July 30, 2013

Patiently Waiting

So far 2013 has been consistent - consistently off.  A year that started with such promise and potential has turned into disappointment and missed opportunity.   Three races over five months have resulted in a DNS; for me that is unimaginable.  Last Thursday I flew from Missoula to Cleveland for the Burning River 100.  A race I had been looking forward to since I started racing ultras.  The Cleveland Metroparks are where I learned to run and where I grew up.  To race a hundred miles through my favorite trails with my family close by seemed like a dream.  In the end that was all it was.  I was out of the race well before my plane took off in Montana last week.

Throughout my running history I have been fortunate with few injuries.  The only injury I have ever had is the same one that has plagued me since college - femur stress fracture. My first stress fracture came as a lowly, unsuspecting freshman at NCSU.  One day while trying to keep up with the upperclassmen I felt a tightness in my hip and groin.  Several frustrating months later I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the head of my right femur.  That exact injury would resurface twice more before I graduated.  It absolutely killed my chances of being successful in college and is now threatening my trail running goals.  I've tried strengthening my leg, calcium supplements, shoes, softer surfaces,  cross training etc. and I'm right back in the awkward and painfully long stress fracture dance again.  At least this time I stopped at stress reaction instead of the full blown boot, crutches and couch routine.  At least I can say I learned something from an injury that repeats itself in the exact same area despite my holding back and being overly cautious.  Even after reading the most recent medical research - stress fractures are still a mystery.  We know they are becoming more and more common and the diagnoses are more accurate but we are still guessing at causes and prevention.

Despite the lost time, money, fitness and planning, injuries do provide benefits.  Most are mental.  For the last year and a half I have been training like crazy.  Running the mountain trails of Montana everyday is a privilege that i take full advantage of!  BUT it does limit your ability to travel around, bike, hike, camp, float etc. because you need to recover and get ready for the next long run or mountain repeats or race.  Injuries allow you to break the training routine/cycle and enjoy other activities.  It does no good to dwell on the missed training, good weather or races you paid for.  Instead I choose to detach; to drive out to remote areas and explore lakes, peaks and bike new trails.  Remarkably I didn't miss the routine, the workouts, the races and quite enjoyed the sweet freedom to do what ever the hell I wanted when I wanted and without thinking about tomorrow or next week.  Injuries allow you to be in the moment; you can choose to wallow in the misery or embrace the freedom.

That being said, I still feel that passion burning inside to compete, train and challenge myself.  Each time I'm held back, that passion only burns hotter.  I will be patient for now but I will not hold back anymore.  My future training and racing will be different.  I've been relaxed and cautious in my training and racing to avoid being where I am right now.  It is time to make a few changes and be more aggressive with my racing schedule and strategy.   I'm looking forward to being healthy and unleashing later this year.  Until then I will be exploring the country on two wheels and embracing the freedom of being young in one of the most beautiful and wild places our country has to offer!

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Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.