One “No Good” Week
You know that book you inevitably read as a little kid, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”? (Of course you do! — and if not, here’s a picture for reference). Well, I couldn’t help but think of that former childhood favorite during the week of May 5th, which was indeed a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad week for me.
The day after my heatstroke saga and resulting Wildflower DNF, I got horribly sick. I had to leave my mom’s birthday dinner party and spent the rest of the night throwing up and feeling unbearably uncomfortable. The next two days were more of the same. I’m not sure if this was related to the heatstroke or not, but at any rate, it was a miserable experience, and one I hope to never repeat again.
After two long days and nights curled up in the fetal position and hugging the toilet, I was thrilled to be able to go outside again mid-week. I started things off with an easy run on day 1 back to exercise, and on day 2 I was SO excited to get out on my mountain bike, as it had rained most of the week, and the trails were in killer shape. I headed out to one of my favorite trails in Tahoe with August and our friend Dylan, and though my legs felt pretty weak from the time off, we were having a BLAST! It felt SO good to be back out there on the dirt.
A Bad Line and an Ugly Fall
But then… I went up onto a rock “wall” ride I’ve done several times before, but took a terrible line, and knew right away I was in trouble. The only way down from my line was a big drop-off from the rock, and I made it down only by endo-ing, smashing my knee into a rock and nearly running into a tree below. It was NOT graceful, by any measure.
I had split the knee open and was bleeding a LOT, so I thought the cut was the biggest deal. I was pissed about the crash, and determined to ride the wall again successfully before leaving or be afraid of it forever, so I made myself do that. However, as we started riding out, my knee immediately got VERY stiff and sore, and I was really hard-pressed to make the 30 minute ride out. After the ride, I got the cut cleaned up and debated on whether to get it stitched, but opted not to, which seemed to work out okay. But within a few hours, my knee was so stiff and swollen I could not bend it at all, and by the time I woke up the next morning, I literally felt like someone had pulled a Tonya Harding on my kneecap. It was unbelievably painful, extremely swollen, and totally immobile.
Assessing the Injury
I knew this was NOT good, especially with a race on my schedule the next day. I got myself an early appointment at the local medical clinic and hobbled my way in. Fortunately, X-rays revealed I had not cracked or fractured my knee cap (thank goodness!). However, because of the direct impact onto the rock, I was told I had an extremely inflamed, and most likely ruptured, bursa sack on the front of my knee. This was causing some joint infusion in addition to all of the swelling, so in essence they said it would be a while before I could get much more movement out of the knee, and certainly before I could race or train again. And yep, it would be in pain for a few weeks. Fortunately/unfortunately, this is an injury that needs to heal on its own. So while I’m happy I don’t need surgery or a cast, it’s tough having to wait it out while the body does its thing and feeling like there’s little you can do to push it along.
I was incredibly bummed to hear the news about my knee — especially when the Dr. said it would likely be 10 days before I could train again and at least three weeks before I could race. But, I reminded myself that it could have been worse, and tried to feel relieved about that. Needless to say, I did not make it to the race that Saturday, and spent the next week completely peg-legging any attempted short walking distance, icing the HECK out of my knee, and pretty much sitting on my arse as much as possible with my leg straight and elevated. I hardly slept because my knee throbbed so much throughout the nights.
But, since I couldn’t work out AT ALL, I kept myself well distracted. I had to go to the Bay Area for some work meetings for two-and-a-half days, and I decided to stay down there after that and spend a few days in San Francisco with my sister before heading up to wine country for my good friend Shannon’s Bachelorette. With so much going on around me, and so much work I needed to get done, it was a little easier to keep from mentally dwelling on my injury and getting too bummed out. And without any training, I realized just how much more time I had in the day to do “normal” things, so I took full advantage. I got a ton of work done, which is always a good thing, but I also made the most of the week off and enjoyed some of the simple pleasures of life as a ‘non-athlete’ for the week.
