Inertia Girl

Posted: May 25, 2009 in running

An object in motion will continue to be in motion and an object at rest will remain at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it… THE LAW OF INERTIA

Now that everyone has finally stopped asking if I am crazy (they’ve obviously come to their own conclusions) then it’s best to simply keep working according to THE PLAN. The plan is TO KEEP MOVING or as Snuffy was quick to tell me after I got out of the hospital… “You don’t run with your nose, you use your legs and feet! GET ROLLING!! Just not on the bike!”

Got that! Checked! Exactly two weeks after my accident, I do my first long run. Of course this is after I run what we then call the nose unveiling run with my T2 gang.

Ketikat, one of the loudest proponents of the MiSH IS CRAZY movement, finally relents and agrees to run with me on my first day out. Batgirl, of course, runs too. So does VIX and RunMD. We agree to do it at night, under cover of darkness…best not to scare the locals we would be encountering during the run. The nose was, of course, still huge enough to make Bozo the Clown envious. At least it was no longer a glowing red color. Rudolph Reindeer wouldn’t have to sue me over his nose patent.

As soon as we started running, I followed Batgirl. I left her in-charge of the route. She took care of battling the traffic demons and the pace demons and everything else in the outside world. I simply followed. One foot in front of the other until traffic cleared up enough and I could run in relative quiet. The first few minutes we were running, Batgirl kept checking back with me.

“Is your nose ok?” (She asked this a couple of times!)

“Yes! It’s too heavy for me not to notice if it has fallen off!”

“Are you breathing easy?”

“No, I am breathing hard.” Of course I am breathing hard! We were going at a fast pace downhill. Crazy woman! (She’s my friend. I am allowed to call her crazy. I will get away with it! I hope.)

Soon enough they leave me to run in peace. I don’t blame them. I wasn’t exactly very chatty that day. But I wasn’t all that worried either. We did have a doctor with us in this run. I did my best to keep pace with RunMD after we got to the quiet part of the route. This wasn’t all that easy because that man could run fast. But I was determined to stalk his shadow. If my nose did fall off, he would be around to catch it! And to distract the panic demons, I hatch the JOYRIDE PLAN.

Have you started running? The Amazing Doc P asks before we both jump into the pool. We shared the same swim coach, after all!

“Yes,” is my quick answer. “I did 35 Sunday!”

“35 minutes is not bad,” He replies then kicks off from the edge of the pool.

I grin as I watch him swim away to do his laps. I actually meant 35KMs of the Botak Run. What doc doesn’t know won’t cause him sleepless nights…

The Joyride Plan was a pretty straightforward plan. I would simply keep pace with friends during their marathon run. There was no way I could run all 42KMs. And I didn’t really feel like running 42Kms in that crazy heat. So I opted to run the first 10KM on my own and then I told Ketikat I would keep pace with her on the 2nd half of her marathon run… Well, I didn’t exactly tell her. My plan was to simply show up. And show up I did! I figured she wouldn’t be able to Taekwondo kick me out of the route. Her legs would be too busy at that point covering that 42KM distance.

“How many characters do you actually have in your head?” Ketikat asks in the middle of her run. She can’t keep the exasperation from creeping up her voice. My only consolation is that it is also distracting her from the heat.

“Enough,” I reply. “Enough to keep me amused and entertained!”

“And who am I talking to right now?”

“Inertia Girl, of course! You are talking to Inertia Girl!” And I simply keep running beside her…

And I’ve been running ever since.

I am less than 10 weeks away from my SF marathon. It’s a date I never had any intentions of breaking. Not even when I misplaced my nose in Temple Drive. Come the 26th of July, I will be running on that bridge and all 42KMs of San Francisco’s marathon road. And I will keep running until I end up in Boston. Well, definitely not on the same day. Apparently Boston is more than 42Kms away from the Golden Gate Bridge! But that marathon road is certainly part of this whole quest. It might take another marathon or two. And perhaps this will go on for another year. But I am definitely on track. At least that’s what I think. That’s what I need to think! And I am sure my friends (those who do believe I am crazy) will agree with me. They have no choice. I am giving them no choice! I have to believe that because it is what’s keeping the forces balanced…

An object in motion will stay in motion…

There will indeed be time enough for rest. Just not right now. Right now I’m sticking to THE PLAN. And the plan is TO KEEP MOVING…

“Well, now you know.” Batgirl says with a sly grin on her face. “Noses, no matter how big, simply don’t bounce off cemented sidewalks.”

