Friday, October 7, 2011

The Uncrustable Principle

I wasn't expecting it when it hit me.  But that's how these things work.  There I was mindlessly eating a microwave thawed peanut butter and jelly Uncrustable (well not really mindlessly ... I was starving and therefore eating it with fervor) late in the afternoon.  I took a bite on the top and out of the bottom squirted all my peanut butter and jelly.  It came out like a Super Soaker and splatted all over my leg, chair, and alas, the floor.  No way to salvage that.  In hungry frustration, I sat there with my empty, deflated Uncrustable white bread thinking, "Holy cow.  God didn't want me eating that one.  May have been laced with some sort of unhealthy additive or bacteria ... or parasite."  So, of course I heated up another one, sat down to eat it and, yes, predictably, it happened again.  That's it.  I've sworn off Uncrustables.  Hmmm, but what's the real revelation here?  The Uncrustable is a metaphor ... a meta for running.

Running is the perfect little package of round, bleached, spongy bread filled with runny protein and sugar, with the crust already removed.  It's self-contained, healthy (ok, maybe that part of the metaphor breaks down on the part of the Uncrustable), convenient, satisfying, and whole.  If you bite carefully, everything stays where it's supposed to, and when you're done eating, there are no crumbs and no runny globs.  But what happens when you heat the Uncrustable and abuse it with a careless bite, and let's say the Uncrustable isn't as young as it used to be?  When you bite, all the peanut butter and jelly squirts out.  Yes, that's me.  That's my running life.

I was so happy to have a strong race a few weeks ago.  As I've been training myself back from injury, it was a good indication that something seems to be going right, or is at least getting better.  The down side though, it that my body hurts.  It hurts when I train and it hurts when I race.  I'm still not back from the last Achilles injury (that happened in late February so we are going on 8 months now) and my knee is at varying degrees of inflammation.  Sure I can run now and am not confined to the prison of "not-optional" cross-training, but I always wonder if my peanut butter and jelly is going to stay put.  Every run hurts. 

I'm getting smarter though.  If my Uncrustable is getting too warm, I take it out of the microwave and let it cool off before I eat it.  Love that swimming pool.  Or the lake.  John and I were blessed to get away for a few days up to Lake Tahoe last week.  The lake temperature was slightly warmer than the ocean but I had my wetsuit just in case.  We swam thousands of meters in crystal clear amazing water and oh! my peanut butter and jelly were loving it.

Another smart thing is that I will soon be getting my Uncrustable worked on.  I am going to have my leg length discrepancy address and I am confident that this will strengthen my bread.  I want to run as fast as I can for as long as I can, but I also want to be able to run ... period. 

I have so far had a painful but really great week of workouts.  Upon returning from high altitude, I did another attempt at the track and was able to achieve 4 x 800 before my peanut butter said "enough."  But later that day I did the brutal Master's swim workout and beat the p-butter back into submission.  Tuesday was a 10 miler under 7:00 pace, on a sore knee, and Achilles still screaming.  Wednesday ushered in a session of 400 repeats on the treadmill, again ending when my peanut butter started oozing.  But that was followed up with a great weight lifting session.  Thursday was a nice 8 mile run in the wind (lovely gusts that knocked me backwards), again keeping things under 7:00 pace.  Today will include a 4 mile tempo run if my peanut butter can handle it, and then another brutal Master's swim workout.  Finally Saturday will be my long run of 15 miles.  Gosh darn it.  Each day hurts but not the kind of hurt that pops your bread.

So goes the metaphor of the Uncrustable.  Here's to keeping those seams tight.