Well, now. That’s a good — and reasonable — question. It’s also a difficult one for me to answer, first because I am not sure I can provide a clear answer and, second, because part of any answer I may have will be very personal in nature.
I’ve always regarded the purpose of the Flat-Footed Fox blog is to document my running, simply and purely. I will do my best to make these posts no different. But the separation between the physical and the mental — if there is one — is paper thin. And these posts, as much as I don’t want them to, will bear testimony to that.
The simple version of the story as I understand it is this: two years’ accumulated stress took its toll on my mental and physical health. It affected my ability and desire to run, which, in turn, increased my stress levels, creating a feedback loop that I am only just starting to break.
The last run I wrote about was an easy 6-miler in Antibes, France, early in May 2019 during my European vacation. During that time, unknown to me, my A1C levels were spiking from 6.3 that March to 10.9 in July (if you’re not familiar with the figures, that’s going from pre-diabetes levels to dangerously high, as this chart illustrates).
Now, here’s the thing. I could find no explanation for the spike then, and I still can’t looking back. I had made no changes to my lifestyle or to my diet. I felt no pressure from the usual external causes—work, family, relationships, the zeitgeist, the whole ball o’ wax.
So, what was going on? Whatever it was, my doctor put me back on metformin (a drug that I hate and that hates me) and sent me on my way. And that was it. No answers provided. No new revelations. Nothing to act on.
The running that summer and fall was, as best I recall, nothing less than one struggle after another. I had stated in that last Flat-Footed Fox post that I was going to try and better my 77-minute PR in the Boilermaker that summer, and for a while during that run, I thought that might be a possibility as I moved into high gear coming down the golf course hill. But I hit the wall at the 10K split and walked/ran round the St. Luke’s/Utica College corner and down Champlain Avenue, finishing a disappointing 1:27:50.
Despite the struggles in training, race results for the remainder of the year were actually decent. I broke 2 hours (1:58:45) for the Roc half (despite some walks on the Thomas Ave. hill and other elevations on the second half of the course) and just missed breaking 4 hours (4:02:42) for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which was still almost an hour faster than my first marathon that I ran on that course. My A1C, meanwhile, slowly backed down to 8.2 that November — not great, but at least it was moving in the right direction. So, I felt optimistic going into the New Year as I drew up plans for running the Ottawa Marathon in May 2020.
What happened next was the perfect storm. I’m sure don’t need to remind you of it — the pandemic, the Orange Buffoon in the White House, the summer of protests, the unstolen election and its ludicrous never-ending aftermath. It all provided the perfect backdrop to a year that became increasingly more of a personal and physical challenge.
To be fair, the year started out great. I began working with a coach, Kelly Nash, who devised an individualized marathon program for me beginning January that involved much-neglected core work along with all the other traditional elements of a marathon training program.
By the middle of March, things were starting to feel good. Times were improving. I was making some real progress.
Then, one by one, races started to be canceled as the full enormity of the pandemic started to unfold. Kelly and I changed goals numerous times; I set my sights on a possible fall marathon, only to have that possibility dashed in June.
To keep my motivation, I ran a virtual race across New York State, watching my progress every other day on a Google map.
I embarked on a challenge with some friends to cycle around all 11 Finger Lakes by the end of the summer.
Anything to keep moving forward, to stay active physically and mentally. To avoid languishing.
All the time, my relationship was falling apart. But this is not the place to analyze that. I don’t want, or need, to play out my personal dramas in public. What happened, happened. What’s done is done.
Predictably, my health began to suffer again. An A1C of 10.4 in June turned into 11 in October, despite being on a new medication (Trulicity). This resulted in a visit to an endocrinologist who, worried about possible long-term damage to my pancreas, put me on short-term insulin therapy.
By the end of the year, the medication had the desired effect on my blood sugars, and my A1C came back down to 7.7.
But that was only a temporary fix for my health. There was no medication I could take to fix my relationship.