The Journey to Badwater: Crawling My Way Back

Long is the way and hard that out of Hell leads up to light.
— John Milton
My first view of trail in 7 weeks.

My first view of trail in 7 weeks.

“This is fucking bull shit!” I yelled, as I stood in the middle of the sidewalk at 3:30 a.m., staring up at the pitch black sky, shouting into nothing like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. I had reached the peak of my frustration. 6 weeks post fall, I was finally able to power walk and shuffle slowly. It wasn’t the training I was used to, but it was, nonetheless, race-specific training for Badwater. I took what I could get, trying to remain optimistic that running couldn’t be far off. On this morning, I was shuffling along at a 13:00 pace when I felt another spike in pain. I had no idea why. I was barely moving. How could anything possibly hurt? As with all things, though, the pain eventually subsided, and I was able to continue on. Such has been my training for the last month as I slowly inch my way back.

I started with short power walks on the treadmill and then moved to longer power walks outside. One Saturday, I walked over 21 miles of pavement. It took an extremely long time, but, as someone who wasn't able to get up to fill her water bottle, carry a bag of groceries, or get in and out of the shower unassisted a month prior, it was progress. “I saw the sun rise this morning, I breathed fresh aid, and I even shot a snot rocket,” I texted a friend. Progress.

Most mornings now I get up at 2:45 a.m. because it takes me longer to cover the distance I once did. My power walk has turned into a slow shuffle, and there have been a couple times that I might even call it a “run,” but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The rest of my training is a combination of endless PT exercises, yoga, strength training, and time spent jogging in place in the sauna. Last weekend, I set foot on a trail for the first time in 7 weeks. I was terrified. I still haven't gone on singletrack for fear that I might slip and tear my healing groin and hip flexor --I can’t fathom experiencing that kind of pain again. I have not run with anyone. I withdrew from my next race. Any self confidence I had has taken a hard hit, and I need to find it again. It’s part of the healing process, I suppose.

I’m now 7+ weeks post fall. I’m still in some pain and don't have full range of motion. I walk gingerly and, if only mentally, need the security of solid ground beneath my feet. I am, however, making forward progress, relentlessly and optimistically. I’m getting in solid mileage again and am fortunate to have the unyielding support of an amazing crew that has agreed to make the journey to Death Valley with me. Who knows? Maybe in a couple weeks I’ll even feel confident saying I can run.