No Whimpering

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Guest Blog by Gary Cattarin

When March gets here – that’s on the other end of the annual 60 Day Challenge which started a few days ago – we can talk about it coming in like a lion and leaving like a lamb (or in recollection of John Belushi’s famed take on the subject, it may come in like a wildebeest). At the moment, the New Year has just come in, and it’s arrived with a whimper. And while that’s OK with me, I refuse to whimper. Having heard in the last two weeks the tales of two friends who narrowly cheated death this past year, I’ve no right to moan and complain about a small painful bit and its resulting impact on my training and racing.

Best laid plans had me bursting dramatically and triumphantly onto the roads on Christmas Day, breaking my self-imposed injury exile with Yuletide Glee. But let’s face it, the first run back after a long break rarely results in drama or triumph; more likely – as was the case this time – it’s a slow and careful shuffle. So why waste that annual excuse to run in Christmas plumage on a jog of a mile or two? No, far better to be good and ready for that Christmas return-to-the-roads gift. Besides, knowing all the Christmas Crap (chocolate-covered nuts, chocolate-covered cranberries, chocolate-covered pine branches, chocolate-covered rocks, you know) coming in my near future, I just had to get back into it. Crank up the metabolism, kids, the onslaught is coming!

Thus I jumped the gun on my planned Christmas gift. As one who is rarely early for anything, I should probably feel a little pride, but I do recognize that heading out a few days ahead of plan probably just tempted fate. All the more reason to make the reboot a slow and ponderous process, two miles, then three, three and a half, four, no watches, no worries about slogging along at nines, and mostly, no relapse of the big Achilles woes. A twinge? Yes, a bit, it’s not perfect, and my toes are still crossed. Pain like before? No, at least not yet.

With the pre-holiday ramp-up, I was ready to have more than a measly twenty minutes of fun on Christmas Day. Ironically, the biggest threat to that annual tradition came from Mother Nature. Christmas Day dawned so warm – in the mid-fifties – that it was almost overkill to hit the roads in traditional garb. Balancing the headgear with shorts, both to shed head heat and, well, just to do it – to run in shorts on Christmas is one of those things you do because you can – that run was mildly dramatic and triumphant, stretching the distance and dropping the pace back into the high sevens, and being out there long enough to spread some cheer among passing motorists, a few of whom actually pay attention and notice the fun. Ho ho ho to you all!

But let’s be honest. It wasn’t really dramatic and triumphant, it was still rather slow and plodding, with the primary goal of not hurting anything. As were my subsequent brief holiday week outings, wrapping up the year with almost the identical mileage and outing count as the year before. Ho-hum annual stats for a second straight year, but this was no time to try to pile it on to rescue any sort of nerdy yet meaningless numerical goals. With less than four months till Boston (yes, it’s out there), there’s a lot of work to be done, but none of it means a whit unless I’m healthy enough to help fill a corral in Hopkinton.

Which is exactly why the New Year came in with a whimper. While it’s a tradition to race on New Year’s Day, partially to kick the year off with a bang and partially to – let’s be brutally honest – stuff it in the face of the hangover lifestyle, this year my resolution was to make no bangs for a while, just whimpers. So rather than hitting the Freezer Five or First Run, I opted to join clubmates for a very pleasant leisurely stride on the trails at our local Assabet National Wildlife Refuge. New Year’s Day run notched, no damage done. A chance meeting with a local clubmate the next day kept the streak of non-abuse alive, and the next day, taking advantage of our lack of snow (at least until last night), another trail outing – complete with some photographic silliness – kept the Whimper Streak going through the third.

What’s the point of this prattle? It’s certainly my goal to get back to fightin’ shape. It’s certainly my intention to regain a competitive footing. And it’s certainly my plan to work hard to get there. But if a day, a week, a month, a season, or more of unexciting, non-racing, strength building training – the stuff that doesn’t make for extremely interesting blog posts – well, so be it. That’s what needs to happen. And I won’t whimper.

A couple weeks ago I received news from a teammate of his freak accident that resulted in a near-fatal infection. A couple days ago I received word from a former co-worker of his freak illness that resulted in not just a near-fatal, but in fact, a multiply-fatal condition – as in, the brought him back from the other side more than once during his ordeal. These stories scream the word perspective, and remind me that I’ve got no right to complain. I’m vertical and breathing, and that’s what matters.

I can hope that this year brings the fun of big gains, big races, big numbers, and big fun. But I’ll keep reminding myself that twenty-fifteen mostly needs to be the year of No Whimpering.

If you want some more excellent, non-whimpering perspective then follow Gary on his blog The Second Lap.

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