It’s about the journey…not the finish lines

On March 5, my life would change drastically but I hadn’t realized it yet. My hip and back began to hurt. On March 20, it was obvious to the physiotherapist my doctor sent me to that there was a severe injury. Physio believes I have a hip labral tear in my left hip. I was put off work the next day by my doctor and referred to a surgeon. I saw the surgeon April 5, who assumes the injury is exactly that but only a MRI can detect it. In Canada, that means a wait possibly of 3-6 months. So now I’ve been off work since March 21 and on bed rest, while trying to manage the pain and still at least eat healthy while I’m pretty much bedridden. During this time I’ve been writing in a journal, listening to podcasts, reading motivational books for athletes, working on thesis when able, using Headspace’s app for mindfulness, and reading for fun when able. This has led to a lot of learning.

I made this huge life changing decision last week and only shared with a few people. It isn’t an easy one to make but it’s the right one. I’ve spent many moments since making this decision questioning if it’s the right one and wondering if I’ll be able to stick to it. I wasn’t sure when I’d share this publicly but the podcast I listened today featuring Jax Mariash opened up the door to share as well as reassured me that I’m making a smart choice for myself.

We already know my 2018 race season is over. My surgeon hopes to get my back for 2019 but over the past 6 weeks of bed rest and missing out on training, I’ve learned a lot of myself and some mistakes I’ve made in training and racing, that may have caused and/or contributed to my injury. In this podcast, Jax talks about a hectic race season where her body just began to crash. Her kidneys were failing and numerous other problems. After race season, it bounced back and they never found a reason why. She believes it was from not having proper recovery and back to back races and said she learned that year that you got to take care of your system. The host of the podcast, Margaret, piped in and shared that as runners and OCR athletes, we can get into this pattern of feeling really accomplished so all we do is “racing racing racing”. Racing fills up every weekend or every other weekend. she said “It’s like you race, you go home, you recover, you barely train again and then you’re at again”. After 2 years of this, Margaret suffered an ankle injury and she said it was like her body saying you need to slow down and you’re not going to do it on your own so we’re going to do it for you.

Back to Jax: she said the media always asked her “what’s next?” With her own ego combined with media expectations, she thought “shit I gotta come with a really intense schedule” and she got caught up in it instead of really listening to herself, even after her body was shutting down. She made it through season but at the end, her body was done. She took a long break and today she looks at it like this: “Do you remember the results or the journey? It’s the people you meet. The adventures your travel. The epic journeys people have come from. That’s the shit that matters. Be appreciative of the surroundings and what you get to do. Take a few moments, look around, and take it all in and put it into your memory bank”. Is it about crossing that finish line over and over again or is about how your journey to get there?

Back to me. I’ve had to time to think back to my past few years. I began to change my life and then I got hooked to racing. I’ve got swept away by that finish line feeling. The quantity of races medals, Personal Bests, and finish lines overtook me and blinded me to what’s really important.

From Jim Afremow’s book “A Champion’s Comeback”

It’s not about the racing. It’s about the every day. It’s about the places that the races can take me and the people I meet along the way. It’s about the workouts and being with my amazing team. It’s about the views I’ve seen during the races and the mountains I’ve climbed that I never used to. It’s about the time I spent with my four legged running partner. It’s about being healthy. It’s about planning just a few races to have fun and to see how my year of training has got me.

Spartan’s motto “I’ll see you at the finish line”? You will but it won’t be until 2020. My decision is that no matter what happens this year, and no matter when or if I can return to training and running in 2019, I will not be signing up for any races. Maybe I’ll travel to some with my team to cheer them on and be in that atmosphere. I’ll definitely attend local ones to cheer on friends and teammates. Maybe even volunteer. But my new plan is to be patient. To listen to my body. Once we finally pinpoint the exact injury and have a solution, I’ll take the time necessary and the steps set out by my surgeon and physiotherapist to fix the injury and heal. I’ll take any negative news with the positivity. The reality is we don’t know the severity or the exact injury and there is always the slim possibility that running or obstacle course racing may not be in my cards again. That maybe I need to focus on other goals – like kettlebells and walking. Hopefully I can get back to it all but I’m not going to jump right back in and return to my current situation.

This is about learning from the situation and applying it to my comeback, not about getting it over with and repeating same mistakes. Will I miss racing? Hell yes I will. But by taking a year off, whether that means next year or even 2020, I’ll learn how to plan the right balance of racing in my life. I want one full year of just training only before I return to race season and that might mean one year off or five years off racing. When I look back at my best 5 years, the moments I enjoy most are the daily workouts and challenges with my team, with Ginny, and with myself.

I’ve neglected training the mental athlete in me and that will also become a part of my routine. I’m not going to just be a runner or a racer. I’m going to be a champion. I can’t wait until the first race again but it will come when I’m ready physically and mentally, with the blessing of my surgeon and my trainer. I’m going to start planning races with my trainer instead of booking them all on my own and telling him my goals after I’ve already committed. I’m going to learn to focus on the journey and on the memories – not the number of medals I can get in a year or on the idea that I need to have personal bests every single race. As Dr. Jim Afremow’s book says – “This is where I need to be to get my game back”.

I’m going to get back to loving the feeling of living and not just living for the moment of short glory from racing.

I’ve listened to the Obstacle Order podcasts too and they, and many guests they’ve had, have helped so much. Most memorable is Yancy Culp – OCR athlete who had to take time off racing while treating cancer. He said what got him through every day was asking each morning “What big rock am I going to move today?” This decision has been the heaviest weight and the biggest rock I’ve ever lifted and moved. And I’m proud of myself and no matter how many people might say “Why not just one race?” I’m going to remember how hard this rock was to move and not fall into that. Just one can easily become ten. Before I can race again, I need to learn to be that girl who crosses the finish line and doesn’t care that she crossed a finish line or that she was in a race but that she had an amazing journey to get to the starting line, and enjoyed every moment to the finish line, not just the finish line itself.

From Jim Afremow’s book “A Champion’s Comeback”

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