When You Hit the *Can’t* Roadblock, Find the *Can* Routes


It’s September, and the Ironman World Championship in Kona is four weeks away.

Since 1992, my priority each August and September is final preparation for “The Big Show” in  Kona. I put in mega miles in the desert heat and build confidence in my ability to perform well in the treacherous Hawaiian conditions.

This year is entirely different.

My 2011 Kona dream was derailed with a bike crash in early July that resulted in a badly broken collar bone. Through surgery and the follow-on rehab, I maintained hope that I could get back to the IM Championships to defend my title. But that was not to be.

I am recovering, but the smart move is to give it more time to fully heal. To do otherwise would jeopardize my long-term ability to perform well and I’m not ready to retire yet. I believe I still have some game.

Let me share some thoughts on the last six weeks:

Several days post-surgery I started feeling like my “old self” which means I put my bike on the indoor trainer and did some riding. I  felt like I was making progress.

A week after surgery, I had my first post-op appointment and the riding came to a halt. The surgery had been successful, but the key to my complete recovery was total rest of the shoulder area. That meant not riding my bike – even on the trainer. It also meant that I wasn’t going to move forward quite as fast as I was planning.

When told what I can’t do, I looked for what I can do.

I can walk and I can make those walks productive by doing them on steep hills. I tucked my arm safely in the sling and off I went in search of extreme terrain.

I can’t swim, but I can get in the water waist deep and walk against the resistance of the water. I found stairs at a stadium and walked up and down those and I used a Bodylastics strength band with my good arm.

When I accepted that my 2011 season was over, I found myself with no athletic goal and felt rudderless. I remedied that by signing up for a big race in May 2012 which gave me a target to aim for that was far enough out that I felt no pressure to push the envelope in my rehab.

I am committed to doing this right. I believe I can come back in 2012 and that I still have some great races in me. As in any aspect of life, the achievement will come from following a simple formula:

  • Set the goal
  • Believe in your ability
  • Be willing to work hard
  • Never, ever give up

Stay tuned.


About Cherie

Cherie Gruenfeld, Boingo's official butt-kicker, is an Ironman age group champion and world record holder. She is a grand masters triathlete — a sport in which she didn't even start competing in until her 40s — proving that top fitness is achievable at any age. She has raced in more than 25 Ironman triathlons, has 18 wins overall, and has won her age group at the Ironman World Championships a whopping 13 times. She's also an incredible fitness coach with great insights on goal setting and fitness on the road. Have a question for Cherie? Email her at askcherie@boingo.com. You can also learn more about her non-profit organization, Exceeding Expectations on Facebook.
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