts: reasonable explanations and justifications for why running a marathon was always a bad idea. Too much time. Too much stress. Too much for my body.

Scott picked up some crutches for me at the store this morning. I’m 43 and I’ve never used crutches before. Never had a broken leg or foot or sprained knee. Lucky.

A crutch is defined in 2 main ways: 1. as a literal object that you brace under your armpit to help you walk and 2. as a metaphor for an unhealthy dependence on something you use to deal with a problem. What’s wrong with a crutch? Why is the metaphorical meaning so negative? Does it reflect a disdain for vulnerability and an over-emphasis on self-reliance?

It’s funny how an injury likes this bothers me more because I can’t walk, then run. Walking is much more essential to my life than running.

Oh, to walk again!

Told daughter I might not be able to race in the triathlon with her next weekend. She asked if she still could. Something clicked. Why not try to do as much of the race as I could? I should be able to swim and bike. Maybe I could walk instead of run? And, maybe I could do that with the marathon too? Walk a lot of it? Have I re-entered denial? Decided that I gave up too soon?

Knee status: stiff and swollen, but without pain.

Treatment: It’s hard to put any weight on it, so I’m using crutches. Icing the knee and taking some Ibuprofen. Getting up slowly. Swearing, if necessary. Avoiding stairs, if possible. Watching a marathon of So You Think You Can Dance with daughter.

august 5/UH OH

Knee Injury.

Day One

Well, it happened. My right knee decided that it had had enough. After days of registering its complaints, it went on strike. Tonight, when I tried to get up from a chair, I couldn’t straighten my knee or put any weight on it. Pain. Not overwhelming, but still. Pain. Was it because I stood up too quickly, not giving it a chance to slowly pop back into place? Is it another bone spur? The same bone spur?

Will I be able to run a marathon? Unlikely, I think. But, maybe. Who cares? All I want is to able to walk again. And to not have another moment when I’m googling how to pop your knee back into place and seriously considering doing it. Or a moment when I have to tell Scott to shut up because he’s just said that “something looks like it’s sticking out wrong.”

Knee status: pain when I try to straighten it and the unsettling feeling that something is not in the right place.

Treatment: google possible problems, then stop because googling problems is almost always a bad idea. Try to calm down. Don’t move. Go to bed early.

august 4/9 MILES

58 degrees
a little more than the almost downtown turn around

Running when it’s in the 50s is so much better than running in the mid 60s! It was a beautiful morning for a run. I felt strong and not too tired. I ran the first half without stopping, then took a brief walking break at the top of the hill and another one at some point during the run–I think? After spending a lot of time thinking/writing about the run to lake harriet and how it wanders beside the creek, I was struck by how straight the path to downtown is. While it occasionally strays from the biking path, they are usually right next to each other. And the path crosses under several bridges–Lake Street, the Railroad Trestle, Franklin Avenue, I-94, Washington Avenue, the biking/walking bridge to the East Bank of the U of M,10th Avenue and 35W–but not over them. You also don’t cross any roads. The biggest features of this route are the two hills: Franklin and 35W. And the river, the gorge, the views of the U of M campus and the Minneapolis skyline.

I picked up Mary Oliver’s collection of essays/poems, Long Life, from the library yesterday and started it after my run. I haven’t even made it through the forward and I’m already inspired!

Writing poems, for me but not necessarily for others, is a way of offering praise to the world. In this book you will find, set among the prose pieces, a few poems. Think of them that way, as little alleluias. They’re not trying to explain anything, as the prose does. They just sit there on the page, and breathe (xiv).

No Explanation Necessary

What a thing to do!
To sit and just breathe.
How novel,
how necessary,
how different from what is expected.
Who needs an explanation
when there’s inspiration
and expiration
and alleluias?

And, here’s one of Oliver’s Alleluias:

Can you Imagine? by Mary Oliver

For example, what the trees do
not only in lightening storms
or the watery dark of a summer night
or under the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now–whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they just stand there looking the way they look
when we’re looking; surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade–surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind, 
and then only in its own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

I’ve just been editing a piece in which I reflect on what leaves on a tree are for and last month I pondered whether or not trees sigh and why. Now, I want to imagine more about what trees do when we’re not around. As I wrote this last line, I remembered by Modern Philosophy class from college and studying the empiricist George Berkeley and the classic question prompted by his suggestion that “The objects of sense exist only when they are perceived: the trees therefore are in the garden, or the chairs in the parlour, no longer than while there is some body by to perceive them”: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Maybe I should play with this question? Here’s a link I found to how some people in the UK respond.

august 3/REST

This should be an XT day, but open swim is rained out tonight. I’m okay with this because it’s only 56 degrees and supposed to be very windy this afternoon. Instead of swimming or running, I’m writing. For the past few days, I’ve been working on crafting a story about my latest running route to Lake Harriet. Here’s what I have so far:

The Run to Lake Harriet

The short version: taking the parkway for part of it and not the creek path.
Distance: 14-20 miles, depending on whether or not you run around Lake Harriet and/or Lake Nokomis.

