Torture Report: Hanging on a Balloon & Hunting For Bliss

Sunday out on the trail!

(G): It was a rough week here at the Barton Training Center of Ohio. I had some difficult conversations with my physical therapist and MAT therapist. One of them is reluctant to think I will run long distances before the year’s end and the other thinks it’s just around the corner.

Isn’t it great when mom and dad disagree?

But I am getting ahead of myself. Wednesday, I went to physical therapy and was given another 3-4 exercises to add to my stack of already existing ones. Once again it’s demonstrated that I need them because they are all difficult for me to execute. As I was wrapping up I asked about my strategy for this weekend’s 24-hour race. She wasn’t nearly as excited about it as I was. Go figure.

Then I went further and asked when she, roughly, thought I’d be better and able to train with wild abandon. I even upped the ante sharing I’d already signed up for a 50-miler in November and how did she think that would go. Well, first, she misheard me and thought I said 15 miles so she said, yes. Then she said, no. It was a hard no.
It’s the kind of no you get when you ask your parents if you can drive the car when you are 14.

It’s a little bit incredulous and entirely emphatic.

I was deflated and a little heart-broken. She followed it up with saying she wasn’t sure I should ever be running these distances given some of my biomechanic/structural issues. What? Didn’t we start our relationship predicated on the fact that I run ultras?
I was confused and certainly felt like we were having a failure to communicate. I wrapped up the conversation as she had a patient waiting and I wasn’t liking what I was hearing anyway. I promptly went out to my car to do what any runner does when someone has stuck a pin in their running balloon, I cried. Maybe not any runner will cry about it but I did, all the way home.

And I didn’t tell anyone what she’d said for fear repeating it out loud might make it true. Instead, I started considering it to be a bit of a challenge, like a line had been drawn in the sand and I was going to show her. This is reminiscent of how I ended up in graduate school.

Thursday morning I met with my MAT therapist and he was disappointed to see that my pain had not dissipated more since my last visit. That made two of us! He asked me how I was and I said, fine. He knows me well and that I tend to fall on the verbose side so he tilted his head like a rather curious dog and said, “Fine as in the same or fine as in WTF?” He gets me, what can I say.
I said the latter and while he laughed at first I think he saw I was on the verge of tears or punching him in the throat so he got serious fast.

And for him, serious meant coming back to the table with a balloon. Yes, friends, he brought me a deflated ballon that was also blue, he said, to match my mood. It was exactly how I felt. In the midst of this, I told him what my PT said and he respectfully disagreed and thought by November I would be well on my way. There is a reason I like him!

But back to the balloon. This is where things get a bit like snake oil and swamp land that’s for sale and if I hadn’t experienced it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. In fact, I did experience it and I was still a little skeptical.

I will spare you all the clinical philosophy but the end game is that my breathing patterns need a reset and that’s causing my core to act weak even when it’s actually strong. Don’t think too hard about it. So by taking deep diaphragmatic inhales and exhaling all the air into a balloon three times it gives a reset. Now, keep in my I was a near-violent, cry baby with a heel that hurt more that day than it had the day before so I did his mumbo jumbo breathing exercise, got up and walked as he instructed and it felt better.

I am ready to only wear one pair of shoes for a run. This backpack is HOT!

Was my pain 100% gone? No, but it was better than the minute before. So we tested another position while inflating the balloon and that actually made it worse. So we went back to the original and it got better. I know, C-R-A-Z-Y! And, yet, it worked! Among all my other rehab activities, I start and end my day with this balloon inflation and right before I run. As of yesterday, my foot was actually doing better.

If a balloon in the linchpin for my recovery I will have to rethink my dislike for clowns. Maybe.

(L):  I didn’t get my planned long run done this weekend.  We went to the mountains again and honestly I just didn’t have it in me. We walked around the lake many times and we moved all of our furniture around in our house.  That should count for something, right?

Georgetown Lake

This last week, I have been working on my short runs because while 13.1 miles is far, I always seems to struggle finding my groove during those first 3-4 miles.  Usually, if I can get through those first few miles I can find my stride.  In the beginning of this particular race I can rely on adrenaline, (sometimes frigid temperatures), dodging elbows and watching for stray rocks and loose gravel to keep my crazy to a minimum, but it’s still there lurking.  I have always been like this.  This is why I hate to run 5Ks because I spend the entire race wanting to quit and then it’s over.  When I trained for my first marathon I would go out with my running partners to run 12 miles and for the first 3 miles I would always think there was no way I was going to make it that far. Regardless of how prepared I was I would always feel sluggish, heavy, tired, thirsty, hungry, hungover, you name it.  Then something happens at about mile 3.  I start to feel like I have run at some point in my life and that I have energy.  Miles start to pass a little more quickly and dare I say, I actually enjoy being out there.  I may only get a couple of blissful miles, but it’s totally worth it.  In fact, last week when I ran the 8 miles with Alex I was aiming for 5 and by the time I got to 5 I had hit my stride.

I have a mere 4 days left before the race and I am planning to just keep working on those first few miles.  The quicker I get them out of the way, the quicker I can hit my stride.

See you on the other side of the Slacker!

Slacker Course
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G


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