Wow, I can’t believe how long it has been since my last blog post… shameful! Looking back at what I wrote in January, and particularly how I started that post, I can say that not much has changed — but I am trying to make good on my promise to myself to maintain the approach I resolved to adapt at that time. Once again, I’ve been meaning to post an update for some time now, but it has continually gotten put on the backburner behind all the other tasks piling up on the plate. But, true to my resolution, I’ve had to accept that I can only do the best I can to get through one thing at a time, and be content with my best effort. Now that my race season has arrived, though, I’m very much looking forward to having triathlon and racing become more front and center in my life once again.
Lots has happened since I last posted, but unfortunately it hasn’t been anything I’ve been too excited to write about, mainly because I didn’t want to hyper-focus on the negatives, and also because I wanted to be out doing other stuff that kept me distracted and seeking out some FUN! The most defining event of my off-season was that just a few days after my last blog update, in mid-January, I crashed on a training ride with a friend and hyper-extended my thumb. It was a completely silly crash (as is always the case), and while my thumb hurt after extending it around my handlebars, I didn’t think it was a big deal. In true endurance athlete style, I was mainly focused on: 1. The fact that I was pissed I hadn’t made it through the line I’d made so many times before, and 2. The fact that we still had 2 hours of scheduled riding ahead of us, it was a beautiful day with great company, and I wanted to be out there. So I kept on riding. Things didn’t quite feel right and I couldn’t push the lever to shift gears, but I thought my thumb was just a little tweaked. After the ride it was sore and swollen, but I really didn’t think it was anything that serious because it didn’t seem to hurt that bad. (A perfect example of how an athletes’ high pain tolerance can ultimately be our worst enemy in addition to our best friend.)
The next day I had to leave for a big four-day work trade show out in Utah, and then as soon as I got home I had to head out on the road for about a week-and-a-half down in the Bay Area, also for work. So all said and done, by the time I finally got in to get my thumb checked when it continued to be sore and never regain strength or functionality, it was over two weeks after the injury had occurred. It didn’t take long at all for the experts to determine that I’d completely torn my Ulner Collateral Ligament (UCL), and would need to get it repaired. We got a surgery scheduled as soon as possible since it had been so much time since the injury, and within a few days I was headed into my first ever surgery.
The procedure itself went really well, but the next few days were ROUGH! Having never had surgery before, I had a really hard time dealing with the effects of the meds, and ended up feeling really sick. After a few days of being pretty much miserable and totally dysfunctional, I slowly started coming back to life. I owe a tremendous amount of thanks to the many people who helped me get through those first few days and beyond into the recovery process. It’s funny… as bummed out as I was to be injured, I can’t tell you how fortunate this event made me feel because of all the incredible support I received. I was amazed at how people stepped in to help me get through the small daily tasks that became a challenge (prepping food, cleaning, writing, showering/maintaining any sense of personal hygiene, driving, etc.), to offer some major mental pick-me-ups, to keep me entertained, and to share insight and advice. From my parents taking care of me those first few days to my friend Lizzy acting as my over-the-phone nurse, to numerous friends stopping by to check in and keep me well-fed, to care packages in the mail to cheer me up, to my friends Heather and PJ getting me out on my first hike post-surgery and helping me wash my hair for the first time in over a week… the list goes on and on, and I could not be more grateful! Being injured sucks, but having amazing people in your corner to help you get through it is AWESOME! This was a great reminder of how lucky I am to have such wonderful, caring people in my life.
Once I was through the worst of it, my next focus became getting back to activity, and eventually to structured training. Ultimately I was told it would be 6-8 weeks to full recovery, but I had some stepping stones to look forward to along the way in terms of training. It was a slow progression, but every little milestone felt awesome and seemed to open up a whole new door to more freedom!
My first activity post-surgery was a little over a week out, and was a hike/jam session/dance party in the woods with friends. It was awesome, and the perfect way to return to the great outdoors and put a BIG smile on my face. It was low impact, not strenuous, and low risk (other than a few jumps on top of boulders for a photo op… woops!). My next step was to try out a couple of easy run days. Initially the impact of running made my thumb pretty sore with all the jostling around, but after a few days that got better, and most of all it felt SO good to be back out there!
