Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Down in it"

"Kinda like a cloud I was up way up in the sky"

3 years ago. March 5, 2005. The scene was Dempsey Indoor at the University of Washington in Seattle. The result? The line below tells a lot:

11 728 Gelbean, Tim Fleet Feet 14:20.00 14:46.96

Interpreting this little line of information for you goes like this:

I placed 11th (out of 21 starters/20 finishers).

They spelled the name wrong, as I had all kinds of trouble getting entered into the meet, and as of the day before the race, I found out I still wasn't entered at all (even though I had flown to Seattle!).

Next, I was racing for the Fleet Feet Racing Team in Boulder, and managing the team at the time. Those were definitely the proverbial good ol' days. I can't put into words how much I miss the racing, the managing, and being a teammate. It was a big part of my life.

"I was up above it"

14:20.00 That was my seed time. Yes, I was ambitious and optimistic. But I had good reason to feel that way. I was in the best shape of my life. The spring before, I injured my achilles shortly after (during?) a 4:08 (1500m) / 8:49 (3000m) double at CU early in a planned track season. I came back later that summer and felt fantastic running a 15:09 5000m, again at altitude. An injury-free stretch ensued, in which I got stronger and stronger. I ran 19:09 for the Purple Runner 5.8K Buff Ranch course that fall. In early January, I PR'd at 3K - indoors and at altitude - with a 8:48.7 at CU. After that race, I talked with CU's Mark Wetmore, and asked him for recommendations on where to attempt a fast indoor 5K - he said the University of Washington (sea level, raised but flat oversized track, great competition). That became my focus, and based on my performances, and several track workouts, my "if everything goes well" goal became 14:20. I really felt I was ready to step up to another level, and was planning on running in a "big time" 5000m race at Drake or Mt. SAC later in the spring. I was ready to go.

"Just then a tiny little dot caught my eye It was just about too small to see"

14:46.96 In talking with PH, GZ and JL shortly after the race (on PH's phone - funny, I had forgotten that), I wasn't celebrating my small PR (old best 14:47.2, outdoors in 2002). I had a bad day. I tried to take the perpsective of "on a bad day, I PR'd, and I'm disappointed - in a way, that shows how far I've come, and how good of shape I'm in." I had just never imagined the race going that way. I never felt too good, lost focus for much of the race, and rallied for the fractional improvement to my best time. I had assumed that no matter what, I would run sub-14:30.

The full results from that meet:

"But I watched it way too long That dot was pulling me down"

I headed out for a classic, post-shitty race, extra long warmdown. Of course, GZ and I had been doing XL warmdowns a lot in those days. I remember feeling a bit light headed at some point during that one, but I still probably covered 8 miles or so. After heading back to the hotel, and getting cleaned up, I then headed out for dinner (Cheesecake Factory), and a solo walking tour of Seattle. Eventually, I headed back, picked up a quite large amount of Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, and returned to my hotel room. After a stretch of stubborn focus, my binge eating had returned. The next morning, I enjoyed a long run at nearby Tiger Mountain. The long run was planned, but with my issues, it also served as a bit of a purge. More eating followed, including the leftover ice cream from the night before, and eventually I made it to the plane. I remember not eating on the plane, not eating when I got home, and not eating again until the next afternoon. Bad move.

"Now I'm down in it"

I continued to struggle with my eating, and the consequences soon became evident. A week or two later, and already heavier, I attempted to warm up for a meet @ CU, and my hip hurt me so bad, I finished the warmup and scratched out of the 1500m race I was scheduled to run. Despite being in great shape, I basically ate my way out of that track season. I eventually saw a psychologist about my eating disorder, which helped somewhat, but after several sessions I stopped going as I didn't feel I was progressing at that point.

"I used to be somebody"

I continued training and racing, and actually had some successful races (Greenland Trail 50K & Boulder Backroads Marathon come to mind) and logged some significant miles that year. However, in late July 2005, my left forefoot started hurting me. My painful neuroma that I had dealt with off and on since 1993 was back. I have dealt with that and/or a problem with my big toe ever since. At the same time, I struggled with my weight, and much of the racing and mileage took place 15-20 pounds heavier than my norm. At my height, that's not a good thing - 185# and competitive distance runner don't go together. My training and racing suffered, and eventually the racing came to a stop at 2006's West End 3K.

"I used to have something inside Now just this hole it's open wide Used to want it all I used to be somebody"

I thank Trent Reznor for the "Down In It" soundtrack to my tale of woe. While I obviously had problems prior to March 5th, 2005, I do view this day as a turning point in my life. While I have had some happy times in the last 3 years, on the whole, I've been dealing with some dark times.

Tomorrow morning, I have an MRI scheduled for my left foot, with a followup/review of the MRI on Friday. I'm looking for a definitive diagnosis of my problem(s), and I'm actually hoping for a solution such as wearing a walking boot or cast for several weeks.

I want be a runner again. I want to run, talk, and live with my circle of running friends. I want to plan, and dream, and race. I want to live.

1 comment:

GZ said...

Even though I witnessed these events, sometimes close, sometimes afar, while they happened (I remember the call at Safeway after the UW meet) - it still hurts to read this.

I am not sure this will help. Running is a lens. It is a lens as to how human we actually are ... and it reveals much more to those engaged in it, than to those not (although, I think other passions of endurance can do this too).

I want you to make it back too. Maybe that is 14:47 again, maybe it is slower, maybe it is faster. And maybe it is not at all. But in any case, even in the case where it does not happen - you have the gift of that lens for some period of time. I think that is more than most ever get. And what is really sad is that most don't even know it.