It’s been over 4 months since my last confession.
January 16 was the last time I babbled on to you, high on exercise and endorphins. Times have changed, but not all is lost. Over the past 100 days, I’ve endured some quirky health hurdles that my short little legs could not clear.
It inspires me to know that summer isn’t far away. I’m determined to get over these bizarre health and unforeseen medical challenges and get my butt in to Iron shape.
February started off strong like any other month, I was feeling faster, lighter, and FIT. When I entered the pool the very first Monday to take on my fitness tests, I looked down to see my Garmin watch was missing a very important button. For a watch of its price and age (2 mths), this should not have happened. Not only did the missing button impair me from get splits, it impaired me from saving my workouts to TrainingPeaks so that coach J could analyze and work his magic. Ok, not a huge set back. I immediately sent it in the next morning of Tuesday, the 7th, and continued doing workouts with the plan to push back my testing week by 7 days.
The following weekend arrived and for various reasons, my left toe had some symptoms of what could be an ingrown toenail. I’ve had them in the past without much complication of removal. A shot of whiskey, peroxide, and some tweezers was all I needed to get rid of them. However, this time I foolishly decided to wear tall boots while working at the Dose Market all day long. Big mistake. By Monday the 13th my toe was disgusting. The only solution was an emergency professional toe removal that occurred on the afternoon of Valentine’s Day. The joke of the day was “gauze: My Bloody Valentine.” HA. Again, not all was lost. After a short week, I was back to training, restored watch on wrist and ready to hit the Iron road. The first Saturday of March arrived which brought a camper reunion at Lillstreet where I enjoyed an afternoon of art projects with some little ones. Immediately following that event, I felt slightly run down, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
Tuesday, March 6th, I ecstatically took the train out to my sister’s house for some overdue family hang time. I kept complaining of an unexplainable headache despite my upbeat disposition. I snuggled in to bed at their house only to wake up the next day with a blindsiding migraine, fever, and sore throat. After the 3 hour train trek home in this condition (not recommended), I crawled in to my apartment for 2–3 days, barely able to walk around. I did manage to watch about 15 Star Trek episodes though while in sick bay.
Recovery was unfortunately slow, but after a few weeks, I was like Sister Act II: back in the habit. April came and went with some solid training. After months of slight setbacks, I grabbed my 26th birthday by the *ram* horns and gave training my all with a swim PR I still grin about.
The last week of April brought a tremendous delight: the arrival of my beautiful new triathlon bike, whom I have temporarily named Troi (after Counselor Deanna Troi), although I’m heavily considering calling her Crusher after Doctor Beverly Crusher, and also as an honor to my team CRUSH Multisport. My first ride out was absolutely glorious. It was unlike any other biking experience of my life, I couldn’t stop beaming. Within a mile of home during that first ride, I hit a pothole and instantly got a flat.
Womp. Womp. That was easily solved and I was ready to take on the biking discipline in a whole new way. Training was constantly rewarding. With every workout, I felt myself growing stronger. For the first week, I did most of my rides on my new trainer, which is totally awesome…
THEN, Friday, May 4th, I was biking home from my friend’s casa around 9 on my commuter ride, eager to wake up early and hit the lake path at sunrise with Troi. Unfortunately, I was biking rather fast in less than ideal flats and took a hard crash on Damen just north of Irving Park. Getting in bike accidents is a curious experience. On one hand, my initial response was utter embarrassment. On the other, there’s a childlike response where you assume nothing breaks or tears. The fear of getting hit by traffic quickly transformed laying in the middle of Damen avenue to sitting up and instantly assessing what worked on my body. People flooded above me.
“Are you okay?” “Should I call an ambulance?” “Did someone hit you?”
“no. I’m okay. Need to sit. Oww. *attempts and to lift left arm from the ground* f*ck. I think my arm’s probably broken. My foot hurts. Ouch.” I didn’t cry. Those of you who know me will be shocked. I didn’t cry. It was the most pragmatic, survival mode response imaginable.
I called my man while deliriously on the ground saying I just needed him. Meanwhile, some kind CVS worker and stranger named Curtis escorted me and all my belongings inside the pharmacy, conveniently located 300yrds from the crash site.
Inside, Curtis informed me I probably had a concussion, which made sense given my blurry vision and intense aversion to the overhead fluorescent lights. I bragged about how I wasn’t crying and asked for a Gatorade while waiting for the Christo. During that time, I realized at that point my foot ached while tripling in size and turning violet (“Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet!” kept playing through my head). CFL arrived shortly after and we hightailed it to the ER for x-rays.
I can’t express my gratitude for the Christo enough. He somehow managed to make the ER experience FUN. Thanks to him, I was laughing more than crying as we joked about our midnight visit to “Club X-Ray”. After a report of nothing broken from the mediocre doctor and the most uninformed nurse I’ve ever had (she didn’t know where the nearest pharmacy was located), we went home.
Due to my stubborn mindset, I didn’t go to the doctor for two weeks while I self-diagnosed to no success. Given that I couldn’t lift my arm higher than my shoulder or perform basic activities, I admit I was/AM a total idiot. By the way, two weeks of not training and only walking for exercise is pretty much like torture for me. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I broke down and called the nearest chiropractor as I was determined to use alternative medicine to begin healing.
I have to rave about my chiropractor, Dr. Alisha Schafer, for a minute. I’ve never regularly visited any doctor, but her attention to detail and care has made me understand why people do it. She diagnosed my shoulder situation as a severely strained rotator cuff (if not torn, I haven’t had an MRI because, well, I can’t afford it). We’ve started therapy 2-3/week and I have trust in it healing my body. If by next week I haven’t gained range of motion, I will get an MRI and make a judgment call on future races.
What does this all mean? Well, I’m disappointed to realize I can’t participate in Leon‘s next weekend with the team. I do plan on being the most enthusiastic cheerleader there though. Depending on recovery time, I am still planning to do Muncie, though it is obvious I will have a fraction of the fitness I planned on. My mental toughness is being challenged at this point, but I am staying as positive, patient, and realistic as possible. Every ounce of me plans on crossing the finish line at Madison.
In my 4-year recreational athlete experience, this is by far the biggest setback and injury I’ve experienced. It is an absolute challenge in every way, but it mostly challenges the way I perceive myself and place in the world. If I’m not active, who am I? What is possible of me from my mind and attitude when my body isn’t performing in an ideal way? It’s teaching me to push the limits of positive thinking, to embrace being present and to be grateful for everything that does work in my body. I’ve never been so grateful for my body. This time is forcing me to slow down, be present, SIT, socialize in a quality way, listen (to others, to nature, to my body), and not be so rushed to SWIM/BIKE/RUN through life. I have to walk through my world at this point, and that’s okay. One injury isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of a new journey to understand the needs of my body. I will be an athlete the rest of my life, in whatever ways possible. What I’ve realized this year is that being an athlete is much more of a mindset than of physical ability. I’ve always been so reliant on training to maintain my happiness, but this injury is an opportunity to build up my character and re-frame my definitions of ability, of identity, and of happiness.
Don’t let the above photo mislead you, I actually can’t brush my hair with that arm. Not that I ever really brushed my hair anyway.