Just finishing the IM 70.3 Boulder on the weekend was more of an achievement for me than my eventual 2nd place. This is mostly because a week prior to the race, I reached a breaking point with my injury and for the first time I can remember, something other than race competition defeated me and I was reduced to a pathetic groveling mess. But that is the beauty of sport, sometimes when you least expect it, you can find the fighting spirit that exists from within. OK……my fighting spirit had a kick up the backside from those around me, but it came out eventually which just happened to be on race morning!
The swim went rather swimmingly! For the last couple of months Siri has been flogging me in the pool, and even then I can only manage to hold the feet of my training partners for about 100m…..but I love it. This hard work enabled me to come out of the water with the leader, Amanda Stevens (also one on Siri’s athletes) who has led out every race she has done this year. So I was very pleased with that.
Jumping on the bike was a bit of a different story. It felt more like a cobweb of awkwardness. My biking has suffered the most from my injury. I will speak a bit more about my injury later, but essentially I have had to teach my left side to work again. I tried to keep up with Amanda, but she proved too strong. And then Melissa Hauschildt came by and despite my best efforts to hold her pace she disappeared into the distance. By about halfway I found a good rhythm, and maintained a gap of about 3mins behind Amanda.
I went out on to the run with no expectations to catch Amanda who was 3mins ahead or Melissa 6mins ahead. Realistically, I wanted to just have a solid run with no pain and by the start of the second lap I was very happy to be moving along feeling stronger and stronger and around then I closed the gap to Amanda by a little over a minute. With about a mile to go I could see Amanda and I started to surge. Not sure where my energy would come from, but I thought I’d give it a shot and try to catch her. At 13miles (0.2 miles to go) I made the pass. Amanda was suffering and I felt a tinge of remorse because she fought hard and is one of my teammate, friend, and training partner. But I know Amanda is also a gracious competitor and I know she appreciates a good, fair race all the way to the finish line.
Now here is a little (or a lot) about the last few months and my injury.
I have to admit, the last few months have been one hell of a ride…both physically and emotionally. It’s kind of funny because after finishing last year on such a high I was actually waiting for something bad to happen. It sounds really odd that some of us just assume we do not deserve good things to happen to us. I’m not sure why I felt this way. Maybe that old saying that “all good things must come to an end” has embedded itself in my head. In any case I put it out there into the universe that the wave I was riding would crash sooner or later, and it did late February when I started to get severe hamstring pain.
In a nutshell, I ramped up the volume and intensity of training too soon after taking the longest off season break of my entire career……and that was only 2 months (December and January)! I had no base training under my belt which is essentially required in any training program as it lays down the foundation for the hard, intense work that begins later in the season. With my first race (Escape from Alcatraz) in early March, I took to hard training in February. This did not allow my body to adapt and it started to crumble from beneath me. The left hamstring pain ended up being a tear. I tolerated the pain and kept on training but I was unable to use my hamstring. This in turn led me to start compensating with other muscle groups. My left glut became strained, then my left quad and finally my left knee. This went on for several more weeks before the pain became too much after Columbia 5150 and I said enough was enough.
So why did it take me so long to see someone and get a diagnosis you ask? Good question. I have been pondering over this question for quite a while. I am no sports psychologist, but I think I have a few ideas as to why athletes, both amateur and professional, do not seek medical advice as quickly as they should. The biggest reason is that we are all in injury denial.
“Its just a niggle”
“It will go away”
“I will give it one more week”
“I just need to adjust to my new bike”
“Lets see if pain killers help”
“I just need to stretch more”
“I just need to do more strength work”
Do any of these sound familiar to you? These are just some of the things I have said over the weeks I trained with a lot of pain. During this time I put out 30 hour training weeks and raced on my un-diagnosed injury 3 times. At the Columbia 5150, when I reached my cracking point, I winced with pain throughout the entire race even after taking a serious dose of pain killers that morning. I broke down mentally and finally physically. I decided I could no longer train or race through this and something had to be done. I finally admitted that I had an injury and spent the following week seeing a specialist.
I have now been inducted into the John Ball hall of pain (aka Maximum Mobility) in Phoenix. Treatment is progressed nicely and I felt after 3 weeks under his thumb (literally) I was ready to head to Boulder. Since being here in Boulder I have been seeing a great orthopedic therapist, Todd Plymale-Mallory and massage therapist, Byron Thomas. With the odd trip back to see John Ball, I feel I have finally started seeing the positive signs of healing.
No athlete thinks they will get injured but let’s be honest people: it’s part of the job description and it’s almost what we sign up for if you have ever read the athlete waiver when you enter a race. This injury has cost me a fortune in treatment and in lost income. Moving forward, I have learned a lesson to take the time to get base training in, and plan races that enable me to enjoy an off season and get in base training.
Next on the agenda is 4 weeks of solid training leading into HyVee 5150 then IM 70.3 World Champs in Las Vegas a week later. Exciting stuff. Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for believing in me over the past few months.