Most of you that know me know what has happened. A foot surgery that has been less than cooperative for almost a year now. A gnarly skin cancer surgery in April that took two months to heal up. Constant physical therapy to get my foot and ankle back in shape. I let all of that consume me. Mentally, I was defeated. And then one day, I am not sure exactly when, I said the heck with it. I went out for a long walk. And then I went out for another one the next day. And do you know what I realized? My foot felt somewhat better. Going to physical therapy twice a week was nice. But I needed my own therapy. Mentally and physically.
Once I was cleared to exercise, I put my running gear on and went out. I was, and still am smart enough not to go out and try to be who I was before my surgery. I take it easy and enjoy each step that is gifted to me. I could sit around still and complain about nagging pain. Something that I was doing. But the reality is that I can stand on both feet. I can move on my own. I truly am turtle slow at this point. But that doesn't matter. I am moving. And when I move...I move ahead with my life. I am leaving a really bad year behind me. A year that doesn't define who I am in the grand scheme of things. And with all of that said, I signed up for my first legit race. But before I toed the line at Rick's Run/Ultra Challenge, I toed the line in a few small "fat ass" style races. I told no one. Only my wife knew.
By doing those, one thing was obvious. My foot did not hurt like before. I am not saying I am 100 percent. Heck, I am not even saying a percentage at all. I just know it didn't put me in intense pain to move. Physical therapy was a key factor with that. And doing key exercises that Golden Harper talked about helped. But I also appreciate the gear that covers my feet. Fast forward to Rick's Ultra Challenge.
Even for the fittest runner, Rick's is a challenge. Held on the outskirts of Boonsboro, MD, inside Greenbrier State Park, Rick's Trail Race is a 5.22 mile looped course that runs along the lake and through the mountain trails surrounding it. Long story short. It was humid. It was hot. It was hard. My secret goal was to do four loops if my foot cooperated. I planned to not push it and enjoy being back in the trail running community. I did just that. I finished the first loop and rested. I switched my Altra Lone Peak 2.0's to the Paradigm model.
While I love running the Paradigm, I went back to the Lone Peak's after I finished my second loop. I grabbed some food and went out for a third loop. Before the race, volunteers put up signs all over the course. You would see them over and over. Each loop I would see one that will always stay with me. "The human body can only do so much. Then the heart and spirit must take over." That sign was a reminder that even while out of shape, tired, sore, drained. I had to keep going. So after completing my third loop, I didn't let my mind beat me. I went out for a fourth loop. It was hard, but it was worth it. At the end of the day I had went further than 51 people. And while this wasn't about placement, it showed me that I am slowly getting better. It was the furthest distance I had covered since last April. I was stoked. I still am.
Since that day in mid September, I have went out and tackled over 16 miles on hilly roads. I have went to the Appalachian Trail and covered 10 miles on rocky terrain. And a few days ago, 14 more miles on the Appalachian Trail. Up steep climbs, and back down. Over thousands of rocks, one thing sticks out. I felt no real foot pain. My surgeon told me last year that I would never run again. That I should take up biking. I can honestly say by being smart, taking it slow, and wearing the proper products on my feet. Well...my surgeon is wrong. Altra Running shoes have brought my foot-feet back from the dead. No cheesy style shout out. That is 100 percent truth. I am now moving ahead in life and leaving a bad year behind me. And I am seeing miles in front of me. Races on the horizon. Yes, kids...there's a big world out there. It's time to go explore it again. Come explore it with me.