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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The 5 Stages of Coping with a Marathon Training Injury

Running a marathon is the epitome of today’s gluten-free, protein-shake, active lifestyle zeitgeist. In Duluth, marathon culture seems magnified. Anyone remotely active cannot escape the excitement and phenomenon that is Grandma’s. Common conversations include:

“Are you running Grandma’s? How’s training going? What time are you targeting? Want to get together for a long run?”

It’s nearly impossible to escape this hype. It’s addicting. It provides community, pride and identity. I may not be fast, but gosh darn-it-all, I’m going to run Grandma’s! I am a Duluthian! Hear me roar!

If you aren’t running the full marathon, there are many alternatives: the half-marathon, the 5k, working a water station, or talking about your loved one that is running. If you’ve completed a half or full Grandma’s, you are in the club for life and can join these training conversations guilt free.

All of this preamble is just to explain- I was really, really, really excited about running Grandma’s. It took several months to build up the courage to commit to signing up, but once I did I was all in.

Run club? Check.
Diet plan? Check.
Training regimen? Check.
Accountability partners to train with? Check.

And then it happened- a knee injury. It was sudden and oddly inexplicable.

DENIAL, knee injury? WHAT knee injury?
I repeated mantras while running like “lighter footfalls” and “DO NOT LIMP, DO NOT LIMP.” I refused to let my knee interfere with my training plan. I was going to train through this! I bought a foam roller! RICE was LIFE! I did all the exercises you are supposed to do when you have runners knee. I discussed possible reasons and solutions for said knee injury with all my friends in training. I was painfully positive, as in high-school-cheerleader slash Elle Woods level POSITIVE. I WOULD BE FINE!  

ANGER- i.e. the I HATE MY FITBIT phase!
I am generally not an angry person…but I was pretty annoyed. I asked my friends to stop inviting me to fit bit challenges. Then I stopped wearing my fitbit altogether. All those steps were coming at a painful price and the fitbit no longer tallied my good days, but rather it seemed to tally up the bad. I emailed my accountability partners and asked them to stop emailing me about their running plans because I just couldn’t cope with their progress while my progress stymied. I looked at their fun-run pictures and snarled. I didn’t respond to any of their training snap chats. Oh ya? You just ran 7 miles ‘like a boss’? and I bet it felt great too, didn’t it!?!

Next up- BARGAINING. I came up with a BRILLIANT solution! I would just get a cortisone shot so I could train pain free! Whatever was wrong could wait until June 21st, TAKE THAT KNEE INJURY!

Current status- the pity party.  
Guys, this is not a pretty phase. I cried when the Dr. explained to me that a cortisone shot is not a great option for a 29 year old, particularly when said 29 year old has already been putting off an inevitable (and pretty crucial) ankle surgery. I pulled it together in the exam room and went out to schedule my MRI. “Wow, double MRI?” the polite woman said with a raised brow, “Do you need a hug?” The tears came unabashed. I tried to cheer myself up with a fancy coffee from the fancy co-op, I made it out the doors and into my car where I broke down again.  

I cried while watching Fixer Upper last night.... Fixer. Upper.

Oh for crying out loud, now I’m crying as I type this up.

Arguably, receiving bad news the Monday morning after daylight savings time and a very long trek into the wilderness on an injured ankle and knee may not have been the best timing. The frustrated tears were just a little too close to the surface.

Waiting for it- ACCEPTANCE.
I know that acceptance will come. I keep telling myself things like, “Amanda, GET IT TOGETHER! YOU DON’T HAVE A BRAIN EATING AMOEBA! DONALD TRUMP DIDN’T EAT YOUR BABY!” but so far, these pep-talks have done little to propel me out of my pity wallowing existence.

Last night I taught yoga. One of the cool-down songs was “Everybody Hurts Sometimes” by R.E.M. Even I had to giggle at the self-indulgence. Maybe that was step one toward acceptance.

So why am I posting this? I guess mainly just to get everyone in Duluth on board with my current training hiatus. I am probably not going to be able to run this year. I am not dealing with it particularly well and I am feeling like a capital L Loser.  If you see me at Evolve or the grocery store, now you know. I guess also to say that I am normally a pretty positive person and I’m kind of in the dumps right now, and I think that is okay to acknowledge.

For all the people with very real problems like chronic illness, sick little ones, lost loved ones, cancer,  etc- I am really sorry for posting about this menial problem. I can only hope that my stupid little experience may  help me be a better friend to you in the future.

In the meantime, I am going to be sure to enjoy the days I can run- carefree and pain-free. And on the days I cannot run, days like today, and many days I am bound to face in the future, I will try to find alternative conduits to joy... like Michael Jackson dance parties, coffee brewed in a percolator, page-turners, and funny people.

Before you ask: I don’t know much more than what I posted here. I will learn more after MRIs. I will fill you in when I learn more. 

P.S. A pic after Grandma’s half last year. This will be my reminder that, at least by my own standards, I’m technically part of the club for life. 

