The Best of Times, the Worst of Times; On Listening To Your Body

Snowshoe racing season is over, and I didn’t get a single race in. That really bums me out. My hamstring injury is my own fault for violating the first rule of running: Listen to your body.

Ever since I first started running, I have made it my first priority to take care of the little nigglies before they become big problems. I proactively go for rehab and massages and take days off to calm things down so I can resume my training. Getting to, and through, my goal race is only possible if I am healthy, so it makes sense to listen to my body and give it what it needs, from pampering to good nutrition to lots of rest.

Except twice I have forgotten this priority and put the race cart before the healthy horse. And both times have resulted in a stubborn injury that put me in limbo with lots of time to re-learn the lesson. The first time was five years ago on a fastpack of the Rideau Trail in Ontario for our honeymoon. Finishing the trail became more important than not getting injured, and in the end I fell short on both. The metatarsal injury that resulted put me out completely for months, and lingered for a lot longer.

Last year at this time I forgot again, and went into the Rock and Ice Ultra pretty banged up after unrelenting training followed by an Ibuprofen-fueled race execution and (perhaps worst of all) a stubborn refusal to properly heal and recover after. That led to this past winter’s depressingly low mileage, deconditioning, and zero snowshoe races.

And here I am, like Humpty Dumpty, trying to put my pieces back together again. I’ve had a lot of time to think about how I might avoid having to re-learn this lesson in the future. But first, I have to admit that it feels really good to be so enraptured by a goal that it overrides the ‘playing it safe’ route. Rock and Ice last year was the first time in so long that I cared as much about finishing a race, and I’d probably revise my actions only slightly in a do-over. And the Rideau Trail? It was our honeymoon, enough said.

More than anything, I am reminded that listening to my body is only as good as what I do with the information I gather – obey or disregard? And if occasionally I ignore what I might better not, it had better be for a good enough reason to make it worth the very real possibility of sitting out a season.


About the author

Sara Montgomery and Derrick Spafford

Derrick and Sara are trail runners from Eastern Ontario who discovered that running on snowshoes in the winter months is a great way to enjoy their favorite trails year-round. They competed in their first snowshoe series (The Mad Trapper Series in Low, Quebec) in 2005, each finishing 2nd in their respective divisions. Plans for 2006 are to return to the Mad Trapper, to take in some races in New York and Vermont, and hopefully cap their season with the U.S. Snowshoe Championships in March, as Canadian guests. Derrick runs a company, Spafford Health and Adventure (, which specializes in coaching and event promotion. He is currently planning an annual snowshoe race to be held in the Kingston area, starting this winter.

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