The Journey to Badwater: Time and Patience

The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.
— Tolstoy
Hagg Lake 50k.

Hagg Lake 50k.

My three-year journey to Badwater has been an exercise in persistence and patience from the beginning, from qualifying and gaining experience to waiting for the decision to be made on my application. The last several weeks have been no different. Almost one month ago, I fell at mile 25 during a 50k race. It was a distance I ran almost weekly and a race I had run 4 preceding times. There was no reason for the fall other than bad luck and bad conditions. I instantly felt pain in my groin and inner thigh. I stopped for a minute, and then continued on, walking as needed, and somehow still managed to finish with a 6-minute course PR. 

By that evening, I was confident I had a minor groin pull, so I took some ibuprofen, elevated my leg, and iced. The next morning, I awoke sore, but felt well enough to run the 25k I was registered to run. I made it 6 miles before the pain was so excruciating that I had to walk off course for fear of doing permanent damage. I repeated the ibuprofen/ice/elevation sequence, and it became clear to me that I'd have to take a couple days off. I continued to baby the injury and saw my massage therapist, but, by the next work day, I had to call in sick because the pain had gotten so bad that I couldn't get to the bathroom without crawling or holding onto walls, let alone get down the stairs of my second-floor walkup to get to my car. 

I patiently spent the next 9 days diligently taking large quantities of ibuprofen, applying ice and heat, elevating, and resting. Still, I was unable to sleep through the night because the throbbing pain was so excruciating. I hobbled around work as little possible and tried to maintain a positive outlook. "It's been over a week," I'd tell myself. "I must be in the home stretch now."

By day 10, I was so nauseous from the massive dosages of ibuprofen that I stopped taking it all together. I was feeling a little better, so it seemed like the best decision. Besides, I was in the home stretch. The next several days, the pain that I had masked with NSAIDS surfaced fully and I was so nauseous from the pain that I couldn't eat. The throbbing continued, now during the day and night, and I couldn't sleep. Still, I tried to remain positive. Two weeks. I was in the home stretch. 

Finally, it hit me. I was over two weeks into this injury. I had taken 9 days off entirely. I was still in excruciating pain. I couldn't go up or down the stairs to my apartment without crying. I wasn't in the home stretch and it wasn't minor. I was in physical pain like I have never experienced in my life. I was scared. I went to a dark place, darker than I have ever been. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't want to see anyone. I wanted the world to stop so I could deal with the fear that I was losing Badwater. The world didn't stop, though. Still, I had to get up every morning and crawl out of bed. Still, I had to go to work and hobble around the office. Still, I had to deal with people staring, commenting, and asking about my limp. 

After 2.5 weeks, I saw a chiropractor. Her diagnosis was a bleak one, and, that night, I finally broke down. All of the tears that I had pushed away, all of the fear I had hidden with positive thoughts, three years of emotional investment in Badwater, all of it poured out and I cried for hours. When the tears finally stopped and I pulled my thoughts together, I decided that I was unwilling to accept the diagnosis without a second opinion. The next day, I saw my athletic trainer, whom I have come to trust immeasurably over the years. Seeing her made me feel monumentally better, both mentally and physically. She had a couple of thoughts about what had happened, neither of which was good, but neither definitively put me out of Badwater either.  We agreed that the next course of action would be to see a sports medicine doctor at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). That evening, I made an appointment, but they couldn't see me for a week. So, once again, I had to be patient. 

Today, I finally saw a doctor at OHSU and I had x-rays. As is typical for my injuries, the doctor wasn't able to come to a firm diagnosis. The x-rays were negative, ruling out an avulsion fracture and making a stress fracture highly unlikely. In all likelihood, I have a severe adductor/groin strain, but that's still unconfirmed. So, for now, I wait. Patiently sometimes, impatiently most, I wait. I wait for the morning that I wake up and feel normal again so that I can run. In the meantime, my pain has decreased significantly and life is a little better. I am crosstraining and I am moving forward with my travel and race plans, fighting just as hard for the start line as I will for the finish line.