Spring comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb. This is so very true on the coast of Nova Scotia. We flit from snow storms to bright days of sunshine where no jacket is needed to thunderstorms and remnants of high winds and …
Another post so soon!
A few people have asked why this running blog changed into a regular blog. Simple answer: I am not running right now, but I have not lost that spirit or the love of writing.
Here’s what happened. After being a big runner up into my teenage years, I stopped due to the development of supraventricular tachycardia. I got an ablation that fixed that in 2012. I began running in 2014, beginning with the C25K program. I worked up to 10K and ran a couple races. I didn’t think of them as “races” but as “Can I make it all the way?” runs. I quickly found that I am not a competitive runner and preferred trailrunning over everything else, and that was just fine with me. On good weeks, I’d run 3x a week 5-6K each. I had thoughts of training for a half-marathon but never did.
In early 2017 I began getting heart palpitations that happened all the time, even while just sitting around. These still happen somewhat frequently but are mostly controlled by medication. The palpitations themselves are not dangerous, but when I get them they make me really dizzy and it’s hard to run that way.
Also, while I was still running regularly, my left foot and ankle increasingly became sore and weak, leaving me in pain and also losing balance on the trail. I had a couple crazy falls. I told my doctor, but she didn’t really suggest anything. In May 2017 it came to a head when we were camping up at Saltery Bay. I had had a run that morning around the camp ground and over a rocky beach, and then later we decided to do a hike on the Sunshine Coast Trail. We were climbing a steep hill when my ankle just seemed to give out. I figured I just needed more ankle support. On a trip to Powell River that weekend we found some good hiking boots. I tried hiking again with them on, but my ankle was in pain. The weekend after that I did the Sun Run but had to walk some. I had simply overdone it, I think.
It seemed to have taken a long time for my doctor to do anything. At the same time my left leg had swollen. I got several ultrasounds, and there was no edema or any other sign of what might be causing it. In the end, after visiting a physical therapist as well, everyone decided the leg was not swollen just slightly bigger. It’s hard to tell, but I can tell. I’ve never gotten any sufficient answers on why this would happen. I still managed to hike and do the occasional run–it seemed if I stayed off my ankle, it would start to heal. But as soon as I’d run somewhat regularly, it just weakened again. So I stopped it.
Finally a few months ago, after no improvement, I asked my doctor to order an x-ray. I did that, and it turned out I have arthritis in that foot and my bones look older than they should. I guess this is injury-related since no other place on my body is always weak and sore like this. My doctor referred me to a foot and ankle specialist, who I visited last month. Wow, she was amazing. She covered everything. I got some blood work done, and the only thing showing up was a vitamin d deficiency. So I am trying to remedy that right now. The next step is an MRI, which is scheduled in a couple weeks. Once she gets all the results back, I will see her again and she will decide the next step. Update: The MRI showed tendon tears, which take forever to heal, so running is out for a long time.
I have accepted that I may never run again. I also have lower back issues from a fracture a few years ago, but I am lifting light weights a few times a week to try to strengthen my back–regardless, I was running with that issue anyway. Oh, also in the last couple years I, my sister, and daughter have all gotten tested for Ehlers-Danlos (of the hypermobility) and have it. No wonder I found it so easy to do all those backbends, backflips, etc. when younger. Whee? My doctor said “don’t worry about it”. And my sister says “stop running”. Ok.
So, it’s been a long wait and see. My specialist told me I cannot run right now until she determines what’s happening. Someday, she said, I might be able to run with an ankle brace. For now, however, she is looking at bones, muscles, fractures, disease, and even any sort of indicator of cancer (for instance, she noticed a strange gap in my left foot that might indicate a mass). She said, depending on what tests show, I may be treated for vitamin deficiency, have surgery, or steroids, or whatever it takes. I’m just happy I found such a thorough doctor.
So in the meantime, I am not running. I am barely able to hike right now. I can do it but know that later that night I will be in crushing pain.
I’m one of these “accept what I cannot change” people and don’t let things get to me. At the same time, I do miss running. Being on the trails was one of my happier alone times in life, ever ever. Even if I can never run again I will always remember that freedom and alive-ness.
