Skip to main content


There is Only Forward

Nov 29, 2022, 10:22 AM by Josh Conviser


Pushing beyond what is possible. 

Man hiking with walking poles

I felt strong. deep into a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout at the gym and keeping up. burpees, muscle-ups, then sprints. I pushed off - and SNAP - like the crack of a bullwhip. Pain ripped through my calf, and I crumpled. 

I looked up at the guy next to me. “You heard that, right?” 

“The whole gym did,” he mumbled, saucer-eyed.

A deep breath and I looked down — ready for the worst — but my leg seemed okay. Maybe the calf was a little funky — bunched up around the back of my knee — but the pain had vanished.

I stood, wobbling with adrenaline, and took a step. On my way back to the floor, I realized my calf no longer worked.

A hazy trip to Sansum Clinic Urgent Care followed. Even as the first signs of COVID stretched the staff thin, the wait was minimal, and the diagnosis quick. My Achilles Tendon, which attaches the calf to the ankle, had ruptured.

I left with a boot, crutches, and decisions to make. As luck would have it, I happened to be dining with Dr. Hod Dunbar that evening. As we sat, I watched Hod analyze the origami creation the waitstaff had made of our napkins. As others chatted, Hod methodically unfolded his napkin and then refolded it perfectly. My wife and I looked at each other and had the same thought.

A couple of days later, I hobbled into the Sansum Clinic’s Foothill Surgery Center, and Hod sowed my tendon back together. As a life-long athlete, I’ve had more than a few surgeries. This was my easiest, most professional and caring experience to date. I’ll pass on a repeat visit, but there are no doctors, nurses, staff or centers that I would recommend more highly.

Getting home, the full measure of what it would take to recover settled in. For my other injuries, rehab was about getting back out and pushing through. Not so for this one. This was all about time.

For nearly two months, I couldn’t put any weight on my leg. I got very good on crutches — pushing further and further until I could do laps on the hill behind my house. I also picked up what I can only describe as a peg-leg so I could manage stairs and hit the grocery store.

Still, motivation was hard to find. And then Jeb called. Since high school, we have adventured around the country, and I needed a goal — something to train for. We dove into our bucket list and decided to run the Grand Canyon, from Rim to Rim and back again.

Honestly, it felt more like a dream than an attainable goal — I still couldn’t take a single step. But the dream pulled me along. One step became two, then ten, then more. And slowly I could walk again. Frustration gave way to acceptance, and a mantra bubbled up in my mind: there is only forward. Each day, each step, there was only the next and the next.

And finally, last October, Jeb and I stood at the top of the Grand Canyon and took that first step. That began forty-four miles down the South Rim, up the North, and back again. It was horrible, wonderful, magical, and — at times — sublime.

And that was just the beginning. I went on to run Santa Barbara’s Nine Trails ultra in March. And, this past August, I had the opportunity to participate in one of the most iconic races in the world.

The UTMB/CCC starts in Courmayeur, Italy, and spans 100 kilometers around Mont Blanc to finish in Chamonix, France. The forty thousand feet of crushing ups and steep descents took me through some of the most beautiful country on the planet, and way past my limit. It was straight twenty-six hours of both agony and inspiration.

And to experience all that, just a couple of years after I came into Sansum unable to walk, was a true gift.

I didn’t just get hurt and recover. I got hurt, and then Dr. Dunbar and the Sansum team got me to a place where I could push beyond what I thought possible. I came back better than I was.


There is only forward.

To schedule an appointment with Sansum Clinic’s Orthopedics Department, please call (805) 681-7584.

Photo caption: Josh Conviser