Getting Up After the Fall (An excerpt from Journeys: the adventures of a Nomad)

The following is an excerpt from the second draft of Journeys: The Adventures of a Nomad. I just finished this section after some major editing and thought I would share an update. This is a section talking about my cross country and track career during my freshman year at Anderson University.

… As the [Cross Country] season was coming to an end, the week before the South East Conference, one of our most important races of the season, I partially tore one of the tendons in my ankle.

After consulting with the Athletic Trainers and one of the local doctors, the decision was made to allow me to race with my ankle tightly wrapped. I was warned beforehand that as long as I didn’t twist my ankle while running, it would be fine.

The conference meet was an 8k course, five miles of twisting trails and hills through woodlands and open fields. As the gun sounded and I surged forward with the hundred other runners, I felt strong and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. My wrapped ankle was not an issue until I passed the first mile marker; I stepped on a root in the grass and felt a searing pain shoot up my leg as my ankle twisted under me. I stumbled knowing that I was injured and each step was going to be harder than the last.

Part of me knew that the best thing to do was to get off the trail and stop, but there was a voice in the back of my head reminding me that I had never not finished a race and that the team was relying on me to secure the seventh position. For the next four miles, each step caused the pain to pulse up from my ankle until it eventually went numb and I didn’t notice it anymore.

I finished the race with a new personal record and an ankle that had swollen about twice the size than normal. While I was glad to discover that my seventh position on the team helped to contribute to the team winning the conference title, the joy was lost on me as I limped through the cool-down knowing that my injury was going to prevent me from participating in the winter, indoor track season.

While I continued to train, I spent the next several months recovering from the injury. I spent most of my time with the Athletic Trainers, taking time to allow my ankle to heal properly as I supported the team throughout the indoor track season at meets and races. I entered into the spring season ready to return to the competition of racing.

After several weeks of track meets and various races, including long distance and shorter sprints, I started to train for the steeple chase, a 3000 meter race (seven and a half laps) that included five steeple jumps each lap after the first 300 meters, including the water jump. After several weeks of training on hurdles, sprints, and jumps, the coaches felt that I was ready to enter the race alongside several other teammates.

The track meet in which I was selected to race the steeple chase was damp and cold. While eager to start, I was nervous, as I had never jumped or hurdle an actual steeple before. I took off with the majority of the pack, falling into the middle of the racers. As I approached the first steeple, I found that I was out of step and attempted to hurdle the steeple with my non-dominant leg.

I cleared the steeple with my leading stride in good style and form, but as I began to focus on the next jump ahead, my trailing knee slammed into the wooden steeple. Having practiced on traditional track hurdles that fell over if you hit it, the immovable steeple caught me off guard and my momentum threw me to the ground.

I landed hard on the track, slamming my hip and shoulder into the rubber right in front of all the coaches and athletic trainers as the other runners scrambled around me. The impact knocked my glasses off my face and they bounced off the black top as I skidded several feet down the track. I heard my glasses hit the track and started to think that if I couldn’t find my glasses, I would have to roll off the track surface and out of the race. As I skidded to a stop, I felt my glasses land in my hand, so I slowly rolled to my feet and continued the race.

Several days later I was told that nobody had expected me to get up and finish the race. Both my athletic trainer and coach were on the verge of jumping the fence to help me off the track when I climbed back to my feet and continued on. Seven laps later, I stumbled across the finish line, numb and bleeding. I headed directly to the athletic trainers tent where they gave me ice to put on my bruised and swollen knee, hip, and elbow.

I never raced competitively again.

Stay tuned for more updates and progress.