The shortest version: mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha parkway/lake nokomis/minnehaha creek path/lake harriet/minnehaha creek path/lake nokomis/minnehaha parkway/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north

The longest version: mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha parkway/lake nokomis/minnehaha creek path/around lake harriet/minnehaha creek path/around lake nokomis/minnehaha parkway/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path, north

When you follow alongside water, you meander and, depending on the terrain and how the roads are laid out, cross over and under a lot of bridges and roads.

Cross over and under,
Move through and pass by,
Run near and alongside:
rivers, falling water, creeks, lakes,
rec centers, playgrounds, parking lots
waterways, pathways, parkways
streets, roads, avenues,
sidewalks, crosswalks, trails
bridges, arches, overpasses
and woods that wander beside water
that rushes, drips, 
falls, flows
and flushes 
out of Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis and into Minnehaha Falls.

Number of times the running path crosses over Minnehaha Creek on the way to Lake Harriet: 6

Number of bridges you cross over or under: 16

Number of lights you must stop at: 5

Number of times the running path and biking path split and then come together again: 14?

Number of woods you run through: 5

Types of bridges: steel, wooden, concrete

Types of water: river, waterfall, creek, lake

Roads you run under: 46th street, Cedar Avenue, Chicago Avenue, 35W, Lyndale Avenue

Roads you run over: Hiawatha Avenue

Avenues you cross: 46th Avenue, Minnehaha Avenue, 39th-28th Avenues, 22nd Avenue, Bloomington Avenue, Portland Avenue

Roads you cross: Mississippi River Road

Streets you cross: 50th Street

Parkways you run by (or near): Minnehaha Parkway, Lake Nokomis Parkway, Lake Harriet Parkway

Number of giant bronze bunnies you run by: 1

Official name of bronze bunny: Cottontail on the trail

Number of old neighborhoods you run through: 1

Number of playgrounds you run by: 3

Places where you fill up your water bottle: Lynhurst Park, Lake Nokomis Rec Center

Number of hills you avoid because of the new path that goes under instead of over Lyndale Avenue: 1

Number of cats that have crossed your path while you’re running through the woods: 1

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

When I’m on a long run, I try very hard not to think too much about how many miles I have to run, how many minutes I’ll be moving before I can stop, how many bridges I have left to cross. I pay attention to my surroundings: the crunchy grit on the path, the fragrant trees by the steel bridge, the rushing water of the creek below me, the sun as it filters through the forest. Or, I distract myself with a podcast. If I fail to pay attention to the moment or to distract myself from the enormity of my task, the run becomes much harder.

When our paths cross again.

The running path and biking path on this route separate and then come back together again 14 times. Early in the run, while still on the river road, these separations are slight, with just a small patch of grass or a parking lot between them. But from Lake Nokomis to Lake Harriet, the divide between the paths grows wider. While the bike path follows next to the road, remaining on one side of the creek for most of the route, the running path wanders nearer to the water and away from the road. Winding through woods. Curving under the arch of a bridge. Zigzagging from one side of the creek to the other. When the paths converge, it is the running path that (almost) always returns to the biking path, and not the other way around. The most dramatic moment when they meet is at a place when both paths have strayed from the road and into some woods. As they come out the woods and towards the road, the paths cross and those on the running path must watch carefully to avoid being hit by a speeding bike.

I’ve traveled this route for over 20 years. In the past, I biked. Now, I usually run, mostly because I like running and I’m training for a marathon, but partly because my macular degeneration makes biking difficult and sometimes dangerous, especially if I’m biking too fast. Maybe I should slow down.

Crossing over

When running for almost 3 hours, I enter into an almost dreamlike state, where I engage with the world differently. I am present, feeling the varied textures as I move from path to bridge to path again, noticing the change in temperature as I enter the small wood that blocks out the sun and warily eyeing the approaching dog, wondering if it will lunge as I pass by. But I am also absent. Not quite there. Passing through the moments in a daze, lulled into a trance by my steady footfalls and by my attempt to not think about how much it hurts, how much I want to be done, how much I have left to run.

august 2/4 MILES

67 degrees
74% humidity
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

A good run. Ran faster than usual for three miles and then a bit slower, with 2 short walk breaks, for the last mile. Should I have kept running and not stopped? Was I being mentally weak? Not sure, but I’m still happy with my run.

About 4 minutes into my run, the walking/running path dips below the road and runs alongside a steep hill and above a floodplain forest and a dirt path that leads to the Mississippi River and the sand flats. I love looking at this forest and trying to see what’s down there. Maybe a tent? People walking? A dog or fox or coyote running? Today, when I did this, I caught a glimpse of the river, sparkling bright from the early sun. Just a small flash, piercing through the thick trees.

note: On the National Park site for the Mississippi River Gorge, they refer to the trees that I like checking when I run as the “floodplain forest” and the beach by the river as the “sand flats.”

