Today, I flash back to a very unexpected, very unpleasant, and very humbling day in my fitness history. It may seem strange to celebrate an injury, but there can be a lot of learning and self-reflection that comes from grappling with a long term injury and that, in my opinion, is worthy of at least acknowledgement.
Almost exactly one year ago, on April 14th, 2016, I went for a standard lunch-break run on the seawall. I had just returned from a short, four-day Disneyland (!!!) vacation during which I had not exercised at all, unless you count the 20-25 km per day of walking. Prior to my trip, however, I was going full-steam with my ultra marathon training. So on this day in April 2016, I was feeling ready to dive back into my ultra training with a vengeance. I was feeling strong. I was feeling fit. I was feeling like my six-month ultra training plan was going to be no big deal.
And then, 7.5 km into my run, a runner’s disaster struck: instant, excruciating pain. It was a familiar pain, though more intense than it had been in the past. I knew it was my SI instantly. I stopped running, walking for a solid 30 seconds to see if it was just a blip, but the second I resumed running I knew I was done for the day. I walked back to the office, not altogether upset. In my mind, I would simply make a physio appointment for some laser therapy, and I’d be back on track with my running within the week. And I was! That is, until I pushed too hard too fast and really made a mess of my SI. Two weeks after the original injury, I was almost unable to walk for a full week.
One year later, I am still not back on track with my running. I’m thankful I am at least able to run again, despite the distance and speed being in a whole other league (and not in the good way) than pre-injury. Finally, though, finally I feel like I am capable of making real progress again. It will still be a long road to getting back to my old speed and distances, but I believe it’s possible. If you had asked me that six months ago, I promise you I wouldn’t have felt that confident.
In no uncertain terms, it has been a constantly challenging year. For a long while, I felt like I had lost a sizeable portion of my identity–the runner and hiker that I’d know myself to be for the last decade was forced to become a gym rat. I honestly had moments in which it felt like I was mourning a version of myself I might never see again. In other words, there were some dark times. One year later, and at last feeling on the road to true recovery, I can say that, if nothing else, this injury has changed me in a number of ways for the better.
Most notably, I have become less neurotically obsessed with how hard, fast and long my workouts are. I used to be the girl who felt like she wasn’t going for a real hike if it wasn’t at least 20 km return, preferably with at least 800 m of elevation gain. I hiked every single weekend, and virtually any other day off. During my most hard-core running phases, I didn’t feel good unless my Saturday run was at least 20 km. Now, I am content with a solid hour’s workout, having known a world where I couldn’t do anything at all for weeks on end.
I have learned to be patient with healing. Until this year, any time I was injured, I would push the limits of healing to get back to activities as soon as humanly possible. I’d wrap a sprained ankle within an inch of it’s life or rock the dreaded SI belt, even though it had to be so tight it would painfully chafe my flesh, just to stabilize myself enough to get in a workout. Nothing was going to get in my workout’s way. Now, I am content with slow progress, with seeing consistent gains and with knowing I’m building a much stronger foundation for the future. I am willing to pull back when my body isn’t feeling right. I am finally playing the long game.
So today, I wish myself a happy injury-versary. My injury isn’t fully gone yet, but I am ready to make peace with it, and to respect it for at least bringing more balance and calmness into my life, both of which were much needed. I’ll raise a glass to that (because you better bet I am celebrating with wine).