In Chasing Another Ultra I talked about being on the path to another 50K. Immediately after that post I started off strong. I wasn’t getting great times on my runs, and I didn’t expect to. But I was getting good time on feet, and good consistency, which are far more important. That lasted about two weeks.
Everyone complains about Kansas City roads, but Kansas City sidewalks are just as bad. I was humming along engrossed in an audiobook. I failed to notice that up ahead the sidewalk was not in its natural state of flat, but had become an obstacle course meant to ensnare my unsuspecting toe.
My toe screamed into the sidewalk with great fury and was promptly punished for the indiscretion. I was reminded of the cost of not paying attention as I limped home for the next 2.5 miles. And for 2.5 weeks after that.
I’ve had numerous injuries throughout my life as a result of sports (mainly running) and toe injuries are among the worst. I’ve actually dislocated both of my big toes before, making them susceptible to re-injury. They are painful as fuck, and take forever to heal when it is impossible to completely stay off your feet.
I try to use everything as an opportunity to learn and grow, and injuries are no exception. I am a fairly high energy person, and running is a soothing activity to me. So as I sat with my foot in an ice bath I tried to figure out what the lesson was, other than “pay attention and be less clumsy.” Which anyone that knows me would tell you is not likely to ever be learned.
Then I remembered a passage while reading Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman:
“Look, what happens if you have a sore ankle one day?”
“I work some other area.”
“It’s the same with your three centers. If one area isn’t going well, it’s still an opportunity to train the others. On some of your weakest physical days you can learn the most about your mind.”
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I turned my injury into a transformative experience. But it did give me the opportunity to focus on a few areas of training that I tend to ignore: breathing, stretching and core work. And since I wanted to keep making forward progress, I decided these would be the areas I would focus on.
And the results showed when I finally got back to running. My breathing felt more natural, and my muscles weren’t as sore and stiff when I got back to the actual practice of running. I haven’t gotten faster yet, but I feel more like a whole runner than I had before I got injured.
I am grateful for the lesson about shifting focus when one area is weaker, in an effort to become stronger as a whole and plan on applying it to all areas of my life.
I just hope that next time I need the reminder, it comes more gently than a sprained toe.