Reflection on Injury: Patience, Presence, and Grit (or lack thereof)

I’ve probably started and deleted this post a half dozen times already. What news to share when the healing process feels glacially slow? (For a reference, it’s now been 11 weeks since the initial pain in my leg began and 7 weeks since I started physical therapy.) I doubt you really want to hear me gripe on about the pain that is still keeping me from running, and all the things I wish I was doing this summer instead of being miserable that I’m not doing them. As lovely as that sounds, I’ll instead aim for a positive spin (*gasp*) on how I’m feeling about all of… this.

I feel confident that my physical therapist is on the right track: strengthening my gluteus medius and associated muscles, stretching my quads, and correcting an anterior hip rotation on my right side. My PT is fantastic, has many years of experience, and as an ultrarunner herself, she understands like the run-of-the-mill PT could not. Though I’ll admit the healing is taking longer than I had expected/hoped. <dramatic sigh> We are also attempting to re-educate my right side in the correct biomechanics of running, so as not to be a collection of compensation patterns that mimic a correct running stride. (This makes it sound as though I run like a 3-legged stegosaurus, but really my stride is quite normal-looking to the layman – I promise!)

Kaylee, “helping” me with my PT exercises.

I’ll admit I’ve been stuck on the “why???” and haven’t come up with much except the following (possibly completely wrong) theory. While there didn’t appear to be one specific incident that set off this mysterious injury, it seems like there was a weakness somewhere in the kinetic chain in which my body compensated. My body was able to withstand the rigors of multiple 50 milers over multiple years, but at some point, it seems like it was too much. My body just said NOPE and figuratively gave me the middle finger. Enter this injury. Pure speculation, of course, but it’s as good a theory as any. OR, I was cursed by an elf while traveling. What do you think?

A recent foggy morning at Green Lake…

I seem to be, rather predictably, going through the stages of grief for the loss of a glorious summer of running in the mountains. While I feel slightly embarrassed about that, it’s not an uncommon phenomenon (although most studies reporting it seem to be done with athletes of the Olympic-hopeful variety. So… not me!) I started to recognize the pattern once I’d already gone through denial, anger, and bargaining. I’d say I’m at the tail end of depression, but it’s been sticking around like a burnt popcorn smell in your kitchen. However, I did find this great article (again, geared towards truly serious athletes), but I found it encouraging and helpful.
So where does this leave me? Well, without training taking up all my time, it leaves an inordinate amount of time for self-reflection, which could be IS a good thing. Once in a while, when I come up for air from wallowing in my brain, I have flashes of things I’m trying to learn from this experience. What IS this teaching me?
  • Patience
          I’m not great at this skill. While I am not an impulsive person, I am action-oriented. There’s a problem? Let’s fix it. There’s an event I’m excited about? Let’s go. This slower-than-preferred healing process is forcing me to be patient, in a board-to-the-head kind of way (clearly necessary in my case.) Healing takes time, and there’s nothing that can be done about that. Be patient and move on.
  • Be Present
          While patience is not my strong suit, I’m even worse at being present in the moment. I’m forever looking ahead…at a goal, a dream, whatever, and never focusing on the here and now. Being present is tricky because I am a planner by nature (and trade), so turning that off in order to be in the moment feels like it goes against my soul. (Okay, a bit dramatic.) However, that goal out there – that’s what drives me. If I don’t have that, I tend to be a bit lost. I try to remember, “Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment.” (Star Wars, anyone? šŸ™‚ ) Since I am not able to run 20+ miles out in the mountains, I really ought to enjoy the things I can do right now: a walk around the lake, book club with friends, ice cream with the hubby, snuggle with the kitties, etc. No epic adventures? Nope, but in their absence, I shouldn’t miss out on what’s happening right now. Yes, I realize this is about as obvious as water being wet, but bear with me and my learning opportunities here. šŸ™‚
  • Grit
          I’d like to think that anyone crazy enough to attempt any sort of ultramarathon has some inherent grit. That may be true, but this is something I feel that I need more of in order to tackle bigger and badder races in the future (as well as LIFE, of course). While I don’t want to discount any of my life’s accomplishments thus far, I’ll be honest and say that I imagine my grit to be a mite fragile because I haven’t had to struggle that much in my life. No inspirational underdog Lifetime movie here, sorry! (No worries, I won’t further unpack this idea right now as you, dear reader, aren’t getting compensated for my therapy session!) The races that I hope to do in the future (100Ks and 100 milers) really require true grit. The resilience to deal with the crap that comes up when your race is going as well as an attempt to nail Jell-O to a tree. The grit that gets you through the middle of the night, when your legs ache, your feet are blistered, you’re nauseated and all you want to do is sleep and never wake up. (Ultras sound like heaven, do they not?)
While I can’t promise to be zen-like goddess spouting rainbows of positivity about my frustrations with this injury, I will grudgingly admit that it’s not a complete waste. I may not yet have fully understood the learning potential of my situation (or even come to peace with it), but I’m trying!
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