Working Through Injury

I recently competed in the Angkor 128, an ultra marathon through the amazing and beautiful Khmer ruins in Cambodia. Unfortunately, my day was shortened by injury. The cause of the injury itself is grounds for a different story, but let’s just say here that as an ultra runner (and as a person going through life), it’s advisable to pay attention to every detail, no matter how small and unimportant they seem.

Instead of 128.8 KM, I made it to the aid station at KM 96, where my wife advised me to throw in the towel. The risk of permanent damage to my calf, and to my Achilles tendon, were just too great at that point.

I dropped.

I stand by the decision. There’ll be other races. Besides, the injury was a blessing in disguise. Because the ability to run was stripped from me in no uncertain terms, I now had time to address some issues I had been dealing with since, get this, 1991 or so.

Maybe I should’ve done it sooner. But we don’t really have time to second guess things in this life, do we?

So my wife and I did some extreme rehabbing. We have been active in the fitness industry for some time now-we’re sort of an insider tip. Unlike conventional fitness trainers/coaches/nutrition experts, we have gone a different route. As much as possible, we let Mother Nature do its work, whether in training, during one of my races, at the dinner table, or during rehab.

There are so many suckers out there, and so many leeches that suck from them. We chose long ago not to be part of that whole scene; our dignity, pride, love of Nature, and respect for all living things (except maybe a certain President) mean too much for us.

I could go on here about specifics like rest and not demanding much from the calf, about painkillers or bandages, about amazing technological devices, or even about doctor’s visits. I will say it is now six weeks since the race, and I haven’t run more than 50 yards or so at one time. All of the other stuff I’ve mentioned are not in our vocabulary. We don’t use bandages, painkillers, or even, gulp, doctors. We also don’t lift weights-generally speaking-but Nature loves diversity, so, you know, we’ll see.

An injury is a message from someplace on high that it’s time to take a step back. Now is the time to really take it slow and give my injury all the love, time, and respect it needs to come back strong, or, as in my case, stronger than before. There’ll be no more heel striking:

The holes were there before the race…

And, if I have my way, I’ll take care of this as well:

Notice how my right foot sags outwards and down.

In 1991, I was in the Army and playing basketball with a couple of buddies on post. I went up for a rebound and landed with my right foot on someone else’s foot. My ankle collapsed outwards, and my day on the court was finished. I was immediately surrounded by my buddies, who all gave me practical, helpful tips:

“You gotta walk it off…”

“Keep your foot elevated!”

“Take his shoe off…”

{Shoe is removed, ankle swells like a balloon}

“Put his shoe back on! Put his shoe back on!”

And since that day two things happened: 1), playing basketball was no longer allowed during that maneuver, and 2), my ankle stayed damaged. At first I hardly noticed it. but after years and years of not moving the way nature intended, my knees began to lean inwards, my calfs to flay outwards, and my right foot to hang in the limp position above. Because my lower legs were not moving the way they should, the cartilage in my knees began to erode, until they creak like a ghost manor when I go up stairs.

It’s hard to see but there is a crevice running along the outside of my knees-a grim reminder of all that was and how things shouldn’t look if you pay attention to your own body. It is what it is.

It is now several days later, we’re in Malaysia and have access to a great cross-trainer, as well as those aluminum spinning bikes they put in a pool. It is officially time to start low-intensity cardio training. As excited as I am to do that, I will also miss the beach on Koh Phangan (Thailand). The beach really gave me an opportunity to do some kick-ass barefoot rehab work, and to teach my body (finally) to revert to its healthy, pre-sprained ankle ways.

Anything is possible. One only needs an open mind and the mental wherewithal to make it happen. Perhaps this article does not do the wonderful process justice, since it is a truly magical experience to let the body heal itself. Especially when doctors and the Pharma Industry can’t get their grubby, greedy fingers into the action. Just knowing, however, that Nature has the power to recover without taking “comfortable” shortcuts that never seem to work as planned, or at a price, is comforting.

I am going to take a lot of grief for voicing these opinions, and that’s OK-people have spent a lot of time and energy building their castles of smoke, and they need to protect them at all costs. But for those of you who are stuck dealing with an injury, physical or mental, there is a place for you inside Mother Nature’s warm, loving arms.

I know I haven’t given much in the way of practical tips here, but I respect our knowledge too much to just throw it at people who might not be interested in it and most likely won’t love and appreciate that knowledge as much as it deserves to be. If you are really ready to enjoy the amazing healing power of Nature, maybe you’d like to contact us. Even if we can’t help, which I doubt, we can definitely point you to someone who can.

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