When I last wrote, almost a year and one-half ago, I expressed the hope the hope that 2019 would be a “re-building” year. It hasn’t completely worked out that way. In short, my time as a runner is over — although I’ve been working on shifting to other forms of exercise, mostly biking.
The end of running — at least the acknowledgement of it — came slowly. I continued to train through 2019, but it came harder and harder. Runs themselves — mostly short, perhaps a mile or two, went well, but were followed by intense pain in my feet. My initial assumption was a continued flare up of gout, despite the apparent control of the condition with medication. Further analysis, though, revealed damage to joints in both feet.
Degradation and wear brought on by the gout created a condition called hallux rigidux — which is Latin for “your toe won’t bend.” Instead of flexing, the bone in the toe would jam against the foot — creating the pain. I continued to do some short runs, but it was clear I’d never be able to do anything much more than a 5K, if that, and in any event, every time my foot hit the ground I was jamming bone against bone, creating further damage.
I’ve reached the point in my life where I’ve learned that if your body gives you a signal, it’s probably worth listening. So I did, and – other than brief warm ups on the track at the local gym (nicely padded) – I quit running. I ended up working out at the gym with weights and such, but missed being outdoors. So, I searched through my garage and found the old bicycle I had stashed away from years ago, and gave it a go. It’s a different experience — there is a certain thrill, and terror, that comes from whipping down a hill at 30 miles per hour. But I do find it hard to get quite the same cardio workout that I did with running.
After awhile, it seemed like the bike was going to stick —and going to the gym became increasingly untenable, due to COVID — so I invested in a new bike. The old one was ok, but somewhat heavy and had a lot of wear. Trying to upgrade bicycle parts in the middle of a pandemic was near impossible, so when I lucked out and found a new bike available I grabbed it. It’s been pleasant, although with winter, I’ve had to turn to a spin bike indoors. I could most likely continue to ride outdoors — I used to run through the winter, especially while training for the Cherry Blossom. But the idea of losing control on a patch of ice at high speed is an outcome I’d rather not court. So until things warm up a bit and the risk of ice patches is less, it’s inside workouts. That turns out, thanks to the internet, to be more interesting than one might expect. Perhaps more on that next time.