My leg is okay to run on, according to the sports doctor I saw this morning! The left leg is still bigger than the right, but it is not due to anything dangerous and my ankle and foot are okay…no longer sprained. There is some possible nerve damage in my left foot, but it wouldn’t cause swelling. I will have further tests done in October.
However, there is a bit of bad news that I have neglected to talk about here, and mostly it’s because I feel people don’t really care to hear about health issues all the time. But I have had an often-occurring abnormal heart rate in the past month, starting before vacation. When we went hiking at Turkey Run, it got pretty bad after climbing the last bit of stone steps and it was a little scary. I did see my doctor later, and she ordered a Holter monitor, which I wore for 24 hours, starting last Friday. I’m still awaiting results. I have cut out caffeine and alcohol from my diet, but the positive is discovering great herbal teas. The one I’ve been hooked on lately is Dandelion Hibiscus. It’s naturally sweet with a bit of spice.
Still, I have this last hurdle to jump through before running again. And I guess I’ll start the C25K training one more time. I’m still biking or stationary biking, but doing anything like going up stairs or even sometimes just going on short hikes will set off this weird heartbeat.
That being said, I have been thinking a lot lately about the exhilaration I feel when running, especially on the trails. I just love letting loose and going as fast as this body will let me go. That is usually not very fast, it seems, but for me, it feels wonderful. I miss that whole feeling, from the running itself to listening to music or story podcasts to things I see in the forests and along lakes or streams. It’s an experience that wraps up together to take me somewhere that is thoroughly alone but not lonely. Can’t wait to get back to that.
On the way back from the sports doctor, I came the back way into work, which is where I always start my runs at lunch. Sometimes I may go one way, sometimes another. There are small trails all over the place and even a couple different ways to get to Deer Lake, where, time willing, I can do a 5K and have time to change and shower during the lunch hour. I saw that the place where I fell down the hill last summer now has a proper sidewalk. That was the time I saw a bear ruffling through garbage in the green village behind campus. I bloodied my face up good that time. Just seeing these areas made me excited because I never drive back there anymore. We take the train to work now, so I come into work the other way.
Anyway, I am re-energized today, now that there is nothing seriously wrong with my leg and doc says I can put impact on it again. A little worried about the heart, but I’m hoping it is really nothing.
In the meantime, I have been having a great time working on eco-fiction projects and with authors. I’ve also been doing a careful re-read of all the GRRM series, A Song of Ice and Fire. In particular, I’m not only just reading but taking some detailed notes about the environmental aspects of it, mostly the weirwood trees, old gods, and Children of the Forest. Really enjoying this story. I want it to go on forever. I’ll compile all my notes in an essay when I’ve completed it. I want to read all five novels first though, noting the places in which we learn more about Old Nan’s stories, the Others (aka White Watchers), etc.
The featured image (Children of the Forest) was taken from Game of Thrones, or from websites created and owned by HBO, the copyright of which is held by HBO. All trademarks and registered trademarks present in the image are proprietary to HBO, the inclusion of which implies no affiliation with the Game of Thrones Wiki (source). The use of such images is believed to fall under the fair dealing clause of copyright law.
Our camping two weekends ago near Saltery Bay was full of sun and rain, waves and wind, endless coasting birds, hiking into wilderness, rushing waterfalls, isolation, running, and admiring the country north of Gibsons, mostly First Nations territories peppered with local foods and artisan goods. …
Last night, we went to see George Orwell’s 1984, which played across North America as a reminder of our humanity vs. surveillance and misinformation by an oligarchy–completely pertinent now because the US government has suddenly clinched into what may become an oligarchy and has become a major source of lies. These lies have received the euphemism “alternative facts,” a phrase I think should go away, because anti-truth is not any kind of fact, not even an alternative one. Let’s not kid ourselves. Facts are facts. Lies are lies. There is no situation in which lies are facts. Of course, in the field of physics, for instance, what seems to be one thing may in fact be another. When dealing with society, however, we should remember Edward R. Murrow’s famous quote: “I simply cannot accept that there are, on every story, two equal and logical sides to an argument.”