Drew's 2015 Christmas Letter

I’m beginning to wonder if starting the tradition of writing an annual Christmas letter was a wise decision. I have numerous concerns about the whole thing. First and foremost, is the fact that Amanda and I have to continue to try to do cool and exciting things in order to have “Xmas letter worthy” content. That is a lot of pressure. In prior years, we’ve gotten married, bought homes, moved to a new city, accepted new jobs – you know, big life milestones and things like that. Sure, that made writing the letters easy, but it also set the bar high right off the get go. If I was more smarter, I wouldn’t have mentioned any of those things in the first few letters. That way, I could have gradually built the letters up, year after year, until finally, at the ripe old age of 62, the grand climax would occur – which I imagine will be the year Amanda finally kicks me to the curb for a younger, better looking, higher functioning model. At that point, I will be too depressed to continue writing Xmas letters and you (the reader) will finally have one less piece of paper to immediately discard into the recycling bin. 

My other major concern about the pressures of an annual Xmas letter is that we will start doing things we don’t really want to do (or simply shouldn’t do) just for the sake of having something to write about. This concern, I fear, has already begun to manifest itself in the happenings of this past year.
For example, if someone were to ask me what motivated us to start putting uncoordinated and/or aquaphobic people on thin slabs of floating foam and take them out paddling on the coldest lake this side of Pluto, I would only be able to respond: “Oh, ummm, well you see, we started SUPerior Paddle Boarding because there is this Xmas letter thing we have to live up to….” Honestly, I’m not sure there is a better way to explain why Amanda and I decided to start our own paddleboard outfitter. The fact is, we did, and it was a great first year, I think. We were featured in numerous publications, partnered with other local businesses to put on some really cool events, received positive reviews, and no one died. So that was good. But why? Why did we decide that we basically don’t want to have a single minute of free time in the summer if not to get some decent Xmas card content?
The same question must be asked about our trip to Iceland. The place has the word “ice” in its name for crying out loud. Why would we leave Duluth during its only nice month of the year (August) and head to a tiny island country a stone’s throw from the Arctic Circle renown for poor weather, flesh-melting volcanic eruptions, and the tasty national dish of harkal.[1] Why indeed? Again, I’m not certain why, but Amanda and I did find Iceland to be a fantastical place. The only way I can describe it is like something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.[2] We camped around the entire (and I mean entire) island and loved every minute of it. Mostly. There was that one night in which I decided to partake in a scientific study of the national pastime of Runtur. As it happens, Runtur mainly consists of staying out all night enjoying a potent variety of schnapps made from a very specific type of highland moss intermixed with sips of some sort of liquor fondly referred to as “Black Death”. As a man of science, I took my studies very seriously. Amanda did not partake in the Runtur, but she did create a new event called the “ranter” when I returned from my studies. Amanda’s “Ranter” has now eclipsed the great eruption of Skaftaredar as the most violent and earth shattering event in Iceland’s history. 

Sadly, we didn’t do anything else worthy of the Xmas letter this year. We got settled into our new home here in Duluth. We went on a ski trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula with old friends, became the first documented paddle boarders in the Boundary Waters National Canoe Area with new friends, cross-country skied to an old logging camp in the Superior National Forest with best friends, and generally had a great year – but nobody wants to hear about that crap. 

So that’s it. There is nothing left to say. I mean, I could say some of the obligatory things like that Amanda is still excelling at everything that she does, such as being a Real Estate Analyst for Maurices corporate headquarters and teaching some type of inferno yoga designed to suck every last ounce of sweat from your body. She also ran the Grandma’s half-marathon this year. I drove it, but still couldn’t keep up. Amanda has also spent a lot of time making friends. I’m from Duluth, and yet somehow Amanda knows more people here. Go figure.

That really is all there is to say. Except that we loved having family and friends visit us this year in our new home. We really enjoyed when our nephew Lane could come visit and steal my childhood toys. He is so cute the way he can find boxes full of my treasured childhood items and walk out the door with them. We also loved it when our nieces from Alaska came down during Halloween. They are so charming the way they pelt you mercilessly with rotten apples when you play “Ghosts in the Graveyard” with them. 

I’m done. Besides to say that we really, truly, from the bottom of our hearts, can’t thank everyone enough for helping Amanda’s mother this autumn when she broke both her arms. It is those acts of kindness that, especially during this busy holiday season, make us stop and think about how lucky we are to have such great friends and family. 

That’s a wrap folks. Until next year. Maybe. After the whole Runtur thing, Amanda could decide to make that upgrade a few years early. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Sincerely, Andrew, Amanda and Loki Imes

[1] A delightful treat consisting of putrefied shark which has been buried in a shallow pit for 12 weeks and then hung outside to dry for six months before it is deemed worthy of testing the limits of one’s gag reflex.
[2] For you cooler people out there, Middle Earth is the world in which The Lord of the Rings books take place. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m not sure you were meant to receive this letter.