The Road Back

It’s now been over three months since Covid-19 resulted in a state of emergency declared in Vermont and many other states.  The virus has taken various turns and while things are now beginning to open up, there is still much uncertainty about how it will play out this summer and fall.

I wrote a blog post entitled “Proof in the Plodding” on April 9th lamenting my slow pace related to a tight and sore hamstring that couldn’t be worked out with water running or weights in the gym due to closures.  That condition lingered and I just couldn’t muster speed in my runs, long or short — the hamstring holding me back.  It was frustrating and I was discouraged. And with no races in sight, there were no carrots to chase.  But as the calendar turned to June and the gyms and pools began to reopen, I’ve been able to water run and hit the weight machines.  The hamstring has finally begun to loosen up, as I suspected it would. 

So two weeks ago I headed to the track for a 5K time trial.  It was time to push on the pedal, if not to the metal as least down! I had been plodding along for much too long. After the first mile (actually the first lap!) I knew I was in trouble.  My 5K time ended up 2:30 slower than a track 5K I ran a year earlier.  I know I’m a year older and should expect to slow some, but NOT this much!  So I committed to running these time trials weekly, not because I’m a masochist, but to test myself.  So the next week I improved 22 seconds and then another 33 seconds this week.  Things are feeling smoother and while the hamstring is still a bit tight, some rhythm is returning.

I’m willing to accept a year-over-year slowing of 10 to 15 seconds for a 5K, so subtracting gains these past two weeks from the original 2:30 gap leaves 80 more seconds to regain.  That’s 26 seconds a mile — a lot of time to make up!  Questions remain in the form of “maybes.”  Such as maybe some other health condition is lurking and this is the iceberg emerging?; maybe I’m finally falling off the aging cliff and the good old days are gone?; maybe the hamstring injury is affecting my entire kinetic chain and I’m not recognizing that. Maybe some combination of those things.  But maybe, just maybe, this is fallout from changes wrought by Covid-19: no races, no group runs, a sense of isolation and loss of day to day joy, and a sadness about what we’re seeing socially and politically across our country.  The sports psychologists call this extrinsic motivation and while how we process these things is our responsibility, they are factors nonetheless impacting our drive and get-up-and-go energy.   

I don’t have the answer.  But I do know I can be out there, ease my way back into a gym routine and do my best to keep an optimistic outlook on things.  And keep doing those time trials!  We know the clock doesn’t lie – at times our friend, other times a stern taskmaster.  My sense is things will come around, even if it takes a couple more months to get there.  

Whatever our journey, the road back from something like this or from anything really, is rarely one we have chosen.  Yet it’s the one we’re on.  And we may as well learn what we can from it and enjoy the scenery enroute!

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