Four days ago on October 1, 2011 I was running about a half mile from home, finishing up a little warm-up brick before a sprint triathlon the next day, and I broke my ankle. I stepped off the pavement to avoid some traffic and ducked under a tree branch while simultaneously stepping over a hubcap and I misstepped with my left foot. My ankle twisted out and away from me and I heard a snap. In a flash I was on the ground. I knew immediately that something was wrong. I got up and tried to keep running, but that wasn’t going to happen so I hobbled back home.
Three hours later and a trip to the emergency room and I learned I had fractured my left fibia. Six to eight weeks before I can run again, at least two to four weeks before I can get in the pool or ride a bike. I obviously didn’t do the race the next day, and I also pulled out of several other races and an Alarm Will Sound gig.
There are bigger problems in the world so I’m not wallowing in self pity. I’m grateful I have access to good health care and a patient wife. I’m also grateful that the recovery rate is generally 100% for these things so I should be just fine in a few months and back to my intensely physical life.
A number of my friends have encouraged me to use the time to think about things a bit and then come out the other end with more clarity and purpose in my life. That’s a curious notion for me, as most of my best thinking comes when I’m doing. Indeed, the two are really one and the same with me. For better or for worse I’ve never been much of a deliberator. I follow my muse, saddle up, and go.
And go and go and go and go. It’s true I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for some time. After just four days of sleeping and sitting around I’m shocked at how much more rested I feel in general. Between the end of a long training season, the stress of school starting, and the pressure of various composition commission deadlines and upcoming gigs, and raising two little kids, my adrenal glands were firing on all cylinders pretty much 24/7. I’ve often gone weeks sleeping no more than five hours a night.
But the thing is that I like what I do. And now that I can see through the lens of a well-rested body and mind all I want to do is get back out there and do it more. I’m especially excited about the composing I’m doing now. I’m also excited about the endurance sports. The addition of endurance sports to my life in the past five years has been amazing, and it’s feeding into my creative work as a musician in myriad ways.
And I’ve begun to really chart my own path as an endurance athlete. My interest in racing and getting faster has waned as I’ve been drawn deeper and deeper into the woods. The long trail runs have become a staple of my life. If I go more than two or three days without getting into the woods I get anxious and uncentered. It’s made me wonder if the psychological problems so many people struggle with (especially in cities) might be a result of nature deprivation. (I increasingly see more and more articles citing scientific evidence to back that up.) The human world certainly has its wonders, but even a Beethoven symphony pales in comparison to a great mountain range or an ocean sunrise. It’s that Sense of Wonder that nature provokes. And being physically dynamic in natural environments heightens the experience for me. It is aesthetic, inspiring, and humbling.
So I dream of trail running and bike packing, and I plot my course for next year. I’m still going to do a few races, but I’m going to put much more energy into organizing my own solo events. Bike packing has opened up new vistas for me as I can go much further and much faster on my own accord, and make my own adventures, which will also include trail running and open-water swimming. (Go HERE for more information about bike packing.) Soon enough. By December I’ll be back on the bike and the trails.
In the meantime I’ll watch Warren Miller movies, read, get better at wrenching my bike, and hang out with my little girls.