2020 a turbulent year

2020 - the year that is burned into our memories.
Let me tell you how 2020 tried to break me and how I had to fight (again) to get back to my normal self. It was a year with ups and downs, a year I had to face a new enemy.

From the start. 

As always, I tend to plan my life, so I can work towards my goals, and 2020 started very well. Let me say that again...very...very well. 
2020 was supposed to be my year. Working towards the best version of myself, becoming an ultra runner...a 100% off road ultra runner and the cherry on the top would be the "Deadmanrunning Trails". And all was going the way it was planned. So many weekly runs and beautiful trail runs, so many running friends,...nothing could go wrong. I was on my way to have the best year of my life….until...
You probably think that I was gonna say "Covid19", right…..wrong.

Unlike many other runners, Covid19 didn't have a negative effect on me. Ok, in the first lock down, it was adapting to this new situation because we weren't allowed to travel by car. But that only made me run further. In April I ran a total of 309 km, something I hadn't done before. The first 5 months were absolutely amazing, I was having the best time of my life. Running buddies becoming real good friends, I may say...best friends. But my life did not go unnoticed and as days passed by, a new enemy emerged...jealousy. It started out as innocent messages from unknown Instagram accounts saying how I was always running after the girls like a dog who's running after his bone. I didn't really give any attention to it because the pandemic was having a negative effect on many people and the girls I was supposedly chasing were my running buddies and dear friends. Because I wasn't responding to the message, they became more radical and personal. But still, I didn't pay them any attention whatsoever.

Out of luck 

My luck changed and what happened next, determined how my life had to take a turn…
It was June 2020. During a trail run with some friends, it only took a fraction of a second, not paying attention, a cracking sound...severe pain...I turned over my ankle. First I thought, I will be ok, just walk it off. But it didn't take me long to realise that this was not just a sprained ankle. At that time, the running group had already disappeared so I was on my own to get back to my car. Getting down the hill on one leg will become the red dread for the months to come. Once at home it became clear that it was not a normal injury. Fast forward....big swollen ankle, internal bleeding, ...they immediately gave me a cast, just to be safe. Turned out that it was a wrong call which expanded my recovery time, but I always kept a positive mindset. Conclusion of the injury: torn off bone from my ankle bone (let me spare you the technical terms). I didn't need surgery and it never grew back. I was back on the trail in three weeks, hiking and running (slowly) 5 to 10K a day soon to be followed by a 21K hike. I had some great help from a couple of trail buddies who I'm still eternally grateful to. Broken or not, it will not keep me from moving. With the help of friends and my physiotherapist I was back on the trails to continue my plans. But remember the innocent messages from the unknown IG account? They never stopped. As soon as I mentioned that I was injured, the tone of the messages became more aggressive, more personal and more mocking. When you are down, the least you need is someone that mocks you about it. It was time to act and I responded with a friendly message saying that I was not happy with this person's comments. Next few weeks I ignored all returning messages. At this point I told one of my dearest trail buddies what was going on. 

For weeks to come my energy went to my recovery and getting stronger. And...my ultra running adventure. I was really careful and it took a while for me to find my inner peace and to lose the fear of being hurt again. We are in the beginning of August by now and I'm getting back to my normal self and together with some friends,  I went on amazing hiking trips. I also ran my first 16K for the first time since my injury. Plans for my first ultra run were being made. I was still working hard on getting stronger so I tested my legs with a half marathon and lots of altimeters. 26 Agustus - finally - my first ultra. Together with 3 of my best friends,  I ran my first ultra. 3 loops - 14K, 18K and 20K making a nice 52K. I'm so thankful for what's been going on in my life,  so thankful for the amazing friends I have. 
One week after my ultra run, I ran my first real race since Covid19 struck earth, another week later I even ran two races in two days, I never felt stronger. 

Cherry on the pie? 

10 September 2020 I got a message from RunnersworldNL magazine asking me if it was possible to do an interview for the December edition. On 25th September, I was blessed with the experience of having a real photoshoot and interview for RunnerworldNL. I cannot describe how proud I was and still am of that moment. 

When life kicks you in the face,  it almost sounds like it doesn't want you to be happy. 
19th September, a 28K trail run with almost 1000 altimeters. A week later a 30K hike with friends. Hiking with heavy rainfall, just the way I love it the most.  We were just into 10K of the hike when out of nowhere, I put my foot in front of the other,  blocking it and falling on my side and there it was again...the cracking sound. My hike buddy heard it too, the pain was instant. I went on for the next 20K, tried to block the pain, not realising that I just ruptured my ligaments.

Deep dark hole

You start wondering if life has other plans for you besides running.  Running has been my life saver, my way to get away from reality,  my way of finding peace in my mind, my way to stay alive. When life pulls you into a black hole, you can only hope that you have the strength to crawl out again. This injury was the most painful one so far. It took me a couple of weeks to tell the world why I had been absent from social media. And this time it was more than just pain in my foot, it was another setback. It was a mental struggle, one that I couldn't fix by myself. Once the world knew what happened, the mocking got into a next level. For the first time jealously felt like hate. Someone was definitely trying to break me down. 

"Whhaaaa  haaaa haaaa loser"

 "Why don't you just stop running"

Just two random messages. 

