About three weeks ago, a fear most athletes have came true when I had my first major injury. My training had been going very well and I had just started incorporating some mountain training. I was hoping that it was just a slight strain–something that would go away with some rest or reduced training. Yet deep inside I knew it was probably something worse. Over the five years I have been running regularly, only once had an injury occurred and it was just something the set me back for a week or so–nothing serious. When this injury happened, the pain and severity was quite different than anything I ever experienced. Immediately I went to several medical/athletic websites to try to figure out what the injury may be. The symptoms lead me to believe it was a type 2 (maybe a type 1) tear of my left medial gastrocnemius aka the upper inside part of my left calf. On the recommendation of a physiotherapist I got an ultrasound that confirmed that it was indeed a type 2 tear. That meant 4-6 weeks of recovery–right in the middle of my training for my 100 mile race in late October. Not what I was hoping…
The good news is that prior to this injury, I had been focusing on many ways to improve my life, attitude, performance, etc. Several books I read had large sections focusing on the power of a positive mental attitude–no matter the situation. When the news hit that I had to stop running for over a month, my positive perspective was that this would make me stronger and with a little luck and a lot of elbow grease, I would gain some new skills that will ultimately make me a better runner.
The doctors and physiotherapists all agreed that I could continue to walk. With that, I set out to become an efficient power walker. Using many websites, photos, and videos, I learned some tips to improve my pace as a walker which is immensely useful in ultramarathons. During the Keys 100, I think one of my assets was my ability to walk at a faster clip than most, allowing me to make up a lot of ground in the second half of the race.
Over the past 3 weeks, my walking has improved by leaps and bounds. It reminds me of when I first started to learn how to run regularly. I am pretty sure that my form is not legal for the competitive speed walkers but I am definitely not running. Any motion that is close to running still bothers my calf. When I walk, my feet land on the heels and roll to the front. Plus, I am much less fatigued even after walking for 60-90 minutes compared to running.
My adjusted view is this: I know that I will not be able to match or beat my Keys 100 time at the Javelina Jundred (20:28) but the whole purpose of this race is for the experience and to run a qualifier for entry to the Western States 100. The only requirement is that I finish under 30 hours. I am confident that I can walk 100 miles in under 30 hours. While my running fitness will not be where I want it going into the race, my hope is to have enough in the tank to give it a 50/50 or even a 75/25 run/walk ratio.
Beyond this new power walking ability I am honing, I have been focusing on increased flexibility especially in areas that have been neglected during my years of running. Also, I have (finally) started to learn how to practice mindful meditation. It has been a goal of mine for numerous years but I never made the time to learn or try. In addition, I am working on increasing strength in the supporting areas of the body for running–better balance, posture, and range of motion.
The funny thing out of all of this is that I am not worried or scared. I have a feeling of peacefulness that tells me I am learning and improving myself. This is exactly where I should be despite it not being my chosen path. In a zen-like approach, I am not focusing on what might happen and wishing I could change the past. Right here is where I want to be.