So as you may know, Sarah and I were in Salt Lake City midweek last week for the Outdoor Retailer show. Long story short: epic ice storm on Thursday; I (mistakenly) thought we were late for my (turned out to be very delayed) flight; the parking lot was an ice rink. Skating over to the rental car, I wiped out hard, turned around and saw Sarah fall down right after me.
We laughed at our simultaneous spills, but my left foot was crying. (Odd, because I'm pretty sure I fell on my bum.) Specifically, my left big toe, where it connects to my foot, was screaming. It was so swollen and achy when I landed in Denver, 7 hours after we hurried to arrive at the SLC airport, I've never been so thankful for the people movers so I could just stand still. I was pretty sure I hadn't broken the digit, but I was worried that I'd really done some serious damage.
That got me thinking about all the injuries and issues I've had in the past 10 years—coincidentally, about the same age as my oldest kid—that have knocked me out for months:
- Bunionectomy in 2004 (most painful thing I've ever done, and the worst part was it didn't even freakin' work)
- That whole pregnancy/birth thing: 2005-2006
- Stress fracture in heel in 2007
- General hip and glute problems resulting from carrying large children + stress fracture in 2008
- Broken wrist in 2009 from fall during trail run
- Two bulging discs in 2010, which have been helped significantly by Pilates
- Stress fracture in metatarsal in 2010 where I wavered on wearing the clompy black boot
- Fibroid craziness in 2012
I ran in Salt Lake on Thursday before the iciness rained down. It was an easy 6 miles. Not one to use adjectives casually, I can slap easy in front of run because this is what I said to Sarah when I got back to our hotel room: "I'm so glad my fitness is back to the point where I can run six miles and not have it be a total slog." I think she was surprised by that statement—I am, after all, supposed to be an Ironman in training—but it's the truth. Last year at this point, I was severely anemic and unable to do much of anything. So getting to six easy miles, a step I've climbed to again and again over the past decade, always feels like an achievement.
I don't deny a broken toe would've really sucked. I would've probably had to be back in the clomper, and all of my Ironman ambitions would've likely had to be abandoned. (They still may be, but that's another story, about another joint--my shoulder--for another time.)
But I also don't deny that a broken toe would've been just that: a broken toe, another chapter in my life as an athlete. Another few months off, multiple layers of fitness lost, then the opportunity to dust myself off and continue with my story.
Instead of thinking of it as setbacks and comebacks, or having to stop totally and then start again, I have come to think of it like this: Sometimes I get to have my foot on the gas, and sometimes I just have to be content to coast. Along the way, I've built resilience, some semblance of patience, and a binder full of good stories. (Here's the public service announcement if you're about to put your foot back on the gas: lots of great ideas here.)
I can waste my time drooling that the SBS' of the world never seem to get hurt badly enough to have to coast, or I can recognize that we all have our different running journeys. And since I don't have one extra ounce of energy to waste on being envious, I have to embrace the fact that my running map's topography is much more rutted out than most. Breaks and strains and blood and bones means that my valleys go lower than average, and my peaks soar up to the bluebirds when my body allows me to do exactly what I want to do.
Which is why those six easy miles on a dark, rainy Thursday morning meant so much to me; I had climbed to a summit yet again, and the view from there was endless and full of possibility.
And those six miles are also why, if I had broken my toe, I knew I'd find the strength and will to hike out of a valley once again. I simply can't get enough of that view.