I finished my season three weeks ago, but that didn’t mean I had no more events on the calendar. In fact, my schedule was loaded with trips and events.
First off was an Olympic race in Santa Barbara. Then we’d be off to Kona – not to race this year, but as spectators. We planned to hurry home from the Big Island in time to participate in the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) event in San Diego, followed by the Tram Challenge in Palm Springs the week after. And the list of activities went on and on.
But those plans came to a screeching halt in the blink of an eye.
Remember that Olympic race in Santa Barbara? Well, that’s where the unraveling began with a bike collision one mile from T2. Fortunately, the other rider was unharmed.
Me…. not so much.
I’m sitting here today with four fractures in my pelvis, which means no weight-bearing for 4-6 weeks. If you are an athlete or live with one, you know that hearing this is like a death sentence. Now, this most certainly is an exaggeration, but in the first moments after hearing these words, that’s what it feels like. And, in my case, the release papers from the ER actually stated “6-8 weeks.” Again, if you are an athlete or live with one, you know that “6-8 weeks” for an injury is always translated, by the athlete, into “4-6 weeks.”
Regardless, here I sit, my only mode of transportation being crutching around on one good leg. This is my new reality. So I have plenty of “found time” to think about this and find something positive from the experience.
As we age, we have two options: We can back down and start taking it easier or we can continue to keep pushing and challenging our bodies. Option #1 will certainly protect you from suffering a high-speed bike crash. But option #2 is still the healthier way to live your golden years. I entered the ER at the age of 73 and in a wheel chair. But the nurses, the docs and the radiologists all mentioned to me that I had the strength, balance, flexibility and will of a much younger person and healing would be far easier for me than the normal 73-year old.
As I heal and get back to training, I’m still going to keep pushing to my limits. I know that I may get hurt again, but, to my way of thinking, I’m still way ahead of the game.
The first diagnosis I got was unclear as to whether surgery would be involved and if I’d ever be able to get back to where I was before the incident. A hip specialist gave me better news: If you’re patient and do this recovery carefully, there’s no surgery required and you will get back to 100%.
Have you ever heard the words patient and triathlete in the same sentence? Me neither. But that’s exactly what I am today. I am being patient, accepting my current reality, attempting to keep this “little blip” in perspective, knowing that this too shall pass and I’ll be back racing strong next season.
That said, I’d be dishonest if I said I don’t ever get frustrated and discouraged. We live in a two-story house, and I’ve been heard cursing like a sailor when I’ve finally made my way upstairs only to remember I left something I need downstairs!
My husband’s patience is being tested as well. (For more on this, check out this article (Injury-article) on living with an injured athlete written many years ago by Lee Gruenfeld – my hubby. This ain’t his first rodeo!)
As athletes, we sometimes get hurt. But in most cases, it’s an injury that, given time, we can get past and move on. Many people face life-changing challenges such as illness or accidents that neither patience nor time will resolve, but they summon unbelievable courage and remake their lives. Many shining examples of that can be found at the Challenged Athletes Foundation event in San Diego on October 22.
That’s why this is one event on my schedule that I’m not cancelling. You’ll find me hobbling about on my crutches to honor these folks who have made their way back into the game and are true heroes in my eyes. They inspire me every day of my life.
This athletic life we choose is not without risks. But, for me, its rewards far outweigh those risks.
I’ll see you on the race course during the 2018 season. Good luck.