When I broke my ankle on March 17th, I asked the orthopedic surgeon to be honest with me. I asked him when I would be able to race again. I didn’t want the sugar coated version. I didn’t want to hear anything but reality, even though I wasn’t prepared to hear the words. After getting over the heartbreak of hearing my dream of racing Vineman in July was NOT going to happen, he continued to tell me that it would take 6-9 months post surgery to be able to start running and a good year to feel “normal” again. You have heard my story. You all know what emotions ran through me. It was like a hurricane, tornado, and earthquake all wrapped into one. Emotional roller coaster doesn’t begin to describe it.
You read all the time of stories where people beat the odds.
5 and a half months. I am running short distances, biking on mainly flat roads, and swimming. But, knowing exactly where you are in recovery is sometimes hard to determine. What better way than to sign up for a super sprint triathlon and put the ankle to the test? Brilliant idea, right?!? I thought so too.
So, on August 28th, I re entered the triathlon scene. Santa Barbara Sprint Triathlon. I didn’t tell many people I was signing up. I didn’t want the pressure of “racing”. I wanted to go out in a race atmosphere, and test the ankle, see where it felt okay, and where I needed to focus my time and energy to improve. I am a VERY competitive person, so going out on the course and not worrying about placement or time would prove to be very difficult. I was so grateful to have a very good friend there with me. Thankfully, in the same age group so I would have her support throughout the course, not to mention, before and after the race as well.
The swim was 500yards in chilly ocean waters. I got kicked, pulled, pushed, and bumped the entire way. I couldn’t find a way to break free or drop back. I was so relieved when my fingertips hit the sandy ocean floor and it was time to stand up and exit the swim. It was the first time, in a race, that I exited the swim feeling tired. I took my time jogging up the sandy shore, making sure the uneven surface didn’t cause the ankle to roll or fold. Ran through transition, managed to get out of my wetsuit, threw on my bike gear and headed out to the street.
The bike course was 6 short miles. Fairly flat, through neighborhood streets, with one slight incline. On the course, I would see my good friend many times. We played cat and mouse, joking each time we passed each other. The slight incline came towards the end of the bike course. I knew I would have to make the choice to stand and power up or remain in the saddle and climb steadily. Since I hadn’t practiced running off the bike AT ALL, this choice made me nervous. As I hit the incline, I stayed in my gear, got out of the saddle and powered up. As I hit the crest, my heart rate was high and my legs were letting me know that it was time to “spin out”. I cruised through the rest of the bike and prepared myself mentally for the run. Hit transition fairly cautiously, threw on my running shoes and visor and headed out for my 2 miles.
2 miles. 2 short, flat, paved miles. I just needed the ankle to hang on. For the first 1/2 mile, I felt good. I watched my pace and made sure I stayed around a 9:30 per mile pace. This is where I had been training and knew the ankle could handle 2 miles at this pace. But, I hadn’t ran 2 miles after biking and swimming and the ankle reminded me of that. I started feeling the ankle lose stability. I had to focus more on each step to ensure it was landing smoothly. I slowed my pace and swallowed my pride as older male competitors started to pass me. “This isn’t about time or placement. This is just a test”. I had to remind myself over and over. I started contemplating switching to a run walk to see if the ankle responded better. But, I kept running. As I hit the turn around, the ankle was no better or worse and I decided to just go for it. I wasn’t experiencing any pain and stayed aware to prevent any rolling or folding.
I managed to hold a 9:30 pace again and ran all the way back to the finish line.
I had done it. I completed the entire race and had done better than expected. After crossing the finish line, I reunited with my good friend, congratulated her on an amazing race and headed straight to the medic tent for ice.
5 1/2 post surgery. I am not only running, I am making my way back to successfully racing again. I have so many people to thank. I couldn’t have gone through recovery, or made my way back to racing so quickly without the love and support from my family and friends. My physical therapist and his staff were beyond amazing. They taught me how to rebuild my strength and flexibility. My entire recovery is ahead of schedule because of their guidance.