 

august 1/XT

open swim: 1 loop, 1200 yards
biking with Ro: 11 miles (86 degrees)

Finally, after wanting to do it all summer, Ro and I biked to Fort Snelling. It’s about 3 miles to the entrance of the trail and then another 2 down to the state park and the lake. The last two miles were scary and very unsettling. Because of my vision and the condition of the path–partly sunny, partly shaded and narrow, with lots of ruts–I had to bike very slowly. I could tell that my vision has deteriorated a lot since the last time that I biked this route, which made me sad. I can still bike, but I have to go a lot slower and be prepared to feel anxious. When we got to the bottom of the hill, it was much better. And the 2 miles on the way back was much easier. Maybe because we were going up the hill instead of down it?

Swimming across the lake was fun, as usual. Experienced some choppy water on the way back, which made it harder to breathe. Didn’t make it harder to stay on course, though. This year, I’m not having problems staying on course, even when I can’t really see the buoys or anything but water and nondescript trees. I’m amazed by my ability to swim straight and to not panic when I have no idea where the buoy is. Pretty cool.

 

july 31/13.6 MILES

70 degrees
81% humidity
dew point: 64
mississippi river road path, south/minnnehaha creek path/lake harriet/minnehaha creek/mississippi river road path, north

Ugh. Hard. Hot. Humid. I really don’t like running in the summer. Even so, I didn’t give up and kept moving the whole time. More walking than running in the second half, I think. Running to Lake Harriet has become my new long run route. It’s time to write a new running route essay. Here’s a list of landmarks along the route that I might incorporate into an essay or writing experiment.

The Run to Lake Harriet, Some Landmarks

  • 36th Street parking lot on the river road
  • the double bridge (a bridge for walkers/runners and one for bikers) near 44th street on the river road
  • under the 46th street bridge, near Ford parkway
  • Minnehaha Falls
  • Minnehaha Parkway and by the old neighborhood that we lived in for 10 years
  • the light at 34th
  • the four way stop at Nokomis
  • the light at 28th
  • Mel-o-glaze, where they sell “legal crack balls,” at least that’s what their sign proudly proclaims
  • the dinosaur park
  • lake nokomis rec center
  • over the small steel bridge that has a stand of trees that smell just like the UP
  • under the cedar bridge
  • the light at Bloomington
  • where Rosie learned how to bike
  • where the running and biking path split and where it becomes confusing and disorienting the first few times you run it
  • the bunny
  • the woods, part 1 (running under the freeway)
  • the woods, part 2 (where I saw the freaky cat just chilling out in the woods by the path, staring at me as I ran by
  • where you come out of the woods
  • running down the wooden platform and not up the big hill
  • the woods, part 3 (where you separate from the biking path by crossing over a small wooden bridge)
  • lynhurst park, where I fill up my water bottle
  • the woods, part 4 (between lynhurst and lake harriet)
  • Lake Harriet!

Reading through this list, I started thinking about words we use for roads/paths and bridges.

Bridge

link
overpass
platform
arch
branch
span
trestle
extension

Path

trail
lane
road
sidewalk
parkway
artery
byway
track
route
street
groove
rut
walkway
footpath

july 30/XT

72 degrees
open swim: 1 loop/1200 yards
bike to lake nokomis: 8.5 miles

Bright. Beautiful at the beach. Blinding sun. Difficult to see. I wrote an abecedarian about swimming and seeing. What is it about this poetic form that helps me to write?

A Steady Stroke

Almost
blinded by the sun.
Can anyone see through the sparkling? The
deep blue water mixes with the
endless blue sky and only
flashes of orange and brief
glimpses of the big triangles are visible on the water.
Hardly anything to
indicate which direction to swim. But,
just a brief glance is enough for me to
know that I’m getting close to the
little beach.
My stroke is steady and straight and I have
no doubts that it, and not my vision, is my best guide. Sometimes my
only guide.
Putting my faith in my stroke and not
questioning the movements of my body feels
right, not
scary or
too trusting or
unsettling. I see
very little with my eyes
while swimming across the lake. I don’t need
X-ray vision to feel which direction will take me to shore.
Years of stroke work—bending my elbows, tracing my thumbs up my side, like
zipping up a zipper—lead me to safety.

july 29/TRI TRAINING

74 degrees
lake nokomis
run: 1.85 miles
swim (just me): 422 yards, 1 beach loop

Another amazing morning at the lake. Another test in patience and persistence. Resistance to running (and training and swimming and being positive and committing to anything) was high. But, I need to remember that we still walked/ran more than we have before. And we still got up early on a Saturday morning to do it. Small victories. Next time we train we will each be listening to our own playlists (and not talking/yelling at each other) that we make especially for the run.

In other news: I finally used my apple watch to figure out how far the loop off of the big beach is, from the far right white buoy to the far left one. It’s .24 miles. I did a rough calculation in my head and guessed around 420 yards. It’s actually 422. I only have to do 4 loops to swim a mile. Pretty sweet. I’d like to start doing that on my non-open swim days.