Sadness and tears took over for a while. Last time I felt like that, was years ago,  the most dark time in my life, when I almost made an end to my miserable life of pain. 

The power of real friendship

Almost immediately after I told the world about my injury, hands reached out and friends came to my rescue. Friends that I trust with my life. Friends who have the power to pull you out of that dark hole, the power to change that mindset back to recovery. When I say that they deserve my lifetime gratitude, I mean lifetime. Real friendship is rare and I'm blessed that I can say that I've found friends that meet that criteria. 

No running for at least December...doctors orders. I will tell you that this is not easy when running has become a big part of your life. But there is no way that I will be sidelined for over two months. So I continued my recovery with hiking, short runs. Always searching for the most beautiful places, making future plans, getting stronger. I used technical trails as my recovery playground because they do a great job as stability training.

Being proud

29th November I got a message from an Instagram friend who complimented me on an amazing story and gave me lots of respect. There was a picture in her message from a magazine and then I knew that the story was published. My interview and pictures were in one of my favorite magazines - Runnersworld. I felt so proud of myself that the message from my mocking friend "Oh my god. I almost choked when I saw your head in my magazine,  what the heck!!!", didn't even bother me. As proud as I was,  I posted about myself being in a magazine on Instagram. That pissed my troller off but I didn't care….or did it? 

Halfway December the trolling took a bad turn and I reacted by posting parts of the trolling chats. The many reactions from Instagram followers didn't go unnoticed. I wasn't  prepared for so many reactions, some with respect but also many with lots of anger and hate. The troller contacted me the same day and he or she apologised for everything that he or she did over the past months. I'm a forgiving person, so that's just what I did. I told this person that this will never repeat itself otherwise I will take action. All this commotion had a negative effect on my personal life and my family. And because my daughter was in her exam period at the time, I decided to remove every post and comment from that day. Topic closed for me.

It even had an impact on me as a person. I think I lost faith in Instagram and people in general. I stopped posting for several weeks, I just didn't feel like it anymore. But I took the time to get stronger and I  kept running...24K, 30K, storm and rainy runs were and still are my most favourite runs. I took my time to leave 2020 behind me and started to make plans for 2021...big plans. On the day before new year,  I ran an amazing 20K trail just to clear my head. 
2021 started and we are almost a year into this pandemic. A pandemic that made it hard for people to stay connected and made it hard for runners to run together. So I found a way to run with other runners all over the world by using video calls. Not always a perfect connection but ooo so much fun. And getting to know the person behind the Instagram account is just amazing. We all have a story, and sometimes it's fun just to listen to the story of others.
A new year is always hoping for a better year,  but some things are hard to get control over. Although I was running further, I couldn't stop noticing that something is still not as it should be. Post injury things, that's what my physiotherapist said. Nothing to worry about. The only thing I wasn't so happy about, was that I needed more time to recover during my runs. Running in a group with faster runners was pretty tough. And sometimes I needed a rest and had to leave the group behind. But that's ok because I'm a solo runner most of the time anyway. 

Happy me

25th February...birthday time. Turning 51 comes with a proper birthday present. So I ran my second ultra on my 51th birthday. It wasn't an easy task. Running an ultra all by yourself without extra food and water supplies was definitely harder than I thought it would be. But it gave me that mental boost that I was looking for. And my international Instagram friends called me while I was running, isn't that amazing. 
During my ultra run I was also contacted by the organisation behind Trail-Series. They asked if I would like to be an ambassador for their trail series and guess what my answer was?  Yes, of course. Going to beautiful trails, running hills and mountains, connecting with nature is always high on my todo list. But my body was not ready yet for long distance in combination with lots of vertical meters so it seemed. 

Not of the hook 

It's March 2021 and problems occurred during the first trail series. After approximately 16K, I started to feel pain in my left knee. Running further was out of the question, so getting down the hill was a real struggle because I could only use one leg.(red dread) Almost every trail from then off...the same problem. And every time it was walking and struggling my way down on one leg. 
So back to the physiotherapist. Because the therapy from my previous injury only focused on my right leg, my left leg had become much weaker. Overload of my Tibialis Anterior resulted in pain in my knee making my left leg unusable. Yet another thing to fix.

A little piece of advice 

I've seen so many runners give up when they are down,  mentally and physically. So many asked me how I keep coming back after injuries. Well...I never came back because technically, I never quit. There is only one form of recovery and that is active recovery. This means that you stay active the whole time of your injury. "Is it impossible to run? " - you walk or hike. "Is it impossible to walk? - you do other stuff that will help you get better. Strengthening exercises, core training,... whatever it takes, whatever makes you stronger...you do it. There are so many good strengthening exercises for any type of injury or injury prevention which is also very important. What you don't do is feel pity and sit on your lazy ass. Active recovery, that's how I do it. Sometimes on my own and sometimes with the help of friends.

Summary of a turbulent year

Life is not always fair. 
People aren't always fair.
Trailrunners fall, deal with it.
Positive mindset gets you places.
Real friends, those you trust, they are the key to happiness.
Jealousy is a horrible thing. If your partner is a jealous person, maybe you should consider talking to him/her before it escalates. It not only ruins friendships, but it sucks all happiness right out of your life. 

You only have one life...use it well

To be continued…