What Injury Has Taught Me
Ok I speak HONESTLY and from the heart.
Many of you who follow my personal page or my business page know that I have been struggling with injury the past year or so. I could write an entire book about this honestly, but I will try to keep this as brief as I can.
A few years ago I thought about completely giving up the sport of Triathlon. That's right. All of it. I was teaching a ton of group exercise classes at the time and adding triathlon training to the mix was just too much. I had a big following at a gym in town and was teaching 8 or 9 classes a week. I was at the height of my teaching career loving every minute of it, but it was hard on my body each day. By Friday night I was DONE and I usually wanted to eat dinner, watch TV and go to bed!
I even thought about selling one of my bikes. Whaaaaaat? OMG that's extreme.
But there was something about the sport of triathlon that made me feel amazing inside and I knew I had a gift that I couldn't keep to myself. I had put so much into racing and to give all that up just didn't seem to make sense. So I said I would keep going for a few more years then maybe call it quits.
2016-This was the best racing year of my career. The gym I worked at made me Group Fitness Instructor of the Year in February and I was on an all time high from that. The momentum I gained from that carried over into triathlon season and I pretty much won every single triathlon I competed in that year including Bucket List, Tri Aggieland, Towne Lake, and Cypress Fairfield.
I was on a freaking role. WINNING EVERYTHING!
I got invited to the Age Group National Championship which was INVITE ONLY up in Omaha Nebraska that August. I was SUPER NERVOUS about this race because it was HUGE and the competition was fierce. I remember my husband standing on the dock with me before race start and I started crying because I was so scared. LOL. During the swim I choked on a HUGE gulp of water and for about 5 seconds I thought I was drowning. Out of the water I had one hell of an amazing bike ride. That was what set me apart from everybody else. My run was just ok but good enough to put me in the top 18. I REALLY wanted to qualify for World Championship but you had to be in the top 10 with a drop down to 18 for alternates.
Just not my year I thought. I was an alternate but I didn't think I would get in.
In March of 2017 I received an email inviting me to the Triathlon World Championship in Rotterdam Netherlands. I was BLOWN AWAY, IN SHOCK, and STUNNED at this revelation. It took my husband about 24 hours to decide that we were ALL IN and he even went online to look at hotels and flights. It was all still sinking in for me at the time because it seemed surreal. TEAM USA wanted ME on their team. What the fuck?
I had a triathlon coach at the time who was helping me get ready for Capital of Texas race late May and when I told him I had been invited to compete for Team USA he was super excited for me. I was still teaching a lot of cycling and group exercise classes and with all of the training it was taking a big toll on my body. In April I got a bone bruise on my Right ankle and tibial tendonitis, most likely from a big increase in running and genetically flat feet. The orthopedic doc and his amazing staff at Central Texas Sports Medicine helped me get better quickly by putting me in a boot for 3 weeks. I was miserable because I couldn't teach my classes for a few weeks and I had to take time OFF.
WHAT? Time OFF?
I was determined to get better but still taught some of my classes in the boot anyway. Later on I would discover that this was not the smartest thing to do. Pretty soon after that my lower back started to hurt and I was feeling depressed, fatigued, and stressed out about keeping my job and performing well in the name of the United States.
Something had to give.
The few days before Capital of Texas race I became sick with a throwing up virus that left me dehydrated and depleted. I had trained so hard for this race and I really wanted the Age Group Title or even Master's Title in a big way. My chances were good for owning the title. By Saturday morning I felt ok so I made my husband pack the car with my bike and all the gear and we headed to Austin. I was queasy the entire day as we walked the Expo, and couldn't really eat until about 4:00 that day.
A Starbucks Frappuccino.
I drank one of those at 4:00 and from that point on I started to feel sick again. I wanted to race SO BAD and wanted to impress my coach with a solid win. I thought I might feel better after a light dinner and it only made things worse. We went back upstairs to the hotel room and I pretty much threw up the rest of the night non stop. I was completely broken, sick, dehydrated, and defeated. My ankle was ok but not 100%. I was pushing my limits.
The race didn't happen. My bike slept over in transition and I never made it to the start line. Several of our Triathlon Club athletes were down there racing so I got up, had some tea and we went over to cheer everybody on. I was a little tearful because I wasn't racing and this was the race I had wanted so badly.
That night we had a serious "Come to Jesus" meeting. In the state I was in- sick, tired, and overtrained I would never make it to World Championship.I decided that I would give up the teaching in exchange for the World Championship race. I had too much at stake with about 6 or 7 local sponsors, thousands of dollars in flights, race kit and uniform, hotels, and the many expenses that came with a trip half way around the world. Giving up teaching was one of the hardest things I ever did. So much of my life, my friends, and my tribe was working out with me at Aerofit.
