So, because I’m an idiot, I decided to try my first Crossfit session six weeks before my Nepal trek. (*) Even as we were walking down there, I idly wondered out loud to my friend, “Hmm, I wonder what the injury rate is among first-time Crossfitters…?” Well, 100% it turns out, regarding me. Yeah, I got injured.
Actual gym in Tarifa where I got done
For some reason it didn’t kick in until four days later but when it did, it was like it had been winding up all that time. I could hardly get out of bed; and when I did I could hardly walk. Just hobbling ten steps to the bathroom was excruciating, and actually caused me to involuntarily shout (I stop just short of describing it as screaming) in pain. Even rolling over in bed was a pain festival, and resulted in much groaning and yelping. As you can imagine, suddenly my prospects for getting over the nearly 6,000-meter pass at Renjo La in a few weeks seemed to be receding rapidly.
Actual bathroom in my flat in Tarifa; actual Renjo La
I finally managed to stumble 100 yards or so down to the Centro Medico, where the nice Spanish doctor felt me up, did some ultrasound, and pronounced it a torn adductor muscle. (Put more offputtingly: I'd pulled the living hell out of my groin.) My guess was this happened during the “Sumo deadlift” segment of Crossfit I did go really light in weight as a bow to never having done any of that stuff before; but once we got going, I of course went pretty hard trying to keep up with the veterans (and my ego). Oops.
Because I'm really an idiot, I went for a run on the cliffs five days later. (*) In fairness, it had started to feel a lot better. But when I got back, I could barely walk again. (*) I generally think every injury is going to be the career-ending one. (Your health’s going to fail at some point.) And you can bet I’ve been thinking it with this one.
Actual cliffside trail outside Tarifa
Since then, it has continued to dog me, which has continued to rain down anxiety, if not anguish, on my head, frankly. Not only was my ability to complete the trek (at all) in danger; but all of my remaining training plans were pretty much out the window. I figured my pre-trek focus had just gone from “get in best shape of entire freaking life and crush the Himalayas” to “try to make sure I’m able to walk.” (Life, it appears, can be humbling that way.)
But the instant I got back to London, I hobble-ran out to see my sports physio guy and, as more than once previously, he said a bunch of incredibly helpful and reassuring things, to wit: After having laid off it for at least five days, recovery actually consists of training to repair, regrow, and re-strengthen the muscle. I just needed to make sure it was moderate, controlled, and increased in load slowly and steadily. So I immediately got back into some lifting the next day, and the day after that an unloaded stair climb of 200 flights (which was basically where I came in, but heigh ho) and, thank the dear Lord, am planning a blessed run next week. If nothing else, this episode has reminded me to treasure the ability to do these things.
So, in the end, it looks like it’s going to be somewhere between “best shape of my life” and “able to walk” which I guess is, had better be, good enough. The main point I suppose is that I had to absorb a significant setback, and but still managed to battle back (eventually). (*) And, aside from recording the moment for my own future edification (I forget all my lessons otherwise), this is why I’m dispatching about it: if I can trek the Three Passes of Everest with a mangled adductor muscle… you can pony up $/£/€10 to help impoverished and earthquake-traumatised Nepali children:
Obviously, to those who’ve already contributed: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, and please give no more. But if you’re seeing this for the first time, perhaps you’ll want to to join the campaign and earn yourself a warm glow for helping out some tots who could definitely use a hand. Thank you!
Well, not quite in a vacuum. In Tarifa I’ve been lucky enough to become pretty good friends with another American writer, who also happens to be both the girlfriend of, and best friends with, all these team guys. Freaking team guys! and Crossfit. Anyway, she's a fanatical Crossfitter in her own right.
Okay, yes, because I’m an idiot but mainly because my mood was spiralling out after five days of being able to do nothing. One lesson from this phase of my life the same lesson as always may be that it’s only work, and working out, that keep me sane.
It’s kind of funny. I think most people think all they need to be happy is what I’m lucky enough to have right now: enough money, and the freedom to go anywhere and do anything I damned well want. But I’m finding that to be of limited utility, at least to me in fact it’s starting to look like they might be damned dangerous… I’m starting to believe I’ve really got to get what some call “daily practice” right which includes mindfulness, exercise, work, and (ideally) sociability and love.
This time in Tarifa, I actually met, among many other fascinating people, another American woman who does life and career coaching and put together this rather interesting summary of the eight things she thinks human beings need to be happy, healthy, and successful (click for larger version):
Anyway, I was getting really depressed not running, so I ran.
Funny story: a couple of nights after the injury, when I managed to venture out, I met this nice Englishman who lives in Portugal when he’s not, as he was then, circumnavigating the globe, and he had been very solicitous of my hobbling. Hadn’t seen him again ’til I was lurching back from the run, when I heard his voice behind me: “Leg still bugging you?” Me (miffed): “No, actually, it was all better ’til I went for a freaking run on the cliffs!” He shook his head sadly and knowingly. “Too soon, mate…” “Yeah, I know that now but I had no choice! I was going to jump off something!” “Do some other exercise, then. Swim.” “Yeah, I probably should, but I don’t really know where there’s a pool in town…” He looked at me like I’m an idiot (which, as mentioned, I am) and simply pointed at the ocean, which surrounds Tarifa on three sides. “Right.” Went and swam in the sea the next day. It was a Poniente day (wind from the Atlantic), so the water was colder than whale shit, and I had no goggles, and wasn’t at all used to the salt water, but I half-assed it and this innovation probably, frankly, saved me. (The cold was actually therapeutic toward my two of my three main problems at that moment depression, and the fucking weight I had gained drinking every damned night and, latterly, sitting around on my ass nursing the injury.) I think perhaps the Englishman was an angel. (He was, it turned out, also at my stage of life and dealing with a lot of similar things.)
It’s perhaps worth noting, at least in a footnote, that the injury, while the worst of it, wasn’t the end of it. I caught a cold within about five seconds of landing (a bloody Austrian of my acquaintance shook my hand, then told me about the cold; when I complained, he said, “Oh, everyone in Tarifa’s getting it”…). I cut off the tips of two fingers in a late-night drunken onion-dicing incident. I got into an unfortunate and very unsettling contretemps with my trekking companion over email. And, finally, I turned up one morning with what I initially took to be a hangover, but decided had better be food poisoning, or else I was drinking too much to an even greater extent than I feared: a full morning of vomiting, then drowsing and moaning in bed until 7.30pm. Somewhere in there, one side of the bed collapsed, and I didn’t have the strength or spirit to deal with it. So, lying there, with my face wedged against the wall on the collapsed side of the bed, unable to walk, head-achy and nauseated, fingertips flapping around, sniffling, and agonising about imminent and ugly trek interpersonal dynamics… yeah, you can bet your ass I considered going ahead and bagging the whole trek. Seriously considered it. That was the nadir I’ve been battling back from.