At 2:15P last Tuesday, sitting in the office of Dr. Jung, a foot specialist from the Kerlan Jobe Sports Orthopedic Center located at White Memorial Hospital Center in Boyle Heights, a gritty section of LA just east of downtown, I turned around and saw out the window a body shop stacked with shattered and broken cars waiting to be fixed, and nodded, feeling an instant kinship with those beat up scraps of metal who just wanted to be molded back to life, and put back on the road.
So did I.
Moments before Dr. Jung walked into the room to review my MRI and foot up close, an ease of acceptance washed over me, I was ready for whatever he had to say, the only thought on my mind was, I can breathe, and if my future is in long-distance swimming, so be it.
One year ago, I was days away from flying to Kona, Marion was in Vancouver shooting principal photography for Lost in Space: Season Two, and no one was looking at my feet. They were banged up from an impressively challenging block of training, but nothing hurt more than usual, they just rolled with whatever the task was for the day, and carried on. However, the days following the race were some of the most excruciating of my life, my feet were a mangled mess of blisters, blood, and throbbing aches that interfered with the post-race joy I should have been flying high from, instead I was in agony.
The three weeks in between Kona and the NYC marathon were filled with constant bargaining with my feet. I promised them the world if they would just heal up and hang on for one more long run of the year, and they did, but that romp through the Big Apple hurt.
On race morning, I placed a supposed comfy callus guard under my right foot to help protect my mountain of hardened skin, but it floated away from its original sticky position by mile ten, and lodged itself underneath my toe, and aggravated the friction of heat, pounding and sweat my foot was dutifully churning out, and produced one of the most painful blisters I had ever felt. I wasn’t surprised, and just kept running as fast I could, (and ever had during a marathon), until I crossed the finish line.
I didn’t run again for two weeks.
Those two weeks were not fun, (for many reasons), but my feet earned a break, and needed to rest.
When I did start running again, I felt okay physically, but something had shifted in my mind, (or, in my heart), that I never took the time to address, let alone put back on track, I just wanted to keep moving forward, which actually meant running away from it.
I spent the holidays isolated from everyone, making a choice that I believed at the time was right for my family, but was really a way of burying my head in the sand and not facing what needed to be fixed, or at least acknowledged, it was simply too painful, so I plunged every ounce of my being into training.
The next five months were filled with one let down after another.
I wasn’t running as fast as I should’ve during the half marathons I was racing, I felt incompetent during workouts, and then when the first big race of the year showed up, Ironman Boulder, life slugged me in the face in the form of pneumonia before I made it to the starting line.
The next month or so was rough, yet wonderful, because I started to peel back the blinders I ratcheted on right after returning from New York, and started to appreciate everything I could do, verses what I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to put off trying to fix my lungs, my foot, or my relationships anymore, I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work on all of it.
Since June, I have visited more Dr.’s than I have in years, dove head first into the deep end of hard conversations I wouldn’t have stepped near before, have reached resolutions I believed impossible a year ago, and have inched closer to finding my place in the world.
I never would have asked for it, but I do think it’s funny that it took a devastating year of disappointments to teach me that everything I’ve ever wanted, or felt I needed, I already have.
I am right where I need to be.
“Can I still run?” I asked Dr. Jung after he explained the nature of my injury, which was not good, but not that bad either.
“Yes,' he replied with a knowing look, 'runners are going to run.”
The song and video choice this week is right on the nose, Tears For Fears’ classic, Everybody Wants To Rule The World.