Blog Post Written by a CN Manager, Sean Spiegelman
“The mountains are calling and I must go” - John Muir
Eight surgeries, weeks spent laying stuck in bed and more weeks in wheelchairs. I know all too well what it's like to get knocked down from injuries only to continue to get back up. People ask me all the time “Why do I continue to run, climb, or mountain bike?” “Why do I repeatedly hurt myself and go back out and do it all again?” “Why don't you just stop and find something else to do?” So why do I do it? Why do I continue to push myself harder and harder and continue to go under the knife? I also ask myself this question on a daily basis. I believe the answer to this question is something we can all relate to and will all come to agree on.
The year is 2011, a month before my 22nd birthday. I am standing at the starting line of a half marathon in Miami, Florida and all I am thinking is “What the hell am I doing?!” I am not worried about the fact that the race is 13 miles long, I have done plenty of races before that day. I am worried that my leg is going to fall off, I have a torn ACL. This will be my first revision surgery, meaning the second time I have torn my left Anterior Cruciate Ligament. I question myself at the line asking if I should really continue with this race and if it is worth it or not. Then I remember how much I paid for this thing, put my headphones in and shut up. The gun goes off and I start running. I do not remember much about the race except how painful the first few miles were and barely walking at the end. As a runner you learn to block out pain, for better or worse. I completed the half marathon, not surprisingly it was not my fastest time. Fast forward a month later, days before my birthday, I find myself back in Miami, Florida standing at another starting line. This was a 200 mile relay race expanding from Miami to the lowest point of the Florida Keys in Key West. “Are you kidding me?!” I am starting to think I actually enjoy the pain. So much for being able to block everything out, this was one of the most painful things I have gone through to date. My knee swelled up larger than a softball and after each of my sections I quickly found a bag of ice to reduce the swelling before my next leg of the race. I will never forget enjoying a beer on the beach in Key West that day, I earned it. I finally have surgery a few weeks later but that doesn't stop me for long because 4 months later I end up in Nashville, TN running another half marathon. My physical therapist was not too happy about that choice.
Three years go by and I think I set a personal record by staying out of the hospital for a serious injury. Who am I kidding though, obviously it is inevitable I will end up back in the E.R. ready to go back under the knife. As much as I like everyone at the hospital, I did not want to see them again, in that setting at least. For about a year and a half in college, a good friend of mine and I, planned a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Our goal is to set out towards Maine from the North Georgia mountains. We anticipate living on the trail for about 5 months only going into town to resupply. Three-weeks before we leave to start our adventure, I head out on a climbing trip to Rock Town, Georgia to crush some rocks and send some new problems. About an hour into climbing I take a bad fall and you guessed it, I tore my ACL for the third time. I'm on the ground holding back tears not because of the pain from tearing a ligament, although it did hurt pretty bad, but because I realized instantly what I did and the repercussions it had. Goodbye thru-hike. The thought of not hiking anymore and the months of rehab I am about to go through again crushed me. I think “I can't do this again. Maybe I won't have surgery this time. Maybe it will heal on its own.” I have the surgery on Valentines day and am still recovering to this day over a year later.
So I ask myself, “Why do I do this?” “Why do I continue to put myself in situations where I can end up back on the surgical table and back into rehabilitation?” The answer is simple. I want to live. I want to do the sports I love and I want to explore the world. Above all else, I want to see what I am capable of. I am not going to find out who I am by sitting on the couch watching Monday Night Football. I have to get outside and explore, even with all of the risks involved. That is how I find out who I am. You can judge a person by the way they act in the face of adversity. Not when everything is going their way, but instead, when everything is against them. The thought of getting hurt again is terrifying. I do not want to go back to the wheelchairs or being bedridden. However, what scares me far more is asking myself later in life “Why did I stop exploring?” “Why did I give up the things I love most?” I don't think I am ever going to stop pushing myself, I am going to continue to do the sports I love. I pray that I won't end up in the hospital anymore but that seems unlikely and I am alright with that. This April, the same good friend of mine from college and I are going to set out on a new adventure. We are going to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail extends from the Mexican border up the west coast through California, Washington, Oregon and into Canada. I will have another opportunity to become a thru-hiker but even more importantly, redemption. I will not stop enjoying the things I love, not now.
“I will follow my instincts, be myself for good or ill, and see what will be the upshot. As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” - John Muir
If you would like to follow my upcoming Pacific Crest Trail hike, please follow mine and William's blog at TravelerbyTrail.com