I continue to underestimate the mental fortitude required while recovering from an injury. It is hard to keep working at building physical strength when the results are not instant and miraculous. No matter how often I try to remind myself that the speed and endurance will come if I keep working hard, when I have a bad workout or play the comparison game it’s hard not to want to throw in the towel.
This weekend, I hiked Saturday and Sunday on actual trails, which I’ve not done since my initial injury. Sunday was eye opening for me. On that second consecutive day of hiking, I was brutally reminded of just how far I still have to go. As I dragged my sorry and tired butt up what used to be my “I’m-feeling-beyond-lazy-and-want-the-illusion-of-hiking-without-actually-hiking” trail–a 9 km return with only 450 m of elevation gain–I couldn’t help but feel discouraged.
It is a tough pill to swallow. I’ve been making great gains lately with hiking and running. Instead of feeling proud of my progress to date, I beat myself up over and over as my tracking app announced my per kilometre hiking times and the times only continued to get bigger and bigger.I told myself to move faster. I told myself I used to hike this trail at least 2 minutest per kilometre faster. I told myself that I’m strong enough that I should be able to push through the discomfort. No matter what I told myself, my legs remained at the same slow, steady pace.
This time last year, I was rocking multiple days of consecutive hiking on 25+ km trails with at least 1000 m of elevation gain. And it felt easy. It’s hard to constantly be reminded I’m nowhere near where I used to be in terms of fitness and endurance. It was a lot easier to be kind to myself when I was still suffering from injury pain but, now that the pain is pretty much gone, I have little patience for needing to build up endurance and fitness.
Comparison is a dangerous game, even when it’s comparison with former versions of yourself. I’m not yet sure how to keep things in perspective, how to keep my eye on the progress prize, nor how to dig deeper when I want to give up, but I do know that I need to work on my mental game just as much as my physical game. If I have any hope of running this ultra, my mental game will be everything.