Please allow me to introduce myself. I am:
The stubborn idealist is a dangerous personality type. It combines a sometimes delusional belief that anything is possible (the idealist side) with a steadfast refusal to adjust or let go of your idea, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that your approach isn’t working (the stubborn side). Let’s not confuse this with being a persevering and tenacious dreamer. The key difference is that the tenacious dreamer learns from mistakes and adjusts his or her course, whereas the stubborn idealist will not let things go or change course, even when it is clearly the most rational course of action.
My idealism and stubbornness are waging a battle right now. On the idealist side, I want to believe that it’s possible for me to run an ultra. Moreover, I actually think it’s possible for anyone to run an ultra (presuming they want to make it happen…it is my blog name after all). On the stubborn side, I keep trying to build up running distance and to incorporate trail running only to find myself in the worst pattern of injury recurrence that I’ve experienced in five years.
This morning, after a weekend of debilitating pain, it took me a full ten minutes to get out of bed, and this wasn’t in a because-I-hit-the-snooze-button kind of way. Unfortunately, it was because I couldn’t actually get my body to sit or stand up without excruciating pain, no matter how I tried to make it happen (and trust me, some of the attempts probably looked pretty comical). Even an emergency physio treatment has provided little comfort or improvement to my pain and mobility.
Despite this, in my mind I am still focused on getting back to training. I’m focused on forcing myself to rest so I can properly heal (unlike last week when I continued to work out despite warnings). I’m thinking about where I can hike this weekend and how I can start to exponentially increase my distance. In short, I’m being the consummate stubborn-idealist. By doing so, I am failing to listen to my body and consider the very real possibility that I might have to make some tough choices in the near future. I may have to decide that running an ultra is not in my best interest–not because I can’t do it, but because it’s not worth the wear and tear on my body.
Let’s look at the facts: I have not experienced recurring SI issues since I last trail ran. That means I have gone roughly five years running moderately (i.e. 10-12 km at a time at most), hiking extensively, and generally staying very fit and active. I have done this without any major body issues. As soon as I’ve reintegrated even the most modest of distance gains (i.e. an extra 5 km/run) or any trail running whatsoever, my injuries have come back with a vengeance.
I’m not ready to make a decision yet. I want to get through this next cycle of healing, I want to focus on slowly and thoughtfully building up my distance, and I want to start working with a personal training to balance out my strength. I believe these things will make a difference (stubborn idealism rears its head again!). What I also know, however, is that if these approaches don’t work and I continue to face painful recurring injuries, I will be forced into a very tough decision that will test my stubborn idealist ways.
To ultra or not to ultra…that will be my question, and I am not looking forward to having to seriously contemplate it.