"The timorous may stay at home."
~ Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co., 250 N.Y. 479, 483 (N.Y. 1929)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Way Back

It's been a hibernation kind of winter here in Chicago.

And for most of it, I've buried my head in the sand. Thrown myself into work (lawyering like a BOSS), rehab (so many Jane Fondas...), and recovery (which means rest. Which blows). And football, of course (Thanks Seahawks for salvaging an otherwise miserable winter. #LOB baby).

It's a humbling experience to watch your friends compete and race, knowing that you'd give anything to be out there. It was with much fear and trepidation that I still traveled out to World's Toughest Mudder in November, worried about how awful it would be to have to watch from the sidelines.

The odd part? It really wasn't that bad. If anything, it was extremely rewarding and eye-opening. I cherished the opportunity to sit back and watch the race from the other side. And to put aside my own sadness at not being able to compete and share in the joy, pain, and raw emotion of the competitors. To see old friends and to meet others. And to really take a step back and marvel at the outright ridiculousness of it all.

Surprisingly, as time ticked by while I sat on the sidelines, it got easier, not harder. I learned to build a life outside of racing (oddly, and perhaps pitifully, hard), I learned to listen to my body (even harder, and it's still a struggle), and I learned how to readjust my goals and priorities surrounding OCR.

There were points where I was sure I'd never recover (and to be fair, I'm still not quite sure "pain-free" will ever be a familiar concept again). Where I had to be driven to work because even walking to the 'L' stop brought me to tears from pain. All while seeing specialist after specialist, all with different diagnoses but no real clear recovery/rehab plan or explanation of what was going on with the ever shifting leg pain, back pain, numbness and weakness.

And here we are 4+ months later and with no clear label (and dear God, do people, including myself, always feel the need to have a label). But slowly, I began to recover. And feel better. I managed a few 400's. And then a half-mile. And then one mile. And then 3. Nothing feels FANTASTIC, but I've been getting there. Some days I feel great, others I'm hobbling around. And it's difficult to tell sometimes what sets it off.

But I finally got to the point where I can't wait any longer. The need to get back out there is strong. And so I am. Smartest decision ever? Probably not, but no one has ever accused me of being wise.

Am I nervous? Extremely. Do I feel ready? Not exactly. Am I back in "race shape"? Definitely not. So we'll give this a go and see how it feels. No expectations, no regrets (if I tell myself that, maybe I'll believe it).

Hello Sparta. I've missed you.

Photo credit: Scott Kenneally


  1. I'm nowhere near your level of physical competitiveness but I totally understand where you are coming from. I've been off my regular routine due to injury for the last 6 weeks and it sucks. I was used to running about 70K a week plus training. Tried doing a 5K run/walk and winced the whole time...it does suck. And I've been feeling "fluffy" with lack of exercise. I think I sprained a disk which has compressed my sciatic nerve which is giving me hip/leg/knee pain when I try to run...sigh....continuing to rehab. Good luck with your race!!! I'll be sending you good vibes :) I've got a Half race this weekend (which I registered for months ago for hubby's birthday) and have been mentally preparing myself for my first DNF.

  2. Amelia, as always you are an inspiration to us all. For you to have the strength to try to get back out there is awesome. Best of luck, and I am sure the entire OCR world will be pulling for you!

  3. Hi Amelia, I've really enjoyed following your blog. I actually saw you compete back at the first Mud, Guts, and Glory race. I'm a fellow OCR athlete. My entry into this crazy Obstacle Racing world was actually through the Death Race back in 2008 (that year there were only 38 participants). I'm so sorry about the injuries you have sustained. THAT SUCKS! I am glad that you are recovering though. Have you ever checked out Muscle Activation Techniques? www.muscleactivation.com. MAT has really helped me deal with injury but also avoid injury as well. There's a guy I've done some work with in Chicago (I'm in Cincinnati) that you should look up if you want to check it out. His name is Shawn True. Great guy. Great practitioner. I hope this helps. I'd love to see you back out there competing to your full potential and ability.

  4. Thank you for this. I injured my elbow a week ago, fell down stairs and busted it apart. Had surgery on Tuesday for pins and wires. I was positive about recovery until the surgery. I've been depressed for 4 days. Yesterday morning, I laid in bed and cried and slept until noon. I only got up for a doctor's appointment.

    I tried to tell myself Annie Thorisdottir, Ella Kociuba... they've been sidelined with injuries and came back. I'm not an elite athlete, but racing saved me from obesity and I will get better. If I have to delay races, it will be okay.

    Good luck on your comeback.

  5. The body is a cruel mistress and it will eventually do what all bodies do: it will break down. Regardless of what your body does from here on out, you will always have the heart and mind of an elite athlete, and so of course you will (and should) attempt to race again. And if at some point down the road, you choose to stop racing or to take on less gruelling challenges for any reason (e.g., to preserve long- or short-term health), then that's what you should do. Just never forget that you have inspired countless individuals to excel in their own lives. That is the very essence of a legacy and you should feel incredibly proud of that.

  6. Being a 25 year veteran of the Marine Corps I know living through training injuries. I was supposed to run the Sprint in Temecula, CA back in Feb 2012. I rolled my ankle during a training run and was a year recovering. I finally ran my first Spartan in Jan. Ran the Super... maybe I should have done the Sprint first, LOL... but I'm looking forward the next race. It hurt... for days it hurt. But I loved the conquering the challenge. You may never be pain free again, but if you train carefully, listening to your body, you can do this again! Get some!!! Oorah!

  7. Great to hear-hope to see you at Mud Guts and Glory again !!!

    Thanks for Being so Gracious and humble !!