I do not have any addictions, so my wife says. She told me that one thing she loves about me is that I do not have any bad habits or addictions. Of course, I believed her until recent reflection about what addiction really is.
Many of us think addiction is a bad thing and in most cases, I do agree. When I thought that I had an addiction I was a bit frightened. I mean, how can I possess something so bad? This isn't a coming out of sorts via a blog. Rather, it is a self-reflection that I truly have a problem.
Let me give a little background. In the Fall of 2007, I injured my achilles and as any stubborn male that does not frequent doctors, I did not seek medical advice. In 2008 before going to the Olympics, I took off 6 months of running hoping it would get better (from personal research, this did seem beneficial). However, it did not help. I tried many things to help my achilles-grastin, massage, ultrasound, rest, different shoes, the whole gamut. Now, being a bit impatient and an athlete does not mix well with an injury like this. Rest did not help it. Shoes did not help it much. Grastin and massage did not help it. What is an athlete to do?
What I did was continue to train on it. Was it painful at times? Yes, but I seem to have a high tolerance level so I just continued to train for 100 mile running races and 100 mile mountain bike events. It wasn't getting worse so I drudged on. The ultra-running was quite an experience and one that I would never have changed. However, training for 100 mile runs on trails at altitude (>10000 feet) pointed me toward training predominantly on single track in the mountains.
Enter addiction. My addiction is trail running. I grew up in Colorado so I am partial to the landscape that surrounds me. I live less than a mile from miles upon miles of trails that go up and up and up. The beauty of a trail is like nothing else I have experienced in life. Being on a trail in nature is calming. There are rarely others on the trail, no music, no pollution, no noise except for my feet navigating the dirt and my labored breathing. The places trail running have taken me have taken my breath away-definite postcard material and yet even with achilles injuries, I continue to go vertical which is probably the worst thing for this type of injury.
Can I stop? I'd like to think I can but last week before I was about to leave the house for a trail run and I told my wife where I was going (a course I have run many times that has about 1500 vertical feet of climbing), she asked why. I was puzzled by this question. It's what I have been doing for years so why would I stop? However, she asked a very good question. As I embarked on my trail run, I reflected on the true meaning of what she was saying.
As I began the ascent and feeling that dull pain in my achilles as I have every other trail run, I confirmed that I do indeed have an addiction that I cannot give up. It is impossible for me to stay off the trails. Even with re-entering triathlon next year, I will still be on my trails. Why? Because it is who I am and while I acknowledge that it may be an addiction, I reason that it is one of the healthiest out there and until my achilles snaps, I will continue to go to my peaceful place.
I am an athlete: it's what I do.