I am not a girl who is easy to convince. But, on this point, I am not going to argue.

Having lived the first quarter of my life (so far) within the 13th and 14th parallel zone, the entry point of most tropical cyclones that beset this country, I know what it is to find yourself within the eye of the storm. The eye of the storm, the lull between the howling winds. You look out and there is nary a wind. Everything is still. Everything is eerily quiet. You look straight up and even in the darkest of night you see stars shining brightly in the sky.

My father has always warned us about this part of the typhoon. The quieter it is outside, the calmer things seem to be, the more you need to prepare yourself for the coming onslaught. When you find yourself within the eye of the storm, you do not waste time on the non-essentials. You gather those closest and dearest to you and you hold them close. You haul yourselves off to safer grounds , you surround yourself with stronger walls, hunker down and you brace for what is to come next. At best you get a few minutes of quiet and calm before the howling begins again. Then the winds come rushing back. Perhaps lashing out with even greater fury. And you settle down for the long wait.

I was in the eye of the storm all week last week.

The howling has stopped. The pain has subsided. Clear skies now up ahead. But it was nowhere near like this a few days ago.

“You’ve probably told this story a thousand times. But can you tell me what happened again? Just spare me the gory details.” X-man says in a matter of fact tone as he takes a seat in the family room.

“I am on a bike, on a hairpin curve, I see a white taxi, I avoid a white taxi, I hit the curb, fly off my bike (apparently you cannot grow wings that fast), use my nose as brakes and buffer. Tadahh… 6 hours of surgery and a few days at the hospital and this is what you get…” and I point to my face. !“Exhibit A.”

X-man is not all that impressed but he got his story the way he wanted. I heard no complaints. Just a long deep sigh. And the all important question which deserved an honest answer…

“Do you want a dermatologist? I am dating a dermatologist. I could hook you both up. Your skin looks awful! ”

And we moved on to far more interesting topics beyond my nose.

Fine. I’m tired of talking about my nose anyway. Actually, what’s the point? If you want the story, it’s written all over my face. Just check out the cuts and the swelling and the bruising. It will tell you what’s important.

Someone good, someone really good, put me all back together.

Or if I were to be more precise, A LOT OF GOOD put me all back together.

They say that sometimes things happen in slow motion. Perhaps it did that. The details of the accident are all very clear in my head. But things also happened in lightning speed. I wouldn’t have been able to deal had my family and friends not come rushing to my side to keep me focused on what was needed to survive the coming ordeal.

A flurry of angel wings…that is what surrounded me. Amidst all pain, I heard a flurry of angel wings. It is what insulated me from the most awful, traumatizing part of the experience.

Mum and Pop and the sibs especially ate wee (younger than me but far more responsible and reliable) and dondon (my brother who kept awful hospital food at bay), the cousins, the titas (especially the ones who refrained from saying I TOLD YOU SO!)

Ting (Aquagirl – whose powers definitely extended far beyond water. Kept me sane and made me feel safe.. Supplier of the best and most potent pain reliever around! ), Bards (Batgirl, the running banana and still the sanest member of the gang. marshal of the forces of all that is good… ), Rissa (Winks, definitely winks ;-)), Catherine (SeriousCat), T2 (ketikat, kristine, vince, essie, dingdong, harry,vicky, chuchay, anna, tin- the happy thoughts gang and sugar rush patrol) my core group Joy, Bene, Grethel and Erskine, the Tri-Polar team and the Missus (Laarni, Bobby and Ed, and Gina) and The Doc Peter J (without whom I would definitely still look like Pokemon.)

So many other faces floating in my head. If I failed to write it down, it is not because I don’t remember or I am not grateful. Far from that. It is simply because I am, even to this day, still overwhelmed.

When you find yourself in the eye of the storm, you do not waste your time on the non-essentials. You gather the closest and dearest to you and you hold them close. In the darkest of nights, it helps a lot to know you are not going to be facing the typhoon alone. You brace yourself for the coming onslaught. You hunker down and you settle for the long wait. You go through enough of these tropical cyclones and you begin to understand that no matter how loud the winds get, laughter shared with family and friends, good stories passed back and forth, prayers said in unison will always, always drown out the howling, calm the anxiety and drive out the pain and the fear.

If I put in everything I am grateful for in these pages, I would need a new blog. So just this… All the happy thoughts in the world wrapped in two words… Thank You!

Not enough, never ever going to be enough but it will have to do for now.

