Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pushing the Limits

On January 1, 2007, I made a resolution that I was going to act my age again. That meant that I was going to get my body back, and stop feeling like I was in a 52 year old shell of a body (I'm 32). I determined that I would run a half-marathon (about 22 KM) in 2007. Thing is, I hadn't run in about eight years. Because of cycling injuries (bad back) and chronic IT Band Syndrome, I had stayed away from running. I had swam and cycled fairly extensively, and lifted weights consistently (although I fell off the wagon a few times in the last couple of years). But running was something I thought I would never do.

My back ached most of the time during 2006. It was maddening. Being in a desk job again wasn't helping. So, on January 1, I decided to do everything within my power to regain control. I went to the massage therapist, I went to the physiotherapist, I went and got an MRI on my back, I started doing some yoga, I went and got new orthotics from two separate sources. And I started running.

I didn't even have proper running shoes. Only some old dilapidated sneakers that hurt my feet like crazy. So, I popped my new orthotics into some boat shoes (like loafers) and headed out into the snow. I ran a half kilometre at an absolute snail's pace. I made it to the gym, worked out for a while, then headed back home. I then jogged back home very slowly. No pain. Cool!

A couple days later, I did it again, then again. I made sure that I didn't push things, which is my tendency in most situations. My motto was avoid injuries at all costs. Don't push yourself and get sick. Well, I hurt my back a few times, and had some lapses. But, within about a month's time, I was able to run to the gym, then hop on the treadmill for 2-3 miles, then run back home again. I started getting excited! Things went like this, with some minor setbacks, and then some slow and steady gains until March 24. In January, I had signed myself up for a number of races, wanting to commit myself towards my goal of a half marathon in September.

On March 24, I was scheduled to run a 10 KM race. I was pretty nervous. I hadn't been able to run the whole week before, and was afraid I would be pushing my luck. All went well until the last 1.5 KM, when I hit a huge hill. My IT Band started acting up. I got a little flustered, but pushed on. Run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds. I conquered the hill, made it to the finish line, and secretly celebrated internally. I had accomplished something fantastic! Although I was nowhere near the time that I had run in my early 20's (about 45 minutes), I had finished successfully (1:05), I was not seriously injured, and I certainly wasn't the last man in. My body recovered within a few days, and I started back to training.

Training was sporadic for the next couple of weeks, but I tried to get time on the road when I could find time. Yesterday, I was scheduled for a 10 mile race (16 KM). Now I was really scared. I got to the race, and determined that even if I had to crawl, I was going to finish. I had come this far, I wasn't going to back down. The first 5 KM went great. No real problems. But the hill at Mile 2 had started to irritate my IT band on my right knee. The next couple of miles I went slowly, but surely. I wasn't out of breath at all, but I thought I should take it easy, so as to avoid injury and give myself a better chance at finishing. By the half-way mark, I started to really feel my knee. There was a big downhill, and I tried to take advantage of it by coasting down it, using gravity to my advantage. It went well, but by the time I reached the bottom of the long hill, I started to feel like I couldn't run any more. Walking was OK, but running really gave me some pain. I started having to take walking breaks. 60 seconds running, 20 seconds walking. Then 45 and 20. Then 30 and 30. Pretty soon, I had to go to 30 seconds running and 60 seconds walking. By the time I hit the last kilometer, it was 30 seconds running and 120 seconds walking. But, I remained determined. I would finish this thing, and I would move on towards the half marathon.

I finished, and I finished proudly. I had just covered more distance by running than I had ever covered before. I finished in 1:53:27, which isn't really a great time, but it was my time. 1:53:27 of the best time of my life. I had finished. I got a medal and a t-shirt, and wore them proudly. I showed them to my kids, and it made them smile. Their Daddy was happy, so they were happy. I had proven to myself that I could conquer my own fears again. That I wasn't going to let time and gravity and fear control my life.

I mentioned the IT band stuff above. Until today, I didn't even know that I had IT Band Syndrome. I didn't know what it was. Today, because I still felt some discomfort in my outer knees, I decided to try some self-diagnosis. Because I wasn't suffering from any inflammation in January, my physiotherapist had failed to diagnose the problem. I have now learned that I am a classic case. But, it can be controlled. Through particular exercises and stretches, and by utilizing an IT Band Wrap/Strap, I should be able to alleviate the problem, and get on with things. (my knees already feel way better by this evening). I have great hope that the problem will be overcome, and that I can then accomplish what my body is able to accomplish. Had I not tried to push the limits, I wouldn't have discovered that there was a way to move past my limitations and achieve goals that I had swept to the side.

I am scheduled for another 10 KM in July, a sprint triathlon at the end of July, a couple short races in August, then the half marathon in September.

The reason I post this post here is that I think it is so important for lawyers, young and old, to look outside of their work, to inspire themselves with new non-law goals. To concentrate on nourishing the body and soul and mind with hobbies, sports, adventures, or whatever else expands a human being.

Maybe this post will inspire you. I don't know. But it sure felt good writing about what I consider to be a great accomplishment. As a budding new law student or lawyer, you will have to push yourself. Don't be afraid to try new things. Don't be afraid to try really hard things. Without trying, you will never know what is possible. I once heard a great speach where the speaker said that you should always try to swim out 20 metres before you decide to come back to shore (she was an avid surfer and ocean swimmer). The water near the shore is always choppy and often cold and scary. But, often, when you get past the 20 meter mark, things smooth out, and become more comfortable. Life is a lot like that, I think.

By the way, my back hasn't hurt in about 3 weeks. Amazing what happens when you start using your body, becoming more aware of it, and treating it right.

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