Some examples of lies in our world are the following statements: climate change isn’t happening, climate change is not caused by humans, President Obama was not born in the United States, and so on–these are narratives that lie on the spectrum of propaganda, not at all truths. These narratives have evidence they aren’t true at all–and this evidence is empirical, not perceived.
See the current president’s lies at PolitiFact (a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I should add–not some out of the way publication). I worry about this, because, as 1984 shows, a constant narrative involving lies will change people’s perceptions and reduce them to nothing. It has already changed policy, such as environmental deregulation.
So many things change our perceptions of reality. From the time we are born, one could argue that we are manipulated to believe one thing or another. Even our memories are not set in stone. Life is but one fluid experience after another, and our perceptions are constantly altered by narratives reaching out to us. What we pick up on seems to be highly influenced by families, friends, communities, churches, schools, and so on. And many of us try to rely on our own wisdom and knowledge to find the right sources to listen to. Whatever we turn into after all this molding is negligible. As 1984 shows, humanity is ultimately about finding truth and fighting for it. Not perceived truth but empirical truth.
This is how I live now: I wake up every morning and am groggy for the first few moments. We have returned to rain, rain, rain after two days of sunshine. I am reluctant to let go of our comfortable sheets, and the warmth of the night womb, or open my eyes to the dim bedroom. Yet I do. I think of the things that matter, like family, friends, and so forth–but at the most tactical level, I experience things that sway me on a daily basis: the simple promise of a cherry tree my husband planted over the weekend finally–a rare ojochin tree, which I watered after packing in more soil. I think of running on the trail, which I’ve been able to do so far twice this week, and I fold myself in the memory of what I’ve experienced as well as anticipate what I’ll experience next. I spend time feeling, sensing, and wholly appreciating. The bite of a crisp and cold apple, the feel of the cold creek seeping into my running shoes, the way light drops on everything an hour before sunset, the way my muscles ache after hopping and running among rocks and big puddles for over 7.5 kilometers–like on Monday evening when we traipsed up to Crystal Falls and back–the newly found experience of the awesome kick of a hibiscus margarita, the unique flavor of a poblano pepper, the ever-embracing and numbing emotions from listening to music by someone like Ramin Djawadi as I trek through the rain or sunshine and feel the wind rushing my face, the warmth of a surprise call from my sister, the haunting sounds of unseen birds calling in the rainforest, the words of such authors as George RR Martin or Omar El Akkad (see my interview with the Omar) as I juggle both books, incredibly ensconced within their imaginary worlds. These sensations are the crux of life, the joy of it. The every day. Some may say these things are mundane, and some may never notice the mundane. But I do. They shape perceptions and lend beauty. I can say: American War is a great book, Ramin Djawadi’s music moves me, the Crystal Falls Trail is fun and a good workout, I’m in the mood for a cold apple, and so on. These are true to me, my perceptions. They are how I live my life in some sense.
When it comes down to it, however, underneath it all, unless we live by some essential truths–climate change is happening and we are causing it, for example–our perceptions are without essential humanity, and in that sense I mean, we cannot and should not lie to ourselves and call it our own personal alternative “fact”–because truths are truths, and anything else is not. And with truth in the background of our daily perceptions, we open our eyes to the world and live life according to what life is proven to be underneath the small things–none of which are prosaic by any means. In my case, life isn’t about the sullen commute to work in the morning or the pavement or the city high rises or the surfaces and storefronts. I am not buying whatever they’re selling. I’m going outside and seeing what’s there, what’s disappearing, seeing how it is changing in the Anthropocene. I appreciate the tactical beauty of the natural world, from stones to apples to mud puddles to songbirds to rushing creeks to tall cedars to distant snow-capped mountains. Making decisions about how to live with what we have left in this old world, and knowing, despite all the great art, words, nature, and sensations that move and define us, that we will end, like everything else–and loving this moment, each moment–is, to me, what it’s all about.
Enjoy some of the rainforest from my runs this week: