There was a moment early Sunday morning — which was actually late Sunday morning for those of us who’d been up since 2:00 AM — when I thought I might not be able to finish my half marathon. And it was all Pirates of the Caribbean‘s fault.
Friday I knocked out the Star Wars Dark Side 5K at Walt Disney World. Being the easiest of the three races on the schedule, I felt pretty good afterward. So I went off to play in the parks. I got to the Magic Kingdom early, saw the opening ceremony for the first time ever, finally encountered the Peter Pan ride without a monstrous wait, and just ran around being all silly and kid-like. The Haunted Mansion being closed should have been an omen that not all was well though. My FastPass time came and went, and Disney kindly gave me another one to go ride Pirates.
I happily hummed “A Pirate’s Life for Me” as I walked through the queue. I joked with the ride attendants. I ended up in the front row of our boat.
And I banged my goddamn knee on the railing as I got into it.
It hurt like hell when it happened, but eventually faded down to a dull ache. Which eventually got lost in the rest of my day’s travels, as I finished my loop of the Magic Kingdom and hopped over to Epcot for lunch. Later that night, I noticed I’d scraped my knee pretty good in the process, but it didn’t hurt to walk or put weight on it. Bullet dodged, I thought.
The next morning though, a night of relative immobility resulted in the knee feeling kind of sore. I couldn’t tell if it was just the scraped skin or if I’d done something internal. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to do much about it, so I doubled up on the knee braces just to be sure and headed out. Except I was so frazzled by the whole knee situation, I forgot to bring my headphones with me. No music for six miles. Needless to say, it wasn’t my favorite 10K ever, but I bore down and got through it. The scrape felt a little raw from one of my braces rubbing against it, but running and walking felt fine. On to the half.
And on to that moment Sunday morning. It was on a long stretch of road leading in to Animal Kingdom. Most of it was on the slight but steady incline of an overpass, and that was when I started feeling this little twinge of tightness on the side of my calf on the same leg as my pirated knee. It would subside when I walked, so I figured it would just work itself out.
It didn’t. It didn’t get worse, but it did spread, up past the knee and around the back of the thigh. Still only when I ran. I grabbed some offered energy packs and made sure to take water and Power Ade at every stop, hoping I was just cramping a little, but the pain remained. Leaving Animal Kingdom, I started to think that maybe I should just walk the rest of the way. I had a little over three miles to go; I couldn’t be that far off the pace, could I?
That’s when I saw, passing back by the stretch of road where my issues had started, the buses that would pick up the runners who could not finish. Logically, I knew they had the entire distance of the Animal Kingdom parking lot and the route through the park itself before they caught up to me. But emotionally, having them only a strip of median away from me was still too close. I bore down and kept doing my intervals.
And I finished faster than my first half back in January. In the euphoria of finishing and collecting my numerous medals doing so earned me, the leg was forgotten. Sitting in my car on the drive home, it didn’t bother me at all. But un-bending it after the forty-five minute drive and then tackling the stairs up to my apartment showed that it wasn’t quite through with me yet. It still hurt this morning, and as I was also pretty exhausted from three consecutive days of 2:00 AM wake-up calls, I decided to call out from work and just rest it.
Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to have been so stubborn yesterday. Maybe I should have walked the 5K and 10K like I’d planned so that I wasn’t as worn out during the half. Maybe I should have resisted the urge to ride a ride I’ve been on dozens of times. Maybe I shouldn’t have been a klutz performing the simple act of getting in a boat. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. Besides, pain is temporary. This is permanent: