I had grand plans for this post.
I’m fresh off a two-week trip to Italy that started with work and ended with vacation. We should have Strava(ed) our tourism, but I swear we walked 10 miles a day, more the two days we got so lost we actually walked in circles trying to figure out where we were.
I had let my calf heal – it seized up tromping through knee-high snow the last time I ran in late April, a maddening development after choosing to not go to Zumbro in an effort to avoid injury.
My plan was to post about how I was ready to dive back into training for the Black Hills 50 in June. About how happy I was to come home to green grass, blue skies and the promise of spring in South Dakota. I was so sad when I left for vacation. It was grey and cold and then all the late April snow just made me miserable. I felt myself sinking.
But then I left for a while, took time to unlearn all I’ve learned, for this life to unwind, as the song says, and came back to the city I love in a season I adore.
I woke up on Sunday feeling way less jet-lagged than I thought I would, and headed to Good Earth for a trail run. I knew re-entry to running would be tough – feeling out of shape and tired and just bleh. But I also knew I love the trails and the woods and time alone. I didn’t bring music. After weeks of being surrounded by crowds and people, I wanted to just be. Me. My breathing. Footfall after footfall.
I got it, for a while, until my calf began to cramp up. I walked up the hills, found Patrick at the top. He had ridden out, hiked around with me for a while, and then I dropped down onto the paths again and ran another 20 minutes. When I finished, slightly despondent, there he was, staring at a tire on his bike that had just randomly blown off.
We threw it in the car, drove home.
Patrick put a new tire on, and we corralled the kids for an afternoon ride. We randomly caught up with the Harlan’s Bike & Tour ride, and headed to Riverdale Park to enjoy a beautiful day with everyone we know.
On the way, Viv pumped her way up a little hill, so proud of herself that she could stand up and ride now. “Go, Viv, you can do it,” I said as I pedaled next to her.
Then I watched as she slowed down, began to stop and the bike leaned toward me. She laid it down, and stepped through to the other side.
Meanwhile, as I hyper focused on making sure she wasn’t going to fall, I came to a near standstill, riding uphill with my feet clipped in. I did the slow fall, put an arm out to stop me, felt a pain so intense I got nauseated immediately.
Viv began to cry, “I’m sorry!”
“It’s OK, it’s not your fault,” I said. It wasn’t. It was an accident.
“Can you ride,” Patrick asked.
I wasn’t sure. “Just go to the park, and I’ll meet you there,” I said.
My stomach was turning, my arm hurt and I felt flushed and awful and needed to be alone for a minute. He and Jack rode ahead. Viv walked over the bridge with me, got on her bike on the other side and gave me a moment alone. I got on. Rode with one hand. Laid my bike in the grass in the shade and sunk down next to it.
“I think I should go get the car,” Patrick said.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I just need a few minutes.”
About a decade ago, I fell off my bike near Brandon and fractured my elbow. I didn’t know it at the time, just that it hurt. I rode home and went to work that day. I asked myself if this fall hurt as badly, and I couldn’t tell.
Finally, as it swelled up as I sat there, I gave in.
“Can you ride with Jack and get the car,” I said.
“Yes, I’ve just been waiting for you to realize that,” Patrick said.
They rode off, came back with the car, ice and a Diet Coke.
“That’s love,” I said about the pop.
We climbed in, went home and I sat and iced it. Outside, some neighborhood kids climbed onto the playset in our yard, and it immediately snapped. It had been listing to the north for about a year, and this was the end. The kids were fine, but it was clear: It had to come down.
Patrick and Jack took it apart.
My wrist continued to swell.
My mood continued to deteriorate.
We all went to sleep, a rotting pile of wood in the middle of the back yard, a wrist growing more and more disfigured as the evening wore on, two kids with feet already stained with the grass green and black dirt of summer.
“This day was so weird,” Patrick said.
“I know,” I replied. “I’m afraid to do anything. It’s been all wildly inconvenient.”
I woke up and everything hurt. I iced. Ibuprofened. Took a shower. The kids did their best to help themselves. We all left the house.
By noon at work, my wrist was weird shapes and things were turning purple. It clicked when I turned it. I went to the walk-in clinic, where they did X-rays. Every step of the way, I considered leaving. There’s no way it’s broken. I jammed it a few years ago and it felt the same, and that was just a sprain.
I kept almost just leaving.
Then the physician’s assistant came back in, Eric Bannworth, a runner I know, and said, “It’s broken.”
“You’re kidding,” I said.
Then I let loose a string of expletives unfit for a family blog.
Thankfully he’s a runner, and we’ve been acquaintances for years, and he got it. He knows how frustrating it is when what you do for stress relief requires your body to be in working condition. I had consoled myself with my calf injury by replacing it with riding for a few weeks. At least I’d still be outside. Moving.
A month in a cast. A visit with a hand doctor. A calf that’s still sore.
No running until that heals (the worst). A Memorial Day bike packing trip that likely won’t happen. A trip across the country with both kids that will surely suck as we run through airports, dragging them behind to make our connections. No yoga.
It’s hard to not be frustrated.
But here we are.
The kids promised they would help me out. Patrick made dinner from a recipe I set out for him. Jack ate sweet potatoes in an effort to be kind – and liked them.
The lights are on over the deck. I opened a bottle of white wine. I’m listening to Internet radio.
I told myself this is the month the kids learn to be more self-sufficient. No time like the present.
I can finish my overdue library books.
I’ve been here before – injured, cracked bones, torn muscles.
We all have.
It all heals.
We all heal.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear every other Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.