Newton’s First Law
Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. This law is one that most of us would not apply to what we do as individuals. However, we can relate to how difficult it feels to start or stop doing something in our lives… especially those routines or habits that are good for us. The idea of starting something new may be difficult at the beginning but hopefully it gets to a point where it becomes easier overtime. This is especially true when achieving positive results that act as reinforcements such as loss of weight, compliments by others, a stronger connection with the Lord, or more energy.
It can be a real struggle when we then stop doing that healthy activity or practice for a while and then try to get back to what had been working. That restart can sometimes be more difficult than the first time we began, because any minor improvement or early achievement was noticeable initially. Unfortunately, the expectations and goals the next time around seem to take longer and it feels more challenging getting back to where you were at your best, most disciplined, and consistent.
Habit, Discipline or Addiction
I have run fairly consistently since 2006, initially taking week or more completely off after a race to help my body recover. When I took that time off, I usually felt like I was losing some fitness even though I knew it was helpful to give my body some rest. This approach has evolved over the last few years as my race distance has increased from 26.2 to 100 miles. One of the things that has worked for me is to run easy or do something physical to keep moving rather than taking multiple days or weeks completely off for rest.
Last October I finally finished the Grindstone 100, the only course where I have a DNF (Did Not Finish). During November and December of 2017, I dialed back on the intensity my training, ignored my diet, and was trying to “rest” my body. However, once the New Year came, I felt like I needed to incorporate some speed into my training during the first half of 2018. As part of that plan, I signed up for my first marathon in over 4 years, The Run for the Red Marathon before tackling The Bear 100 Miler in September 2018.
In January I was in Phoenix for a meeting with my friend John. We were staying right near Squaw Peak (Known as Piestewa Peak), which involves running up 1200’ in 1.2 miles to reach the summit. We ran in the morning to catch the sunrise from the top. It was worth getting up early to see God’s glory as the sun rose and His amazing beauty was all around us.
As we descended, I took off ahead as I always feel like a little kid when I run down hills. It was very rocky and technical at times with steep cliffs on the outside ledge. The further I got down, the faster I was going, and then….. I tripped and after a blur of tumbling, found myself face down on the rocks. I slowly got up to evaluate the damage and while I had scraped up my knuckles, it was the searing pain in my shoulder that was unbearable.
We slowly and quietly ran the 2 miles back to the hotel. I did not think that I had broken anything and thought it was nothing a little Motrin/Tylenol wouldn’t help. Despite John’s urging me to talk to one of the orthopedic surgeon at the meeting (Yes- A meeting with orthopedic surgeons who focus on upper extremities), I was too proud, embarrassed, and stubborn to ask for someone to look at me. Instead, after being in pain for 2 weeks, I finally went to see my orthopedic surgeon who informed me I had torn my sub-scapularis (one of the rotator-cuff tendons).
Surgery and Recovery
All I knew was that I wanted it done quickly and fortunately, Dr. Cody had an opening that same Friday. I was so clueless about the surgery and recovery that I had planned to go on a business trip the following Monday to Indianapolis. Clearly I didn’t go anywhere for a while and although the pain the first week was challenging, it was the lack of sleep that was most frustrating. I had to wear my arm in a sling for 6 weeks and was not allowed to run. After two weeks I finally had to do something and so I began with long walks on the dreadmill. By keeping it at 15%, I really thought this would help me stay in shape.
The Restart Ain’t Easy
One of the hardest parts of an ultra is the restart; the time you begin moving again after you stop at an aid station. The restart in an endurance race is physically challenging but after my surgery, the mental part has been more difficult than expected. I tried to have the mindset that the time off would be good and that I would use the corresponding season of Lent to reflect and be grateful for all I have.
In retrospect I was ignorant in understanding how difficult the recovery from rotator-cuff surgery would be. Similarly, I didn’t realize how long it would take for me to get back to the fitness level I was in last September.
Count My Blessings
I continually count my blessings regarding this injury. I am thankful it was my shoulder and not my neck or worse. I am thankful I was able to have surgery so quickly and during a time of year that running in the Northeast stinks. I am thankful I didn’t get selected into one of the three major races I hope for in 2018 (Western States, Hardrock, and UTMB). I am thankful for all I have learned but for which I must now apply. Of all these lessons, the most important one has been patience! While my wife and kids probably would agree that I have a long way to go, I pray the Lord has taught me more than I can fully appreciate during the first half of 2018.
I pray that all of us can continue doing those things that strengthen your faith, enhance relationships, or improve our fitness. That we stop doing those things that we know we shouldn’t be doing or starting those things we have put off too long. Whatever we are looking to do, let’s be sure to ask for the Lord’s help and have the patience we often lack in a society that is looking more and more for instant gratification. Let us embrace Hebrews 6:12, “we do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised”, as we look forward to tomorrow and all He offers.