So I ran, and ran, and ran some more. After a couple weeks of just running, I was able to add in stationary riding. This was also awesome, but after a while it got reallllly mentally draining. I am NOT a fan of stationary/indoor any-type-of-exercise, and not even New Girl and Mindy Project could ultimately make it better for me. But as crazy as it made me, I knew I had to suck it up and just keep on pedaling, so I didn’t get even further behind on my training. I longed to be riding outside and back in my normal routine, but I tried to stay focused on what I COULD do rather than what I couldn’t, and be grateful that I was at least able to do some training, even if not everything I wanted to. Plus, as much as I hate riding in place, I knew there was some hidden benefit there in that I could get in really specific, quality workouts in a short amount of time that would ultimately help my riding (and that normally I avoid at all costs).
I wasn’t able to swim until about 5 weeks post-op. This was a huge bummer given that one of my biggest goals for the winter was to really put in a good swimming block, but eventually the time came and I was back in the water. I felt slow as can be and WAY behind where I was when I got injured, which was tough… but what can you do?! Nothing but jump in the pool and start swimming again! Around this same time I also got cleared for all outdoor riding, which was FANTASTIC news, and basically just in time to save my sanity from all the riding in place. Man did that first time hitting the dirt again feel incredible! Things were definitely looking up, and I finally felt like I was really on my way back, by about 7 weeks out.
Unfortunately, “on my way back” was certainly not where I’d hoped to be at nearing the beginning of April, as I’d expected to be really coming into good form with some serious fitness gains under my belt by that point… but, it is what it is. Setbacks are always a bummer, especially when they have a prolonged impact, but all we can do is work to overcome them, do the best we can with the opportunities we do have, and move forward. I have reminded myself of that so many times over these past couple months, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve made it through the hard part, and am now just about back to full capacity and firing on all cylinders. This was definitely not the lead-in to the season that I had planned on, but I know sometimes things work out in ways that we least expect, and with my most important racing still several months ahead, I am extremely optimistic about what is to come, and open-minded about the way things can come together for me this season when it matters most.
That being said, I have put in some really good work these past few weeks and optimized the training opportunities I’ve had to the fullest extent possible, and I feel ready to go and SUPER fired up for the start of my season this weekend! On Saturday I’ll kick off my 2015 Xterra US Pro Series tour with Xterra Las Vegas, and the following week will start my road season at the U.S. Pro Championship Ironman 70.3 race in St. George. These will be my first “official” races of the pro season, but I have taken advantage of some smaller local racing opportunities back home as my health has progressed, including some running races, a local Xterra and a couple of mountain bike races. These have all been great training for me, and really important opportunities to get the feeling and experience of racing back under my belt, and I know having done them will be super helpful to me as the 2015 tri season gets underway. It was challenging to jump into some of these races knowing I was behind in my preparation and not yet where I wanted to be in terms of performance, but I knew they were important tools for me in my recovery and my progression toward my official race season. It has been a good lesson in really keeping things in perspective, staying focused on the ultimate, long-term goals and seeing how the smaller things along the way are all important pieces of the puzzle. In many ways, the “B” and “C” races are just as important as the “A” races because they play such a big role in getting to the “A” events at the top of your game, even though the results are very much secondary. The process and the experience all adds up! I’m thankful to have gotten in some of these opportunities before this weekend, even if they looked different than I had initially hoped they would.
This whole winter has been a tremendous learning experience for me, and in many ways a surprisingly positive one. No matter how close you come to it or how many obstacles get in the way, there really is no such thing as perfect preparation. But what is possible is to react positively (or poorly!) to those obstacles, make adjustments, and to do the best preparation you can in the face of the challenges. I know for certain that I have done that, and I am confident about all that lies ahead and what I am capable of as I head into this race season.
I wrote in January, in the face of different kinds of obstacles, that I was making a choice to “figure out how to make the most of my scenario, and focus on how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I do have…” despite the challenges. “I choose to plan less, and react better,” I wrote. “I choose to always maintain an eye toward the future and work toward that vision, but with an increased awareness and appreciation for where I am at and what I’ve already achieved.” I had no idea just how pertinent those sentiments would come to be, but I’m sure glad I had already readied myself to embrace new challenges in 2015. Because while I certainly hadn’t planned for the type of off-season I had, what I was prepared to do was to react and to adjust, and for that I am grateful.
I also wrote in that January blog, when reflecting on the CIM race that so exceeded my expectations, that while my preparation was “far from perfect.” “I chose to believe I could do it anyways.” And that’s what I’m doing once again as I head in to these first two races. I’m choosing to believe in myself, to be confident in what I know I can achieve, and to maintain the same dream-big kind of goals that have gotten me to where I am today. I am “All in.” And just as I did the best I could with the scenario at hand this off-season, I will give everything I have to do the best I can this weekend and next, and throughout this 2015 season. I am excited, I believe, and I am ready! Let’s GO!!