I shut my alarm off at 5:27 this morning and rose from bed to put on my workout clothes. Around 5:33 I returned to bed and slept until 7 o’clock. And I feel great about it!
Just a few weeks ago, I went to a 100K trail race and dropped out at 40 miles. Any time I drop from a race without finishing, the first few moments after shutting it down and starting the walk of shame to the nearest aid station to find a way to the finish area and my gear, I second guess every step away from the race course. Am I really in bad enough shape to need to drop? Am I sure that I can’t muscle through the next hour and see if I feel better on the other side? And so on…
Over the course of the last 16 months I’ve had injuries that have left me searching for even back-to-back days where I could run pain free. Rising before the sun and running for hours in the dark has been a true test of endurance as I truly believe that this process of goal setting and doing the work it takes to achieve them should always have an over-arching focus of positive health. Running injured for me is very much a gray area. If I can see and feel that the injury and its symptoms are decreasing and my over-all health is increasing then I’m all in. When it’s the opposite, I really sit in a dilemma.
Leading up to the 100K race, I was in the best shape I’ve been in over the last year or so. My tendon or ligament strain in my groin area was almost totally gone and I was running pain free with just small amounts of soreness after really long, long run efforts on the weekends. However, with a very challenging course that went either up or down with little flat sections, I could feel the ligament begin to weaken and tire by mile 20. By mile 25 it was painful and by 30 it was hard to lift my right leg to run uphill and also hard to stride out on the downhills. My hope was to get to 40 miles or more before feeling that set in so as to only have to push that last couple of hours. At mile 40 I dropped from the race and still questioned my toughness until returning home and running my first couple of easy recovery runs that next week.
I’m confident I made the right decision as just today am I beginning to feel like I was before that race. I do believe that had I run another 10 miles to, “tough it out,” I’d be taking a large amount of time off while trying to heal from a major injury. Instead, I’ve come back slowly over the last two weeks and now I’m starting to think that I may be seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
And so this morning, I opted for more rest as I was able to run a very good long run on Saturday followed by a good hour on Sunday. But I could feel the fatigue and the drain of wading through the muddy waters of trying to make positive gains, not detrimental ones. That fatigue can sometimes be just as mental as physical. Even as a boy, I once broke my arm when I jumped out of a tree from a limb that was quite too high. On the way to the hospital I fell asleep in the back of our car. I’ve always used sleep to recover and gain strength. My mood is lighter, my outlook brighter, and my body feels the best it has since those tough 40 miles of racing.
And so I’ll hit up my strength training routine this afternoon. I’ll eat well, drink well, stretch well, and find confidence in that sometimes the hardest decision is to see the big picture and know that something that may be perceived as a weakness, will in the end, be found as a strength.
The strength needed to make decisions based on your own health and wellness, goals, and desires is truly as important as the physical training it takes to do so. I hope you are able to find inner strength to push through, to pull back, and to reassure yourself consistently that you are better for it. Better for all of it. And that you pass that strength on to others who need as much as you and I.