Back from the Break

(or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation)

From the week of Memorial Day through the week of Independence Day, my life was defined by an accident. A single misplaced step left me with a broken ankle and a serious case of summertime blues. I had to spend nearly two weeks on crutches and almost seven weeks in an air cast, which transformed my much-anticipated return to the Pacific Northwest from an outdoor adventure to a sit around the lodge and drink beer vacation.

As the saying goes: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Preparing for a run with my awful ankle brace.
Preparing for a run with my awful ankle brace.

On July 9th I was finally given the “all clear” to lose my air cast and I started physical therapy shortly thereafter. My road to recovery started on the Peloton as I tried to build back the strength and range of motion in my left leg while also jump-starting my overall cardiovascular health again. Eventually, I started working short runs into this regiment, as well. I was too nervous to run outside without my ankle brace, though, so I also had to deal with the restrictions that came with that additional piece of hardware.

Of course, I also had to deal with the fact that running is hard. I sheepishly went out for my first run on July 23, knocking out an 8:59 mile on a pancake-flat stretch of sidewalk. By the time I was done, I felt like I’d run a marathon.

On my wife’s sage advice I started running one mile at a time, two or three times per week, working to gradually increase my weekly mileage. In late August, I also dusted the cobwebs off of my Focus Cayo and started road biking again. I’d cap off each ride with a brick mile to keep the momentum going. And running still felt hard.

It did feel good to be active again, but the reality of my situation was also becoming more clear: I would have to say goodbye to my fitness level from the first half of 2019. My return to competitive racing would be a journey measured in months, not weeks.

A screen capture of my Strava Summit fitness data.
Don’t call it a comeback: the peaks and valleys of my last six months.

On Monday, Aug. 12, I finally decided to see if I could run every day for a full week. To my surprise, I ended my week with 10 miles in the ledger. With one successful week behind me, I decided to see if I could do it again. And again. And so began my inadvertent run streak.

It’s now Oct. 20 and I just got home from a 9 mile run—my longest since the accident—which also happens to be day 70 of my current run streak. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this streak going, and I’m still a world away from the runner that I was before my accident, but it finally feels like I’ve hit the lowest point of this valley (literally, at least according to my Strava data) and I’m already on my way back to the summit.

It’s easy to give up hope when your plans go awry. I definitely reached a prolonged period of hopelessness this summer. But the bad times pass just like the good times pass, and endurance sports have always been about the journey more than the destination. My journey is going to require a little more patience than expected, but my destination is still out there somewhere … just beyond the horizon. Let’s see where the road takes us tomorrow.

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