Queering the Triathlete (and Other Discomforts)

A Melancholy Zebra determined to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Dastardly Shin Splint Raining On My Parade

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This post has sat on my desktop for days; I think I was waiting until today’s appointment when, once again, I would hear a doctor tell me not to run.

And once again, I would ignore him.


As far as we can tell, I’ve developed a shin splint, but I wanted to be cautious and double-check. You know, be a responsible athlete and all of that. Of course I’d get an overuse injury as soon as my run started to look promising after tearing my labrum (unrelated stupidity) back in October, but that’s neither here nor there. (Another lie. It’s sitting in front of my face taunting me.)

But the only person who I can abide telling me not to run is myself. And possibly my coach, but in some ways I like to think of her as a wiser version of myself– the part that knows what needs to be done and has the positivity to encourage hammering away at it. I’ll sit and whine and bitch and moan about how much running sucks, how much focus it takes to keep everything in control, how slow and sluggish I feel sometimes, but dammit, only I get to say when I give it up.

Swimming may be my best and my favorite of the disciplines, but running has an equal if not greater influence on my sanity. It’s easy for me to keep swimming when I’m tired, but it’s difficult for me to keep running under the same stress. It’s easy to resist drowning, but it’s not so easy to resist walking.

That shit translates.

This is not to say that I intend to pound away on a shin splint; hell no. That sucker hurt last week, and I’m happy enough to reduce volume… but if an injury starts shitting on one of my triathlon staples, things get dark in here pretty quickly.

Triathlon saves my mental bacon in three ways:

  1. A daily commitment: if I do nothing else that day but train, at least I trained, and the exercise endorphins usually lift a bad mood at least a little bit.
  2. Tangible improvement: I can see myself getting better, faster, stronger, and just generally more badass. This is a serious self-esteem boost over time.
  3. Long-term goals: the training and the improvements are going toward something. To put it a bit dramatically, I have something explicit to survive for.

These three elements perhaps literally saved my life a couple of years ago, a few months into training for my very first race, and their efficacy remains.

Exercising injured risks further injury; cutting out exercise risks a lot more. But courting further injury risks losing triathlon entirely.

What a Catch-22. I’m still not certain what to do with this.

But I do know that this particular orthopedist is not a fan of endurance athletes whatsoever–having said as much–nor is he too fond of hypermobile bodies, and I’m less than inclined to cease and desist for a month and a half on account of a shin splint, especially one that has indeed made notable progress with a half-week break from running.


I suppose this is a rambling post to say that some things are worth it.

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