Friday, April 26, 2019

Injury is Part of the Journey

“Sometimes in life, we have to see it to believe it, and I think that was us officially seeing it.” My coach David Roche said in an email to me this morning. I have been planning this massive 800 mile Fastest Known Attempt on the Arizona Trail for more than a year now and over the past 2 months I've been struggling to get better from a tear in my calf that started out as a feeling of persistent soreness a couple weeks after winning the Delirious WEST 200 miler (350km) endurance run in Australia.

I had started the email to my coach yesterday with, “I’m having trouble writing this” before I went into a full essay of what went down when I did my 18 mile test “long” run yesterday to see if I would be able to start the Arizona Trail next week. Yes, next week. Coming up so damn fast. This run was supposed to tell us if I could hold up to a long run since I'd have to do 51+ miles a day on the Arizona trail to beat the current overall record, my goal being 100k a day. 

I wrote 8 paragraphs of information in that email to my coach that could have been summarized in saying, “I’m not better. My heart and my head want this so bad but my body is not ready.” I didn’t want to say that though because I thought maybe somewhere in those 8 paragraphs was hope. I briefly considered lying. Lying to myself. Maybe it was ok. If I didn't write the email, if I didn't say anything maybe I wouldn't have to feel these emotions. It felt like not doing this 800 mile route would crush me and I wanted to avoid facing the truth: my body wasn't ready.

I needed the Arizona Trail more than ever. I wanted to leave the daily grind, my life challenges and I wanted to do something big that only required my attention to the present moment and moving forward. Life was hard for me. This winter and spring I struggled with heavy work load from my race organization business after an employee suddenly quit and on top of that a new relationship that had blossomed suddenly ended leaving me with deeper questions about what commitment is, whether I can trust others, and how it was possible someone could go from telling you they love you to texting you that they want to breakup in just a day. 

I had known there were issues and challenges in the relationship, yet I couldn't understand how he could be so "in love" with me as he told me over and over and then just leave my life like "love" meant nothing to him. All because he had "shit to figure out in his life." If I could just run, nothing else mattered. Running was the only love I could rely on and here it was, letting me down too. My body, telling me to stop. My life, telling me to stop. 

Two weeks ago I'd finally gotten an MRI. Turns out the pain in my calf was there for a reason. I'd taken days off, then a week, and before I knew it I still had pain and it had been over a month. The start day for the Arizona Trail FKT was quickly approaching and I had no clue what to do because what I needed to do was not something I was ready to do: completely reschedule the FKT for November or the next year. Before long, I had to announce delaying the FKT by a few weeks and in my heart I knew I might not be ready.

The MRI showed a tear in the fascia of my calf. I knew that I should admit defeat for the time being and reschedule the FKT but I couldn't. I wasn't ready to give up. I believed my body was capable of doing this. All this rescheduling was putting a lot of stress on my crew - 6 people who were meeting me in AZ to help me get from Mexico to Utah, across the entire state and of course, my sponsors who had so generously donated product. More than anything I didn't want to let those people and companies down. 

I'm back on the trail, doing my important test run for the AZT and I'm thinking the pain isn’t really that bad. On the first climb of the long run I could feel it, the first time since I'd taken weeks off of doing nothing. If I could feel it in the first 2 miles of a long run how would I conquer 60 miles a day for almost 2 weeks? 

As I ran I cried, tears turning into sobs of KNOWING the truth but being unable to accept it and my sweet little dog, my faithful running partner and friend, Hank came bounding over to me a concerned look in his eyes. He knew something was wrong. I couldn’t breath, my throat felt like it was closing as I swallowed my sadness, anger and frustration, wheezing through the climb saying to myself no, it will go away. Maybe it’s nothing. 
Hank giving some love
As I ran, I spun scenarios in my mind. I considered lying to my coach, to my crew and to the world. I’m ok, I can do this. My body can do incredible things. I just won a 220 mile race, I ran through 3 nights with virtually no sleep! I can run for days without rest. Maybe it will be fine. I decided I might as well do the entire run and see what happens so I finished the 18 miles, the pain sitting in my calf like a patient and bad memory, barking at me on all the climbs. But it wasn’t a memory, it was here, now. It was real.

Even through the last of the 18 miles I told myself maybe it was ok? Maybe it wasn't the calf tear. Maybe I was imagining things. Right after returning home I had to drive 15 mins to town. In town I hopped out of my truck and immediately buckled from putting weight on the right leg. The pain forced me to limp and hobble. It had become worse after sitting. Only at that moment did I know I was done, I would have to wait. There was no fake it until you make it. It hit me so hard I wasn't sure how to deal with it. 

I had learned from years of running that my body wasn’t always something to listen to. I learned that I could push it when it said no. That there’s was always something more to give. But in some cases if I didn’t listen to my body I would be sacrificing my love and my passion for further injury. I've been running for over 20 years. I know when I need to rest, even if it's hard to admit. Serious, debilitating injury is nothing to mess with. Injury that could cripple me for a year or longer. I couldn’t lie to myself or anyone else any longer. I am not a superhuman. I am not special. I have worked hard for many years and I am a human who can only handle so much. I am fallible. 

It's ok to admit defeat. This setback means that I will need to move the FKT to November. May is already risky in terms of the extreme heat on the Arizona Trail. May was my last chance to do the FKT this spring and now it's out. I work from August - October organizing my 200 mile Triple Crown so November would be the soonest I can do it. My crew team has already begun emailing me their support for November. I'm humbled and touched by their support and love. I can't wait to crush this record, not by hours but by days. This gives me more time to fundraise for Girls on the Run my chosen charity, get stronger and plan logistics. 

Watch out world 😉 💪 🏃‍♀️ 

Healing from laser eye surgery tonight as I write this. Another important step in my process of getting ready to run this 800 mile route