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Outdoor Diary: What Heading Outside Has Taught Me About Disappointment

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Humans Outside episode 207

Don’t like what’s going on outside? Wait awhile, power through and it will change. That’s just part of the truth about seasons Amy is clinging to — and an important lesson she’s learned — as she deals with a fresh running injury.

How does heading into nature and understanding outdoor seasons help with the rest of our lives? Hear about it in this episode of Amy’s regular Humans Outside Outdoor Diary.

Some of the good stuff:

[:45] Good and bad habits

[1:10] The problem with ankles

[1:50] What Amy missed this month

[2:20] Things learned instead

[2:30] Risk is inevitable

[2:52] Get friends like this

[3:35] The important thing about seasons

[4:02] The good and not so good things about fireweed

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

I have a bad habit. Or rather, I have a good habit and sometimes it’s fall out feels like a bad habit: I keep spraining my right ankle.

I’ve sprained it twice in the past two months — once while racing in March and once while racing this month, in early May. It’s the same ankle I sprained badly in 2018 during a low-key trail race. So that makes trail running the good habit, and spraining my ankle the bad one.

The problem with ankles is that you really need them for basically any good adventure. Sitting still in a chair with your ankle elevated and on ice is not a good adventure.

When I learned in August, 2020 that I was going to need hip surgery and was effectively benched for the remainder of what turned into an incredibly nice late summer I was very unhappy. I felt like all of my plans had been stolen from me by a dumb injury. I was, in short, disappointed. I was disappointed in the world. I was disappointed in myself.

As I’m recording this today, I’m on swollen and purple ankle, take 2 in as many months. I’m right back on my porch in the sun where I was when I was nursing that hip two years ago. As I record this I am missing a much-anticipated triathlon in Anchorage, the Gold Nugget, because there’s no way I should run like this. I don’t love triathlon, but I do love the Gold Nugget because it’s this incredible beginner friendly, supportive atmosphere. And I had all of these plans for participating and then recording an episode for you explaining why heading outside for something like that is the perfect way to create space for anyone who wants to give it a try — no pin intended.

But instead we have ankle problems. But I also realized I have learned two important tings about challenges like this through my outdoor habit.

First, any adventure is a risk for things to not go according to plan. As I came into the last half mile before the finish line at a trail race last week, I stepped on a rock and felt my ankle roll with some pretty serious pain — way more than last time. I honestly thought I broke it, though an xray I got the day after confirms I did not. I walked my way to the finish line, bursting into tears when I saw my friends standing there waiting for me.

As an aside: these friends are also the gift of heading outside. I met them because of my nature habit. And, in part because they do hard things too and know the risk and the reward, they are always on target when the going gets tough. They fetched and carried all sorts of things from my car for me as I sat in the medic tent, and then Rachel, certified best friend, drove me home while I tried not to cry. Definitely get friends who are OK with you crying.

Risk is something you assume any time you head outside your front door for literally anything, including driving to the grocery store. By going on a trail run, I was accepting risk of getting hurt. Yes, being careful and safe are important — but risk is just a part of living. And going outside has made me more OK with that than I used to be.

And that risk-zen dovetails with the bigger thing I’ve learned: everything happens in seasons. When I twisted my ankle two months ago, there was still snow on the ground and my street hadnt even really started to melt yet.

Today, just 7 weeks later, my yard is green, the trees are covered in leaves and I prepped for this episode while sitting on my porch in the sun. The thermometer claimed it was 52 degrees, but it sure felt warmer.

In just a week or two, the fireweed –my most favorite thing in the whole world — will start it’s wonderful purple pink blom. But the inevitable end of the fireweed is the blooms finish and the green leaves and stalk turn into a firey red, signaling the end of summer. The trees will turn brown. The light will no longer stay in sky all day and night. And winter and snow will return with their warmth of family and friends juxtaposed to the cold air, plus ski days and star gazing. And then we’ll do it all again.

That’s just how seasons go. Some parts of them are wonderful — the fireweed and warmth — some parts are bummer — the return of darkness. But the trick is knowing that seasons always, always change. Nothing outside or inside is forever. So when I don’t like something, I just have to make the most of what is in front of me and wait.

So that’s what I’m going to do with my ankle. I do not love sitting still on my back porch. I do not love missing the big adventures of trail running or peak scaling. The contentment of waiting comes and goes. But ankles heal, and this too shall be a season that passes. Until then, it’s campfires, porch time, van adventures and picnics for me.

Of course, you can see photos of me doing all these things with various levels of enthusiasm on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Of course — of course — share your photos, too, by tagging them with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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