march 2/WALK

2+ mile walk
neighborhood/river/Winchell Trail
50 degrees

Tomorrow Scott and I will do our weekly “long” run, so today we walked. A beautiful morning. Earlier, after sitting at the dining room table for too long, I stood up and my calf felt weird. So difficult to describe it — no pain, just a strange, slight tightness — oh, I also remember that it ached a little on the posterior side. It made me anxious. Would it cramp? Why was it tight? During the walk it felt strange occasionally, but never hurt. I tried to be aware of my walking and to stay loose, relaxed, like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, I decided. Yes, loose ankles, almost floppy feet.

Down on the Winchell trail, Scott pointed out how clear and ice-free the river. I’d add: blue and calm and, at one spot, burning the white heat of light hitting the water. Such a wonderful day for a walk.

As we walked and tried to stay relaxed, I kept thinking about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world. Last week, when I was watching some interviews with Courtney Dauwalter (CD), she kept talking about how we can change the stories we tell ourselves when we’re in pain and that stories matter. I need a new story — new stories? — about my aging, anxious body.

I mentioned to Scott that when CD is having difficult in a 100 mile race, she visualizes opening a filing cabinet and looking through folders of past experiences, trying to find something that could help her figure out how to handle her problem. CD loves facing and solving problems. Before she ran professionally, she was a high school science teacher.

Lately, I’ve started describing my approach to handling aches and pains and anxiety: cracking the code. What code? I think I mean the code of why I react to all these minor aches and pains with mild panic. And I also mean: the code of why the anxiety travels around my body, not staying too long in one spot: a strange-feeling calf, a tight throat, an upset stomach. During the pandemic, it was sinus headaches, a heavy face weighed down by an imaginary iron plate. This code story is useful and makes me feel empowered, like I’m doing something or gives me the illusion of control. Sometimes I need that illusion.

Walking on the Winchell Trail, looking out at the river, I told Scott about the 5 (or 4?) time Ironman winner Natasha Badmann and her approach to dealing with difficulties in a race. In particular, she talked about the Energy lab, which is one of the most brutal stretches of the Kona Ironman. While most racers think about this stretch as taking your energy, she understood it as giving it to her — while running through it, she could look off in the distance and marvel at the dolphins swimming in the ocean. I need to find this interview again. I told Scott that I’d like to change my story to think about what pain/anxiety is giving me, instead of what it is taking away/depriving me of. When I started this blog, I wrote about how the new aches and pain I was feeling while running were an opportunity for me to pay attention to a body that had been neglected for decades.

CD’s story about pain and facing challenges and bodies that are trying to convince you to quit is the pain cave. She visualizes putting on a hard hat, grabbing a chisel, going to the very back of a cave, and then trying to make it bigger. Carving out more space for what could be possible.

One more story that I mentioned while we walked (and that I mentioned on here last week). Emma Bates talks about greeting the pain like an old friend.

Old Friends from Merrily We Roll Along

Hey, old friend,
Are you okay, old friend?
What do you say, old friend,
Are we or are we unique?
Time goes by,
Everything else keeps changing.
You and I,
We get continued next week.

Most friends fade
Or they don’t make the grade.
New one’s are quickly made
And in a pinch, sure, they’ll do.
But us, old friend,
What’s to discuss, old friend?
Here’s to us who’s like us
Damn few!

Maybe I should create a friend playlist and try to be better friends with my body?