Yeah, so new term I recently encountered has done an admirable job of characterizing my recent return to the trail.
In 1997 I hurt my left foot and ankle in an Army running event. At the time I was regularly running in the burgeoning trail events of the day and hoped to compete in a semi-professional way upon leaving the the service. Several surgeries later I was lucky I got to keep my foot and left my last posting using a cane to get around.
I’ve since been able to ditch the cane, and have gotten strong enough to take up trail running once more. I love it, I’m passionate about it. However, I’ve run into a series of issues that periodically make trail running a problem. Specifically, when I train too hard I end up with injuries that are usually an exacerbation of my previous medical problems. No fun, and not sustainable.
In the spring of 2014 I started up once again. I intended to enter and run a couple of 50 kilometer races. Then life happened and as you might have guessed I didn’t run in any of these. In the early summer our family had to pull stakes and relocate. This threw a monkey wrench into my training schedule and I missed Sage Burner by a couple of weeks.
Then after the dust from the move had settled enough for me to get serious about Canyon de Chile I first felt some discomfort in my back (probably from pushing A-bear around in the buggy so much) and later injured my foot stepping on a errant Lego caltrop. I took most of the autumn off to recover, and have only recently been able to get back on a training plan.
So I’ve dialed it back a notch and began to focus on the sustainability of my outdoor activities. Ground pounding trail running seems beyond me at the moment, maybe forever. Yes I can still break into a trot and sustain it a good long while, but I know sooner or later I’m going to twist something or fall or break something and I’ll end up sidelined next to a big bucket of cookies. So I walk a lot of the time. It’s a fast walk — I average about 3.4 to 4.0 miles per hour depending on terrain and weather — and it serves to get my heart rate up and keep my respiratory system fully engaged.
While this seems like an okay way to re-enter the trail running scene I haven’t seen this state of affairs as anything other than a means to an end. Walk until you can run. But no amount of walking or running is going to make me 23 years old again and pushing that hard will predictably end badly.
I need goals to work toward. While winning an event has never been particularly important, participation in trail running events has been. I also need community, people I can talk with from time to time, who share my passion for wilderness and for covering ground under their own power.
I came across this guy on the Pacific Crest Trail facebook page. He’s the author of that meme at the top of this post.
In those few words Guitarte has defined an emerging passion I was working on yet failing to codify. I have goals now.
My long term health goal is to be out on the trail when I am ancient. To do that I need to avoid hurting myself. I am already a very efficient walker and have a great deal of experience backpacking. But having an event to train for gives me a concrete goal to work towards and I’ve always found that is the most compelling way to live.
In a decade and change my little one will be out of the house and I’ll likely be able to fulfill my dream to Triple Crown. But not right now. Right now I’ve got to keep my focus on regaining my health and becoming performant once more. Seemingly, my body can’t keep up with the stress and strain of running 40+ miles a week. I guess I’m not a 20-something any more. Every single time I try to train like this I end up sidelined by injuries. Every. Single. Time.