Seven weeks ago in this space, I wrote a column about my break from racing ultras for the year. At the time, I also wrote that I would, from time to time, provide updates on my health and recovery in the hope that such documentation might provide others with constructive information in working through their own issues. Therefore, as we celebrate the spring equinox this weekend, this seems to be a great time for an update.
It was three months ago, after running the Hellgate 100k, that I realized things were not right with me. The normal aches and pains were far worse and my body was having profound difficulty bouncing back from a long year of running. Since that time I have run very little. In fact, the few attempts I have made to return to running have been unsuccessful and demoralizing. So, I have tried to simply stay patient.
I have been receiving steady physical therapy, I have trained in the pool and on the bike, and I have spent considerable time reflecting on what is most important to me about running. I can’t lie, I really, really miss it.
Last week, after hitting the 10-week mark of not running, I went back to my doctor. Dr. Bob Wilder is known here in Charlottesville, Virginia as the “running doctor.” For over 25 years he has been putting runners back together and getting them back out on the roads and trails. He is one of those doctors who always believes there is an answer. Well, after his exam last week he scheduled me for an MRI. The results came back yesterday: Mild arthritis in left hip joint but no worse than 2013, severe tendinopathy in the glute and hamstring, bursitis in the hip, and a slight labral tear. In his words, what I have going is “hip soup.”
He laid out the options for me: Surgery now to clean things up, an injection in the joint, continued active recovery, patience. As of today, literally, I am still weighing my options.
Certainly, I want nothing more than to get back out there running again. But, if 20 years of running ultras has taught me anything, it’s that I must take the long view. My need for the immediate gratification of a beautiful spring run on the Appalachian Trail must be canceled out by the long-term goal of running into my old age. Simply put, my head must trump my heart with this.
In a way, it is that part of this year off to recover that may ultimately be how I learn the most from all this. It may be that the battle of the head and the heart is something I need in my life right now. Being forced to take stock of my own limits, indeed, of my own mortality is something that I never expected but now must welcome. I have to believe I’ll be back out there enjoying what I love. I know I will. And, in the meantime, I have much to be thankful for and that makes all the difference.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
From Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, Michigan comes Bell’s Oarsman Ale, an eminently drinkable wheat beer that blends the best of Belgian-style wheat with the down-home-brewing excellence of Bell’s. Balanced, slightly tart, and quite smooth, this is a perfect beer with which to celebrate the spring equinox.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Are you in a similar injury boat as AJW? If so, what’s going on with you?
- Have you ever found that an injury is taking longer to improve than expected or hoped?
- How have you emotionally coped with an extended break from running when you’ve been injured?