The Agony of (un)Defeat
Just to re-orient you, reader, I believe we were in my sophomore year of high school. Lacrosse was my life. Or maybe running was my life. Or maybe it was flying. Or would you believe biking? Or school. I haven’t mentioned school much because it was a background event that structured each day and gave me things to do after the sun went down but was otherwise pretty much just there.
Don’t get me wrong, I had no problems with high school.
That’s right, I didn’t hate high school. I do not consider it a dark time beridden by despair and anguish.
School was where people I knew but didn’t often hang out with were. School was where I could discuss calculus with other smart kids without feeling like an overachiever. School was a time of unmonitored (at least, not by parents) freedom. School was where we found out about parties.
To be fair, that was maybe not particularly useful, because I didn’t much enjoy parties: I wasn’t in that scene and honestly didn’t care. Yes, I wanted to be liked, but I had my own stuff going on and didn’t need some separate party life mucking it up. After school was busy, usually with homework or World’s Best Journalist work, and I even spent most Saturday mornings in the newspaper office earning money to go flying. I didn’t have time to party and drink. Indeed, I didn’t drink at all in high school, just crashed some of the gatherings where drinking occurred and, along with my non-drinking buddies, stole the food. Such glorious times.
Wow, this is turning into a huge digression from the whole running story. So let’s back up a bit more while we’re here, maybe avoiding a re-digression later.
It was spring 1996, and I was running and biking, enjoying life, being amazing already but still not fully ascended on the Peak of Greatness. Our lacrosse season had started. I was in impressive shape, enduring and fast and confident in my stick skills, if you know what I mean. (Let's put that double entendre to bed, shall we? No wait, let's leave it at that one.) All this time I was blissfully unaware that, at any moment, I could be betrayed by the very body I inhabited. (Cue dramatic music!)
We traveled to one of the games, and early in the contest, I took a pass from a defenseman behind the goal. I turned to give the usual juke-and-jive to the attacker coming at me. Alas, the juke had apparently stalked off the field, and any jive I might have hoped for was gone fishin'. My right leg simply stopped moving.
And so I stood there, not knowing what the approaching attacker was going to do. The lack of movement must have been a great clue, though, because he slowed up his run until he was no more than 3 feet away -- close enough that he could look me straight in the eyes, where he presumably saw some mix of pain and confusion.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said. “I can’t move my right leg.”
“Sit down!” he insisted, incredulous that I would be standing there when the universal sign of injury in any sport is sitting.
“Er, I can’t. I can’t move.” I was essentially stuck, unable to flex my right hip. That, it seems, is a rather important function in our daily motions, and "sitting down" would have meant "falling over without moving one leg", which sounded like a painful resolution. "Maybe you can sit down for me?" I ventured.
He must not have been a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan. Instead, he turned to the ref, who by this point apparently had figured out that a goalie doesn’t have a convo with an attacker mid-game when the ball is right there. I was carried off.
The injury was probably from overuse. A blood vessel had burst straight into my hip flexor, incapacitating me on my feet. I stretched the muscle for a day or two, exercised it to get the clotted blood out of the area over the next week, hobbled around with a cane and a hot water bottle until the swelling and bruising had cleared up, and finally felt up to running again.
This time, I vowed, I would take it easy.
Just kidding. I didn’t vow that at all, because at the time I didn’t identify it as an overuse injury, just as one of those random setbacks on the road to being awesome.
Instead, that summer I made preparations for my senior year, visited some colleges, and went right back to playing lacrosse, running, and riding. With the injury fully behind me, I felt spectacular. And the impressive fitness I was building would carry through the next year and beyond.
With nothing holding me back from achieving my fearsome potential, I entered the fall/winter of 1996 with high hopes for the future. Perhaps.
Next up: Tennis-Hockey!
Mash out. Spin on.
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Some runner person. Also perhaps a cyclist & brewing type. But for your purposes, a runner person.