2016 Race Season Reflections
Racing as an elite off-road triathlete since mid-season 2014 has been a dream realized. My 2016 season was nothing short of, so much fun and huge accomplishments. My greatest achievements were finishing 2nd at the XTERRA Oak Mountain Championship, 3rd at the XTERRA Mountain Championship, 4th at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship – thank you for being there Mom, and finishing the season 2nd in the Pro XTERRA Pan American Championship Series. While the XTERRA World Championship race that year left a lot to be desired, due to nearly impossible conditions, the trails resembled something like a continuous mud slog, I could not be more thrilled to share yet another memory filled Maui experience with both of my superstar supporters mom, Laurie and husband and race partner, Ryan.
2017 Season Hopes
I was looking forward to another season filled with opportunities for more fun and hopeful for even greater achievements. My first race of the season was XTERRA Costa Rica (4/9/17) and it turned out to be both the best and worst race of my life. Costa Rica is a magical place and being there to do the sport that I love with my favorite people felt surreal and perfect in so many ways.
I had not previously raced this course and pre-riding there was a bit of a disaster with our getting lost several times and our pre-ride taking 3hrs for a ride that takes 1.5hrs! By the time we finished our 3hr ride in 100 deg temperatures, we just could not wrap our heads around the thought of trying to figure out the run course too. This turned out to be a huge mistake.
Race day was amazing I was so relaxed, just happy to be there and grateful for another XTERRA race experience. I had a solid 1st race of the season swim, and felt that the bike went just as well. I was able to keep an eye on my pal and 3rd place woman, Kara LaPoint, the whole time. Once on the run, I enjoyed easing into race pace up and over the one hill on the course, and I soon caught up to and passed Kara.
On the run I felt great and found myself in a state of flow where I could just keep pushing. We were told that the course would be very well marked and that we could not go wrong, so I stayed focused on how great I felt and kept flying. I was told that I was closing on the 1st place woman and so I just kept going, running fast and flowing.
Mistakes and Hard Lessons
I knew that we were supposed to run a large outer loop, run through an aid station, and then on to a smaller inner loop. Somehow, when I came to the intersection for the inner loop/finish, I found no course markings and the marshal that was at this intersection was standing in the center of the trail not saying or doing anything. In my flow state of mind I interpreted him as a block and ran the other way.
A little later I started thinking, “is this the small inner loop, or is this the outer loop?” Nothing was indicating that I was on the wrong track and because I made the mistake of not pre-running the course, I didn’t know if I was on track or not. Suddenly, I had a sinking feeling in my gut and I realized that I was heading toward the beach and the finish. OMG, I missed the inner loop!
I went from feeling unstoppable to being completely lost in a thick haze of “game over.” I was unable to problem solve and found myself wandering my way in to the finish to tell the race director that I had missed the inner loop and to disqualify me. Going from such a high place of contending for 1st to disqualification was devastating. If I had not gone to the finish and turned in my timing chip, I could have salvaged my race and probably still had a decent result, but I just could not see that as a possibility at the time.
I learned some really tough lessons that day; I will never make those mistakes again. I did my best to collect myself and continue onward and upward. Most importantly, I was reminded of my true love for this sport and ultimately it is not at all about results.
My Season Continued-ish
My next race at the XTERRA Oak Mountain Championship (5/20/17) went well through the swim and bike, but I just could not find my running legs that day. I felt like I was going backwards. I finished 4th, but I knew that I was capable of more. I was very happy with my experience overall, but it did leave me with a strong desire to see what I could do with the rest of my season.
I found myself torn between chasing points and just settling into the season with a major deficit in points because of what happened in Costa Rica. I somehow decided to go to XTERRA Victoria. I say somehow, because I was never really certain that going there was the right thing for me, but I did it any way. It was like I was leaning into the uncertainty and challenging it.
XTERRA Victoria is beautiful (7/9/17), however, the cold non-wetsuit swim for the pros was really rough start for me. Onto the bike, my legs were ice-cold and burning and I never felt like I was able to produce much power or find a race pace rhythm, finally I got onto the run, where every step was an opportunity to role an ankle or worse. I have never felt so restricted while running as I did on that run course. I personally prefer a warmer or wetsuit legal swim and a run course that you can really open up and enjoy running.
