Caligula under the bridge

Posted: January 30, 2009 in my favorite runs, running, runs 2009, training
Tags: , ,

Caligula, little boots, the emperor of pain, would notch himself onto my legs every time I would go for a run.  I had hatched a plot to give him a Happy send-off.

The year was only a few days old when my phone blinked out a message from Batgirl. “I’m registering tonight for the Happy Run, do I count you in? ”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied without putting much thought into it. “Sign me up for 15K.” This was a good 3 weeks before the event. I had, at that point, only managed a grand total of eight kilometers in the last 10 days. My legs were still a vision in black and blue and my right knee was sporting a bright pink tape around it.  I was a model of optimism. I figured I had more than enough time to recover from the accident and get my running legs back on the road again.

Fast forward to the week before the PSE run. 6kms a run was the longest I could manage before succumbing to what I then called “the annoying little troll” attached to my legs. That was already an improvement from the 3KMs the week before. I had my last of the eight therapy sessions that Monday. If Frustration were an ad campaign, I would be the shoo-in for poster girl.

“Give me a name!” I beg my therapist. “What do I have now? Shin splints? Runner’s knees? Calf strain? What is it? My shins hurt.  My IT bands are tight, there’s a knot in the middle of my left thigh. My knees go on lockdown at the slightest incline!  What the hell do you call this pain?!”

The PT looks at me with similar frustration etched on her face. Ma’am (Darn it! I really am a ma’m now!) He tries to say calmly. “You simply need to give those legs a rest. Your pain is moving around because your knees, your legs, your ITs need to recover from the trauma of the bike accident! Different muscle groups are compensating for the lack of mobility in others due to your injury!” He makes sense but I don’t find comfort in his truth.

“When exactly am I going to be healed?”

He sighs. “You just have to be patient, ma’m. “(There he goes again with that ma’m bit!)

The doctor never tells me to stop running. I am grateful for at least that part.  As I am rushing out of that therapy room I do hear him hurriedly adding restrictions. “Stick to grass, treadmill, and maybe track for now, ok? “ I follow his instructions. I am a vessel of meekness and humility.

I continue to struggle with running distances longer than 6Kms.

In the middle of the second week, I wake up and have a revelation. “Caligula, that’s who you are! You are that little tyrant of a pain in my legs! In history you were an emperor known for your tyrannical rule. You ruled by whim inflicting pain and sorrow on your people with mindless abandon. You are mad and cannot be reasoned with!”  I’ve been playing this game all wrong! I’ve been skirting around the pain. I haven’t been dealing with it directly! I had allowed the mad Caligula to wrest control of my legs. To move where it wanted.  I was adjusting to the pain when it should have been the one forced to respond to the therapy and me!  “Well, I’m done playing host!” I tell Caligula. “And I’m done waiting. And I’m done adjusting. You’ve simply got to go!”

I’ve read enough history books to know this: You don’t wait for a tyrant to leave. You don’t cower in fear when he reveals his madness. You face him head on and you throw him out! I could do so much more about this injury. There was no one else who knew this pain better than me. Not my doctor, not my therapist, not even the coaches in the track.

So I book extra PT sessions in the week. I discuss my strengthening program at the gym and ask my trainer to adjust it to my current needs. We assess, we re-assess and then we get to work. I start lifting really heavy weights. So much so that by the end of the week, Snuffy starts calling me Arnold! (I ignore him but I also order my trainer to lessen the weights and simply do more repetitions).  I then schedule two deep massages three days apart. I buy a month’s worth of comics reading and two poetry books and five back issues of Runner’s World. I set up a mini bunker in my living room and I settle in to read and rest and have a weeklong conversation with my legs. I also read up on the anatomy of the human leg. I start memorizing the names of the different muscles; I start tracing them in my head. I map out the route of my pain. I pore over the diagrams in the gym and memorize the stretches. I stalk every twitch and spasm I’ve ever felt in my muscles. I begin to understand it.

Time to enlist the Senate’s help in the plot to overthrow the Emperor of Pain. I call on Gluteus Maximus. We recruit Tensor Fascia Latae. Gastrocnemius and Soleus are soon in. Gracilis and Sartorious soon follow. Now we have the soldiers. Vastus Lateralis did not even need to be asked. He was part of the plot to overthrow from the very beginning. Coach Titus Salazarus announced the plan for battle.

This time I wasn’t going to be a bystander in my therapy. I was going to take a very active part in it.  No more tiptoeing around the pain. I was going to go right for it.  “Go slowly!”  Advises Titus.  “Focus while you run and figure out the triggers of your pain. List it down. What you know, what you understand, you have a chance of controlling and containing.

We start the slow run to recovery.  I run circles with Titus and my Caligula around the track. Pain would still radiate up and down my legs but I was no longer running in fear of it. In fact, I was daring it to come out now. I wanted to get to know it and to figure out where exactly it was coming from. “He’s here!” Soleus would report. “Now he is moving right up here!” says Sartorius. We flank and outflank.  With Titus by my side, I ran around and around the track. We would speed up, we would slow down, we lifted and we shuffled and we went through all the motions to identify as much of the stress points as we could. At the end of the run, we retraced the progression of the pain and we scheduled a massage.  There was nothing relaxing about this massage. We were going straight to the source. We were going to pound on all those places Caligula had notched on to. We were going to go after all the knots and all those rough spots we had identified. We were leaving my emperor of pain no place to hide. Pain for pain! Pain to get rid of pain!

