Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I miss my feet.

Dancer's feet are important, strong. When you dance you feel your feet, know exactly where they are. Foundation for everything, they can be more expressive than your hands or face. Lately, I've been walking a lot, and I feel them differently, torqued and sore from all directions, jelly, mush. They are overworked to stabilize my unconditioned stride.

Sometime 'round the end of January, a Very Awesome Friend invited me to hike to the Havasupai falls with his family in June. I was pretty thrilled at the chance; it seemed perfect in several ways. First, for all my cavorting about the country, I've never been to the Grand Canyon, and I'd wanted to see it this summer. Second, I've wanted to take up backpacking for half a decade now, but things keep interfering. Third, this particular Very Awesome Friend also has a Very Awesome Family, and who wouldn't jump at the chance to observe such a thing so close to it's natural habitat?

Initially, I was bummed. After the thirty seconds of jubilation, I remembered that I have a mutineer spine, and ten incredibly steep miles with a pack on seemed both unlikely and not bright. After several days of moping, I came to a compromise: I'd set up a training program and at least try. If I got injured along the way, I'd find a shorter more local hike to do and invite friends for a "celebration of failure" party.

Thus it came to pass that I abandoned the cautious exercise program I'd been, with so much self restraint, following for the past month and a half. I traded it in for the aggressive sort that falls somewhere in that gray and shadowed land between "unwise" and "categorically stupid."

It was going really well till Monday. I'd done a 13 miler on Friday at an incline setting of 5 (my commercial grade treadmill goes to 15). Then I'd had a really hard time sleeping for a couple of nights, and woke up hurting on Monday. . . then I planted a tree. And THEN I hiked another six miles. It was after the six miler, doing a careless/stupid forward-bend hamstring stretch, that the moment came.

Have you ever watched a potter use a wire cutter to take a vase off the wheel? It's a bit like that. All the pieces are intact, but something has definitely just shifted a bit sideways. The pain is sharp across that line, but also aching everywhere else. As you try to move a little in the moments afterwards there are hints and flashes that if you do something wrong, it will soon be shattering. You hold yourself up with your arms and you try to breathe, try to tense your core muscles, try to will them into putting whatever it was back.

It turned out not to be too bad. Definitely not another herniated disc; I can walk with ease. Still, the whole incident has been a reminder; dear self, this is what it's like to live in a body that can't be whole. It is more fun to ignore this, to try to forget this body is heavy and slow and weak, the kind that will give out on you indiscriminately, at seven o'clock on a Tuesday or five minutes before the biggest show of your life. Ultimately this is all human bodies, all of us, and it makes us nervous to know this something we'd rather forget. Some days I get lessons in remembering, and this is what I've learned.

It feels way better to get hurt doing something hard than washing your dishes or tying your shoe.

It feels weird to be able to walk thirteen miles up hill, then not to be able to tie your shoe four days later.

It feels weird to walk thirteen miles up hill, and not to dance.

I'm reminded of my college PE teacher, kindred spirit; as he put it, yeah, I know this isn't some kind of promise. Maybe I'll still die young, I could drop dead tomorrow of a heart attack or a stroke. . . but no matter what, I will die running.

I will die running.


___________________________ said...

I would not die running. Once you start noticing that you are dying, usually it is a good idea to stop running and seek help. If you try to die running then you will die sooner.

Meg said...

I love this! I am such an avid "body person." I love dancing, running, hiking, soccer, swimming. All things body bring me such a thrill.

But it's good that you identified your hiking threshold. I haven't found mine yet, so it's likely to be on a trail somewhere where I have to be carried back to civilization. So, jokes on my hiking buddy I guess (I know. I'm so irresponsible).

It's a difficult line isn't it? There's so much exhilaration in pushing that boundary, but so much suckiness in crossing it.

I hope your extremities get feeling back to normal soon!

Day said...

Silly rabbit, taking everything in an excessively literal way is for me.

Isn't it wonderful that athletic thresholds constantly change? :)