I had slightly rolled both ankles a few times when about ½ – ¾ mile from the finish, while navigating a huge rock surface, I started to roll my right ankle and planted my left leg in an effort to save my ankle – crunch!! At that moment my knee locked and all of my momentum drove hard into my left knee, stopping me dead in my tracks and causing a tibial plateau impaction fracture/deep and severe bone bruise and complete thickness tear of my medial meniscus. My first thought was, “I need surgery” and then “get to the finish and the med tent!”
Somehow I managed to hobble my way across the finish in 7th and to the fence across from the med tent. Those steps before my knee injury were my last to date, 10/13/2017. My knee injury literally stopped me in my tracks, like I had hit a wall, catapulting me from being possibly the fittest with the greatest performance potential I had ever had to a complete stop for the next 3+ months.
Time for Healing and Patience – Trust the process
“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor
August 14th, five weeks after my injury I had surgery. I had a lot of resistance to scheduling my surgery, because there was no guarantee that the surgeon could actually repair the damage and that could have left me unable to return to running and my pre-injury level of activity. Gratefully, I had a successful inside out meniscus repair, mircrofracture, and PRP. Thank you to Dr. Hackett for his honesty and top-notch care.
Two weeks after my surgery my mom came to be with me through those tough post-op days after my wonderful, caring husband Ryan had to return to work. I have been on crutches and in a straight-leg brace, non-weight bearing (3 weeks) to now an open hinged brace and only 30% weight bearing (another 3 weeks) since my surgery, so Ryan and my mom have been real lifesavers, helping me with the things that I cannot do on my own. There is not a lot you can do with your hands full with crutches and with only one leg.
My days since surgery have been filled with healing and rehab, lots and lots and lots of physical therapy, which right now simply means gently, passively moving my knee in and out of flexion for at least an hour a day and gently activating my quad. My left leg is TINY, as I have not been allowed to use it or strengthen it since my injury.
Well, it’s a lot like watching grass grow. The smallest signs of progress, the things that I otherwise have totally taken for granted all of my life, keep me feeling courageous. Things like: waking up without a nerve block embedded in my thigh and not having to set an alarm to get up every 4-6 hrs to take pain meds and eat, and not having to keep my left leg 100% straight and 100% non-weight bearing 100% of the time, and enthusiastically stating, “mom, look what I can do” as I lay on my back with my foot passively sliding down the wall to reach almost 90 deg of flexion in my left knee, which was more than I had flexed my knee in a month and a half. Things like being able to be upright for longer than 15 min without painful swelling, eventually being able to drive, and finally get back in the pool with a buoy after crutching my way through a locker room full of hazards and deathtrap doors are the things that I call progress.
These are just a few of the things that keep me from slipping into the darkness of my own mind. And I know that the mind and mental state directly effect the physical state, so staying positive most of the time is crucial to healing. Also, things like the bright, shining love and light that my mom and Ryan bring to each and everyday keep me uplifted and assured that I am doing great. Things like my mom driving me to my PT appointments and then joining me at the gym to do some “weight training” and or “swimming”, and then doing PT with me at home again in the evening, these are the things that have kept me going and able to see even the tiniest spark of light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel.
All I know are my own experiences. I know that others have endured so much, much, much, much worse and or very different challenges. But, I have a new awareness of some of the struggles, and a newfound level of empathy. I am touched by how many people do see struggle and reach out to lend a bit of help and hope, thank you. Some of their seemingly simple sentiments have even brought me to tears.
I find myself contemplating what the future may hold. I have had a lot of time to think and reflect and think some more. The truth is, I have no idea what the future may hold and I have decided not to try to plan for anything at this point.
There are too many unknowns and I would like to just ride this out and see where I land. I have 9+ months of PT and rehab ahead of me and it will be about 6 months post-injury before I am even allowed to start a running progression or start riding a bike outdoors. In order to build back my strength and endurance safely for my knee, it could take twice as long, putting me 1yr post-injury before my knee could safely be ready to perform on any level. The long-term health of my knee is far more important than how quickly I can return to my pre-injury activities. So, I’ll tentatively plan to see where I’m at next summer/fall and hope for the absolute best!
