As the days go by and I continue training, I am realizing that this task is going to be a lot more challenging than I originally thought. Thinking one is invincible and paying dearly for it is a theme that comes up over and over again across the course of human history. Think of Odysseus, taunting the Cyclops as he sailed away from the monster's island, shouting, "Hey dummy! If anyone asks you who poked out your eye, tell them it was god-like Odysseus." Almost sounds like a Kanye West song. Okay, maybe not. But that one comment got our poor hero lost at sea for years on his way back from Troy. All because of his pride. Almost always it is he who lacks humility that ends up paying the heftiest price at the most inopportune moment. Pride can be a good thing when it gives you confidence and belief in yourself. But when you start to forget that you are also subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, you end up screwing yourself. A lot.
I've had to learn this lesson of humility in the last few weeks. My coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen, warned me over and over again not to train in barefoot running shoes. She told me that with the mileage I was putting in, I needed a hell of a lot more support. Friends suggested that I should maybe buy some new shoes when they observed that holes were appearing in my soles, where my bare foot would meet asphalt. And then, the coup de grace. Momo, my roommates dog, chewed the strap off of one of my shoes. When I saw that the shoe still would remain on my foot while I ran, I decided it was time to do a 28 mile run in them. Because the rules of human physiology and running don't apply to me.
This was the straw that broke the camels back.
I got a minor sprain in my foot at about mile 10, and then continued to mile 14. At that moment a friend called. He asked if I needed a ride. I said no. After all, I still had 14 miles to go. Because it was getting dark and I didn't want to be on a backwoods trail inhabited by transients and mass murderers at night, I ran as fast as I could. I remember gloating to myself about how "hardcore" it was. But, I guess I didn't look as graceful and lithe as I hoped, because a 120 year old man on a squeaky red Schwinn asked me if I was doing alright, genuinely concerned. I shot him a beaming smile and said that yes, and how was he? He gave me this weird look like I was the crazy one. Ha! This was all pride, all ego. Somewhere deep inside me, I knew that I was making my foot worse and worse. By the end of the run I could barely walk.
Lately, I've been best friends with the pot that I boil pasta in. Except I'm not boiling pasta in it anymore. I'm filling it with hot water and epsom salts. Then there's ice (part of the Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation treatment applied to most athletic injuries), which I loathe. I think I'm probably a pagophobic, a pathology defined as someone who has an irrational fear of ice and frost and sees both as something whose sole purpose is to injure and kill. While I don't see Frosty The Snowman as a homicidal maniac, I confess that writing this is causing chills to run from my head to my toes, and my entire body is covered in goosebumps. I know, it's weird. I never said I was normal. Regardless, I am forced to face my irrational fear of ice several times a day, as I apply and reapply dripping ziplock bags to my poor little toes. This is takes a lot compartmentalization, where I tell myself that it isn't really ice that scares me, but my fear of ice skating and falling through a giant gaping hole in the ice and being trapped under it, which is a virtual impossibility since I live in Southern California.
While it would be easy to be upset about this injurious blip on my radar, I'm really not. I know it will heal and I can get back to running obscene distances. And to be honest, I'm actually grateful it happened. I needed to learn this lesson now.
This is the lesson:
Listen to your body. Don't be stupid. Give up your need to be fast. (read: "Give up your need to look good")
This occurrence has also made me painfully aware of my need for an injury contingency plan. I won't be so stupid on the road across America as to run 30 miles on a maimed foot. But imagine I step in a pothole. Luckily, I have two very brave women who are joining me on this journey and helping me with almost every aspect of preparation. They are my inspiration and they keep me focused on my purpose. They are Carolina and Robot, and they are beginning to train with me in order to support me in case something does happen and they can help me run certain legs of the run. This is a worst case scenario and I don't expect it to happen. But it has to be there, because I'm not turning around, no matter what.
When I started on this project, I knew the key was surrender. But at some point, I lowered my white flag without realizing it, and started preparing the cannons for fire. I know that in order to make this crazy thing succeed, I have to learn how to stop identifying personal strength with not needing anybody's advice or guidance. My whole life, I've never wanted to take advice or help from anyone. In avoiding the beaten path, I have made my life infinitely more difficult than it should have been. But there is no use regretting that now.
Its time to set aside my pride, and my need to be invincible, and my need to be right.
Truth be told, I have so much energy now as I'm forced to take some time off of running 20 miles a day that everything seems to move in slow motion. I'm getting a lot of stuff done on planning the logistics of the run. I'm spending a lot of time in the gym and working on core, which is probably the weakest part of my body. By the way, have I mentioned that I hate the gym?
I hate the gym, I hate ice, and I hate sitting still. And this is now my reality.
And honestly, it's not that bad.