Search This Blog

Punctuated equilibrium

Hanging upside down was one of
the treatments I tried for my chronic
back injury.

When I was in my running prime, I gave little thought to athletic decline.  I knew many veteran (masters) runners and recognised my potential as a runner would decline as I aged.  However, I never thought much about the process.  If anything, I expected the decline to be a smooth glide path.  Each year would see slightly slower times for benchmark distances and I would be chasing podium places as I entered each new age group.  It was a naive and simplistic view of the process, and my only defence is that these issues seemed remote and I didn't give them sufficient thought.

Now, with ageing parents and my own ageing body, it has become obvious the process of ageing and athletic decline is more akin to the evolutionary biology theory of "punctuated equilibrium".  This postulates that, over time, long periods of stability with little change are punctuated by events causing significant change.  Rather than being on a gradual descent to our ultimate demise, or the end of our running career, we have periods, often lasting years, when our abilities and capabilities remain relatively static.  As runners, these stable periods may include various soft tissue injuries and oscillating fitness, but our basic capabilities are essentially unchanged.

Looking towards North Avoca from Avoca Beach
during this morning's walk.

Significant events for runners are those injuries from which we never really fully recover, despite how hard we train.  There were no more Personal Bests for me after a back injury (spondylolisthesis) sustained  in 1979 brought to an end the steady improvements I had seen in the preceding years.  Likewise, a serious knee injury in 2006 meant a lot of time off running and a limit on training load I could sustain in subsequent years.  I could plot other significant injuries over the years that have also had a lasting impact on my running capability.

Looking from Copa, low cloud covers Mount Bouddi
during this morning's walk.

Now I'm trying to reconcile myself to the capability change that will result from my Deep Vein Thrombosis and associated Pulmonary Embolism and Atrial Flutter.  I'm still in the midst of this "event" and don't know the level of capability I will emerge with, but it will almost certainly be less.  Goals will have to be recalibrated, or frustration will build.  I'm not reconciled to these changes yet, but can sense I am in the midst of the process and will eventually accept what must be.

This morning, I walked a comfortable 10km in misty rain beneath low cloud.  It was a nice change from the relentless summer weather of the last three weeks.