Me at the workoutWhen you are used to being on a team, injuries are isolating. The team training schedule goes right out the window and is replaced with doctors appointments, cross training, physical therapy, and rehab exercises. The first few weeks, when I’m thinking “I’ll be better any day now,” I try to stay connected to the team by showing up at practice before cross training, meeting teammates socially, etc.

But as the injury settles in, I slip further and further away. Emails from the team remain unopened (what does that have to do with me anyway?) Therapy appointments get scheduled right over practice times (I can’t run so why be there?) Before too long, a random run-in with a teammate at the grocery store becomes as awkward as a conversation with an ex-boyfriend. By eight weeks in, I might as well be shacking up in the Maldives. I’m totally gone.

Then, eventually, the injury starts to come around. Every few days or so, there is a small improvement. The list of activities I can do grows. Every day I gain a little more trust in my body. Health is somewhere up ahead, calling to me. And that’s when I have the desire to be around my team again.

Today, my OTCE teammates were scheduled to meet up at a remote logging road outside of the rural town of Marcola. This place has a beautiful tree-lined dirt road that rolls along a creek and plenty of steep side roads that are perfect for hill repeats (it’s at the end of Wendling Rd if any of you want to check it out, but it’s only open to the public on weekends). The dirt roads are totally inappropriate for someone with a fragile IT band, and hills are not on my list of activities yet, so there were plenty of great excuses not to drive 30 minutes to meet them for the workout. If I drove out there, I’d have to do my workout all by myself on the flat asphalt road, something I could easily do from my front door instead.

I went to Marcola anyway, and it was awesome.

Being on the team’s schedule gave me structure for my day. Carpooling with my teammates made me feel like no time had passed, and it was nice to be around the energy of other people as we collectively ramped up for a big effort. The five minutes I got to warmup with the team, the cacophony of random chatter filled in the spaces of the otherwise empty forest, and I grinned ear to ear. God I missed this. I’m running right now. I’m on the Nike Oregon Track Club Elite Team. I’m running!

My 40 minute progressive run went better than expected. The course I chose was a 0.9 mile pavement loop, part of which went over a classic Oregon covered bridge, repeated over and over again until the 40 minutes was up. I stayed in my trainers instead of flats, heart rate and effort were my only guides, and only when it was finished did I check the splits on my SportWatch to see how it shook out. 6:20’s to start before settling into 6:05’s for a while, and finishing the last 10 minutes at 5:45 pace. Not too bad, considering!

Finishing way before the rest of the team, I had 30 minutes or so to wander down to my favorite swimming hole to ice my legs. I started to think about how easy 5:45 miles felt on November 6th in NY for the first 19 miles, and then I made myself stop looking behind me. I thought about the hard, smooth granite underneath me. My feet and ankles ached as the frigid water rushed over my legs. I wrapped my hoody tighter around my face and hugged my body against the breeze. The sun peeked out from the grey sky just long enough to ripple the river with tin foil and pull my attention skyward past the cathedral of trees to watch it slip behind the clouds once again.
The creek at Wendling Road