Setbacks such as injury, illness and burnout are unfortunate repercussions of pursuing your passions and pushing the limits. While all of our limits and goals vary, the process by which we try to achieve those is more or less the same. Setbacks can ruin your training cycle and depress you - but only if you let them. Everybody faces adversity, and how each specific person responds to adversity really determines how far they'll go in regards to accomplishing their goals or realizing their potential.
I was just over 12 miles into a 50k, and running really well. I was in 2nd place, less than a minute back from first. The top five runners were all under course record pace at this point, despite the unseasonable ice and snow that lined the relentlessly hilly single track trails. The first runner, a newly graduated NCAA D1 All American and 2:20 something marathoner, was pushing the pace in his debut ultra and I found myself in pursuit - a position that I really hadn't been in this year. While I thought that his pace was unsustainable, I wanted to keep him close and wait for him to potentially slip up. I was running smart, or so I thought.
After a long climb, I plunged into a steep downhill before catching my foot on a root and taking a hard fall. I wasn't running out of my comfort zone whatsoever, but the technicality of the course was unlike anything I've ever run before. I already fell once on the course, but I bounced up without issue. This time around it was different though - I heard a popping noise and in the seconds after falling I didn't know where it came from. Initially I thought I was fine until I stood up and noticed immense pain in my right foot. After about 1/10th of a mile I realized I couldn't go on. All x rays and tests were conclusive and unfortunately I broke my foot. I am lucky to have narrowly avoided surgery, but coming to grips with the notion of not racing competitively again in 2018 feels like a punch to my stomach. I've set two course records thus far, and I had big goals for this year.
At this point I have two options: feel sorry for myself and give up or remain relentlessly committed to my long term goals. The first one isn't an option. I can frame this as a tragedy or a blessing, and I'm opting for the second choice. While I won't be able to compete at the level I'd like to this year, It’s just the beginning for me.
Yes, I will have more down time. Which means a few things. One; I can now put more focus into growing as a coach and spend more time with each individual athlete. Two; I can spend more time working on myself as a person. I'm on a never-ending mission to improve as a person and live more gently on this earth. Three; I can find balance in my life and I can strengthen my weaknesses outside of running. More core work, back to weight training, more stability, hone my nutrition, more family time, more time with my wife and Australian Shepherd. All of these things are good things that arose from a less than ideal situation. Lotus flowers grow from the murkiest ponds and they're stunningly beautiful. The future is not about the situation you're presently in, it's about your ability to react and adapt, and I know that this injury is going to make me a better runner and more importantly- a better person.