Flailing and awkward, still
|From two years ago, doing things I maybe shouldn't be doing in the mountains.|
My name is Jill, and I’m an endorphinaholic. It’s been fifteen days since my last run.
I figured I wouldn’t have much to post on my outdoors blog for a while, but I do like to record a post-mortem about race attempts, especially unsuccessful ones. The dreaded “what went wrong.” What went wrong? I fell down in an embarrassingly ungraceful way and hurt my knee. Why? Likely a number of factors — first, there’s the obvious fatigue; then lack of specific training on technical terrain; another likely candidate would be poorly developed core strength; yet another possibility might be a real and potentially unworkable problem with balance.
It’s that last possibility that makes me feel uneasy. A friend was recently diagnosed with Ménière's disease. He and I have clung to the same exposed rock outcroppings and shared the similar rushes of vertigo at inopportune times. I’m not saying I suspect I have Ménière's or any other balance disorder. It only led me to realize that such issues can crop up well into adulthood, and that maybe it’s possible to make one’s way through life without incident until you’re somewhere on a high mountain ridge in the dark, in the rain, suddenly feeling slightly dizzy with blurred vision and not fully understanding why. It’s easy to blame these bouts of disorientation on the overdoing of things, fatigue, nutrition, bad luck … but maybe, just maybe, there’s more to it.
This evening, Beat and I were sitting in the sauna and dreaming big about the Great Himalayan Trail. I let my imagination run wild across high plateaus and 6,000-meter passes. And then I thought, “I can’t even handle the Alps. The nice hiking trails in the Alps. The Himalaya, Jill. Really?
In the midst of this latest trauma-based injury recovery — the disappointment about scratching from the race, the longing to go rushing up into the mountains while I was limping around Courmayeur, the withdrawals from happy exercise hormones and daily shots of fresh air, the acceptance and efforts to do productive things with my extra time — there’s be one dominant emotion: Trepidation. Trepidation that maybe this whole clumsy thing isn’t “Ha ha, I’m new to running, I get lazy with my feet, I daydream” — the maybe it’s something I can’t just easily get over. That maybe being injured because I fell, ungracefully, is going to continue to be a regular thing. That maybe “running” — as in pushing my physical limits in the way I most enjoy — on mountain terrain is simply something that I just can’t do, without higher-than-average risk at least.
So what could I do? Embrace this as an added incentive to work on un-fun things like core strength and balance exercises? Train for something with single-minded focus, and figure out for sure? Risk that dizziness and blurred vision in a truly dangerous place? Give in, slow down, give up on the really rugged stuff? Figure this is just the endorphin withdrawals talking and do nothing differently the next time I want to go for a tough, long hike? All possibilities.
I should do something differently, though. I'm not exactly proud of my accumulating scars. And I had one rather scary tumble on an exposed section of trail when I was just day-hiking — not racing — in France, the felt like another wake-up call. But what to do?