When Things Fall Apart

When Things Fall Apart

I haven’t posted for the last couple of weeks, mostly because there hasn’t been a lot of training going on to talk about. There are a variety of reasons for that — many are the typical challenges everyone faces. Some perhaps less so. I’ll explain after the jump.


My work has been extremely time-consuming and a bit draining. I’ve accepted some new responsibilities, and we’re in the midst of what’s always a particularly busy period for the team of which I’m a member. Add to that the fact one of my colleagues is out for medical reasons. And an individual on another team left the company; since we work on a similar topic, some of the work he would have done is coming my way. And this last week, another individual revealed he’ll be leaving to take on a new position. So, more work to go around.

Home life has been busier than normal as well for a variety of reasons. Both of my sons are finishing their education, and the oldest has been engaged in a job search that’s taken him from Boston, to New York, and then Los Angeles. As a long-time business traveler, that’s led me to lend a hand as part-time travel agent and trip advisor. (I’m happy to report he’s found success in his search, and will be moving to the West Coast after graduation.) The weather has been uncooperative with high winds and a late March snowstorm.

I expect for most of us, those are just the typical things we have to navigate when trying to train, or even just fit in time for exercise into our schedules. For others — and I count myself in this group — there are times when the day to day grind becomes insurmountable because of illnesses like depression. In my case, I’ve dealt with this for almost exactly thirty years — perhaps longer, although that marks the beginning of my efforts to address it with medication. Efforts, which I’ll note, have failed and actually damaged my health in other ways.

But that, perhaps, is a post for another day. I will share, for those who also deal with it, that regardless of whether or not more conventional treatments help, exercise has been proven effective in mitigating depression’s symptoms. That’s particularly true for mild to moderate cases. The perverse irony, of course, is that depression is a malady that tends to make the world seem smaller, and darker, and colder. So just when you need it the most, getting up and getting out can seem nearly impossible. But, at least in my experience, it’s worth fighting the struggle if you possibly can — even a lousy run can help break the spiral. If not, find some sort of self-care that helps.

So, What About The Training?

Given my spotty training, and the already lengthy nature of this week’s post, I’ll dispense with the day by day recaps. Instead, let’s review what I’ve been able to accomplish since my last post. At the time, things were going relatively well. I’d done a good ten mile long run with my Potomac River Running Training group in Reston, despite cold and damp weather.

That’s about when things started to fall apart. Yoga that week was difficult — unbalanced and uncoordinated, and I left class disappointed that what had seemed easy (well, easier) the previous week now seemed elusive. For several days following, my most strenuous activity was walking the dog, and I seemed to be plagued with a series of mostly minor aches and pains.

The following Sunday’s long run, back on the W&OD Trail with the Potomac River Group, to be candid was a bit of a mess. Shortly after starting I experienced a cramp in my upper left leg (one, or more, of the adductor muscles I suspect, for the anatomically minded). I pressed on for a bit, toying with the idea of running through the pain. My rational self won out. It’s likely I could have finished the whole ten miles, but at what cost? I turned around and slowly and cautiously back to the start, clocking just over five and a half miles.

The Obligatory Injury Lecture

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, when my first effort to run in the Cherry Blossom was sidelined by a stress fracture in my foot. I’d decided to try and work through what seemed to be not very bad pain on the outer edge of my right foot. Now in truth, most stress fractures are relatively minor ailments — little more than a crack in the bone which, if allowed to rest, will heal rapidly. My extra week of training turned that crack into a full break, along with a five month ban from running. Or, for that matter, much of anything weight-bearing, which turns out to be a lot of things.

The thing is, you tend to hurt for a reason. And it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s wrong, and your level of pain isn’t a reliable indicator of the seriousness of an injury. (My stress fracture was first dismissed as likely nothing more than a bit of tendinitis. Oops.) If it last more than a few days, and doesn’t respond to the runner’s standard quartet of go to treatments (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), it’s worth getting checked out.

Enough lecture, and back to training.

OK, What About Week Two?

Week two went a bit better. Snow led to the cancellation of yoga class, so I broke out an app I’ve been meaning to try (Pocket Yoga). Not the same as having a trainer, but it filled the bill in a pinch. (And seemed to provide my dog with some level of entertainment, so it’s good one of us was amused.) I worked in a few shorter runs — between two and three miles, including a stultifying workout on a treadmill.

This morning’s long run in Reston dawned, literally, cold and windy with a “feel like” temp of 15º when we started. Happily, much of the W&OD Trail is sheltered in a cut, dating back to when it served as a railroad right of way. Came in handy today. The first few miles were shaky, but body temp rose and most everything loosened up. It’s a mostly flat trail with some elevation. Once of the exceptions is a re-routing of the trail up a short, steep hill to meet the grade of a road that passes over the trail. In the past, it’s been my nemesis — but today I made it to the top without stopping. So, small victories.

I ended up doing just a bit over seven miles, rather than the ten I’d hoped for (and really needed). A hamstring was starting to become painful and, well, re-read what I said before about injuries. In this case, almost certainly nothing brought about by overuse after a period of relative inactivity. But not worth a strain or injury that — this close to the race — could put me out of the running (sorry).

I’m not sure there are larger lessons to learn from this already too long post.

First and foremost is to listen to your body. Sometimes things hurt because you’re asking muscles to do work they haven’t done in awhile. Or ever. It will get better. Sometimes not, in which case it’s time for a professional (even a physical therapist or a massage can help loosen too tight muscles and prevent injury). But sometimes you need a doctor. Be conservative, especially as you learn how your body responds.

Perhaps another lesson is to try to avoid listening to your mind. Oddly enough, it doesn’t always serve your best interests. When you just can’t do it, try some self care, or find a professional you can trust.

We’re close now. Race day is just a few weeks away. It sounds like we’ll actually have Cherry Blossoms for race day. Don’t forget to visit the official Credit Union Cherry Blossom Race website for important updates about changes to the course and staging area.

Have a good week, train well. Visit our link up to see how others are doing, and to share your own experiences.

2 comments On When Things Fall Apart

  • Dale, this is such a brave post. It is so valuable to others when people open up about depression and how they manage it.

  • Sorry to hear that your week did not go as planned. Hope your leg is feeling better. You have already done the bulk of your training or so I keep telling myself. I piked up something the wrong way yesterday and tweaked my back ugh so mad at myself. we will both make it to the finish!

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