20 Weeks

Well friends, it has been a while since my last update. All is well. Very well actually, I have just been out living my life and forgetting to document it.

First, a heel update. I’m walking well and at much greater capacity than a month ago. Most excitingly, I’ve been running for 20 minutes on the Alter G twice a week for the last few weeks at an increasing percentage of my bodyweight. Yesterday, I increased it to 80 percent. I’m slightly sore today but have come to learn that that’s still within the bounds of progress and my heel will be able to handle more in a day or two. I have read that running at 85 percent without pain is the benchmark for being able to transition to running outside. I could be at that level as soon as next week but I think that as long as I have access to the Alter G I’ll keep working my way towards 100 percent on that. Even so, that may only be a few weeks from now which is a very exciting thought.

The first time I tried the Alter G it did not exactly feel like the real thing. As I have been able decrease the gravity assistance however, it has felt more and more like running always has. Quite frankly, even 20 minutes zipped into a pod running on a treadmill in the middle of a clinic makes me feel euphoric. It’s not because I’m making such good progress — although I am — it’s really just that nothing, and I mean nothing, feels quite like running. There’s a reason I managed to wear away my Achilles tendon through a six days a week habit over the years….There is no exercise high quite like the runner’s high and I’m far from the only one who feels this way. Unless of course you are one of those unfortunate souls (like Husband, poor Husband!) who literally is incapable of feeling any running-related buzz. Other forms of exercise can also be seriously life enhancing but if you’re a runner then everything else is just methadone to running’s heroin. (To be clear, while I have indeed lived a life rich in colorful experiences, including some experiences that would definitely have respectable folks clutching their pearls, I actually have not tried heroin. Or methadone for that matter. But you get my point.)

Given its addictive nature and my all too receptive neuroreceptors, I do intend to consciously temper running with more activities once I’m back up to speed. Sort of a “run less to run longer” approach. In practical terms, I think I need remain at or below 35 miles/55 km per week/4-5 days a week range. That’s actually a decent amount of running for many people but it’s well below where I used to be and where I would naturally find myself if left to my own devices. The good news here though is that the last year’s forced running hiatus has prepared me well for a multisport future.

Some weeks ago, I mentioned my first foray back into riding my bike outside being a ride on trails on my mountain bike. Since then, I have officially fallen in love again with mountain biking. I say “again” because going back more than a decade, this was quite a thing for me. While mountain biking in Florida may sound like an oxymoron, it is in fact not. Obviously Florida is completely devoid of any actual mountains but there are a wealth of both cross country (“XC”) style trails that twist and turn through woods and swamps, as well as trail systems built into old phosphate mines which provide some serious challenge no matter where you come from and how advanced your skills. I shouldn’t talk things up too much though as I don’t want everyone coming here and ruining things. Anyway, while I’m certainly not in the business of throwing myself down black diamond trails, I do love to be deep in the woods in a state of flow zipping around on trails that fall into the easy to intermediate category a/k/a “greens and blues.”

Years ago when Husband and I were in law school we used to ride the local trails in Gainesville all the time. Because neither of us had class on Mondays during my last year, we would ride every Monday. We even called it Monday Funday. (Monday Funday also included golf lessons in the evening for a period but I did not enjoy that at all and have no desire yet to try again.) Somehow in the years after moving to Tampa, life, work (and running) got in the way and I stopped riding. One of the unexpected gifts of my forced running hiatus is that I rediscovered how much I love riding trails. It checks so many boxes: being outside in nature, engaging in exercise, mastery of skills, something Husband likes to do too. I’ve been riding both with Husband and with one of my longtime running friends. It’s been the single most enjoyable thing I’ve done in a very long time and I’m newly obsessed again. Of course, in the intervening years mountain bike technology advanced significantly as did my disposable income. It will surprise no one that after a few rides a new and much fancier bike was pretty much an inevitability.

Having way too much fun on a Monday. Note: “more difficult” parts of Twister not pictured.

With a super fun new bike and nature’s playgrounds nearby, I’ve had some great days lately. Suffice it to say that, notwithstanding running’s addictive qualities, I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll be able to do a better job this time around at having a more balanced mix of activities when I finally do hit the road on two feet.

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