Setback

I barely slept last night. I tossed and turned trying to find a position where my ankle was stable. It didn’t happen, even when it was neutral it still throbbed to a delayed pulse of my heart beat. The couple hours I did managed to rest, my dreams spiraled around the pain at the foot of the bed. I dreamed of toeing the starting line of my race on March 5. A friend looks over and questions me if I am really capable of racing with an ankle that swollen.

“I’ll be fine,” I say facing forward, no less competitive because of my injury.

It happened yesterday running down from McAfee’s Knob with the triathlon team. It was the finale of the 2011 training camp for me and it was an amazing run up until the last quarter mile. Physical fatigue made my muscles lax, and when my mind took a break from picking lines and footing on a flatter stretch of trail, my ankle rolled.

Instantly, like a muffled gunshot, a sound that would circulate throughout my nightmares all night, I heard the ligament tear. When I was packing up my car to head back to Blacksburg for this training camp, I stopped and stared at my crutches in the basement. I remembered why I had them before. I respected the injury I had at that time and wondered if I should take the crutches with me. I would never have imagined I would need them only a few days later. But instead I am restricted to cripple walking around my condo.

I am disappointed with myself. I am a very deliberate person, thinking through every action I make, taking care with every step. It has been years since I have bumped into a table, hit my head on something as I have bent over. I cannot recall the last time I spilled a drink, or when I tripped. Two years ago when I had nearly completed a run of Lower Shay’s in Snowshoe, West Virginia, I had abandoned concentration and on the flatter part at the bottom of the slope had a nasty spill. It was utter negligence. It should not have happened. It was no accident. I was being careless, just as I was yesterday. And while the concussion was miserable, and the sprained ankle is no more fun, my disappointment for my careless footing is the real pain.

Part of why this ended up this way is because of my 100% commitment attitude. I commit to every step with confidence that my placement is accurate. But my confidence was misplaced this time and instead of letting my body fall to the ground, I put three times my body weight in force, nearly four hundred pounds of force onto a rolled ankle. For most anyone else, this would be a minor setback. But as an athlete, my body has to be functioning perfect all season. All it takes is a tweak to put me two weeks behind my competitors, thirty seconds to a minute behind my competitors.

This is not the first time that the Appalachian trail has challenged me and broken me. In an hour I will be waiting for the x-rays to come back showing complete bones. I go into this trip with the same attitude I always have, to hear good news, to be cleared to train again. I understand simply by looking down at my ankle that I am ignorantly optimistic, but I have to keep my head up. That is one of the only things I have control of in my life.

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