Written by Dirtbag Runners Ambassador Kristin Mohror
As soon as I had launched myself off an icy cornice, the reality of what I was doing hit me. And then after landing, I stood up, took a deep breath and smiled. But before I knew it, the sloppy snow caught the edge of my ski and with an almost slow motion twist, my left knee couldn’t process the message being relayed to my brain to “BEND! BEND! BEND!” before I felt the hot POP! POP! as lactic acid seared down the back of my shin and settled into my ankle.
And then, I screamed.
At the beginning of 2015, I tore my ACL. I wasn’t sure at first, but after a few days of slow walking with a slight limp, the MRI results were back and my biggest fear (at the time) was realized. My initial reaction wasn’t great, but in hindsight, I think it was pretty normal.
I was devastated. After figuring out the logistics of surgery, insurance, and how to get out of work for a week, I was already losing hair and sleep due to the amount of stress I was under. I also got dumped during all of this – which wasn’t even the worst part.
I couldn’t run. I couldn’t walk my dog. I couldn’t tie my shoes. Heck, I couldn’t even take a shower.
And very quickly, I was a sinking ship, disappearing into the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced.
There are coaches, friends, psychologists, and loved ones who can help you see what you have deep down inside of yourself; they can tell you what it takes to push through a challenge. But to truly learn it, you have to go through it and see yourself come out the other side of what seems impossible. No quote or snippet of advice from anyone is going to teach you this.
As runners, our love for the trails and our community is an obvious driving factor. My advice: Focus on this. Sit with it. Let those connections and that passion keep you humble and curious. Let it remind you to respect the time, the distance, the training, and the recovery – no matter how alone or misunderstood you feel at times.
What I learned from my own recovery process is that adventures and epic trail runs aren’t exactly an incubator for your life’s endeavors. And that sometimes, it really is necessary to just slow down, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the ride. No matter how bumpy it gets. It’s also proof that in order to tell a good story, you have to live an engaging one. Even if it means dragging yourself through the shit sometimes.
But realistically speaking, no one ever told me how hard it would be. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew it would be rough, but no one really warned me about the weight and pain of it all.
In all of the books I’ve read on success and positive thinking or the power of your thoughts, very few (if any) authors mentioned, or even acknowledged, “the bad day.” So many authors talked about A) the way they were (broken and negative), B) the affirmations and visualization techniques they used (lots of money and therapy), or C) the end result (one million dollars, a book deal, and a smokin’ hot husband – just like that!)
They didn’t talk about the crappy day here, or the day they were about to give up on themselves there.
It’s not that I would want to picture anyone curled up in the fetal position under the sheets having a panic attack, but I really do think that it helps to hear someone be honest about falling off the positive thinking wagon every once in awhile. Not so you can indulge in self-pity about how hard everything is, no. Definitely not. But so that when the old, rusted crap and the scary, negative thoughts and the angry green-monster type of pains come out for their cocktail parties and sleepovers, you know there’s not something fundamentally wrong with you.
There is nothing wrong with you.
Letting yourself experience the depth and range of your emotions is better than not feeling anything at all. Some days will be dramatically better than others. Most days are, to be honest.
But allowing yourself to experience an injury and the kaleidoscope of shit that comes with them should be embraced as you would a new summit or personal record. Because you’re still here and you’re still working and you’re still moving forward.
I’m not saying that the dark, gremlin-like voices will just go away. I’m just saying that you don’t have to listen to them forever and you can start spending less time believing that what they’re saying is true.
Recovery: The DBR Ambassador Way
“My two go-to’s are yoga and strength training because the lack of those is usually why I end up injured. But if I can, I also try to get out and hike so I can get my nature fix. And then, of course, daydreaming about what I’m gonna do as soon as I can run again.” – Seth Longacre
“Swim, climb, walk, tai chi, yoga, core work, hike and cycle. From February to March I was ruined from running (mental, not physical). I felt no connection with it and like I was breaking my own heart every time I tried to run. Even though I’m terrified of water, I turned to swimming. As a result, my mental game feels stronger and I’m now running, combining the two and playing in a way I never thought I could before.” – Hamid Reza Kashefi
“Biking, walking and standup paddleboarding are my go-to alternatives. Meditation, visualization and reading books helped me through an injury that prevented running. Advice would be to use this time to focus on other areas of your life until you are well enough to run. Maybe start a new hobby or go back to an old one. Use the time to focus on different muscle groups and get creative with training if possible. Read a book or three, reading really helped me slow down and escape my reality while I was laid up.” – Matty Berube
“Depending on what the injury is, rest. As active people, this can be painful and counter-intuitive, but injuries can be the body’s way of saying slow down.” – Bobbi Sawchyn
“Volunteer. Seeing all the work that goes on behind the scenes is a real eye-opener. And working an aid station at an ultra is one of the most rewarding experiences ever.” – Steven Novitscus
“Do all the things you ‘don’t have time to do’ when you are running. Get a haircut, bake, do your taxes, catch up with friends, stretch more, and get ahead on work so when you can get out there again, you’ll have nice hair, lots of treats, be in good standing with the government and feel like you spent your time off getting ahead at something. Finding a physiotherapist who is awesomesauce and really understands your mind also helps. Mine really works with me to learn what my plans were, reassess based on the injury, and create new plans instead of defaulting to ‘you must take X weeks off.’” – Elizabeth Halleran
“DONT RUSH IT and STAY POSITIVE! Take this time to evaluate why you got here in the first place and then get stronger, both in body (PT can be awesome if it’s warranted) and mind (read some books, do some research). Reconnect with some of the things you’ve put down while pursuing running. It can be refreshing and remind you why you began in the first place. When you do start back, know that you won’t just pick up where you left off, but that it’s ok. You will come out on the other side of this, and how you use the time in between can help or hinder your running.” – Jeremy Hinshaw