Except perhaps for this…I’ve always preferred to say thank you in my own Bicolano dialect. The language of my youth and the one closest to my heart. In my part of the world, in the place I call home, we say “Dios Mabalos po!” (God, repay you for your kindness… ) In His Time, my faith tells me, that will be more than enough!

Clear skies up a head…thanks to a flurry of angel wings.

“Your stroke is good but you’re a sinker!” Swim Coach with gorgeous shades tells me as I raise my head out of the water. “You drag your feet…” He quickly adds then he knots his forehead and raises his eyebrows when he realizes that I am actually trying to suppress a chuckle. “Yes, I’ve been known to do that.” I reply with as serious a face as I could muster. The naughty little imp inside my head starts whispering…”In all things and especially when you run!” And I shake my head and kick off from the edge of the pool to finish off my 2.2km swim.

It’s still dark when we wriggle our way inside the check-in gate of the Condura run. We do this caterpillar style. I’m holding on to someone’s back while someone else is holding on to mine. More than a thousand runners have come to lay claim to the 21KM route. I find myself standing side by side with Ketikat and Dingdong and Ting. Batgirl soon shows up behind us. We scan the crowd for the other runners in our group but in that tight squeeze it’s not that easy. Chuchay, our support and paparazzi for the day, finds her way up the stage to take a picture of the excited crowd.  We all smile and pose even if we think it unlikely we will show up in the frame at all.

Everyone is just psyched to have the chance to run on the Skyway. I wile away the time by looking up at the sky and squinting at the crescent moon with a bright star shining just below it. My mind starts wandering. This always happens before a race. Some people may focus on one thing. My mind simply goes places before a big run. It’s how it prepares itself for the journey. It goes somewhere else altogether and will have nothing to do with reality for a while. The loud cracking sound from the start gun brings me back into the corral. People start shuffling forward. The Condura race is on the way.

I drag my feet off the start line and start to push forward.

First love, the one they say you never completely forget. The one you wax reminiscent about once in a while. Swimming has always been that for me. I look forward to swim-training day. The thought of being in a cool blue fifty-meter pool makes me want to jump out of bed in much the same way I did years ago when it was the thought of seeing my crush from across the hallway. There’s a spring in my legs and a fluttering of butterflies in my tummy!  My emotions  a cocktail of excitement, elation and fear. First love, so many years ago and yet on some days, on some days,  it really seems just like yesterday.

I pull my head down under the water and start to blow bubbles out my nose. First it comes out in erratic spurts. I can feel my heart thumping inside my chest. It’s been ages since I’ve swam this much, this fast, this long. I am starting to feel lightheaded. I force myself to focus. Six more sets to go. My eyes follow a long black line that disappears into blue-black water a few meters down. Focus. Focus. Focus. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Soon enough a relaxing calm surrounds me. It’s never as quiet as this when I am running. It is never this easy to focus. There is nothing around me but water. Black merging into blue and then dissolving into liquid dark. I close my eye and push off once more from the pool wall. Five more sets to go. I feel the beginnings of an unknown joy bubbling forth. I can do this all day.

By the time I make it to the Skyway, the sun is already rising between the rows of buildings that line Makati’s central business district. It’s an orange yellow disc glowing in the horizon. The city’s skyline stands regally in the distance.  I catch myself distractedly watching the city as it emerges from the black. My pace slows down considerably. I don’t mind. I am enjoying the show. I raise my hands and use it to freeze- frame an image in my head.

I focus my gaze on the road ahead of me. It’s a sea of runners as far as the eye can see. Runners bobbing up and down the skyway ramp. It ‘s a view that amuses me. A man running beside me starts swinging his arms around wildly. I ask him if he is planning to take off the ramp with his makeshift propellers. He laughs out a reply. He explains that his arms have started cramping. I feel his pain. I understand it. I wish him the best and keep pushing off the grey-black road.  I still have 12 more kilometers to go.

My calf muscle starts twitching, threatening to cramp. I look at it and give my legs a little shake. I focus on shifting my weight elsewhere. I try not to panic. I will my muscles to behave. I start whispering a prayer. Thankfully, my muscles cooperate.

True love, now that that takes a lot more work. True love is never as easy and it goes far beyond the butterflies in your stomach variety. You don’t view it with the same wide-eyed innocence or excitement as you did with your first love. You know that sometimes, even with all the best-laid plans, even with the kindest and best of intentions, some things simply go awry.  True love takes all that you can give and it still wants more.  It demands far greater time and it’s capable of dishing out much greater pain. And it never ever is truly fair. But you choose it anyway and you do your darndest to hold on to it and to all the possibilities and promises it holds… time after time after time!