I ate some seriously AMAZING food, talked and giggled with my sister as we worked in front of our computers, met up with friends in the city for a girls’ night over wine, met new friends in beautiful wine country, cuddled with my sister’s crazy cats, took a cruise in the San Francisco bay, drank incredible varieties of wine, picnicked in the sunshine, shared lots of laughs with great friends, sat by the river and soaked up the sunshine, and even got dressed up a few times.
There were some challenging aspects of navigating several days away from home while injured… mainly that I stood out like a sore thumb (and got awkwardly called out by our bartender during girls’ night for having a “bum leg”), and that my usual method of walking everywhere in the city was quite limited (after half-successfully attempting to peg-leg walk the 1.3 miles to my sister’s restaurant for dinner, my legs literally felt as sore as if it had been 13.1, and I opted for the cab home). But, all in all, it was a really enjoyable eight days, despite being without the one thing I love the most.
Slowly, But Surely, Progressing
After that, I slowly started to ease back into exercise. My first workout was a swim, and I
don’t think being in the water has ever felt so incredible. I felt like I was being brought back to life! It was a complete mental recharge, and I loved every second. From there I began swimming more and more, and adding in more and more light kicking. The range of motion slowly started to increase in my knee, and it began feeling a little bit better. The next step was getting back on the bike. I started off on the trainer, just practicing getting through the full motion of the bike spin. Then I progressed to fire roads, and now in the last few days have actually hit the single track again! It feels SO good to be back out there! Of course the riding is still very reserved right now, and I can’t really apply any power or stand peddle at all, so I am still pretty far off from my normal form. But, I am grateful for the progress I have made, and doing everything I can to help it continue.
So, here I am, three weeks post-injury, and with mixed emotions. While it was really slow to get started, I do feel like my knee has made some good progress in the last couple weeks, and am very grateful that I have been able to start getting back to some activity. However, my knee is certainly not where I want it to be at this point, nor where it should be based on the initial assessment. Though I can swim and now (mostly) bike, running is still very far off, as I still cannot walk normally and cannot get down or up stairs without some serious reliance on the railing. Muscularly, I am still extremely limited, and my range of motion is not yet back to normal. My knee is also still quite sore on a daily basis. But, I am working on it. I am getting some great advice and help, for which I am extremely grateful. So many people have checked in and offered encouragement, and I feel very blessed.
Needless to say, I am immensely bummed about my situation right now. But, I am really working hard to keep my head up, and have been able to do a surprisingly good job with that so far. I am really trying to take things in stride, assess each day as it comes, and not put too much pressure on myself to try to take any steps too quickly. Though my progress is slow, it does seem to be steady now, so I’m trying my best to be patient and let my body heal at its own pace. This is never easy as an athlete, but it’s part of the deal.
More significantly, I have some very big goals this year, and I can’t help but feel like my competitive progress has been extremely halted by my injury. Specifically, Ironman Coeur d’Alene is just about three weeks away. With a 26.2-mile run looming there, and my not having been able to run for three weeks now, things are not looking good. This was one of the biggest races on my calendar this year, and I had really set my sights on IMCDA, as my one Kona qualifier for 2013. In that regard, timing of my injury could not have been worse. I am not giving up on the race just yet, but I am starting to come to grips with the very real possibility that I may have to let this one go. I will keep you all posted on that in the next week or two as I continue to assess my progress and make a final decision. I also have a couple shorter races scheduled in the next few weeks, so I am not yet sure how my schedule will ultimately be affected.
At any rate, being injured during race season is tough, and being patient can be even more difficult. But I think there are valuable lessons to be learned in this experience, and I am trying to take all I can from it and continue to grow as an athlete even amidst this hiccup. I miss running so much already, and long to be able to really charge on my bike, but I am trying to find the silver linings. I have never really prioritized swimming (my weak link), so this is a great chance for me to work on that, along with upper body strength, and practicing finesse on the bike. Moreover, I’ve had some amazing experiences these last few weeks that I probably would not have had if I’d been healthy. I have reconnected with family and friends in a way I haven’t had a chance to for some time. So, Coeur d’Alene or no Couer d’Alene, I will be back. There is a lot of season left, and I have lots of work ahead of me. I have an unbelievable support team on my side, and together we are going to rock this recovery, and come back stronger than ever!