photo credit: Justin Jay
Trying to fix a stubborn injury can be demoralizing.
And I’m not just talking about the crying in public, or getting passed by a nun with a limp while you stagger home from a failed run.
I’m talking about the bare-ass nakedness of your weaknesses getting exposed in the effort to return to health.
There are the physical weaknesses of course, (the reasons you got injured in the first place,) that are uncovered as soon as you go to a doctor or physical therapy. As strange as it sounds, you go to these people hoping they find something wrong with you, thereby identifying at least one good reason why it’s taking you so freaking long to get healthy.
In no other area of my life will I pay money to have a person tell me straight to my face that I’m terrible at something, but when I’m at the doctor unsuccessfully attempting a “single-legged turn-a-ma-jigger” I want him to say, “You suck at that. That’s the reason you’re injured,” and when he does I want to jump up and give him a big fat kiss on the mouth, but also grab a hanky.
If an injury drags on and on, you get progressively less excited when someone uncovers a new “weakness” that might be the source of your problem: Weak glutes; muscle imbalances; scar tissue; fascia tightness; lack of flexibility; neural misfiring; bad motor pathway habits; lack of core strength.
Before you know it, you have a laundry list of issues and a binder full of strength exercises. After enough time, even if the therapy is world class, you start to feel like nothing works properly and you can’t understand how you ever ran well in the first place.
And Then There’s the Mental Demoralization
After chasing my IT band problem around for three months, thanks to good treatment I finally put together three weeks of running in February and I start to let myself feel excited and dream again. And then three weeks ago, my knee decides to hurt like a mofo during the cool down of a workout, erasing my progress in one swoop.
I’m faced with a two mile walk home, and while I maintain my composure on the outside (barely), my mind spirals fast. How did I let this happen? Things were going so well. Why did I do that fartlek on the soggy trails with the team after a night of hard rain? What was I thinking? Why didn’t I run on the pavement alone? Why do I live in this God forsaken rain-soaked shit hole?! Why am I doing this stupid sport?! Why am I letting this make me feel so awful?! I can’t believe I’m letting myself get this upset and irrational!
The Olympic Trials are in less than four months and I can’t even jog a 5k much less race one. This is clearly not how I pictured my season shaping up. As I walk home there are no tears. I hate everything. I want to hurt something. The fire inside me makes me impervious to the winter air. I can feel it, the rage, like a screaming kettle building inside me. It burns the backside of my eyes. I want to run over to those fisherman on the side of Pre’s Trail and snap their fly rods over my busted knee and hurl their open tackle boxes toward the river, watching the contents erupt through the sky like fireworks.
Even now, just remembering how that felt makes me panicky inside.
A Change of Scenery
After clearly reaching the end of my sanity in Eugene, I hopped on a plane to Phoenix two days ago to reconnect with JB (Dr. John Ball). I bought a one-way ticket and I’m not leaving until I’m unbreakable. I needed to get out of the grey and the rain and the home of the Olympic Trials, which has a way of sucking out your soul when you are unable to run. I needed to remove myself from it all and summon the healing victories of the past.
My awesome and understanding PT from home, Robyn Pester, (who helped provide the therapy to bring me back from Navicular surgery in 2008/2009 to win the USA title in 2010) sent along all her findings to JB in Phoenix so the transition will be smooth. I felt bad leaving after everything she has done for me, but she and I both knew that it wasn’t personal. No matter how good the cut of meat, it will rot if you leave it in the fridge long enough. It’s time to barbecue this bitch. Phoenix is the place where I am going to get back on my feet.
We did it last year. We can do it again.
Sometimes it takes a long time to get to the bottom of an injury. Without knowing how to fix it, it’s hard to make a plan. Without a plan, some feel really lost. Does anyone have any tips for how to cope with that overwhelmed feeling when you can’t get to the bottom of an injury?