With the exception of last week’s Badwater 135 crew/pacer report…I know it’s been a few months since you’ve heard from us. To be honest, I just couldn’t bring myself to post yet another grim medical update full of my incessant whinging. I started to feel like I’d never get back to training, and all I was doing was complaining about being on crutches. I sounded like a broken record: “I miss running, crutches suck, where my endorphins at?!, #IPOSforever, hello I’d like to rent a motorized scooter for the next 10 days, I feel so chonky Darin, I justttttt wanna get back out thereeeeee…”.
Real talk? The last 6 months were easily the darkest and most depressing of my life. I had worked as hard as ever to get myself to where I was physically in January 2021 (even including the ballet days of my adolescence) and to watch it all slip through my hands like grains of sand 🛕🤲 was beyond demoralizing and disheartening. My sports medicine doctor became my life coach and sports psychologist. I’d spend our entire weekly appointment venting … but eventually I realized that all I could really do was “be patient” and “let time heal” [my femur]. Well, anyone who knows me knows patience isn’t necessarily my strong suit 😬🙄🤔🤣!
Because swimming was the only doctor 👨🏻⚕️ approved ✅ physical activity available to me, I threw myself into it. Covid presented a serious challenge in securing a highly sought after pool lane appointment, so I turned it into a big game (akin to booking French Laundry reservations or nabbing impossible to get Burning Man tickets). I’d set multiple alarms and have my phone/iPad/desktop apps open and ready…
In classic Jules fashion though, I swam so much that I got swimmers ear/a nasty double ear infection preventing me from even doing that single form of exercise for 3-4 weeks. Meanwhile my doctor was urging me to continue my daily ice cream consumption regimen / eating double my usual daily caloric intake. It was snowing 🌨 outside, I was still on crutches, and the depression deepened. In late March, I finally let go. Resigned to not being able to leave the house because it appeared that I couldn’t participate in any physical activity where I didn’t gravely injure myself…the pounds piled on and my grief consumed me. I kept responding to people asking for updates on my recovery ❤️🩹/ how I was doing with little pithy platitudes: “I’m sure I’ll be up and running by next month!” / “Time heals all wounds!” / “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” etc etc. but inside I was drowning. Every appointment, X-ray, MRI, bone density scan … I felt like weeping.
Finally in early June, my doctor released me from those damn crutches. I thought this was going to be my green light🚦to call my running coach Meghan up to resume Marathon Des Sables training.
Another disappointment. This was simply just permission to start walking 🚶🏼♀️ again, unassisted.
Meanwhile, my poker sponsor, (no, the irony of the company name is definitely not lost on me) RunGoodGear, invited me to their first poker tournament series back in 18 months to Jamul Casino in San Diego. The theme of the tour? “The Comeback Tour”. 😎 I had previously imagined myself scooting through the casino in a wheelchair, so I was excited to be able to at least walk without crutches and get back to live poker! It was turning into my own personal comeback tour as well!
We had “Boston” Rob Mariano, Adam Klein, and Tyson Apostol join us that week (all Survivor CBS reality show winners) and there was even a day where everyone played pickleball (Tyson is a Fila/Gamma sponsored pickleball player)…but sitting on the sidelines was so extremely painful. I was trying to be grateful that at least I wasn’t confined to a wheelchair…but every day proved to be more humbling than the last.
Incidentally, Darin and I had been planning our 20th wedding anniversary celebration / first holiday in years. We settled on Hawaii (The Big Island) in late 2020, and were due to leave a week after getting home from San Diego. I assumed my month of walking would mean I could start running. Again, my doctor said no running yet … though he did offer me the use of the elliptical and stationery bike 🚲. Well, I hate the bike AND the elliptical 🤣 tbh, so this didn’t feel like a huge personal win. Also, we were going to be spending the next two weeks ON THE IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP COURSE in Kona/Waikoloa.
The day we landed in Kona, Darin set off on a glorious beachy 10 mile run whilst I sat in our Airbnb and sulked.
