Accepting Defeat

The subject of this post is not something I’m well versed in. Once I’m driven to accomplish a task, the more challenges I face, the more determined I’m likely to become. This can work in my favour in times when I need to dig deep and find the strength to continue. But it can also be detrimental to my health because my mind tends to push my body further than it can or wants to go.

On the PCT, I was so determined to finish the trail I pushed through injury, pain, and weather conditions I’d never face again to cross the border. On the Yukon River Quest, when the foot pedal of my kayak snapped off, and I lost steering for half the race, determination saw me through to the finish line.

My latest challenge has been training to run a marathon, despite the fact I don’t actually like running. The furthest I’ve ever run was 21km when I was at the peak of my fitness in 2016. But after listening to a very inspiring interview with ultra-marathon runner David Goggins, I signed up to run the Vancouver Marathon on May 5th, believing not only could I finish with only two months lead time, but after listening to this powerful podcast, I was confident I could win the race on mind power alone.

This is where reality and my ambition began to collide.

On my first training run, I decided I would go for an hour and push as far as I could. One of Goggin’s quotes that struck me was that people often quit at 40%. So every time I started to feel tired I would ask myself what percentage I was at, and if it weren’t 100%, I’d keep going. Basically, I was convinced if I hadn’t vomited by the end of the run I wasn’t pushing hard enough, a statement that horrified my poor mother!

On that first day I ran 11km, sprinting up the last hill to pass another runner across my make believe finish line. I did almost vomit, but I was elated, grinning triumphantly because I’d successfully pushed past my 40%.

However, the next day I ran, I started to feel pain in my hips. Over the next four days, I continued training, but afterwards, I was struggling to walk and found staircases excruciating. I saw a physio back in Australia who prescribed me orthotics because my left leg is shorter than my right, and according to him, was the cause for throwing my pelvis off balance. He told me to take a week off running, get used to the new insoles and take it from there.

Cut to a week later, after paying an exorbitant amount of money I ran 8km and experienced even worse pain in my hips within the first few minutes. I was crushed, but assuming it might be the last time I would ever run, I ran the full 8km I’d intended, tearing up my feet on the useless orthotics in the process and limping home in defeat.

I spent the next two weeks on an exercise bike attempting to maintain some kind of fitness until I arrived back in Vancouver to visit my trusty chiropractor, Dr. Sam. I essentially went straight from the airport to his practice and after a descent readjustment, he told me to take two days off with no running before seeing him again.

On the second visit a week ago, he gave me the all clear to run, so naturally, I went straight to the gym, signed up with a personal trainer, invested in a concoction of protein powders, supplements, and electrolytes and hit the treadmill.

Kyle my trainer told me what I was attempting was ambitious, to say the least, but for the first few days, I think I had us both fooled. I transformed my diet, went to the gym for at least three hours each day, and walked out with a huge grin knowing I was moving one step closer towards my goal.

Then yesterday I did my first 10km run since my initial training, and within the first few minutes my hips flared up again. Of course, I ran the entire 10km, but I went straight back to my chiropractor who merely shook his head and asked if there was any way I could get a refund for the race.

Somehow I was not prepared for this response and had to hold back tears while Dr. Sam completed his treatment. At the end, he told me to rest for the weekend and see him next week, and by the time I left his practice I was an emotional wreck, crying the entire way back to my friend Sue’s house while biking through Vancouver’s persistent rain.

At that point, I had to question why this race is so important to me.

The truthful answer is something far deeper than my conscience drives me. Whether it comes from a place of fear or insecurity or a desire for attention, I don’t know, but it’s in my nature to follow through on things I say I’m going to do. It’s a part of an identity I pride myself on, and when something goes against the grain, it throws my entire sense of character into chaos.

The other answer is the marathon is the only concrete element in my life right now. I’m homeless, jobless, and have just moved back to a city I’m not even sure I want to make my home in. I want to be self-employed and set up a business in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and in the midst of searching for accommodation, considering living out of a van, and debating part-time dog walking jobs, I’m spending my savings on personal trainers and protein powder, trying to gauge whether I’ve completely lost my mind.

Compared to my other objectives, the marathon is a rather straightforward affair. It has a specific date, a set distance, a defined course, a cut-off time, and I have a nutrition and training plan to follow. It would almost seem ‘easy’ if my body would just cooperate.

So as I sit here with an icepack on my hip having waddled up the staircase of Sue’s apartment, I’m still holding onto a small thread of hope that somehow in twenty-four days I’ll be ready to run 42km. Though it seems unlikely as I can barely scuttle across the road to beat traffic, if I do have to accept defeat on this particular challenge, at least I’ll be satisfied I didn’t quit at 40%.

