Saturday, November 2, 2013

Where I was and where I'm going....

My Story,

It's hard to think 2 years ago I was faced with the thought I'd never race, run, or perhaps comfortably walk again.  The pain, anguish, heartache, fear and regret is palpable if I take a minute to stop and really think about the place I was in.

It all started with a little hint of knee pain just prior to my first Ironman, in lake Placid.  Some swelling was present but most notably pain initially when I ran and after my workout followed by intense sharp pain walking up and down the stairs.

Against better judgement I pressed forward with Ironman although I did shed some tears on the bike, was unable to stand and shuffled through the marathon unable to then walk for the following week.  The sense of dread was overwhelming.....did I just seal my fate?  Kona was out.  The disappointment deeply depressing....

MRI revealed a condylar defect (cartilage on the end of the femur) had torn a dime sized crater revealing the underlying bone.  A large stress fracture was present in the distal femur through the shaft (edema in the bone from repetitive stress).

For crying out loud, I was doing orthopedic surgery at the time and didn't pick up on the symptoms.....or couldn't recognize them in my state of determination that season.

Surgery January 2012- the dreaded microfracture procedure, 2+months nonweightbearing.  I can remember waking from anesthesia to see the arthroscopic pictures like a horror film, assessing the damage to the knee.

Doctor's response was encouraging but tentative.....hopefully this would work.  Could I run again?  maybe.  Would my knee ever be the same? probably not.  I spent the next two weeks on the couch, in the continuous passive range of motion machine staring at the ceiling, crying frequently, feeling quite sorry for myself at times, but in another sense, relief that action was taken to get better.  this COULD give me  a chance.....and that's what you've got to believe.....

I can remember my first PT sessions with my alway encouraging and optimistic trainer who put me to work with upper body and abs.  She introduced me to Postural Restoration which is a technique to restore neutral skeletal position by restoring neuromuscular imbalances that have occurred with overuse and
repetitve activity.

I can remember like a picture snapshot in my brain, my first 10minute spin on the stationary bike, oh how that felt like sweet victory!

Floyd Mayweather says "HARD WORK takes Dedication".  He might be a bit of a character but in the back of my mind, that was my mantra.  Every early morning doing an hours worth of prehab exercises, 8 agonizing weeks without the ability to place my foot on the floor, each night laying in bed with worry and fear, the blood, sweat and tears that followed a near 1 and a half year break teaches you a lot about yourself.  Are you going to lay down and give up?  This was a constant struggle within myself.  I almost hated myself for not being able to decide.   Recover and try to race, try to fulfill your dream of being a professional athlete?  or recover and move on with life?  maybe this is a sign that this was not my path in life.  I'll live a normal life and move on.  Sometimes its almost easier to just give in.....move on Michelle!

So I went on for the next year with the I all IN or am I OUT?  My husband encouraged me daily convinced that all the work I'd done over the last year would pay off and he had this sense I would come back stronger and that there was no other way.  I had to commit myself fully and embrace the challenge.  who cares what the future holds, make a committment to go for it.

I decided to play it day by day.  After all, in 2011 my motivation did wax and wane a bit....I even considered taking a break to travel and spend more time with my husband. You can think those things but when the decision is made for you, you can't help but want it more.  I'd never been faced in life with " you can't do this" or "this is not a possibility".  If I worked hard enough I'd see college, grad school, with athletics.  Now the rug had been pulled out beneath me......with me on the floor saying "wait, I didn't choose this".  

So I got back to the basics.....

I swam to swim, because I love it.  I biked hard on the trainer because I could and I loved to do 10min all out intervals until my legs wouldn't spin.  The satisfaction of all out riding took out some of the anger and frustration.  Slowly, daily, I let go.  I let go of the worry, the fear and I became ok with just working out for fun, because I loved to and I enjoyed myself.  I also knew the pain of not being able to swim or bike and I became grateful for what I could do.  It could all be gone in an instant.   Over the next year, my mood changed, elevated.  I went out west to Arizona then following to St. George and I soaked up some of the most gorgeous bike riding of my life.  A friend asked me......why are you training if you aren't going to race?   I simply said without question, because I love to ride my bike.  At that moment, it didn't matter anymore.   I didn't HAVE to race, I'd won.  I'd gotten back into shape wtihout running.  I  swam and rode because I loved to, and if I never ran or raced again I would be OK.  Sigh, relief.

Then I did something that would change the course or path of my life after I had already come to a certain conclusion.   I signed up for a race.   4 days before a local olympic distance, I decided to go for it.  without pressure or expectation.  Following that, I raced 5 more times in 2 months.  Unexpectedly, without pressing, worry, fear, and trusting my own abilities, I quietly and softly did what I thought at one point was impossible. I managed to again qualify to race professionally.   Dreams from 2-3 years ago rushed back, along with emotion.  This was the moment I thought was out of reach, and it suddenly, without expectation, presented itself.  TAKE IT.

So, I'll race professionally for 2014.  I won't be the fastest, I might be the slowest pro but in my mind I've already won. This is the icing on the cake.  This is a celebration of what I can do and throwing away the 2 years of worry about what I couldn't or didn't think I would do.   Taking in the moment.......making each day count.  Not living with regret...."if I just tried, maybe I might have".   Explore all opportunities, give yourself a chance.  Gratefulness.  

Now, once again..... this is not a struggle like those with serious medical conditions, cancer, I don't have a life threatening illness, my famiy and close friends are in good health.  I have all of my limbs.  My loved ones are safe.  I don't want it to sound like I really have no perspective.....all things considered, my injury does not compare.  I simply want to give an honest account of my own personal struggle, however small it may be, and how it has shaped the path of my life currently.   I hope it can somehow relate to others......and can be of sound advice.  This is my story....

Life is your oyster......find your pearl