I wish my body had a Reset button.
It solves a lot of problems, doesn't it? I first learned about the glory of a Reset button back when we had our Intellivision (my Dad thought it was infinitely better than Atari, and maybe it was, but I was the only kid I knew who couldn't play Pac-Man or Kaboom at home) and spend at least a small chunk of my day doing Ctrl-Alt-Delete on misbehaving library computers. It works more often than not.
Which is why I wish I could press a button on my poor, aching body.
I feel old today. And I felt old yesterday. But I felt great for a little while on Saturday morning, and I guess that's where my story starts.
I have blogged before about running 5Ks in the summer. I'm not great; I am not an athlete now, nor was I ever one. But I can hold my own in that 30-39 age group. I finish right in the middle of the pack, which works for me. Once I even finished 3rd in a race. Never mind that I was third of 6; I just focus on the whole "3rd place" part.
This spring I've been running with a vengeance. With all the stress in the house with Kathie's illness and passing, there was only one thing I could do that would really get my mind off of it for a while: go out my front door in running shoes, turn right, and come back 4 miles later with a red face, jelly legs, and a clear mind. I was ready for that first 5K Saturday morning. I had it in my head that I was going to kick some ass and take some names and post my best time ever. It's a course I've raced in two other times, and it only has 2 nasty hills, and you get in line for a pancake breakfast when you cross the finish line. I love this race.
I started out with my best first-mile pace in years. It didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, though; I was comfortable. I was hanging with a pack of female runners around my own age who seemed to know what they were doing.
You rock! I told myself. And then I felt the pain.
I've never woken up in the middle of the night with a charley horse. I've had muscle spasms in my neck, and sometimes when my feet get cold my arches cramp. But I've never had a full-blown leg cramp.
Until right around mile 2 of the 5K.
It started as a warmth. And then I noticed I was limping. Not because I was trying to, but because my right leg wasn't really capable of holding my weight. It took a while to start feeling actual pain or to be able to isolate where the pain was coming from; I had a lot of adrenaline pumping. But when the back part of my entire right leg from heel to glute seized up in a fiery blast, I realized something uncool was going on.
I broke my cardinal rule of running: no matter what, don't stop. I see people stop to walk in races all the time, people who sprint then stop, sprint then stop. They usually finish ahead of me, and I find myself hating them. Because I can't let myself stop. Even if I am so tired that I am running at a pace that causes women pushing strollers, elderly speed walkers, and 8-year-olds to pass me by. At least when I cross the finish line behind these folks and behind the walker-sprinters, I get the satisfaction of knowing I ran the whole thing, darnit.
So I stopped. And stretched. And re-tied my shoe. And stretched some more. But the burn just wouldn't go away. I tried to run, and had to stop. Again. And again. Until someone in a golf cart came up behind me to ask if I was okay, and a lady stopped to help me stretch out. And still it hurt.
I almost cried. I was convinced that anything that caused me that much pain had to be a serious injury: a stress fracture, perhaps. Or something requiring amputation.
I got it together and crossed the finish line almost 2 whole minutes slower than last year. And engaged in some serious self-loathing when the pain went away and I was just left with the knowledge that I am a complete wuss.
As I told people my time, I was hoping for some kind of swelling or lingering pain to give credence to my poor performance. Is a little discoloration too much to ask for?
The next day, I did wake up with a very stiff calf muscle as the only proof of the horror I'd felt the day before.
I was complaining about it to Jason. I was frustrated; I hurt my shoulder this winter, and I seem to have something going on with my left big toe that causes it to sometimes swell and get stiff. When I first started running this spring, I had some pain behind my knee that caused me for two weeks to take as long getting into and out of a seated position as I did when I was largely pregnant.
"What do you think, Jason? Do I have some joint or muscle disease? What's wrong with me? Oh, God. It's arthritis. Or gout. Or something undiscovered that they will name after me later."
"We're getting old."
As I sit here typing, right calf still dodgy, big toe aching, left knee twinging, waiting for the Alleve to kick in, I wish for a way to be able to reset myself. To push a button and get a fresh start. To feel...if not 25 again, maybe 33 again.