26 thoughts on “Accepting Defeat”

  1. Your story draws up from a well of compassion an understanding for particular, personal challenges. One can recognize them since we’re all made from the same batch and enough echo resonates in all of us. It sounds like your self analysis is spot on and your ability to identify the characteristics should be heartening. Despite the journey’s duration you’ve apparently begun it and have the wherewithal to grow along the way. I’ve been fulltiming a decade and it has transformed me for the better, forever. I’m treated differently than when I owned suits and I treat differently those who live with far less than I. Met a Vancouver van lifer in 2010 who saved $1,600/month and he seemed satisfied with his journey. Same with most all van lifers I’ve encountered. namaste

    1. Thanks for your insights and encouragement, always. It’s amazing how much reinforcement we humans require, it’s a never ending need yet a beautiful thing to share!

  2. Your resilience is one of your best qualities Muk, but you know the hiking rule of knowing when to bail. I know you will make the decision that is right for you in the end. Whatever you decide, I’ll leave you with an approximated quote from Inaki, PCT 2006 (?):

    “It is much better to try something and find out you were wrong than to never have known at all. So whatever dream you have, go for it!”

    1. Oh I love that so much and 100% agree. I’ve already learned so much for this short journey and met some amazing people through it. I’ve already won on many levels! Thank you!

  3. Your story is interesting, it happens to a lot of us to be blinded by a project, goals, dreams. But yes you should quit now on this one. It does not make you a quitter( you have some sort of track record that speaks by itself. 😉 )
    Find a way to get better, see how you can realistically start to run again without that problem. No jeopardize your body for the next 40 years because you wanted to achieve this one. Imagine yourself at km 8th of 41, and the hip say “no” and not only stops from achieving this unrealistic goal that you set yourself but others that you may have.
    It takes courage to accept that! Up to you either way.
    Good luck with that decision! You can do it!

    1. Thank you Ben. Today I went through some hip rehab with my trainer and I realised I don’t really care if I run the marathon or not. I just want to continue this training journey, even if I spend the next three weeks doing stability exercises. As I said in one of the earlier comments, I’m learning so much through this experience. Thank you for your wisdom and encouragement!

  4. Your life is yours and I’m not going to tell you how to live it, but. (Always a “but”, eh?)

    If I live to the end of next month I’ll turn 70. I’m sure that sounds scary incomprehensible to you, but I’m on the inside of this particular story, and I see it differently. After a certain point, age becomes just a number and life becomes only a minor distraction. I’m more interested in what I’m in charge of than what happens to be churning around me.

    Two summers ago my high school class held its 50th anniversary reunion. I didn’t go to that one either, but several of my classmates have died since I last saw them in 1967 and the rest have gone white-headed, pot-bellied, and maybe bald too. Possibly few of the women as well. Gives one perspective.

    Someone already reported me as deceased so I have nothing to live up to. Sweet. They did their same old thing and I didn’t.

    I’ve had a few transient physical problems, like a ruptured disk (several times) that prevented from me sitting, standing, walking or lying down without pain, for three months at a stretch. I lived.

    I still have hair, on my head, and it’s still brown. I’m living at 8000 feet (2438 m), walking at least 5 fast miles (8 km) a day, uphill and down, and it all works. I feel good.

    You’re going to decide what’s right for you, and then you’ll do it, and whatever it is, that will be right for you.

    If I can say just one thing, then whatever happens, whatever you do, learn from it. That’s all. Knowledge is power. Power comes in handy. The longer you live, the more useful little tidbits just happen to stick to you, so I’m sure it’ll all work out.

    These guys have some perspective too: “Breaking the PCT Speed Record”, by Rees Hughes, at http://pcttrailsidereader.com/post/149181293363/breaking-the-pct-speed-record

    Probably my favorite blog post ever.

    1. One of my favourite parts about sharing stories is hearing what other people have to say. You hit the nail on the head with ‘whatever you do, learn from it.’ I think knowledge is what I will take away from this experience rather than a decent time or finishing the race at all. As I said, I don’t even like running, yet I’ve learned invaluable lessons about nutrition, my body, and mental fortitude, which can sometimes be too strong for its own good. All I want when I’m your age is to be doing what you are, living and walking in the wilderness. I think we could all take a leaf out of your book! Muk 🙂

    1. I see so many people outside running with no pain, maybe it’s just not for my body. My core will be amazing by race time however with all this rehab!! 😉

  5. Deciding to make a sensible decision is not quitting. Seems to me sometimes your mind and your body have separate existences. If you step outside them and let them have a discussion about how much damage each might suffer from a go or no go decision my guess is the body has a more compelling case. It’s not as if you are short of things to challenge yourself. Perhaps the marathon is as you alluded, the simplest thing to focus on amongst collection of matters greeting you on your return to Vancouver. Look at marking up your priorities again. Rex Universum has been where you are now.

