This particular topic has been on my mind enough to finally sit down and write up my thoughts and see what you all have to say. But first let me preface:
Being a blogger has its advantages. One of those is to be a part of a community of groovy like-minded outdoorsy parents from all over the continent who share my passions and struggles. If not for my efforts here at Val in Real Life, I wouldn’t have “met” these people who are supportive, understanding, and encouraging. Our discussions cover all matters of outdoor life from parenting and ethics to personal challenges and blogging business. At any rate, I value their input greatly and this community helped me reach a tough decision recently.
A recent discussion centered on the “fun” of our adventures… and how sometimes they’re actually not so fun. By that I mean, we often tackle these things for the reward of the challenge, not because we’re laughing and giggling the entire time. Ask anyone who’s taken on something that to most people seems downright insane and they’ll tell you it’s the triumph over the obstacles that gives the adventure its worth.
So I mentioned awhile back that I’ve been training for Tough Mudder, a race that is quite physically demanding. The reward with races like this is overcoming mental and physical barriers in order to complete these grueling challenges and it’s an amazing feeling when you’re successful. What my groovy community has helped me decide is to pull out of the Tough Mudder. The Type-A part of me is howling in protest but the wiser part of me is satisfied that I have at least some common sense.
The main issue driving the decision is a collection minor but nagging injuries… ones that will become chronic, major injuries if I don’t use some smarts. A year ago I would have told you my biggest obstacle was the toe but I’ve actually have that to a fairly manageable point. Training definitely takes its toll but I’m learning to live with it. It’s the rest of my current laundry-list of ailments that makes me feel like I’m falling apart: inflamed wrists, grinding knees (which is a fun party trick by the way), a non-union sesamoid fracture, relentless shin-splints, a strained achilles, and a strained hamstring. Oh, and recovering from having someone step on my foot with her high heel… yep, all her weight on a little spike through my foot in between my 4th and 5th metatarsals (I was wearing sandals).
As all of these issues began converging, I made training adjustments to work around them including getting back in the pool for the first time in twenty years. That certainly helped but being in Type-A, power-through mode at the time, I made those adjustments a little too late. By then, I’d already pushed things too far and I couldn’t work through one issue without exacerbating another. The point is, that any one thing (maybe two…) would probably be workable but as a suite of contentious physical injuries, this race just isn’t worth it.
And the icing on this cake was my wrist doctor giving me the you’re-getting-old talk. He drew a graph and everything. Thanks doc. 😕
The biggest effect of the decision was simply relief. Time constraints and injuries had taken the “fun”-factor out and the endeavor had been reduced only to a pressure point for me. I was stuck in between the proverbial rock-and-a-hard-place because I needed down-time to heal but that down-time would cost me what little time I had left to train. This isn’t a race you do on an unprepared whim and actually finish.
The good news is that the down-time has proven to be exactly what my body needed. The acute injuries are healing fairly well and the chronic ones have had their time to subside to what I consider a generally functional level. The bad news is that I feel like a blonde cream-puff with my reduced activity level. It’s also hard to hold back when mentally you want to go all out. Walking on my favorite trails is all fine and good but sometimes you just want to go barreling through the woods like a maniac and it’s taken quite an effort to rein that in. It’s frustrating.
So aside from middle-age physical issues, the other factors that solidified this decision are those of real life. Training for a long, intense race like this is well beyond my normal level of fitness and requires a huge time dedication… time I don’t have to spare right now. There are simply other things I need and want to do more than this.
Also, given that I’m far from an injury-free twenty-something this race is ideal for, the risk-to-reward ratio for me in this is too high. One of the things my groovy outdoor family community helped me ask myself was if the reward of this challenge was worth the risk of a major injury. That answer came easily to me which was a lightbulb moment to say the least. The answer was obviously no.
The next question was even bigger though. I had to ask myself if I was willing to risk that level of injury for other adventures. The answer to that was a solid yes. And, my friends, those adventures are the ones I need to be pursuing.
The funny thing is that as I was writing this post, my buddy Mike Off the Map posted this on Facebook:
Life is too short to blame a sore knee to just sit at home.
He’s absolutely right. Trust me I’m not sitting at home wallowing in middle-age misery but I am focusing my energy on the things I’m truly passionate about and that are worth the risk to me. Yet it does feel somewhat irksome to drop out voluntarily rather than going down fighting so-to-speak. Apparently Type-A girl refuses to be silenced.
So here’s the kicker as a parent… how do we teach our children to persevere in the face of obstacles but also when to let go? I want the boys to push themselves to greater heights but also know how to reach a balance. In other words, to challenge themselves and expand their abilities but in a healthy mindset, not one of blind, reckless ambition that comes at the expense of health and happiness.
I know full well my boys are watching and learning from the role-models in their lives. I’m not the only one they have but I am one of the major ones. I know they notice how I run my life. Fortunately they’re old enough that we can have intelligent discussions about these things so I just have to trust they’ll find their own balance as they decide how to tackle the challenges in their own lives. Hopefully being open about how and why I make my choices will give them some basis for that.
For some extra food for thought on the matter, have a gander at these posts:
- Freedom to Quit (Freedom to Learn)
- When is it time to call it quits? and Why I bailed from the Colorado Trail yet won anyway (Family on Bikes)
- Breck Epic: Unfinished Business (Velo Mom)
- Defeat, Not Something I Like (Chasqui Mom)
- Finding Success in Failure (CragMama)
If you’re wondering who some of these outdoor parents are that I think the world of, check out this post from The Adventures in Parenthood Project.
So you’ve heard my take on the matter. Now what to you think? Am I a quitter or being realistic?