Monday 7 March 2016

Never give up without a fight

Never give up without a fight.

The first time I felt a stabbing pain in my abdomen, it was on Jan 3, 2016 and I was running the florida marathon. The pain came in around the 30k mark and it stayed with me for about 2k and then faded.

Over the next two weeks I didn't run much and then I ran the Mumbai marathon on Jan 17th 2016.   I don't remember experiencing pain during that run but the pain kept getting worse whenever I did my gym workouts.    It really hurt when I did my crunches.  It hurt to an extent that I stopped doing crunches.

In February, I started Comrades training and the pain started coming about two hours into my long runs and more specifically on the down hills.

I knew I had to get this checked out.  My general practitioner diagnosed it as a possible hernia and asked me to do a sonagram.

The radiologist had no doubt that I had an inguinal hernia.  He opined that it was a very small tear.

The surgeon at ambani hospital said that I was sitting on a "time-bomb" and wanted me to do the surgery asap.

I told him I want to run a 89km race in the mountains in May  and he said no problem. He opined I will be up and running in one weeks time after the surgery.

Dr Anant Joshi sent me to another surgeon after personally calling the other surgeon and explaining to him that he was sending his friend for consultation.

Dr Anand , the surgeon, explained the problem to me in great detail and said that when there is a hole in a fabric its best to stitch it when the hole is small.  I remembered the stitch-in-time bit but I explained to him that I really wanted to run comrades.

Dr Anand made me lie on the bed and with a pen marked the exact spot where the tear has taken place.   He suggested that if I can protect that spot by applying pressure (example :by wearing compression shorts or a belt) I would be fine.   He said that if I did surgery it would take a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks to be up and running.  After all they would be putting a foreign object (mesh) in my body.   All my personal research on the net had also led me to a similar recovery time frame.  

In my personal opinion the ambani doc just wanted a patient.  Screw the running.  For him that was something to explore at a later date.

Of course I realised that not doing surgery immediately would mean a day to day existence.  

I have to step out on each day's training run not knowing if I will make it through.

I know that in the more than two months of comrades training to follow , if the pain were to increase, it would mean that the tear has increased and I would certainly stop at that point and say goodbye to comrades and get the surgery done.  At that point I would have no regrets for I would have tried my best.   I don't have a death wish.

But I agree with my friend Smita who pointed out that lots of athletes get injured without any notice and I'm actually fortunate that I can at least mentally prepare for that possibility.

I realise that I do have many blessings.

I went public with my injury right after it happened and a lot of well wishers advised rest and recovery. .  That thing about "health being paramount" and such.   I appreciate and am truly grateful for that advice.

At the same time, I truly love this Comrades Ultra Marathon and I want to run it.

I know there will come a day when I willingly decide not to run it.

Today is not that day.

Earlier Today I ran a 51k in lonavala in 6:00 and took a small step towards that Comrades start line.

I ran the 51 km wearing compression shorts and a hernia belt.  

I think that it was the easiest, most controlled, run I've managed to do in the last 9 years.

I also called my homeopath Dr Divya and asked for her help.  She said that she was happy to help and asked to schedule an appointment.

I have this deep desire to be on that road.  
I don't intend to give up on it without a fight.
I will not be beaten into submission without a fight.
I will search for each ray of light.
I will take every possible chance.
This is my life.
I want my heart to be filled with laughter.
This is my life.
I want to delight in it.

"Your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dark submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you."
(A Laughing Heart -  Charles Bukowski)

In search of a lighthouse

In search of a Lighthouse.

Over the last 72 hours. I've had my testicles ( I prefer the word: balls ) pulled, yanked and squeezed in more ways and by more people than my wife  managed in the preceding 20 years.

I was, while they were being yanked, pulled & pushed, asked to lie down and cough and sometimes to stand and cough !

All this was quite traumatic because at the end of all the yanking and coughing, I was told that "I had a protrusion of abdominal-cavity contents through the inguinal canal!"

Which when translated, meant that I had "inguinal hernia."

I was told that there was only one way to sort this out and that was to undergo "surgery".  

Surgery !!!  Surgery which would require 4 to 8 weeks (depending on the surgeon I spoke to ) of recovery time.

When I assimilated this, I realised that I was in an existential crisis !  

I started training for the 89km Comrades ultra marathon (which takes place at the end of May in South Africa ) in all earnestness, on the 1st of February 2016 and now on the night of 29th February 2016, I was coming to the understanding that Comrades training was possibly coming to an end.

If I don't train in March and April and May, to the extent and intensity necessary, I don't think that I can ever finish Comrades.

As I lay in bed last night I was completely devastated.  I felt like the floor below my feet had caved in and I was in a free fall with no safety line.

For the last 7 years, Comrades had been a central unifying idea in my life.    Every day when I woke up in the morning , I knew what I was doing.  

I knew which way to point my ship.
I knew which shore I was aspiring to reach.

The 89 km Comrades ultra marathon has come to define my life.  I am a runner yes, but I am, more specifically, a Comrades runner.

When I ask myself the existential question, " Who am I ?" The answer has always been "I am a Comrades runner"

In my personal opinion , I cannot be defined by my work.   I cannot be defined by education.  I cannot be defined by my relationships. I cannot be defined by the things I own.  In my personal opinion, none of these are intrinsically mine.

For many years now, whenever I closed my eyes and sat in silence and asked myself, "Who am I ?"  The answer has always been, "I am a Comrades runner"

I liked this answer.   I didn't want the other possible answers.  I didn't debate the other possible answers.  I didn't care if this wasn't the correct answer.   This was an answer which I owned.  

I have an overwhelming abundance of blessings but I choose to define myself as a Comrades runner.

As I lay in bed last night. I realised that Comrades will leave me one day.  It will no longer be possible.   I will no longer be on that road between Durban and PMB. It will be beyond my physical ability.

It dawned on me that one day soon, I will no longer be a Comrades runner.   Yes, I will be a once-upon-a-time Comrades runner, but that is only a consolation.   It is not the same.

People will always advice that health is what matters and these other things are irrelevant.  That can and always will be an opinion.
But for me, to be alive and to not be on that road on that particular day wearing my bib # 21548 is not something I had envisioned.   I had not applied my mind to that possibility.

But last night it dawned upon me that as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, that such a day will come, sooner rather than later.

I felt a sickening emotion in my heart.  I felt lost.  It was as if my life had been wasted because I didn't have an identity.

I don't know who I would be if I am not a comrades runner.

I lay in bed and felt that all my physical strength was gone.  I felt all alone.  I looked inside myself and searched for an answer, "who am I ?"
There wasn't any answer forthcoming.

Over the coming days and weeks and months, I need to sort this out.   I need to find an answer.  I need to find my bearings.   The existential crisis isn't not running Comrades.  The crisis is not knowing who one really Is.

Osho says that if you keep asking the question, who am I, over and over again.  If you meditate upon that question long enough, one day the very question will drop. You will reach a silence and at that point you will reach peace and enlightenment.  

I am very far from that point.   I am, at this point down and dirty and entangled in the passions and pleasures of life very far from the lofty heights of spiritual enlightenment.  

Of course, Osho also says that you can find enlightenment while being completely engrossed in the marketplace of life.
But I'm in no position for that either.

For now, I just want to run Comrades and at the same time begin the process of figuring out a future without Comrades.

For now, I am lost and need a shore to steer myself towards.  

I'm in search of a lighthouse.