    1. Thanks Rex! Wise words of course! In the end signing up for the marathon has got me eating well, exercising daily, learning so much more about my body and nutrition, and I haven’t had a glass of wine in weeks. I should sign up for a marathon every month even if I don’t run any of them!! 🙂

  6. You funny girl…don’t sign up for any marathon…too expensive….giggle…babe, you have learned some pretty neat stuff about how to take care of your earthsuit…you want to live in it for as long as you can….I have incredibly sensitive shoulders…can’t lie on my sides because they hurt too much….and I love do that …. ’cause now I have to always sleep on my back..and that’s alright, too…so all this to say, I surfed myself silly…28 years of it…and my shoulders constantly remind me….smiling….You know, I believe in you and you have been learning so much in all the years I have known you…great learning curve in your running experiment….you are a walker and a thinker and writer and brilliant and beautiful and still growing up and up and up,,,My daughter, Donna, who I have live with for this last year and several months, was an avid marathoner…in fact, she is signed up for a May event in Ventura, Ca. But in her practicing for the run, she will run as far as 14 miles and always comes back with a painful hip joint…she hasn’t run for a few years and now finds that she really needs to heal and lose a lot of weight to run again…I am concerned about her pushing herself, because she is so out of shape….AND SO, sweetie, being a long distance walker is amazing….so, if you can forgive yourself for not being able to do a run, do the forgiving and move on….you tried, and you are such that you never want to fail…but failure isn’t bad, it just gives you wisdom for you which helps you in living a wholesome, wonder-filled life….Finish your book…but maybe take a backpacking trip to give your mind a rest….have some fun….laugh, enjoy your wonderful friend…and love all you can and do good things for yourself…like you are…and, hey, I believe you can do whatever you want in becoming your own boss….smiling.. I love you, from your old friend in San Diego, California, Barbie….

    1. Barbie, Barbie, Barbie. Wow, what a spectacular message to receive. I’ve had a lot of feedback from this post, on and offline, but your message somehow drives the point home better than anyone has been able to articulate. I love my body for what it’s allowed me to achieve, and I’ve been unfair to it over these past few weeks, pushing it when it’s clearly been telling me not to. Well I’m going to listen to it from now on, because as my wonderful editor of 5 years Heske just said to me, all this energy should be directed to my own path and not a dictated path that’s set out before me like the marathon. I’m hearing all these wise words and allowing them to bring me peace. It’s funny because life just presented me with a new gift of opportunity this week in the direction of work I want to head, and it’s amazing how quickly the significance of the marathon disappeared. I think I was correct when I said it was the easiest thing on my to do list, but it’s the lowest priority in reality so now I’m going to get my body back in shape to hike those trails you talked about and use my strength and determination to bring good things to the world through my work. Thank you Barbie, your message is such a gift! Much love, Muk 💗

  7. ….I am soooooo happy to share my heart and mind with you, sweet girlio….you are the best…and I am so profoundly blessed by the “knowing of you”. Barbie

  8. Hi darling
    I love reading all the fabulous replies and I am with all of them. That determinant little monkey in you may have to be tamed a little for your own best. Health and friends are the best things in life. Friends you have plenty and Health you want to keep plenty. Keep your energy for a new adventure. Your future lays open for you and start to enjoy that. I am proud of you in whatever you are going to do.
    Love you, mutti xx

    1. Thanks Mutti, such a poetic response and so beautifully articulated. There are many adventures ahead and the marathon is not the be-all-end-all. I am going to withdraw from the race and focus on repairing my body. My hips needs a lot of attention and I’d be happy just walking without pain rather than being able to run again! Love you heaps xoxo 💋

  9. I had lunch yesterday with a friend from thirty years ago. When I knew him back then, he ran often and I would see him hobbling about. Yesterday he had a wrap on his knee and I asked if the running had caught up to his knee. The answer is yes, total knee replacement at age 58

    1. Yep, I believe it. Well my running days were short lived. I’m just focusing on being able to walk without pain now. Marathon be damned!

  10. Giggles…yep…Here’s a little tiny rhyme….Marathon be damned….paths I will scan…walking them I will find..are the ways for which I pine… a gift I have been given..and that’s the I am liven’ Barbie….smiling!

  11. Some time has gone by now, since you shared your story of “defeat”. Now, so many others have givin you wise words to ponder. And I agree with all their sentiments.

    This reminds me of how you and I “met”.

    Back in the early days of your PCT trek, I stumbled across your blog while on a hunt to fill a void after a defeat of my own. My husband and I had trained, planned and dreamed of our upcoming journey on The Camino De Santiago. Then a car accident and a broken neck put an end to that trip and so much more.

    The dissapointment was put on hold, while my husband healed up and got strong again. But I had to find a mental distraction. I was “SUPPOSED TO” the there! Hiking, growing, learning the meaning of life, etc.

    But noooooooo. Poooooor Me.

    Then you and your journey filled those yearnings of my own. You hiked, grew and learned some of lifes most precious lessons. Sharing so perfectly in that way you do.

    Through your sharing, I experienced a piece of what I was denied in my own life at the time.

    Defeat ? Maybe.
    Life Lesson ? Certainally.

    Now, years later, I look back and still smile…still sing….still dream of and work toward my next adventure.

    That just what we do !

    Truely,
    Lyndella

    1. Ah, Lyndella thank you for sharing that story and your honest and insightful words. I was listening to a great podcast recently with Rich Roll and Guru Singh about how what we originally perceive as a negative occurrence can often turn out to be quite positive. I think trying to maintain a positive mindset during hardships is a great skill that takes practise, but it’s one I know you’re very good at, and one I’m doing much better at than before. Thank you for your note! 🙂

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