Right before I got injured, we had made plans to crew/pace Badwater 135. Like so many races, it had been cancelled/postponed last year etc…so we weren’t sure if it was even going to happen this year, but we had secured a place on John Radich’s team and I realized that I needed to at least get heat acclimated so I wouldn’t be a liability out in Death Valley.
I bought an infrared heated blanket (my personal burrito 🌯 sauna 🧖🏼♀️ ) and started reading for ~30 mins to an hour a day in that.
Once we got to Hawaii, it was just a matter of stepping outside and letting nature do all the work. We also spent a few days in Vegas leading up to the race and went for some lovely 115° noon time walks ! 🤣
Alas, I was super worried about being able to help pace our Badwater runners in any real way. John did ask me to run / power walk with him a few times on the Badwater course, and I wouldn’t have ever considered saying no (though Jace and Darin paced him for miles on end and Fez paced Scott for something like 50 miles … they were the real powerhouses of the crew)! I decided rather than ask permission to pace, I’d ask for forgiveness from Dr. Wenger later 🤣. When I told Dr. Wenger this story, he said “I’d have been mad at you if you DIDN’T pace your Badwater runners! I’m proud of you”! To say that climbing 3k feet with John in my first pacing section (after having done zero running in 6 months) was a humbling experience, is a bit of an understatement. But watching someone in excruciating pain, in 120° temps, who is 25 years older than you and hasn’t slept in a day and a half, just power up those climbs, well it was inspiring beyond belief. It was the perfect motivation and the back of John’s race shirt 👕 said in big bold block letter “NEVER GIVE UP!” -
I couldn’t have found a better motto to help keep me going!
Hours after meeting John, I told Darin “I’d take a bullet for that man”. Turns out, the bullet was attempting to run, jog, walk, climb, hike around Death ☠️ Valley 🏜 with him. 🤣
When we got home from Badwater, Dr. Wenger gave me the all clear to resume Marathon Des Sables training with my coach. But added “nothing crazy Jules, likeeeee we’re talking 1, 2, 3 maybe 4 miles with full rest days in between…”!
Today marks two weeks back on a proper schedule with The Queen 👑 / Coach Meghan Canfield (we managed 16 miles this last week). I wrote a friend today telling them how demoralizing it is for 4 miles to feel so hard; considering that I was running ~60 mile weeks just 6 months ago…Also I remember not too long ago seeing 6 or 8 mile days on my schedule and being relieved at how “easy” those days were 😉😆!
I just keep trying to remind myself that I have to be patient, take baby steps to rebuild my strength and conditioning … and that WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. (I purchased a hat 🧢 this week to remind myself of this regularly…). Darin told me
this morning over breakfast, that not only CAN we do hard things…but that we CHOOSE to do hard things. I love that.
We had a wonderful zoom call with Coach (now therapist 🤣) Meghan yesterday afternoon and she allayed all our fears and reminded us that we‘ve accomplished so much in the last year. She told me specifically, “you’ve done this before…you can do it again!” She also encouraged me to go day by day and try to remain present; to not get too wrapped up in the future.
I had an easy 3 mile walk / run / jog on my training peaks schedule this morning and because of weather / timing, had to do my workout on the treadmill. It only occurred to me as I pushed the start button, that the last time I was on a treadmill was THE LAST TIME I ran in January (I was in so much pain the following week that I finally went to the sports med doc and got imaging done / and eventually discovered how serious the situation actually was). That last treadmill run was a marathon with a 14 pound weighted pack. I mindlessly grabbed a hat this morning, and it just happened to be my MDS hat 🧢! ☺️🧐🤩
There are seven months until we reach the Marathon Des Sables start line…my goal is to make it out to the Sahara injury free! …Let the comeback tour commence! 🙌 -xo, J ❤️🩹
Marathon des Sables 2022
Sahara Strong: Conquering the Sand to End Childhood Cancers Together
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