The Obstacle Is The Way
"I stood up and immediately knew something was wrong."
Seconds prior I heard 3 loud “pops” - the telltale sign of a torn ligament - after a jiu jitsu training partner put me in an arm bar.
The light in the gym shone on my freshly torn bicep. “What the heck am I going to do now?!” I thought..
2 months after completing the John Muir Trail, I was riding an absolute high. My training regiment consisted of two daily workouts consisting of crossfit, jiu jitsu, weight lifting and running. The week after completing the JMT, I even thru hiked the Timberline Trail!
I really couldn’t be stopped.
That was until my body finally made me stop.
In October of 2020, I suffered a complete tear of my distal bicep tendon (the tendon that attaches your bicep to your arm bone) and my post-JMT high came to an end. I was depressed, miserable and unsure of what to do while I waited for MRI’s, doctor’s visits and eventually, surgery.
One evening, while staring blankly at the TV and feeling sorry for myself, I remembered a book that I bought years ago when I injured my knee.
I threw aside the blanket I was sitting under and sprinted to my room to find the book. Not finding it in my room, I started to panic. Finally, I remembered I had put it in a storage box in the garage. I ran out to the garage, flicked on the light and rummaged through the boxes until I found the book I was looking for - The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.
Among many other things, the main tenent of the book is to look for every possible opportunity in terrible situations. It gives historical examples of men and women that have done this before, along with how to apply it to your own life.
Reading the book a second time through reinvigorated me. “How can this injury be a positive thing in my life?” I thought as my surgery date crept closer.
Finally, while sipping my coffee one morning, I had a breakthrough - “What if I ran an ultramarathon? My legs are still strong from the JMT and you don’t really need two healthy arms to run one, right? Riiiiight?”
I sat in my chair pondering the question before brushing my teeth for work. “I’ve always wanted to run an ultra, but training for jiu jitsu was always my priority. Now that I can’t do that, maybe I should try it? Maybe this is my version of the obstacle being the way through?”
The day of surgery came and went in a flash. Two days after the surgery I was running with a sling; three days after I had signed up for the Frozen Trail Run Fest 50K!
To qualm my fears and rationalize what I was about to do, I figured that if I could walk 23 miles all day with a 40lb backpack on trail, I should be able to run 31 miles in the allotted time….right?
Race day came on a foggy, cold December Oregon day. While waiting for the gun to go off, I let another racer know that this was my first ultra, to which he replied blankly “Wow, you chose a pretty tough one for your first race.” Due to Covid, the race directed opted for staggered starts based on estimated mile time - I positioned myself towards the back..
20 miles came and went in a blink of an eye. One of my favorite things to do at these races is to chat with other participants - not only are you meeting future friends, but you’re also distracting the heck out of your brain - something that proves to be critical in an ultramarathon.
Things were going well - too well. As I rounded a corner at mile 25, I saw the race photographer huddling behind some bushes to get candid shots of people passing by. To be funny, I jumped in the air and clicked my heels together for the shot.
As soon as my heels made contact, a FULL body cramp took ahold of my body, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Withering in pain and unsure if I could complete 6 more miles, another racer passed by and whispered “Walk it off.” I stood up and tried to shake it off as numerous runners passed by giving me bizarre looks. Finally, the cramps started to subside, but I knew I had to be careful the last 6 miles and that I needed as much sodium as possible.
Over an hour later, I crossed the finish line at my first ultramathon. Even though I still had a bum arm, I felt powerful again..similar to the feeling of completing the John Muir Trail just months earlier.
Realizing I just checked off another huge milestone for myself by simply reformatting my perception of a bad situation, “What else am I capable of doing??” was the thought floating between my ears as I drove home that night…
You the man!! So proud of your hard work, even when injured 👏
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