But I never looked back. It was one or the other but not both.
I focused all summer on getting healthy to race in Rotterdam. That became my summer job. I did my coach's workouts like clockwork every day in the summer and I was seeing training clients on the side at the house. I was super lean, and at my fighting race weight of 119lbs. Was I completely healthy? NO but this was as good as it gets for now.
I was READY.
I raced in Rotterdam September 17 at 2:30 pm. Such a weird time! It was super amazing being with the best in the World and being part of this amazing experience. 40 or 50 countries and a few thousand triathletes at an International Event. Soooo COOL.
Swim was just fine- I was somewhere in the top 25% out of the water. I was really happy with my ride (3rd place for the US) and my run was just ok. I was limping in the videos on the LEFT foot this time because my posterior tibial tendon was now inflamed and hurting. I didn't care about any of my injuries though because my mind was on representing well for the United States. I would deal with them when I got back.
And this is where the story gets complicated.
I messaged my favorite doctor in College Station from Rotterdam and told him I would be coming to see him when I got back to the United States. I knew I had injured my feet pretty badly and sure enough I had a stress fracture in the posterior tibial tendon of the left foot. I found myself in a boot AGAIN and I even had to miss a small local race here in College Station for which I was very disappointed. Although the bone healed, the tendon was TRASHED and had to be surgically fixed. When your tibial tendon starts to fail it can cause your arches in your feet to collapse and that was what was happening to me. I had no idea.
For the first time ever I was flat out SCARED of an injury. This was serious stuff. I was looking at a major foot surgery that could possibly leave me never able to run again. For many weeks up until the surgery I would just CRY myself to sleep at night. So much had happened and I had just done the most AMAZING event an athlete could ever ask for. To stop here seemed surreal. I was at an all time HIGH and then an all time LOW in a matter of a couple of weeks. It was hard for me to get into Christmas that year because I knew I had a tough surgery ahead in early January.
To make matters worse, the RIGHT foot started to hurt with a burning pain in the tibial tendon. I didn't know what was happening. I had been resting, no running etc. and now the other foot! The super talented foot surgeon (and friend) then told me it too was headed in the direction of needing surgery, but we had to wait on it until the first one was complete. It was devastating news to me.
Believe me when I say I was on my knees now asking God to give me strength to get through this next year. How could something so great happen and then something so tragic?
Surgery number one and number 2 are now OVER. All I can say is that I am GRATEFUL for one competent surgeon, nurses who I now call friends, and my friends and family who got me through one of the toughest times of my life. I was full of doubt and fear and there were a many hurdles along the way (like fusing my toe, joints, LOL, which had no cartilage from years of running.) The crutches, the stitches, the knee caddy, crawling around, doctor visits-I got through all of it because God put some beautiful people in my life.
I am blessed that I can now run on the treadmill and the rubber track (I am only at about one mile) since 2 medical professionals told me I would never run another step.
Throughout all of this, I have learned a few very important lessons which I will list below for you:
1. I went from lifting heavy, running fast, and riding hard to being on the couch with a catheter connected to a pain drip in my thigh. I did not stand up in the shower for over one year. I couldn't wear any shoes but Birkenstocks and I couldn't walk the dog around a quarter mile loop without excruciating pain. Basically I went from World Championship to crutches within a few months. NEVER take your health and ability to move for granted. There are people PRAYING for what you take for granted.
2. Put God and your Family first. I am dead serious about this one. I became so caught up in training, getting sponsorship, being on Team USA that I lost sight of all the things that really matter to me most. I disconnected with reality in a lot of ways because the thing that mattered most to me was representing well for the United States. I was interviewed on KBTX Sports, I had a fancy photo shoot, I was interviewed for some magazines.
I am telling you that NONE of that matters in the eyes of God.
NONE OF IT.
If I ever have a chance to do this again the one who should get all the glory is God. You have to put him first above everything else.
3. When life puts you on your knees you are in the perfect position to pray. Many times over the past year I have prayed for strength, courage, and healing. I have been faced with never running or racing again and it hurts. It has forced me to think of ways I can still make a difference in people's lives in the event that I can't physically do what I am used to doing. I have had to dig deep within myself and ask a lot of hard questions and keep faith in God that he is working it all out for the greater good.
Take nothing for granted. Every single bike ride is a gift. Every time your feet hit the pavement running is a gift. Early mornings in cold pool water is a gift.
4. Keep a faithful mindset. Stay POSITIVE and don't let scary thoughts fill your mind. Stay off of Google and YouTube, especially before bedtime. It will ruin your sleep trust me. LOL.
Stay in the faith and always have conversations with God about all of your troubles and worries. It will all work out for the greater good and God won't give you more than you can handle.