Writing and running in Austin, TX.
Now that I’ve made my peace with Chicago and returned to running obsessively, I’ve settled on a new favorite route. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, I run to work.
At 6 miles, it’s not a super-long run, but it’s not super-short either. And since it’s an uphill climb for about 4 of those 6 miles, I usually take it pretty easy, enjoying my Marketplace podcast and the scenery. Today my average mile split was 11:36.
Granted, this does cause a small part of me to start panicking that it’s the beginning of the end of my running career, and that I’ll soon be relegated to the ranks of “woggers” (“walk/joggers” or “waddling joggers”, depending on how you want to translate it.) Why is a 10:36 just fine and an 11:36 cause for utter panic? Who knows. Rational thinking has never been my strong point.
However, I usually can squelch this panicky little voice with some reasonably logical arguments. For example: It’s uphill most of the way, and my hamstrings ache constantly from what they consider a rather rude change from “mostly-flat-by-comparison” Austin routes.
Also, fall came to Aachen in a one-week span that caused every single one of the thousands of trees here to drop their leaves simultaneously. At certain points, my “jog” becomes more of a “wade”.
Another very rational excuse: It’s getting cold here! This morning’s temp was officially 5C, with a wind chill of 3C. (That’s 41F and 37F, respectively.) I know what all my Austin running friends are thinking: Better 37 than 97! And that’s true, as far as avoiding that annoying feeling of “there are spots in front of my eyes and I’m about to pass out”. But cold brings its own problems. Namely, the need to deal with a perpetually running nose.
I don’t want to over-share here, but more than once I have found myself entering “snot” in the Wikipedia search bar. (It redirects to “nasal mucus“.)
“During cold weather, the cilia which normally sweep mucus away from the nostrils and towards the back of the throat (see respiratory epithelium) become sluggish or completely cease functioning. This results in mucus running down the nose and dripping (a runny nose).”
Disfunctional cilia. Fantastic.
I have yet to come up with a good solution to this problem. I could carry Kleenex, but then I’d have to continue to carry it…you know…afterwards. Likewise a handkerchief, which in my opinion might be one of man’s most disgusting inventions. Many runners swear by the “Farmer’s Blow”, aka the “Snot Rocket”, but it takes a pretty high level of suffering to make me feel that the improvement in comfort will outweigh the potential for mortification. So me? I just sniffle a lot. And breathe through my mouth. And wonder why I had to go from 90 degrees to 40 with no pleasant “autumn” in between.
Oh, and today I had one more excuse for being slow. I couldn’t find my running shoes.
For most runners this isn’t exactly a tragedy (unless it’s race day) because we usually have at least one back-up pair. My back-ups are even brand new, having just been purchased at the Chicago Marathon expo. Nothing beats the cushy ride of a brand new shoe!
But, said shoes lacked one crucial component of my running toolkit: My $300 custom orthotics were in my other shoes.
Let’s not beat around the bush here…my orthotics are the idol I worship. If I didn’t have to run in them every day, I’d put them in a glass case in our living room for everyone to admire.
Really, they’re a bit of a crutch.
But can you blame me?? I spent over a YEAR sidelined with ITB issues that defied modern physical therapy. I worked my way through 3 of the best sports medicine facilities in Austin. I did hip raises and lunges til I was blue in the face. I endured a ridiculously painful cortisone shot. For a while, I even wore some crazy Swedish brace that wound around my waist, travelled down the outside of my right leg, and then crossed over the front of it to secure around my knee. Running in it felt like when the dog wraps the leash around you 3 times but you decide to keep going because you’re holding on to a glimmer of hope that the dog is smart enough to figure it out. (The dog is never smart enough.)
And then, just as one of Austin’s top PTs was telling me that it might be time for me to find a new sport, he had one last idea…I should covertly visit the offices of his competition and get a custom-made orthotic.
The woman who made mine, Tammy of Elite Feet, whistled when she saw how non-existent my arches are. She warned me, and rightfully so, that I would need to spend a few days just walking short distances in my new toys, because having my feet in the correct position was going to engage muscles that had never been used before. And boy did that first week HURT. But, and I’m knocking on some serious wood here, ever since that day (or rather, ever since the day I got used to them and my leg stopped feeling like it was about to snap at the ankle), I have had no significant issues with my IT band. These orthotics are, quite literally, the miracle cure.
I never EVER run without them.
Which causes me a bit more angst than you might think, what with the recent revival of last year’s revival of the barefoot running craze. (Seriously, didn’t we just go through this?)
I’m enough of a hippy to be swayed by the barefoot argument: You shouldn’t let technology change what nature gave you. Your body will always adapt.
But then I think: If it were up to nature, a flat-footed, virtually-blind person like myself would have been eaten by a cheetah. It’s thanks to technology that I can function today. And for a runner, isn’t there no move more foolish than changing what you know works?
Still, this morning all I could think was, “It’s just one short little 6-miler.” Surely tonight I’d find my shoes in the refrigerator or the broom closet or somewhere equally logical and be reunited with my beloved orthotics. I felt good. I felt ready to run. How bad could it be?
The result, I’m happy to say, was not disaster. The running gods decided not to punish me for this single day of risk-taking. It sure did feel weird though. Each stride had an extra “sinking” part to it. I could literally feel my arch rolling past the place where the orthotic usually catches it. It felt strange. And wrong.
Maybe a real barefoot-believer would tell me that this run was a good experience, and that it will teach my legs to stabilize themselves. But I remember that year without running for the dark time that it was. It was nice to confirm that the market’s best stability shoes still can’t withstand my pounding, but I think this is one risk I won’t be taking again. Well…unless someone decides to send me a pair of those fancy new Vibram Bikilas.
P.S.-Has anyone seen my running shoes?