Monday, February 07, 2011

It Might be a Cinderella Story

I often have trouble sleeping. Falling asleep, staying asleep-- just like sitting still-- is a huge challenge for me. It doesn't matter how exhausted my body might be because my mind? It never seems to tire. I know, clearly it is a sign that I am not thinking enough during the day but I get so distracted by all the sunshine and butterflies. It is hard to focus. But there, in the dark, in my bed where the quiet is punctuated by my son talking in his sleep down the hall and my husband's loud snoring next me and the dog downstairs fidgeting, well I just.can't.fall.asleep.

Throughout my life I have used various mental exercises to help me quiet and distract my mind so I can fall asleep. I remember when I was 6 I would try to count as far as could until I fell asleep. As got older counting backwards or doing multiplication tables in my head often worked. Making up stories or scenarios never work for me because I get excited about ideas and the ideas, notions and fantasies keep me up. But math? I don't get excited about math ever. So the numbers in their measured exactness, eventually, bore me to sleep.

Recently though I have been again struggling with insomnia and my number games are no longer working. I am willing to admit that it is possible that numbers have failed me because of my elementary math knowledge. Perhaps if I was better schooled in Calculus my mind could come up with more complex number exercises to lull me to sleep. But I am not going back to school just to learn more math so I can sleep. That just seems silly. So I had to come up with an alternative non math exercise. And that was when I found comfort-- and happily, sleep-- in mentally walking through my great grandmothers and grandmothers houses: specifically, Ebie, Carmela, Adelaide and Anne.

I have four houses to choose from on any given night and only once have I made it through all four houses and their rooms--having inspected yard, fence, stairs, doors, floors, walls, windows, rugs, furniture, porch and kitchen-- before the alarm went off saying,"Never mind about sleep, it is time to get up!" I find it peaceful thinking about the houses, their rooms, furnishings, objects, vistas and oddly, I feel like I am doing something important. You see, all my grandmothers have died and their houses are houses I will never have the opportunity to walk through again. At least not in how they looked when my grandmothers lived there. So I feel like, while I lay there doing nothing, that I am doing something: I am preserving photos in my mind. Sealing memories so I don't ever forget place and thing or more specifically, person.

Last week I couldn't sleep again. I was so wired that I was going to need to go on a long walk and decided I would walk through my great grandmother Ebie's house (I actually wrote a poem about standing in her front yard. You can read that poem here if you want). I feel like hers is the house I know the most details about.

It is summer and I am six, my brother is five and my mom has long hair and my dad has long hair and a seventies mustache. I am certain that this is the trip where after throwing my beloved pink bear out the car window for the third time since leaving Atlanta my dad finally said "C'est la vie"  And despite my loud and desperate pleas of  "La V! La V!" He  won't stop to go back and retrieve pink bear, with her broken music box hidden inside her bottom, from the side of the Martha Berry highway.

We arrive in the gray Pinto station wagon that has hideous maroon interior and trim. It is afternoon and it is hot and the humidity is suffocating. I am first out of the car and most likely the only one not exhausted from the five plus hour trip to Bainbridge. I run across the grass that is really just dead weeds at this point in the summer and up the red concrete steps to Ebie's front porch. To my right is painted and flaking white ornate wrought iron patio furniture. That part of the porch isn't covered and has looming live oak branches shading it. To my left that part of the porch is screened and has the unrivaled giant wicker porch swing laden with pillows. If there is anything else on the porch my mind can not see it because I only remember the swing. I marvel at the mailbox that is on the house and stick my hand, then my face through the letter slot and announce that we are here. I am always fascinated that the mailman walks up to the house and leaves mail here and not in a box out by the street.

The door is opened and I rush in. My attention is directed to the maroon Victorian style chair and polished wood tiered table with small, glass objects d' art. My eye zeros in on and my hand-- quick before she can swat it away and anyone can say a collective no,-- picks up the glass hobnailed slipper. There is only one. I puzzle that there isn't two but just one blue, high heeled, glass shoe. It makes no sense. It must be Cinderella's.

And that is when it occurs to me. I make it no further into the house and am riveted back to reality. Wide awake, (ugh again!) but realizing that it could be the shoes. That maybe, just maybe the neutral shoes I've been running in for the last 7 or so months  is why my right hip, right glute continue to give me trouble.

So the next day I don't exercise or run. And I do the same for the next 3 days. COMPLETE rest. And I have mental breakdown on every one of the days. On Friday, the fourth day, I go to Big Peach running company and my good friend Kate assists me in picking out some new shoes. I go with Adrenaline's after trying on at least 6 different shoes.

Adrenaline's. You read that right. Brooks Adrenaline's. Apparently, I am going back to the start. I wore Adrenaline's for the first 3 years I ran marathons and then wore Infiniti's and then Trance's. But always some form of motion control shoe.

Last spring I decided that I should be in a neutral shoe. And well, I've had nothing but issues with my right hip/glute since then. I have tried core work, cross training, less mileage, more rest, foam rolling, yoga and stretching and more stretching--seriously, I am part pigeon by this point-- and I am STILL having issues with my right hip/glute. The only thing that has been better for me since I switched from a motion control shoe to a neutral shoe is that my Achilles tendinitis and ankle issues are gone. But that could just be a product of lower mileage. At this point, I would welcome Achilles tendinitis back into my life if the hip/glute issue would go away.  Ankle pain is far less catastrophic than pain radiating from your low back, butt, hip and down the back of your leg and into your calf. It gets hard to ignore and I can't run if I am limping. Never mind train for the Boston marathon--yes, I am registered. Yes, I have a plane ticket (thank you Chris.) And a place to stay (thank you Allison.) And my own personal cheerleader (thank you Pookie.)

So I bought the Adrenaline's Friday. Saturday I ran 3 miles on the treadmill, tossing in a few hills and amping up the pace and well, my calf did not hurt at all. Just some tightness. My right hip and glute did ache some but were no worse than when I started. And my stride just felt more stable. More normal. Like I didn't have to think about it the whole time and worry about misstep on the right side. It was just happening.

Sunday was an 11.5 trail race. I wore my old mizuno ascend trail shoes. And for 11.5 miles, where I rolled my right and than my left ankle, my calf did not hurt at all. Again,  I had some mild ache in the hip/glute when I ran up the steeper hills but nothing like what I had been having. After the race I got one of those free massages. (Thank you Robin!)

And so that brings us to today, Monday. I woke for the first time in a long time with zero ache or tightness in my right hip/glute. And my calf is perfect. I went for an easy 6 miles--concrete, hills-- and couldn't even feel anything at all where my calf has been bothering me. My hip and glute felt better today than yesterday. Not perfect like the calf. Little bit of weakness, soreness is still there but it is better than it has been.

It might be too soon to be optimistic but Geez, could it be the shoes? Really? And so,  just like Cinderella is all I'm gonna need to get to the start (and finish) line at Boston is a little (race day) magic and just the right pair of shoes to train in? Really? I sure hope so. . .