Earlier this year, the parking on our streets in Chicago became “permit-only” from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. This was great because there are music venues in the neighborhood and there have been times when I’d gotten home late when there were concerts and I had to park nearly a mile from home. My lovely perfect wife has an annual sticker with permit parking privileges. My situation is more complicated. Though I live in Chicago full-time, I still work in Wisconsin, my car has Wisconsin plates, and I don’t have a city sticker with the permit. However, I do have a glove box full of nightly guest stickers I can fill out, place on my windshield, and park on the streets close to home. Now even though I’ve got a big supply, I have, on occasion, peeled off the sticker already affixed to my windshield, written over the old date with a new one, slapped it back on the glass, and parked for another night. Now I don’t know if I do this because of my frugal nature, to try to get away with something, or as a form of protest, but I do it. Not every time, but whenever the numbers seem adaptable to change, I figure, why not? And I’ve parked overnight like this many times with no penalty.
So last night when I got home around 6 p.m., I pulled the sticker off, changed the date from 12/21 to 12/30 (we’d been out of town for the holidays and there are some blocks where permits are not needed—if you are wondering how I’d gone 9 days without a fresh sticker) and didn’t think about it. Later we went to a friend’s house for her birthday (my wife drove) and as we were getting home around midnight, we drove past my car and I saw it—a parking ticket! On my car! I couldn’t believe it. I can be a real stoic about things, but when it comes to parking tickets, they feel like a personal affront. I don’t know why this is, but I was justifiably (I thought) upset.
We pulled over and I jumped out of the car to grab the ticket besmirching my what-should-have-been-clear windshield. But before I did I snapped a picture that showed both the ticket and my valid nightly pass in place. There’d been a concert at the Riviera Ballroom and I figured there had been some cars parked illegally. But I was also sure mine was not one of them. Clearly, I thought, someone had made a mistake. In fact, I was so sure of myself by the time I’d carried it upstairs and got ready for bed, I’d put it out of my mind, unusual for a parking ticket, which often leaves me stewing. In the morning, I’d simply write a letter protesting the ticket, send it in with my photographic proof, and that would be it.
I didn’t even open the envelope to read the details on the ticket until this morning but when I did, I saw the violation: “Reused Residential Parking Permit.” I couldn’t believe it, but they had me. It wasn’t a mistake–they accused me of exactly what I had done. I looked at the photo I’d taken the night before—the changed date looked pretty good, and I’d gotten by with worse in the past, but there was no denying that it had been changed and I was guilty as charged. It felt anger again, but now it was towards myself. I’d tried to beat the system, to cheat it, but the system couldn’t be beat.
What does any of this have to do with my running? Well, I feel like maybe I’ve been trying to “beat the system” with that too. I was going to write a post today marking the 4 year anniversary of my microfracture surgery and ruminating on the fact that though I’ve made progress and fought the good fight over the last four years, I’ve definitely hit a plateau.
I just looked over my post from last year at this time and not much has changed. My “best workouts of the year” were pretty much the same for both 2015 and 2016. Neither year was terrible, and I’m not getting worse, but I want to improve.
I looked back over my training log and found that in 2016 I ran 1,213 miles, or an average of 23 miles a week. I say I’m trying to beat the system because there’s no way I can run the times I want to on such low mileage. Even though I did lots of other workouts-swimming, biking, weights, et cetera, there’s nothing like running to get better at running. It’s very simple that way. Of course, this is different than trying to beat the permit parking system—I have plenty of stickers and could put up a fresh, new one every night. I’ve got no excuses. It’s not as easy with running. My knee is not fresh, new, or strong enough to run without consequences. I just can’t run like I used to. Sometimes this makes me feel despondent, like the plateau I’m on is leading to a steep cliff, a Lover’s Leap, and I’m just going to over the edge and give up the chase for good.
Luckily, this feeling has always passed and I’ve believed the plateau will lead to something more, something better. And looking back over my log, I was surprised to find I did have an 11 week stretch from mid-April to the end of June when I averaged 35 miles a week, including 3 weeks when I reached 40 miles. That was with cross-training and really my knee was no worse for the wear (which means it was still a problem, but not any more or less than other times of the year). I didn’t get a chance to see what kind of shape I was in because the only race I did was a triathlon and the 10K course was short so I don’t know how fast I ran and the next day we embarked on our summer of travel.
But 35 miles a week doesn’t seem too bad. It’s not 60, which I’d guess would be ideal for me, but it’s a substantial increase from 23. And I think at 35 miles per week, making the most of those miles, of course, with good workouts and a good training plan, and some cross-training, well, that might be enough to get me back to some kind of racing shape. I’ve never been one to really make New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve just decided I’m setting a goal of 35 miles a week for 2017.
It might be better to have a race goal, a particular time, and I’ve written about some of those already, but I think this will be better because if I can handle that mileage, I’ll discover whether or not this plateau I’m on can lead to greater heights and I can start doing races again and set time goals. Or I’ll discover I need to just settle in and enjoy the view from where I’m at, with the times and racing success I want in sight but out of reach.
This would means giving up racing goals for good and just running for the sake of it, and maybe shuffling through some triathlons with the rest of the non-runners. Obviously, I’m hoping for the former, to complete this comeback, and I’m always pretty optimistic, but the latter would not be the worst thing in the world. It would be better than never running again, which is what the surgeon told me was probably going to be the case when I came out of surgery four years ago today.
And even if I can’t average 35 miles a week, get back in racing shape, and have everything in life make sense again, I resolve I will not re-use any of my parking stickers in 2017 (well, I could probably change an 11 to a 14 or a 17 without arousing suspicion, or a 21 to a 24…).
But, whatever happens, on to 2017. Happy New Year!