Now this felt more like it. It was then that I realized that I had unknowingly signed up for a different kind of race. In the year that had gone by, I was always racing to the finish line. This time was different. I was now a participant in the race to the start line of a happy run. Any happy run!

The emperor of pain doesn’t disappear on that day, or on that week. But the pain does lessen.  The emperor starts losing his grip. “You need to learn patience.”  Titus tells me. “Recovery cannot be rushed.” I could only nod. I was too tired to argue. This truth I could accept because this truth came with something else the therapist, with his medicine and his science, was unwilling to give me at the hospital. This truth came wrapped in hope. This truth was backed by the weight of running experience.

As I left the track that day, Titus and I agreed to stay focused and on the attack. And even though the finish line of the Happy Run was still hazy, the start line, at least, was now waving clearly and undeniably in the horizon.


The stars are still out on the morning I set out for THE HAPPY RUN.

There’s dryness in my throat as I go through my last minute preparations. I keep tying and re-tying my shoelaces. I wet my lips and then find myself biting into them. Plotting assassinations does take its toll. It took a view of a princess sporting a silver tiara in her head as she was sprinting across the parking lot towards her consort, the frog prince, to remind me of what I needed to remember. Seeing her put everything in its proper perspective.

This is supposed to be fun! Relax! What the hell are you so afraid of?

“You see?”  I whisper to Caligula. “You even have royalty attending your funeral!”

There’s a buzz of excitement in the air. The start corral is humming with palpable energy. I catch myself jumping up and down a few times. I stretch and I twist and I give my legs a little shake. “We’re here!” reassures my Senate. “We’re ready! It’s time.”

Caligula, my emperor of pain, never stood a chance.

  1. runmd says:

    Catwoman beat Caligula during the Happy Run. Your legs were swathed in leather-ish material reminiscent of Batman’s nemesis. Meow!

    Haha! Catwoman finally understood why Caligula wanted to elect a horse into the Senate when she found herself running up and down Mckinley’s hills! Ahhh but all that tape around my legs definitely helped!

  2. ricov says:

    Congratulations in vanquishing Caligula. Same goes to your army of soldiers: Gluteus Maximus, Gastrocnemius, Soleus, et. al. I can very well relate to how you build you army and plotted to kill Caligula. One of these days I hope to slay my terror of pain as well. I haven’t given it a name yet (Medusa maybe?). Or maybe it’s best it remains nameless. It will die soon anyway….. Last Sunday I saw you in pursuit of Caligula and called your name, but your ears are clad in white armor blaring sounds of your impending victory against the tyrant. I raise my wine cup in honor of your Happy Victory 🙂

    😉 Thank you from all of us! The book of Magic says that you must always seek the true name of your enemy. Only then will you have the power to cast the proper spells to defeat them. As you can see, i’ve switched dimensions already. Romans are cool but walking/running around in bedsheets can be a drag too. Sayang I didn’t see you at the happy race!

  3. lonerunner says:

    I agree, Ma’am etse myironshoes. I think it is a great idea 2 name our injuries… HEHEHEE.. 🙂

    Oo naman. Pwede pa nga yung mga hybrid names (when you combine dad and mom’s names together) for the ultimate pinoy touch!

  4. moljcy says:

    had a good laugh reading this one!

    Salazarus for the win!

    Salazarus indeed! LIFT! LIFT! LIFT off! 🙂 Love that guy!

  5. kingofpots says:

    Titus Salazarus? nice name! as always, nice post and very entertaining. i always enjoy reading your post. keep on running!

    Thanks BR! 🙂 A good imagination definitely comes in handy for a girl who finds herself running around in circles and up dark stairs– on a friday night!!

  6. sundaywarrior says:

    Ha ha very entertaining post, your imagination is really far out Mesh napakaprofound he he….

    🙂 kanya kanyang pitik lang sa ulo yan. haha!

  7. Ray Abenojar says:

    Awesome analogy!!!

    I wonder if there is an literary award-giving body that has a web blog category?

    Wouldn’t it be great if we had auto-purge valves…


    Oh! I’d love to have auto-purge valves, also portable (and rechargeable) auto-eject buttons.;-)

  8. Coach Salazar says:

    hi my favorite alaga. you know its nice to read and learn from our experiences. Good imaginations comes from being creative and open learner. Stay focus and train smartly, enjoy running pain free.

    Dear Titus, You found me!! 🙂 Awlrayteee then! You lead, I will follow. (That should take care of the need for smarts in the training!)

  9. keti says:

    Hahahaha eh pare-pareho lang pala tayo eh. Now i’m the one being asked by the doctor to rest and like a stubborn mule I keep trying to pull on the reins, trying to get my way. I will give this TRO (temporary rest order) until Saturday (in time for our 1hour pre-pilates run and pilates intro class) and then that’s it, I’m gonna run…or else turn into the Hulk with all this pent up energy and destroy everything in my path! hahahaha

    😉 Come Saturday I will not block your path… I will be beside you running. That’s THE PLAN!

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