What My Injury Has Taught Me

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a couple weeks now. And since I have a paper to write, presentation to start, and studying for an exam to do, I figured today would be the perfect time to write one (insert laughing emoji with tears here). Let’s face it, I focus better under stress, and always find writing posts as means of procrastination to benefit me in the long run. At least, that is what I hope.

Please bear with me while reading this post…It has been awhile since I have written and thoughts may or may not have a coherent flow.

At the beginning of the fall, I was riding high with excitement that I was one of the lucky few to register for Survival of the Shawangunks. After completing IMLP in July, I was finally getting my running speed back, and started trail running again for the first time in years. I met with a new coach, finalized the races I would be doing in preparation for SOS, and took full advantage of amazing fall weather.

But, as mentioned in my last post, I was sidelined due to an injury. Thus began misdiagnoses, money spent on physical therapy and other therapies in attempt to heal “whatever was wrong with me.” After two months, no relief, and instructions to “refrain from doing any activity whatsoever and keep off your foot,” I decided to get a second opinion on my injury and found a doctor who was sympathetic and understanding of my desires to heal and return to triathlon training. (As a side note, if you are injured, it definitely helps to go to a physician who understands your lifestyle AND has experience treating athletes). Other than understanding my pain (literally and figuratively), he was able to figure out what my injury was due to. If you followed this blog when I first started it, I did not believe in training for anything. My first three marathons were done without any training. In fact, I remember three days before the Boston Marathon that I would run it. What the hell, right? Well, as my new MD put it, I am now paying the price of my bad decisions in my youth. Honestly, I knew I would injure myself eventually, but I did not think it would happen before I turned 30.

I guess my body is paying for all my poor athletic decisions in my youth. That, and a bony coalition in my foot that I inherited which is ultimately the cause of my problems.

So, here I am. The last time I ran was November 4th. The good news is, after four months of refraining from cycling and only swimming with a buoy, I am allowed to swim (and kick!) and cycle again (well, only on a trainer for now).

Some might say that everything in life happens for a reason, to include injuries. I actually think that is true. About a year  ago this time I was in the hospital, trying to see if I could possibly put off appendix surgery until after my ironman, because I was scared about losing training time. (Haha, yeah, I actually wondered if surgery could be postponed). In the end, that time I lost from my training did not negatively affect my performance at all. In fact, it gave me an opportunity to sit back and take a hard look at my life and what I wanted to do in the future, which lead to applying to graduate school.

After months of feeling depressed that I could not run, and scared that the pain I felt would never go away, I finally realize that this injury, just like my appendix deciding it did not want to be a part of my anatomy anymore, is teaching me a lesson.

When I first began partaking in races, I did them just to get out and do something.Getting a t-shirt was an added bonus, not to mention a medal for completion– now that was just so cool. I did races because I was able to. I ran the Boston Marathon, not for the medal at the end, but because I wanted the chance to run up Heartbreak Hill, high-five my friends at Boston College, and complete a prestegious marathon. Yes, I remember thinking it would have been cool to receive a medal at the end, but it wasn’t the most important aspect of the race. The fact I finished it was an accomplishment (especially since I never trained for it). I continued to do other races because for me to finish any race was an accomplishment. They were fun ways to get exercise, and basically that was it.

Once I started duathlons and won my first award, I think my views of races changed. Yes, they were still fun ways to get exercise. But, the more times I won something, increased race stress/ anxiety came into play. I did a race because I wanted to get something else out of it other than just a t-shirt. I wanted to place. Since i am still somewhat new to triathlons, this mentality of “having to beat other people” dealt more with running races. Growing up, I never thought I was really good at anything. In fact, those negative voices in my head (which still show up, unfortunately) saying I would always be a failure, intensified when I didn’t finish my first triathlon. However, in future races each time I placed, it meant I was finally good at something in my life, that those negative voices were wrong.

At the end of the summer after IMLP was finished,  I wanted to focus on getting faster at shorter distance triathlons.My sights for 2016 were to place in triathlons, something which is still somewhat new to me, and I wanted to do whatever it would take to be able to get that extra recognition. I remember pouring over race results for the races I planned on competing in this spring/summer and trying to figure out the times I would need in order to place. All my focus had shifted to determining races that fit around my work schedule.

How had I turned into someone who once completed races just for the sake of doing them, into someone who sulked if she did not win an award, had severe race anxiety, and studied past race results to make sure she would finish at the top of her age group? Someone who felt like a failure finishing a 5k, when once upon a time, felt on top of the world for simply showing up at the event?

Not being able to run has taught me that there is more to life than winning. It has taught me that even if I *may* not be able to run again, there are still other things I can do, like swim and cycle. It’s given me the opportunity to focus on my relationships with family and friends. I’ve focused on bettering myself. Let’s face it, competitive people do have an element of greed. They need to succeed. And before my injury, I was greedy. I wholeheartedly admit it. I am not saying it is a bad thing– to go after something you really want. But, when it takes your focus on everything else in your life, that is when it isn’t a good thing. These past couple years, instead of focusing on the free time I would have to spend time with Kevin, my free weekends during the spring and summer were spent racing, doing the activities that I wanted to do, not what we wanted to do. What type of partner is that?

One that I do not want to be.

Yes, I did sign up for an Aquabike event this summer, and I still have my sights (and hopes) to complete SOS in the fall. But, this time around I will be doing these activities with a different mindset.

The mindset that simply attempting them are accomplishments, and that my finish time does not define the person or athlete that I am.

You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be. 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jenn
    Mar 03, 2016 @ 16:47:09

    YES! All of that! ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡


  2. mawil1
    Mar 06, 2016 @ 10:18:57

    If something makes you feel good then you want more of it – like winning races. However like any dependency it isn’t always good for us. Sounds like you have had a lot of time to think, and are the wiser for it! I hope that it all works out for you


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