We are lounging by the beach and out of the sandy blue, Chuchay turns to ask me “Why do you run? Are you running from something or are you running towards something?” The question surprises me but I take it seriously and think about it for a while.  I am unable to give her a clear answer though.

Two hours in the pool is never as painful as two hours spent pounding your foot on the hard cemented road surface. You don’t tire as fast. And you recover from swimming at a much faster pace. Running is different altogether. There are days when I find myself questioning why I even do it. Days when I ask myself why I keep putting one foot after the other mile after foot-hurting, backbreaking, body-aching mile. There are far easier ways to keep fit. There are less painful ways to dream. I still don’t know the answer. But I’ll keep following that white line on the grey road. And I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And I’ll keep gazing out into the far horizon as my chest wells up with an unnamed yet familiar hope.  Just as the horizon reveals its secrets as I come closer, just as the once hazy structures solidify in the morning mist, I believe that my answer will come soon enough.

It’s one final push up the Kalayaan flyover, my former nemesis in the last Condura race. It was my very own personal dragon then.  Not this time. My sister and Cathy are waiting at the bottom of the flyover with cheers of support and  a bottle of Gatorade.  I am only able to wave my hands,  my brain too focused and  too tired to form words of thanks. I know they will understand. Redemption comes in short and steady strides.

Am I running from something or am I running towards something? I really don’t know. Perhaps it is both.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep on running.

1:56:12 for my condura half marathon. A PR, yes, and a slight improvement from my San Antonio 21Km time. Now it’s on to San Francisco for the Marathon in July…

running from tittivilus

Posted: March 20, 2009 in running, runs 2009
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What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a hellish sort of work-travel season?

Tittivilus, that sack toting, word munching, gossip-mongering little monster of a demon has been hanging around my blog this whole month. Between the pressures of work and the early morning runs and the rising temperatures in and outside my office, I just could not find the time to even put two coherent sentences together. Every time I did try, that little demon would immediately spring into action, engineer some sort of distraction and as soon as my mind starts wandering (Yes, yes, it doesn’t really take much to get it to do that!) Tittivilus would then gobble up all the words I’ve managed to write down! You need a combination of iron will and lots of sleep to battle demons of this variety. I’ve been working at forging one for years but never did have much access to the other. Not even during the queen mom imposed siesta days of my youth. So, I’ve let Tittivilus hang around this little domain. I’ve allowed him to have his fun. This month there were simply much more pressing concerns I needed to attend to.

img_3008It’s been a month of airports, ports and tollgates. A series of skips and hops over territorial borders and an ocean or two. Still, it’s been a great month. Work has certainly taken up a lot of my time but there have been good times too. There was that 2-day romp with friends at a beach down south. Then there was that trek to Pinatubo Crater Lake up north. And in between, whenever time permitted, a few good runs. Not a lot but enough to keep me happy. And sane! (Or as close to it as possible!)

Race Day Sunday is now just around the corner. Everyone is excited about this one. There’s even that Carbo Loading Party that I’ve signed up for tonight. It’s all part of the preparation for the Condura Race that will take us to the Skyway and back. For me, it’s not so much about running this race fast. I wouldn’t mind being able to do that though! 🙂 It’s really more about running it F-U-N!! It’s my first race this season where I’m running sans hindrances and excuses. I’ve only joined 2 races this year. Happy Run (ran it while still slightly injured) RuNew (ran it while still jet-lagged and almost ended up staying inside the cemetery part of the route after the big sneeze incident. I sneezed as an allergic reaction as soon as I entered the cemetery/park gates and my back went into spasms because I was dehydrated. Don’t ask me why I signed up for a race when I knew I was going to arrive just two days earlier from a 19-hour plane trip. Believe me, it made a lot of sense at that time. It’s just a bit hard to explain at this point.) Anyway, there will be none of those excuses this race. This run, I’m all here. Not injured, not jet-lagged, not dehydrated, and definitely not out of my mind and distracted. I’m all here. I’ve got everything I need to make this a fun one for me. And I’m set on enjoying it.

But…I’ll deal with the 21K run on Sunday morning. For now, I’m simply getting ready for the BIG EAT!!!

