Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lessons Learned

My gross foot

A few months ago I read that being able to run barefoot would help keep plantar fasciitis at bay. Given that both my dad and uncle have the problem, and that I run anyway, I decided to try to build up to running barefoot. At first I did half and half -- 15 minutes in tennis shoes, 15 minutes barefoot. That was fine. Then I took a break from running barefoot (though I often am barefoot all day anyway and even hike barefoot). When I started up again, I escalated too quickly. I ran for 20 minutes barefoot. Fine. Then I ran the whole 40 minutes barefoot, twice, with no problem, just a little soreness in my heels. Third time, however, I was limping and could feel fluid in my heel. I was afraid to look and when I did, I saw the biggest blood blister that I've ever seen.

The injury itself doesn't really bother me. I stabbed it a few times and drained all the blood out and was running (in shoes) again a day later, thank the gods. What bothers me is the fact that while I was running, I was in intense pain in my heel, but I ignored it.

I think I may have an obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to physical challenges, because this recent self-injury triggered a wave of memories.

There was the time at Raging Waters where I hung onto plastic-coated ropes that were suspended above a fake river. The point was to be able to drop into the water but at the time I wanted to test myself to see if I could do what I'd seen soldiers do in training videos -- climb all the way across and back again. The only problem was that my hands were wet and soft. I climbed all the way to one side then started back across the other, my hands burning and shooting pain, but I kept going. When I finished, I was shocked to see that I'd torn off large chunks of the flesh of my palms. Then the real pain came. I could hardly use my hands for a week. I couldn't even wash my face. It made my regular babysitting/nannying jobs difficult.

There's also the other time that I went horseback riding in my new "riding" Wrangler's. I don't know what toss pot designed these "riding" jeans, but they have a huge friggin seam right up the buttcrack. On the way back home, my tailbone was in pain. Instead of getting off the horse and walking the rest of the way back, however, I endured. It hurt so bad that I was sweating. Needless to say, my tailbone was bleeding by the time I got back to the barn and I could hardly sit or walk for over a week.

There are several other stories I could recount, including manic canoeing, but these past three are the most dramatic, I think. Which has led me to wonder... WTF is wrong with me? Am I so obsessed with achieving my goals that I'll willfully maim myself? Am I that idiotically stubborn? Is it OCD?

Yeah, pretty much, I guess. Or something close. Truth is, I've realized that instead of accepting pain as a warning, I acknowledge it as a challenge. So when I achieve my goal (running the full 40 minutes, completing the rope course, making it back to the barn) I feel like I'm victorious, no matter the injuries. If not, I feel like a failure.

I don't think this comes from lack of an instinct for self-preservation or a tenacity of will. I think it comes from the desire to prove to myself that I am more than a mortal body. That I can overcome my physical pain in pursuit of my goal. That all life is more than just placing one foot in front of the other until the feet can no longer tread.

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