Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I put the bread down in the toaster after I crack the eggs into the pan. I’ve got the timing worked out, starting with boiling water for the French press. I’m back on the caffeine. It’s a small bump of joy in the midst of an otherwise flat routine. Other than habit, there isn’t much to compel me to eat.

In the mornings, I open my eyes to daylight, and they close again. No thoughts press in against my senseless dreaming. To get out of bed I feel like I have to reach down, grab my leg below the knee, and pull it from beneath the cover. I have to pull my eyelids upward against their tendency to close again. Even the slog to the bathroom is a chore.

With some effort I can recall the mornings – they seem so long ago – in the spring. I’d wake up before dawn and bolt out of bed like a jack-in-the-box. I’d soon be out the door trotting down the road for the first of two runs scheduled that day. Motivation has the paradoxical quality of dispensing with its own need. Getting out of bed was effortless. I didn’t need to “motivate myself,” I already was. My legs propelled themselves down my drive and across campus. During my training in Colorado Springs, I climbed up toward Pike’s Peak several times. I didn’t have to beat on drums, or slap myself, or imagine myself in any way an external motivator. It flowed like water from a spring.

Where is the water now that I need it? How can I – the one lacking motivation – exert a force on myself? If part of me was up the trail a ways he could cast me a line and reel me in. Instead I have the rod in my own hands, and the line just runs straight and hooks into my own britches. I can imagine the uncomfortable pull – but the physics don’t work out to get me anywhere. Kind of like being in the bumper cars after the electricity has been turned off. You try slamming your body against the inside of the car to keep moving.

Mongold says I need another hobby. This is it. I analyze. I had oral surgery yesterday. I knew the surgeon would inject a local anesthetic, and that I would not feel appreciable pain after that. I got hung up on the injection part, though. That would hurt. A needle in the palate is never comfortable. When I was young, I took pain personally. It hurt me. As I became older, I began to feel pain as happening to my parts. My toe hurt from the bee sting. This is a reassuring stance. It provides some distance, and resilience, to circumstances. Despite my injuries, I will endure. Too bad this is a conjurers dream. Useful in the short term, we will eventually snag the set and be forced to deal with the reality beyond its walls.

I’d like to be able to feel the bite of the needle the way that I feel the exhaustion of a 100 mile run. Not something in the roof of my mouth. Not something either happening to or belonging to me. The feeling, the sting, the bite, the utter exhaustion: that is me. I won’t pretend that I can sit in a chair while a doctor stands over me and pushes a needle into the roof of my mouth and just be the pain. But that is what I’m striving for. It’s similar to the mindset necessary for the “low flow” I described in an earlier post. It’s an important kind of surrender.

Yet here I am, wallowing in my own doldrums. If I am my feelings, how can I ever get the leverage to pull myself up by my bootstraps? I’ve noticed that people who are depressed have trouble realizing that given a little time, they will feel differently. The aphorism among ultrarunners is that “things never always get worse.” That is a handy, if grammatically awkward, reminder. At a given time our feelings are all- consuming. Yet feelings change. What seems hopeless now can often change for the better – and we are wise to provision little reminders for ourselves. Things never always get worse.

I can’t lift myself out of my own feelings as if I had a magical fishing rod. I can, however, be reminded that things will change – that I just need to wait a little while. We know better than to make important decisions just after a major event. You shouldn’t think about the next 100 that you’ll do right after the last one. Don’t do anything rash. Sleep on it. I’m down because I can’t run right now. OK. That’s me – for now. I shouldn’t be pressed for any big decisions. I know better. Give it a while. Let’s take it a day at a time and see how you feel.


  1. eric:
    This shall pass :o) just be patient and hang in there!! I know it's SO hard to not be able to run and train-- when it's something that makes you so happy, is a big part of your identity and sense of self. Injuries can be so frustrating!! Just focus on resting and rehabbing your achilles! The rest will take care of itself once you get a couple good runs in, you'll feel more like the old "you".

    but I would try to focus your energy into either a project or doing something that you enjoy not running related.. even something simple such as reading for pleasure etc... to just bide your time until you are tearing up the trails.
    Can you bike?( road or mtn bike?) I would try that.. it's not as fun as running.. but a great way to cross train. and that way you can be outside:o) I really think you'll emerge from this whole experience stronger, meaner, leaner-- with an appetite to do some domineering at races and take no prisoners!! :o)
    praying for you a speedy recovery!! just like you said "one day at a time!!"

  2. Eric-
    So sorry to hear about your injury. Achilles tendons are the worst. I had hurt mine before and tried PT and even rubbed nitroglycerin paste into it for 6 weeks... It didn't help and I eventually took off 3 whole months from running. (agony, of course) I lifted weights and rode a bike to cross train and maintain some fitness. Then got back into my groove and PR'd a half marathon and running fine since. I no longer take for granted a run.

    There is something freeing and transcendent about running... perhaps you can find a sliver of this some other way while your body recovers. Think healing thoughts; picture your tendon knitting together so it will be even stronger for your next 100 miler. This isn't an end to your running, but a beginning of a stronger body. Do cross training so you get some natural endorphins back. Besides, you are a runner forever; it is your essence.

    This too shall pass. Best of luck!


  3. Eric, Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Sounds like that is where you are right now. Be patient and let your body heal. Spend time with the family. Sit down and enjoy a good cup of coffee. It is OK to relax. The body, mind and spirt need time to heal. See you soon, Rick

  4. Thanks Rick, Kevin (?), and Jenn. Did I overshoot? Not sure. I must have conveyed some of my mood lately, which has been admittedly low. Hopefully today's post will show that I really don't think it's all bad!