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Corps Strength – When You Hit The Ground, Don’t Whine, Bounce

First off I apologize for being late with my normal monthly article. I was on leave in August doing some climbing and hiking in Maine, when I was asked to make a last minute deployment to Madagascar, (literally within 48 hours of getting back). The guy who was supposed to go, backed out at the last minute and that left only your favorite old jarhead to jump on that grenade for the sake of our company and school house reputation. Nothing new here, but it did put me out of country and very busy for the last several weeks. Hence why I’m late with this article. Sorry to all the great SSD readers (and some of my best critics), that have supported me and my book; Corps Strength over these past few years.

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In any case, after a few days of great rock climbing and camping in New Hampshire, we rolled up to Baxter State Park (Literally the middle of F’ing nowhere), to climb Mt. Katahdin. This is the highest point in Maine (5267 ft) and the end (or start, depending on your direction) of the Appalachian Trail. Now I’ve have climbed much higher and steeper hills around the country (and world) and this didn’t seem like it would be any big deal, except for the infamous ridge line trail there called the “Knifes Edge”. Which was what me, my youngest son and nephew were really there to do.

The Knifes Edge is a very narrow and rocky ridge that is just over a mile in length. It is the most notable feature and most dangerous part of the mountain, accounting for the most deaths. From exposure in bad weather and falls, the Knifes Edge has claimed over 20 lives since 1963. For about 3/10 of a mile the trail is only (at best) three feet wide, with straight drops off of several hundred feet on either side. The Baxter State Park Authority closes the trail in any wind or rain and only recommends it only be hiked in the best of conditions.

So anyhow, the weather was cloudy and slightly foggy when we started up, so we decided to do the Knifes Edge on the way down, hoping the weather would clear up. We gained the summit easy enough in about four hours going up a steep boulder filled trail (Cathedral), that involved a lot of hand over hand scrambling. Nothing crazy, just a fun and challenging few hours of PT. However, just as we reached the summit it fogged over completely and started raining. At that point our pride got the best of us and we stubbornly decided to descend the Knifes Edge anyhow, even though the weather and conditions were getting worse. I mean it was only a mile and we had done longer, higher up and worse weather climbs/hikes. Those Ranger warnings must just be for the old and out of shape, right?

Well, the short answer to that is F NO. that pretty much says it. But, too make a long story short is was a pretty harrowing event. I would say the most dangerous hike (without any technical support), that I’ve ever done. We couldn’t see shit and the wind and rain was blowing like hell most of the way. There was more than a few very dicey spots. In fact, at the end of the ridge, a Park Ranger was stationed turning people around from coming up. Stunned to see us emerge from the fog coming down, he gave us an earful of (well deserved) profanity in a thick Maine accent. LOL. In any case, it was a stupid move, that as the senior guy I take the hit for. However, all was well until about ½ mile from the finish and with the trail very muddy from the rain, I severely rolled my ankle. In fact, I would have bet I broke it, as I swear I heard it snap. That last little bit to the truck was pretty painful, but thank Christ this didn’t happen up on the Edge, I don’t even want to think about that.

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When I got back to our campsite I took off my boot and my ankle swelled to double it’s size. It didn’t stop us from celebrating our escape from the Knifes Edge with a bottle of Maple flavored rum, but it hurt like hell all night and the next day it was worse, but I had to get back to Florida and then off to Africa a few days later, I had no time for the doc.

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Now, while I was in Africa I was determined to get some climbing in as there are decent little peaks all around our training area. So I used the tried and true RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate) method of rehab. I also wore compression socks on my 40 hours of plane ride over and every night. Slowly it got better and I started doing some walking every morning with as much stretching as I could in between.

Two weeks after my injury I taped it tight like an HS football trainer would and me and my training partner made a very steep 6000 ft. peak, without any real issue. I did go more slowly and carefully than I usually would, especially coming down. It was a little sore, but no biggie. The point of all this? Most injuries like this are just that, an injury not a permanent disability. By using your head and giving yourself some time to heal up you can bounce back, even at the ripe old age of 57. Too many people I know just roll over when they get hurt or even sore. To really live life means taking risks, and injuries are part of the deal. Just don’t let them give you an excuse to hit the couch. I do recommend seeing a doctor if you have an injury. In that part, do as I say, not as I do.

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One of my oldest HS buddies heard of my injury and sent me a text saying: “Welcome to old age, maybe now you’ll wise up and slow down. In any case your ankle will never be the same.” Really? Sorry my friend, me slowing down is your fantasy, not my reality. I may fall (as I have many times), but I always bounce up. A little slower than I used to, but up just the same, because in the end it’s 90% like everything else; more about how you think about it. BTW, our training of (33) members of the Madagascar military was a complete success. Till next month;

“Be safe always, good when you can.”

Semper Fi

MGunz

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3 Responses to “Corps Strength – When You Hit The Ground, Don’t Whine, Bounce”

    • Adun says:

      Ice should still be used immediately after an injury to reduce swelling, but heat is definitely the way to go for recovery since it increases blood flow.

  1. LGonSoldierSystems says:

    This is very motivating. I was a major cyclist up until I caught MRSA that spread to my blood, heart, and lungs in 2015. Recovered after four months quarantine, and another two of PICC’d antibiotics.

    I’ve gained 15 pounds and know where I was in terms of fitness as compared to where I am. It sucks, but about three months ago, I sustained 170bpm without lung pain. It’s going to be a steady climb back to fitness, but little posts like this sustain my willpower and motivation.

    Thanks.