A Different Kind of Fall

Yesterday, after about an hour-long knee rehab jaunt with Ryan, he gave me some hopeful news. He said my knee looked good, and that I could run twice next week! I was still disappointed that he didn’t think me recovered enough to run yesterday, but I did get him to grudgingly agree that I could do a little running uphill on our trail run this morning so long as I hiked/walked back down.

And, I was quite excited today when my knee felt perfectly fine on the run up Herman Gulch Trailhead. Well, that parts that I was actually able to run, I should say. Between roots sticking out of the ground, mud, even snow – yes, snow in June, only in Colorado! - and feeling tired and out of breath, I didn’t do as much running as I had hoped.

Quite the opposite: I fell. . .again. Not like last week, not literally. I was feeling out of shape and tired on my way up the trail and encountered yet another patch of snow and mud, ordinarily no big deal.

This time, though, my first reaction to it was hesitation. Hesitation stemming from fear that I’d fall on the trail again, fear that the hesitation would affect my training, fear that I will barely eek my way through the marathon on August 18th and fall metaphorical miles – and several minutes – short of my goal. In that moment, I fell metaphorically, felt an agonizing pang of defeat.

It didn’t help that Herman Gulch is a TOUGH trail run, complete with lots of tangled tree roots sticking out of the ground; rock step ups and loose rock; a start at about 10,000 feet of elevation; and, today, small streams running across the trail, mud, and snow. All of these would have been quite enough to handle one week after a decent fall. I didn’t need a mild case of PTSD on top of it.

I finally did make it to the top and was very surprised to see that I had caught the boys at the lake before they headed back down to Jones Pass:

Was so happy to see these boys!

Was so happy to see these boys!

That did make me feel better, as I wasn’t expecting to catch them at any point.

The rest of the run was sprinkled with hesitation – again – at spots along the run, telling myself I would come back, small slips on loose rock spurring a startled gasp of self-doubt, feeling grateful for having the best trail running buddies ever, and feelings of absolute awe at even more beautiful views:

Who can be upset with scenery like this?!

Who can feel upset with a front row seat to scenery like this?!

It’s only been a week; I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at my feelings of hesitation along the trail. I can be the most patient person in the world when I think it’s warranted – when trying to teach my niece or nephews something new, when explaining something to someone for the first time – but not when I feel like the clock is ticking, like I’m losing valuable training miles, and like I’m being held back against my will.

The healing process is going to take much more out of me – physically and mentally – than I thought. Still, I am determined not to let this knee thing get me down. I will be back in full force – and SOON – mark my words!

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., conducts child development research and works to improve the lives of young children at the University of Denver and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

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