Trail Running

The ultimate challenge

I’ve been composing this post for weeks, trying to align editing with the fleeting moments of hope and positivity. Truth be told, I have been having pretty wild swings between the milliseconds of hope for running another 50 miler and losing sight of all joy and purpose. Today, I enter week seven of no running due to this incredibly stubborn Achilles injury. Needless to say, it’s been a challenge both mentally and physically. Not only am I unable to do the activity that brings me joy, community and emotional balance, but it’s incredibly isolating in complex and nuanced ways that would be impossible to understand if I weren’t living it daily.

At first it was a simple feeling of being left behind – like being grounded for missing my curfew. Weeks later, it’s evolved into something that I find impossible to articulate. After more and more time passes, it feels like real and substantial loss. And it is, even if it’s not permanent. When you lose a loved one, there is an initial outpouring of support, but the hardest time comes a couple of months in when it’s no longer fresh for those around you and you find yourself alone in your grief. Connection and communication with others becomes strained as injury begins to creep into the seemingly unrelated areas of life. It changes your relationship to yourself and others. It doesn’t just impact those hours otherwise spent running – it impacts every aspect and every moment. I wish I had that gene that would enable me to stay positive, happy and engaged while in the depths, to behave in a way that inspires rather than depresses, but I just don’t. Some days success simply means avoiding a complete breakdown.

People say things with the best of intentions and I can see why athletes don’t talk about injury publicly.

  • How’s your running?
  • Does it hurt when you run?
  • I had an Achilles injury for three years… but don’t worry it went away!
  • You don’t look that different with the weight gain…
  • At least the weather is nice; at least you can still get outside; at least _______
  • Have you tried _______ / You should do _______
  • Go see this person, they can help you

I’m doing everything I can. I have a prescribed amount of hiking and biking I can do (that was explicitly prescribed after I put in about 20 hiking miles too many), I do two personalized strength and mobility workouts a week, I have received multiple sessions of dry needling, chiropractic, massage, float tank – and am doing eccentric drops daily. Every professional seems to have conflicting advice to the last and I am not really sure there is benefit to adding more stress to my schedule and finances for yet another person to give me conflicting advice. The problem with this situation is that the healing is in the not doing and it takes far more discipline for me to restrain activity than to initiate it. I’ve been described as Type A by more than one person, and while I wouldn’t necessarily agree, I would say that action is definitely the remedy I typically turn to. It eases my mind to take action and I go after my goals and growth with purpose. To relinquish control, despite it being just an illusion, and to have faith is the ultimate challenge.

Today I officially cancelled my registration for Quad Rock. I won’t be at the race cheering on my friends, not because I begrudge them their success, but because I’ll be visiting my mom, who really needs the support after a recent skiing accident on top of about a year and a half of other health concerns. I haven’t mentioned some of the other major stressors that have been playing out in addition to my own injury, but there are a couple of big ones and my mom’s well-being is one of them. I won’t be running North Fork 50 either, but I haven’t officially pulled the plug. My plan is to volunteer at Dirty 30 as a way to stay engaged and hopefully absorb some of the joy that the trail provides. I’m not sure I can get there emotionally just yet.

At this point, it’s clear that I have no say on the timeline of healing. I have put an intention and a goal out there into the universe, into my consciousness – whatever – for the end of August. I don’t know how realistic it is, but I’m holding space for it and envisioning it in my mind. On one hand, I feel resentful that I’m missing out on the payoff I’ve been waiting for all winter, and on the other, recognize the privilege it reflects. Such is the simple, complex and contradictory nature of what it means to be human.

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