Monday, July 19, 2010


"The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome,
to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." Ben Okri

I'm injured again. Tibial stress fracture. Left leg. I saw it as soon as he pulled the film up on the computer screen. I knew it prior to that in the cluster of symptoms that tell you very clearly that you have fucked up. The kaleidoscope of symptoms that tell you that you should not have done back to back to back hard runs so early in your training, that you should not have run downhills like Franz Klammer on the Hahnnenkam downhill course at the 1976 Olympics, that you should not run 9 when you should run 7, not 8 when you should run 6. Physics was the winner. The force of bone against immovable object was the winner. Gravity was the winner. I was not. I'm supposed to toe the line in two days in Pennsylvania for an ultra gnarly 10k at the Bear Creek Resort. Instead I will be home. I will be reading endless articles about recovering from this injury. I will be readingendless articles about pool running, cross training. I will be developing the mental discipline to not only get through the next few months of numbing cross training but also the desire to fight off the downward spiral that inevitably occurs when I can't do what I love.

"Ring the bell that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. " Leonard Cohen

The impact causes the bone to break down, the recovery causes the bone to remodel. When done properly these two principles dovetail perfectly and what you are left with is stronger bone, a better frame to hang ligament, tendon, and muscle from. When done improperly the microfractures in the bone don't have the required time to rebuild and what you are left with is 4 to 8 weeks of mindfucking anxiety. The doubt, like an infection, has already begun seeping between the joints. I'm feverishly doing math, addition and subtraction of miles, the subtraction of weeks from the third week in March 2011, from the 31 miles that I promised I will run. I repeat, the thirty one miles I will run.

There are things I must be certain of. These things are as follows: I will run 13.1 miles. I will run 26.2 miles. I will run 31 miles. I will run 50 miles. I will run 62 miles. And, in time, I will run 100 miles. I will run miles on bones that want to surrender to force, muscle that wants to atrophy rather than rebuild and renew, run them with eyesight that is failing with time, and most importantly, run them with the unflinching calculus of a reptile. For the time being I'll spend my minutes running nowhere in the pool, I'll burn minutes on the rower, climb the sky on the stairmaster, and finally start lifting weights. I will run 31 miles this coming March.

"We will set out with a fire in our hearts
When this darkness gives way to the dawn
In the light we are united as one
The kingdom of heaven must be taken by storm." The Amebix (June 1985)


Today is day one of the reconstruction. Up at 5:20, at the gym at 6:15; cardio/weights/stretching and out by 8:00. The alarm said yes and I nearly said no. I can start Monday. I need to sleep because I'll spend most of the night driving to Philadelphia and back. I need to check with the Doctor to see what is safe. Cross training is painfully boring. The excuses lined up like soldiers and I cut them down. "We will set out with a fire in our hearts...". I had some help in dragging my ass out of bed this morning, out from the comfort of blankets, the luxury of air conditioning. That help was in the form of a website by Rob Fusco, a guy I know from my years in Starkweather and his years in One King Down and Most Precious Blood. It wasn't until recently that I became aware of Rob's interest in personal training and nutrition. Even after our brief conversations I knew of Rob's interest in those topics but not a commitment that goes beyond mere motivation and seems to me to be a very clear life philosophy. One phrase that appears frequently on his site ( is 'paying what you owe' and as I've gotten to know Rob through his writings, he does indeed pay what he owes.

"It’s crucial to ask one’s self before any serious undertaking what one is willing to spend, give, sacrifice and suffer through.  The question is not whether or not one has enough to spend.  There is ALWAYS more to spend, more depths to probe, more imperfections and inaccuracies to search for and correct… the planes of the ashlar are forever imperfect and coarse - this fact does not dissuade those of obsessive resolve to continue the polishing process ad infinitum.  

This is no secret.  There is no starting point but birth and no final destination but the grave.  What you do with the fleeting hours between is your choice.  

When the last shovel full of earth lands and settles six feet above you, what will you be remembered for?" R. Fusco

Like many long distance runners and other athletes at the fringes, Rob understands the transcendence and insight that comes from suffering and daring to take that one footstep beyond what is possible. It is this philosophy that helped to get my feet on the floor this morning and I owe him a debt of gratitude. The true motivation for pushing through has to come from within but if I need to be influenced by outside stimuli it may as well be from a guy like Rob who is hardcore in the truest sense of the word.

That is all.

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck with the recovery. Injury is a bitch. It took me two years to build up the muscle strength to do 26.2. Cardio was never a problem; you follow the training programs, you'll take care of the cardio. Physical and mental fortitude, on the other hand, require building up.

    You have to respect the limits of your body however. Few of us are Dean Karnazes. His body is meant to run not only 26.2, but also 50, 100, and even 1000. My body is constructed differently, and I'm fairly certain that my ideal distance is 13.1. I train hard, race hard, and have loads of fun at that distance. Maybe someday I'll run an ultra, but setting a goal like that for myself might be as meaningless and inappropriate as, say, setting a goal of becoming a billionaire.