And then something didn’t feel right

I can hear the constant humming and beeping of machines, the whir of people, the sound of rubber wheels slowly screeching around corners and escalated voices of people talking to the deaf, half-dead, or barely breathing. I can see shiny and pointy instruments and a buzz of happenings moving all around me. I stare off into the distance and pretend I am not here, but it doesn’t seem to work. I can feel my heart rate quickly elevate, and a twinge of anxiety slowly creeps up from my stomach to my throat. I hate it here, but so does everyone else. I close my eyes and listen to the voices, trying to remind myself that the reason I’m here isn’t so bad, that most likely the news my doctor just delivered might be the best news he delivers all day. But it doesn’t stop a warm tear from escaping down my cheek. A range of emotions flip flop inside my mind, going from sad to angry, bitter to mad, disappointed, then overwhelmed. I’ve been here before and it doesn’t feel any different the second time, no matter how you spin it. I’ve just been delivered the news that my MCL is torn and could most likely be a season ending injury. The last time someone told me I’m done for the season I had swelling on the brain, and could barely comprehend what was up or down; this time I have swelling on the knee, and my mind is as clear as day to run the gamut of emotions. The diagnosis was a crushing blow, yet at the same time, I was healthy, alive and mostly in one piece  – for that I had to be grateful, but perspective can be hard sometimes.
Just a few days earlier I was playing in one of my first ice hockey tournaments when I caught an edge and went down awkwardly into the boards. A sharp pain radiated in my knee and in that instant I knew something wasn’t right. As I hobbled to the bench, I could hear the “I told you so” voices started to chime in. What the hell was I doing playing hockey while training for Ironman? But that’s my life, never sitting still and running from one thing to the next  – spinning to hockey, hockey to soccer, running to work, work to running, swimming to laundry, laundry to friends, friends to sleeping, eating, working, and back again. I am happiest when I’m moving and sitting on the sidelines has never been my thing. But in this moment, with my leg strapped into a bionic looking brace, I felt like maybe I should have slowed down, just a bit, maybe just for a second.
When you eat, breathe and live something with a passion that burns hotter than fire, it’s hard to imagine how things would be if that was ever taken away, even for just a day. I’ve already started to tally how many workout days I’ve missed – in between rest days, it’s only one so far. Training for Ironman has become a tremendously important, life changing part of who I am. The thought of not being able to train, cuts like a knife and without it, I am lost. But it’s also more of a reason to start thinking about how I’m going to get through this, and how I’m going to hobble my way back. The diagnosis from the emerg doctor sounded season ending at the time, but after a good conversation with my coach, some wise words from good friends and a second opinion, I might not be doomed, just yet. The trouble with this injury is that without an MRI, it’s hard to make an exact diagnosis, and difficult to say for certain how long it will take to heal and get back to normal. I can almost hear the clock tick tocking away. Every day, every week away from training will be detrimental and emotionally challenging.
The road to Ironman has had a few bumps for me already and this is just another one. After being sidelined with Meningitis last year and missing my race I felt like it was the fuel I needed to come back even more relentless than before. And I’m looking at this the same way – a true competitor always fights to find a way to do what everyone else thinks they can’t. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, I can’t say for certain that this journey is over, but what I can say is that I’m willing to fight, and I’m not ready to quit – that’s never been an option. I’m just in for a longer, tougher road that will require my big girl panties and learning to be patient and accepting of whatever happens from here on out.

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The beginning is not the time to quit

It’s one thing to have a dream, but to endure through the battle of getting there is the true test. The ups and downs are like navigating a roller coaster through the dark, and every twist and turn, upside down and right side up are completely unpredictable. I am only three weeks into this year’s training and I’ve already been through enough ups and downs to last the entire season. I have shed 30 seconds off my 800 TT’s in the pool, for the first time ever I have found rhythm in my running, and my legs have never felt more powerful on the bike. But in my success I have also found failure. A rocky start to the New Year has thrown me in a tail spin of self doubt where I have questioned every aspect of… well, every thing. There have been sleepless nights, confusion, indecisiveness, and I am constantly plagued by a jittery inability to relax, sit still or otherwise feel like espresso isn’t shooting through my veins. Which is ideal for pumping out two or three killer workouts a day, but much more unproductive for most everything else. I have also felt the consequences of physical pain. After destroying the bike in a two hour session this morning, I immediately hit the pavement for a run when I was greeted by a stabbing pain that shot up through my body like a knife. I grimaced through every step and instantly my head was teeming with negativity and frustration. My shin splints have returned. This is a huge step backwards. I was so patient, which is exceedingly difficult for me, and I have been waiting with my running, waiting until I was 100% and now here I am, right back to where I was. I can’t afford to falter now; not ever. As my timer signalled the end of the run, I hobbled gingerly and painfully back to my car, opened the door, and the floodgates of tears rushed down my face. With my forehead resting on the steering wheel, I sobbed tears of disappointment and anger onto the muddy floor beneath my feet. The whole half of my body felt numb and ached in an uncomfortable pain. Immediately I began to question myself. This isn’t even half of the physical challenges that lie ahead of me. photo (5)This is supposed to be the easy part. This is supposed to be the beginning to an amazing, fulfilling journey. So far, it’s eating me alive.
My father has been a constant reminder that I will face wonderful successes along the road but that I must be prepared to face defeat, and injury. It is inevitable that when you push yourself that at some point you will find a limit. I fully understand and appreciate the road I am embarking upon, I just didn’t think the obstacles would come so soon. I am only into the base building of my training and the thought of struggling at this point is unbearable. The snow hasn’t even melted yet and my mind is rushing with thoughts of defeat. If I can’t get through this, what lies ahead for me? In these moments though, I also remember that no one said this would be easy, at any point, beginning or end. Being defeated before you even begin is always guaranteed to end in failure.
Tomorrow starts a new week and with a little bit of patience and perseverance, I know I can start mending and getting back to where I need to be. I’m not ready to give up; in fact, it really isn’t an option. I’ll just bank this in the learning folder of life and keep trekking on, because even if my body wants to give out, I still have a mind of steel that won’t accept failure. If there isn’t something that kills me along this road, then I’m just going to keep going and going and going… But first I’m going to need an ice pack and maybe a few pain killers.

The Dreaded ‘R’ Word

There has been a sharp pain radiating off the side of my right calf muscle for the last month and a nagging discomfort in my Achilles. I’ve mostly tried to ignore it, hoping it’s just normal muscle pain from a balls-to-the-wall season of training and racing. Yet, it hasn’t subsided, and seems to be getting increasingly worse. I’ve just finished a few months of having my back corrected at $45/15 minutes by a chiropractor, and now it’s on to massage therapy to get the bottom half of my body back in working order. Pain is just a part of the training; bruises, cuts, blisters, aching muscles, black toenails, road rash, chafing, and so on, but all that stuff is more of a nuisance than anything, and working through it won’t cause any more damage. But my massage therapist has guaranteed me months of discomfort and indefinite time off if I don’t sit down and relax for a little bit. The ‘R’ word is something I loathe. I train for three different sports, twice a day, six days a week; I don’t do rest. The thought of cutting back on my running workouts is difficult to think about. It is my weakest of the three sports and requires the most attention. Although, the thought of cutting out all three sports and not doing anything for any period of time kills me, so I suppose I’m going with his advice. Here’s to doubling up on swim workouts and bike rides.