Discover: Flo-Jo Mojo
“I’m going to make it!” I think running up the rocky, 3-mile mountain biking trail. “Sweet! I’m going to make it,” I shout to the pines and the blue sky. And then I gasp. Still a half-mile to go. I’m no FloJo. Pace yourself, Lizzy. For the 20th or so time this winter I jog up the final hill of the Bitterbrush Trail on Hall Ranch, a Boulder County Open Space trail system near my house. Typically I stop, walk, catch my breath, but today feels different…
I stopped running five years ago after pain in my ankles, neck, and back transformed from simple aches to burning agony. The change happened slowly over years, with each running season becoming increasingly more difficult. I never ran far, but an hour or two out and back on Lumpy Ridge or the 6-mile run to and around the Eagle Wind Trail at Rabbit Mountain revived my spirits and kept me fit for my rock climbing endeavors. But by 2007, even a half-mile loop on Hall Ranch caused days of serious discomfort. So, I threw out plans to run a 5K and gave up on my beloved sport for good, or so I thought.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had arthritis, and my joints were becoming inflamed to the point of degradation. I discovered this a few years ago after having a flare up that kept me in bed for a week and then walking like a 100-year-old woman for another 3 months. It was wild, and it changed my life. I couldn’t make it even half way across the street before stoplights changed, and my one-hour commute to work turned into a 2- or 3-hour commute. When friends asked me, “Wow, you must miss rock climbing, running, [insert sport here]!” I replied that I’d actually be happy to just get up the 3 flights of stairs to my bedroom without crawling.
But now, two years later, with the help of a much-changed (and significantly improved) diet as well as some strong Western medications, I’ve been running trails again. I started slow—Flo-Jo in SlowMo—and I walked more than I ran. Ankle pain comes and goes on a whim, as there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when and where the arthritic pain will settle for the day. But as time has gone by, the pain has settled, and I have run, stumbled, jogged, or speed hiked on the sandy trails around Lyons, Colo.
I don’t always love running. In fact, more often than not I have to force myself out the door. The first 10 minutes always sucks, and I hate every minute of it. But like meditation, if you just keep at it, eventually other emotions overtake the torturous ones. I always start to enjoy the release of endorphins, the beauty of my surroundings, and the dirt trails I’m navigating. Then, of course, the torturous feelings always circle back. Like the day I actually made it to the top of the Bitterbrush Trail. At that last half-mile point I started telling myself: “You don’t have to do this you know. Who cares?” and “Really, Lizzy, it’s OK to walk, what do you have to prove anyway?”
But I did have something to prove to myself. Simply that I could do it.
I stand on the top of the hill looking out at the 2.5-mile Nelson Loop that intersects with the Bitterbrush Trail. I barely catch my breath, but I’m so high on my personal achievement I think excitedly, “I could do that trail, too!” I start running, visions of speed and long, crazy-colored fingernails leading the way. I make it 20 feet, 50 feet, 100 feet, and then pain shoots through my left ankle. It’s not so bad, but it reminds to stop; it reminds me I have limitations. And though it hurts my ego, I acknowledge that is OK.
On the other hand, as I eye the Nelson Loop again I wonder what Flo-Jo would do. She suffered from seizures that eventually took her life, but she still set world records that have yet to be seriously challenged. I surmise she wouldn’t let limitations get in her way. As I head downhill, I determine the Nelson Loop is my next goal. I’ll let you know when I achieve that.
Lizzy Scully is a writer, editor, and long-time admirer of Stonewear Designs. She’ll be editing the content of this blog, the Live Stonewear! Enewsletter and the other social media platforms. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.