The Post Where I Talk Myself out of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter does funny things to me.

Starting around Christmas time I start to feel a bit overwhelmed. New prezzies (usually) means new books to add to my reading list. Extra time off work means more opportunities to clean up the detritus of the previous year (or longer). That’s a mixed blessing: freeing up space in my brain to concentrate on the right things without actually getting to spend the time doing those things. I’m being much more ruthless about just chucking stuff this year than in the past, and I think I’ll be done soon.

Almost being done is very good, because I have goals. (I don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions. Anything worth doing is worth starting at any point in the year. Why wait for a particular date to have a clean slate?) I tend to keep my goals to myself, but I’m willing to say that one of them involves trying to pimp-slap my out-of-control bookshelf by reading a certain number of pages each week. I figure that even an incredibly slow reader such as myself should be able to average 15 pages/day.

This goal-thinking was (is?) getting me a little down this year. So much of what I want to do in 2012 involves feats of athletic prowess, but my feet were threatening to get in the way of those feats. Lisa, the awesome exercise psychologist of my dreams, is (slowly) helping me see that I am more than my goals and accomplishments, but I still missed running because I really like it.

The week before my injury, I had a wonderful 12+ mile run that took me to the end of one branch of our local rail-trail and then past it into the exurban farmland and acreages of the neighboring towns before picking up the start of the other branch of the trail and following it home. I am eager to get back to that.

For sure, I was was also stressing that not doing these long training runs might leave me ill-prepared for the Around the Bay 30K in late March . . . or possibly incapable of running it at all. Eventually I told myself that I had to stop worrying about whether or not I would be able to do ATB—or the NYC Tri in July or the half-Ironman in August—and just concentrate on getting well. I could still ride my shiny new bike in the basement, there’s always plenty of swimming to do, and on the last day of work in 2011 I got a personalized weight-training program, which I started last week.

Sometimes I need to be reminded to look at the “big picture.”

By the middle of last week my foot didn’t really hurt very much, although I noticed twinges now and again, especially when I moved my foot in particular ways. It kinda sounded like plantar fasciitis, and it kinda didn’t. Everyone I talked to about it had horror stories about how PF messed up a fellow runner for months or years on end, so I was determined to find out what was actually wrong with me before doing anything stupid. I also wanted to find out the right way to start back up when the time was right. I didn’t want to rush into anything, but I could feel myself losing the exercise-every-day-after-work-and-go-to-the-pool-a-few-mornings-each-week habit that I had developed by the beginning of December.

On Friday, I went to my podiatrist, who said (again), “Boy, your feet are eff’ed the fuck up . .  all loosey-goosey and flat and shit.” And then he went on to say, “You don’t have plantar fasciitis, but you’ve gone and slightly fucked up the long tendon that connects your calf to your big toe via your heel. It’s amazing you’ve been able to get way without this kind of shit for so long. You need expensive orthotic shoe-inserts to keep this from happening again. Now, let me teach you some calf stretches and recovery techniques. You should start popping Aleve like a fiend, too. I’ll tape up your foot, and you can go running tonight if you want. But don’t go for any PRs or bullshit like that for a little while.” (I’m paraphrasing just a wee bit here.)

So I’m quite relieved. I’ve gone running twice since visiting my not-at-all-potty-mouthed podiatrist. Each run felt good, foot-wise. The left one isn’t 100% in the hours afterward, but it’s 10x better than the days after I injured myself. The runs also felt shorter and more difficult than I remember them being a month ago. Even so, these short, difficult runs were awesome.

Speaking of amazing things. I’ve been out on my road bike twice this new year already, and each time I wore shorts. New Years Day was the first time I’d been out since early October, and the lingering chill on the thawing roads couldn’t bring me down. Saturday morning’s sunny, 50°F, 25-mile ride had no chill at all. By way of contrast, at this point last year we had more than 30 inches of snow on the ground, and we were in for 60 more.

So I guess there’s that, too.

Oh, and there’s swimming! The Friday before Christmas I got up super-early despite not needing to go to the office. The pool was open, and I had the chance to get a full hour-and-a-half swim, instead of my typical 40-or-so minutes. The last time I had this opportunity, I swam two miles, and I wanted to give it another go, testing my blood glucose along the way. The results were very much like last time—better actually. My BG stayed almost constant; my 250-yard split times were fairly consistent throughout; and I swam a quarter mile farther in the same amount of time.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m reminded how fickle I can be. Yes, winter can be a cold, dark, lonely, depressing, snowy, stir-crazy-making time of the year. But it seems that all I need is a good report from the doctor, a run or two, an outdoor bike ride, a nice swim, and the constant loving support of Lisa for me to feel like a good spring is just around the corner.


p.s. I guess I should add that last night Lisa and I watched a documentary about U.S. athletes in the Beijing Olympics. It wasn’t the best thing ever, but it sure looked beautiful on our new high-def TV. I can barely wait to see this year’s games. Hurry summer don’t be late.

This entry was posted in Cycling, Life Lessons, Reluctant Triathlete, Running, Swimming. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Post Where I Talk Myself out of Seasonal Affective Disorder

  1. Céline says:

    It felt like I was reading Running on Carbs as I read this. Injuries, shifting fitness goals and priorities, orthotics, swimming fun and the ability of a good workout to brighten the darkest winter day.

    Chin up sir. If you run ATB, you run it. If you don’t, we’ll run it together next year. Take the time you need to heal properly so that, when you get back to it, you’re not sidelined again.

    Glad you got some gorgeous weather down there too. It makes all the difference doesn’t it?

  2. Scully says:

    Oh yeah great post. I felt similar to Celine. Like, that’s how I feel! and that’s the same injury I got last year this time (which I didn’t look into treating until about June) I got chiropractic by recommendation of Celine. No expensive orthodics. Just treatment and stretching.
    BTW, I love your potty mouth podiatrist ;)
    And I read this post after I wrote you that email so pardon my ignorance about ATB. I’m trying to catch up.

  3. Jess says:

    I love the holidays, but they stress me the eff out, too. I feel like I can breathe a little easier when it’s all over.

    I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for your foot to be giving you such trouble. I hope it continues to improve!

  4. victoria says:

    Glad the injury wasn’t something to keep you off the running trails for long. And I know of another athletically-inspired goal you have this year. Woo Hoo! Super stoked about that one!!!

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