During the summer of 2011, I was hiking to the top of Baldpate Mountain in Maine – on Day 5 of the Record Attempt – and I started to feel a really sharp pain in my right shin. By the time I reached the ridgeline, my leg hurt so badly that I had to put almost all my weight on the left side of my body and just limp along. Until the exact same pain that was in my right leg developed in my left leg.

Within three hours I had full-blown shin-splints.

Now, I have known a good bit of physical discomfort in my days. I have had broken bones, I have been ill, and at this point I have been through labor and delivery. But I can’t think of anything worse than hiking all day on shin-splints. Going uphill was excruciating, but going downhill was unbearable.  There were times when I would plant my foot and my leg would buckle beneath me because of the pain and I would fall down to the trail.

I didn’t want to quit, but I couldn’t keep moving forward. So, I did the only thing I could do. I hiked backwards. For two straight days every time I reached the top of a mountain, I was forced to turnaround and hike or scramble downhill backwards. It was slow, it still hurt, and it looked ridiculous, but hiking backwards was the only way that I was able to keep moving forward.

This past week, Brew and I were driving from Orangeburg, SC to Greenville, NC when the weather - and the roads - started to get icy. We decided to pull off the Interstate and spend the night in Fayetteville, NC. I called up the only person I knew in Fayetteville and asked if we could spend the night.

There are not many folks who I would feel comfortable calling and crashing with last minute, but Coach Q is on the short list. He was my high school basketball coach and 10th grade math teacher. I really liked Coach Q, which is saying a lot, because there isn’t much that I liked about high school.

Brew and I were excited to pull up into the driveway and see Coach Q for the first time since our wedding. We were looking forward to having dinner, visiting and staying up late to watch the Olympics. But we weren’t even half-way through dinner when recounting high school memories caused me to choke-up and start crying.

I don’t like to cry in front of other people and as Brew will tell you, I am an ugly crier. But admittedly there are some deep wounds from high school that still haven’t healed. I have strong memories of being bullied, feeling judged, feeling underappreciated, and feeling forced to be someone other than myself. I hate that it happened. AND I hate that high school happened 15 years ago and I am still crying about it.

I am really good about pushing through, pushing on, and moving forward. Yet, as uncomfortable and awkward as it was to cry through the majority of dinner, there was something very cathartic about sharing the experiences and pain that I had repressed with Coach Q. At the end of the night my eyes were red and swollen, but my heart felt a little lighter.

We cant live in the past, but sometimes we have to go backwards to move forward.  And sometimes going backwards isn’t as bad as it seems. In life, and on the trail, you see things differently when you change direction. And this time, going backwards allowed me to see that amid the bullies, and stress and insecurities of high school, I had a teacher and a coach who really cared about me. And he still does.

Thank you Coach Q!



PS - Coach Q reminded me that in one of my high school basketball games, I went 18 for 18 from the free-throw line. Boo-yah!!!