So what do you do when you find yourself slogging it out down hell’s work portal and hanging around with a devilkin? You fix your gaze upwards, of course! You focus on that light at the end of a dark tunnel. And, when you find your chance, you mark your heaven and let your feet take you up, up, up towards the sky!

I’ll see you on the Skyway everyone! Happy running! 🙂

Mrs. Winter threw a party last night.

Sprites of mist and cloud  mingled with soft rain as they danced a slow, graceful spiral over the  city with its shimmering river.

Trees coated in brown black silhouette reached out towards the fog-wrapped sky, shivering in anticipation, tendrils outstretched in welcome.

Wind whirled and swirled while glittering icy diamonds sparkled at its feet.

Gray light peeped through my  frozen window pane flashing an invitation in hushed tones.

Dawn came late and we  almost missed the evening’s last dance.

Clad in goose feather once-wings with sunshine gold newtons wrapped around  my feet, I slipped, slid, sloshed through sleek ice and powdery snow, crunching out a swift and light tempo underfoot.

Mrs. Winter, drunk from the night’s revelry and release,  left her furry white coat on the once green tufted grass. Mr. Sun found it a few hours later.

Like all great parties, this one too, lasted ’til morning…

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old haunt, new stomping ground

Posted: February 14, 2009 in my trips 2009, running

Once in a while, I do need to work…

across the riverGrey-white, swirling mist embraced me in welcome as I walked towards the banks of the river Main. It is almost seven in the morning. 19 odd hours or so after our plane had taken off from warm Manila

Out across the mist-covered river, small tendrils of light reach out over the horizon.

Frankfurt Am Main–the first and last stop of most of my Europe trips! While Frankfurt doesn’t exactly inspire visions of grand playgrounds and rip-roaring night life, it does have its charms. You just have to know where to look…and to be prepared to look very hard! For the last 8 years I’ve spent a minimum of at least 25 days a year in this city. Sometimes, it’s for a bit of play. But mostly it’s for work. Almost always for work.

Because Cupid, my boy-wonder with wings, is always very busy this time of year, I had little choice but to take a lousy plane.  So off I went across an entire continent and over a few countries until I found myself in Rhineland’s gateway–the land of overflowing Hefe beer and, perhaps, even of honey (of the romantic and chocolate toting variety, I hope!) It is Valentine’s month after all where all forms of silly notions are allowed to roam free.

Home, for the last few days, can be found within a wonderful suite of apartments fronting the river. It’s a most darling of a space to twist and twirl in your cocoon. Not a bad area to hang around in. And definitely fronting a very good place to go running in…It would be perfect, really, except for the freezing temperatures part. But then again, this world would be a terribly boring place indeed if everything was perfect.

Asterix, my Belgian friend, says I shouldn’t complain. It’s already so much warmer this week! At least I get some blue skies (not that I really see it) and sunshine (not that I feel it) and it only snows a bit at night. So, to make him happy, I’ve stopped complaining. Now I just mutter and mumble under my misty breath whenever I feel the cold making its way to my bones. I spend the whole day inside a Skyscraper anyway. Frankfurt is one of the few cities in Europe that actually has a smattering of them.

While making a quick run to lunch at the shopping centre the other day, I came upon this scene.

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Here is one  interesting building. It’s not that tall but it was definitely envisioned with boldness and daring. A pretty cool architectural detail. I can’t wait for it to get finished so I can explore it inside out the next time I come…

And so, we are off to the new stomping ground.

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under the bridge

The first time I tried running out by the river. I felt my face stinging from the biting cold. I caught myself wondering if very soon I would have to add a frozen nose to my list of running injuries.

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For the most part, running here has been interesting. Different and yet fun. There are tons of new things to see. And although, I’ve seen most of them before, now I’m looking at them with new eyes. One’s experience of a city really does change with the manner of transport we choose to take when we are in it. Whenever I can, I stop to take some pictures. But I really don’t get to do that as often as I want. When I stop, I freeze. The trick, I was quick to learn, was simply to keep moving.

Pity I don’t have as much time to run as I want to. Sunrise in this part of the world is not until after seven in the morning. I need to be at work by 8am. Sunset comes before 6pm. I get off work at six. So mostly it’s been running in the dark, in the cold, in the rain, in the light grayish mist before the sun pushes itself off in fierce white light over the horizon and across the gray-blue sky. And although I do mutter and mumble, I really have no real reason to complain.

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I wish I have more time for play.

But, once in a while, I do need to work…

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.

—–0000———

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.