My Life in Sports: Participate; Injure; Grieve, Accept, Heal; Resume; Repeat.
I’m always breaking my own heart.
I love my sports. But I keep hurting myself through the years.
Several dozen marathons and ultras run, but probably ten more I signed up for and couldn’t do.
A handful of triathlons completed, but one much-coveted full Ironman entry form ends up in the trash.
Plans made for our second RAGBRAI bike ride across Iowa, but some now-forgotten injury puts the cycle back into the garage.
Food prepared, gear selected, and training done for an AT wrap-around thru-hike for late 2017 to early 2018. But, after perhaps hiking too many daily miles too early in the trek, major foot issues nip that in the bud after 400-plus miles.
So here’s the general sequence my sporting life follows.
1. Participate enthusiastically.
This means looking forward to tomorrow’s run/ride/hike when I’m going to bed the night before. Going to sleep in my yoga clothes so I can roll right out bed in the dark eight hours later and instantly start my hour-plus morning routine. Feeling like the night before a marathon is Christmas Eve. Approaching home after a great 48-mile ride with my buddy and both of us knowing without saying that we’ve got two more miles to get in before we can call it a day.
2. Injure myself.
Yet again. Honestly, I don’t do ridiculous things, I just train. But I keep forgetting that my body isn’t 25 anymore, or 45, or whatever. And it appears as if I’m a magnet for tendonitis and tendinopathy. Also stress fractures, torn meniscus twice, plantar fasciitis, broken toes, Morton’s neuroma, bursitis, carpal tunnel. Need a wrap or a bandage? Plenty to spare. Care to see my library of MRI results? Arranged in chronological order.
3. Grieve, accept, trust, heal.
It sounds like the stages of grief one goes through after a loss, and for me, it is just that. Moving, especially outdoors, is so important to me. I’m sure many of you out there understand exactly what I’m saying.
But after a bit of time, I finally accept that this has happened, and begin to trust the process that I need to go through to get back to my “play.” I remind myself that I have had many previous injuries and have always pulled though them. I trust my doctor’s diagnosis and recommendations. If I don’t feel quite right about any of this, I seek out another physician. I follow PT exercises to the letter. What else can I do, give up? That gets me exactly nowhere.
Depending on the injury, I have used physical therapy, acupuncture, myofascial release, hypnosis, BodyTalk, trigger point therapy, and I continue regular massage, Pilates, yoga, chiropractic, and meditation.
And eventually, bit by bit, I am healed. Sometimes it seems too good to be true, as if I’m a cat with even more than nine lives.
4. Resume sport.
OK, this time I’m going to take it easy! I’m going to carefully ease back into my sport and not get hurt again. But it feels so wonderful to run/cycle/swim/hike/do Pilates again. I know I was only going to hike five miles with an eight-pound pack today, but I really wanted to practice carrying my new bear canister (two more pounds). And the woods are so magical with snow falling. I’m sure another mile or two won’t hurt. After all, I’ve been back to hiking for three weeks already.
5. Repeat from above.
And how does this apply to the present?
August 2017: Approximately 400 miles of the AT enthusiastically hiked.
September 2017: Tendonitis and plantar fasciitis send me home to Ohio. Note new orthopedic footwear in photo below.
September to December 2017:
–Grief for the thru-hike that was to be.
–Final acceptance that this happened. I get busy finding out how to help heal these things. 2018 now firmly in my mind.
–Diagnosis and treatment plan from my trusted sports physician. Resume some lower body exercises given to me years ago by the best PT I’ve ever been to. Sleep in a Strassburg Sock for the plantar fasciitis. Stretch round the clock as if training to be a contortionist. Begin a program with Egoscue Method for postural therapy. Continue with Pilates, adjusted accordingly by my amazing instructor.
December 2017 to February 2018:
–Able to return to hiking, slowly increase distances.
–Hiking adventure in Patagonia. Body fine with the hiking, but rebels against an hour on horseback. Go figure.
–Injured again, now right hip bursitis and tendinopathy.
–Repeat from above (sports doctor, PT, Pilates, tons of stretching, back to hiking).
We shall see what’s happening with the body when April 20 rolls around. That’s the date I intend to hit the trail again. My gear is updated, five months worth of gluten- and dairy-free food is dehydrated, I’m slowly increasing my training, and I’m raring to go (oh, this sounds dangerous!).
Now that I’m a LASHER instead of a thru-hiker, all sorts of possibilities are open to me.
Return to where I left off last year, Pearisburg, Va., and head SOBO to Springer.
Then go NOBO out of Harpers Ferry, arriving at Katahdin late September to early October
Pros: Mail drops for food parcels already figured out. Triumphant finish on Katahdin in late September to early October.
Cons: Battle my way through the hordes of NOBOs in the South, and then join their ranks at Harpers Ferry. Worry about making it to Maine in time.
Start NOBO in Harpers Ferry, arriving at Katahdin in late July.
Then head SOBO from Pearisburg, finishing at Springer Mountain in early October.
Pros: Join the flip-floppers leaving Harpers Ferry at that time, as I did last April for a weeklong shakedown hike. These are my people.
Good to get the toughest New England sections done before my feet and legs are destroyed from too many months of work. No major crowds to battle in the North or the South.
Cons: No triumphant finish on Katahdin, but it’ll still be triumphant on Springer.
Which option will it be?
Advice and suggestions are gratefully accepted. Truly. So where should I begin this year’s adventure: West Virginia or Virginia?
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