Injury Lessons and Realizations – Gratitude – When you remove the distractions and you sit with yourself you have the opportunity to see things more clearly
It is really tough to have your whole world and sense of self change in the matter of a second, this injury turned my world upside down and my identity inside out. My mind, body, and soul were in shock, but at some point I realized it could be a blessing and an opportunity. When training and working fulltime, it is a challenge to balance life, love, and joy with performance. I think it’s easy to convince yourself that you are making time for everything and everyone, but I found out that was a bit of an illusion. We have a way of justifying our habits and pushing through to reach goals even at the expense of missing out on some of the life, joy, and love that could be just out of reach.
Since my injury I have been challenged in more ways than I can put into words, and I have grown in just as many ways. When you are split open and seem to have self-destructed, you have little option other than to grow. Thanks to my injury and surgery and countless hours of down time, unable to train and work, I have had the time and energy to realize areas in my life where more awareness was needed for growth and patience. I also realized that I have not always been making enough time on a regular basis to spend with my other loves.
Training, working, and racing were taking up nearly all of my time and energy sometimes leaving me just out of reach of being fully present with the people that mean the most. I have also realized who those people are, the ones who dropped everything to be there for me when I needed them, even if I wasn’t ready to admit that I needed them. Or those who have simply continued to check in and let me know that they are thinking of me and that they are there for me if I need anything. I could not possibly be more grateful for them and this realization. I am and will remain, beyond words, forever grateful.
Still, don’t get me wrong, I love the sport of off-road triathlon. I love training and I love racing. Training may be my absolute favorite, because I often get to do it and share it with Ryan and friends. Running and mountain biking are some of my greatest passions in life and getting to share that with Ryan through training and racing is something that I treasure each and every day that I am able. I will, without a doubt, be back.
I love sharing the race experience with Ryan, my family – thank you Mom, Dad, Grandma, Eric, Reid, Katya, Gary, and Fran – and the XTERRA family. There is a great energy and sense of togetherness, overcoming, and achievement that surrounds racing and I am grateful to have made it to the start line in good health so many times.
I will be back at it when my knee is fully rehabbed, but until then I will enjoy other interests, connect more deeply with my loves, and be the best healer and rehabber that I can possibly be. Forevermore I will make a conscious effort to better balance the wholeness of life in love, joy, and deeper, more present connections.
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”
– George Harrison
I will forever remember and treasure the opportunities and moments of growth, love and light, and connection that this injury and surgery have made possible. I love you Ryan, I love you Mom, I love you Grandma, I love you family and friends. I have some of the sweetest memories and experiences with these loves to hold in my heart forever, thanks to being forced to seriously change pace and direction…if even just for a year or so.
Current Status: I am humbled by having to learn to walk again, another lesson in patience and slowing way down. After 2 weeks (wk 8-10 post op) of working at it without crutches, my walking is starting to come around. I have a tremendous amount of atrophy and reconnecting the neuromuscular pathways takes time. It has been almost 4 months since I have walked without crutches, but I think I am past the hardest and slowest parts of my recovery and rehab.
mtn reflections, letting go and trusting the process
soooooo many stairs on crutches, but with a guiding hand it can be done
pt and more countless hours of pt
dreams of walking/putting weight on both legs…nightmares?
flowers and flower mandalas
the soothing sound of a nerve block drip
friends and orchids
nurse friend and nerve block removal
near total eclipse of the sun – love
tears of gratitude…and few of frustration
foundation training refresher
my angel arrived
pt and more mind-numbing pt
more friend time
polyrachis ant and reishi tea
gemstone beads for hours and days
friends and family high mtn picnic, lakes, and breathtaking views
2 spicy Sherpa chais
mom’s pt and acp
lifting and swimming
bonking on pearl st in the heat and 12” sandwich
leaf happy hour
facials and pedis
more lifting and a bat friend
2 spicy sherpa chais x2
so many bagels
family and love and new friends
crisp mtn air, rain showers and afternoon thunderstorms
high mtn bonfires and music for days in puffy jackets
mtn music festival family wedding
carrot cake for days
did we eat real food or just bagels, s’mores, and cake?
mtn hot springs
ghost towns and changing aspen leaves
more swimming and lifting
leaf happy hour again, because, why not?
self-less selfies and some with selves, pearl st, gelato, and piano
2 more spicy Sherpa chais x2 – we cannot help ourselves
the coolest doormat ever
more “can you please…for me?” than I ever imagined uttering in a lifetime
swollen eyes for days from good byes for now
infinite love and gratitude
this life and these people – love