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Is injury a bad thing?

By now most of my Facebook and Instagram followers/friends know that a few weeks ago I took a tumble on my bike, or maybe I should call it a side swiping run-in with a tree stump that left me with a cracked rib. Not my best moment, but I had it coming. Had it coming, you may ask? In a way, yes. God is funny that way. After training so hard last year and having more success with racing than I would ever have imagined a few years ago, the voice between my ears got a bit overconfident... some may call the term cockiness. Outwordly, I hopefully kept this attitude in check for I knew that all I have been given -my life, my talents and abilities, home, family, and health could be taken away in an instant... but when on the bike or out for a run, the overconfidence in my strength and abilities was starting to creep out. 

If I saw a girl get a QOM on Strava, I would think "Oh, I could crush that", maybe not on all technical downhill segments riding my little hard tail Scott Scale, but if there was a climb or a long loop segment, I wanted to own it. 

Getting ready to attack the return segment (about to get humbled)

My goal for my ride on January 11th was a simple one.. go out and ride a loop from my house down to the southern tip of our neighborhood's lower trails and back, pushing the pace more than I should for an easy January ride since I knew a Strava segment covered much of that loop and I wanted it. I added a little out and back over to Deer Creek Canyon Park just too get a bit more time on my bike (and move up the leader board on a segment or two on the connector trails). The trails riding out were in great shape, a little ice in the shade, but I was able to cruise right over the patches which were a bit more crunchy feeling than slick.

On the way back, I didn't think twice about cruising over the same trail, sweetly flying over the hero dirt and ice.I took a tight switchback comfortably and accelerated on a descent as I neared the drop out point on South Valley Road. My front tire hit a strip of ice on a slight turn and in an instant I was down off the trail, landing on an angled cut tree stump. I laid there for a few minutes, knowing I just did something to myself more than a normal bump or bruise. My first words weren't "oh crap (or another expletive)", rather, I muttered, "I am humbled." Had I thought about it, I may have said something else, but these are the words that escaped from my mouth in the moment.

In that moment, I was humbled. God is funny that way. He let me hurt myself just enough to slow me down for a bit, but didn't completely take all of my hopes and dreams away. I was lucky -the stump could have impaled me but because it was cold out, I was wearing a Pearl Izumi baselayer shirt, a jersey, and my thin PI wind jacket -3 layers of protection from the elements... and tree stumps. The stump cracked a lower, false rib (a rib that connects to cartilage rather than directly to the sternum and doesn't protect the lungs and heart). Don't get me wrong, the pain in the moment was intense, but I was able to pick myself up, hoist my bike with twisted handlebars past the ice strip, and actually finished my planned ride. Crazy, right? Breathing deeply hurt,but I guess I knew that this was going to be my last ride for awhile and I wanted to complete the loop (aka Strava segment conquering).

I stopped at my driveway and attempted to dismount the bike... that's when the real pain started. It has never taken me so long to swing my leg over the seat and walk the bike into the garage. As I hobbled into the house and stared at the stairs to go up to our bedroom, I wondered how I was going to get up them. My husband, in his office, was on a work call and gave me a quizzing look, wondering what in the world I did this time. (Here's why I took a picture of the bike and ice as well as the tree stump... I needed a bit of proof to him that I was hurt since I wasn't bleeding profusely - God love him that he thinks I should be tougher than I am)

Can you guess where the stump got me?

Creative KT Taping.
The first week was rough- so many simple movements hurt but the absolute worst was trying to climb into bed at night, then waking up on one side, realizing my arm was asleep or I needed to use the bathroom, and attempt to sit up, turn, then reposition myself. This is when I really did feel sorry for Dave because when I woke up whimpering, he woke up as well. Thank goodness he didn't have to travel that first week so he could help get Hayden ready for school in the morning and get her on and off the school bus.

After a week, though, at the suggestion of a few friends who had battled cracked ribs, I attempted biking, first on the trainer and next on a long relatively smooth road, focusing on my breathing and attempting to take nice deep breaths. I was creatively breathing out of my shoulders (which is the exact opposite of what we tell people to do usually), but ever so slowly and arduously over the next 2 weeks, I could breathe slightly deeper into my diaphragm as a ride progressed and the intercostal muscles started to lessen their guarding of the rib.

1st ride back with shoulders attached to ears to breathe.

Ride #2... shoulders are a little lower than the week before.

In the back of my mind, I knew that I was supposed to race the Old Man Winter Rally 5.5 mile run + 50K gravel bike ride event in Lyons, CO as part of our Pearl Izumi 2018 Ambador weekend of activities on February 11th. Could I do it? Could I podium in the races? I had started January training harder than I really should for this time of year, but the confidence (or cockiness) was feeding me. I wanted to do well at OMWR, to show those Boulder area intense athletes that this mom of 2 from the southside of town could hold her own. I wanted to show them that just because some of them are professional athletes and spend their days training and recovering, eating well and getting massages regularly, that this mom who squeezes it in, eats Chick fil A a couple times/week and drinks a beer or glass of wine nightly once the kids go to bed to de-stress can hold her own.

Sometimes, we ride for beer.

The crash and cracked rib helped reset my mentality. Suddenly, each day wasn't all about what workout I could push myself through or which QOM I could go after. Each day became more about respecting the body, letting it heal, but doing little things to challenge it to help it along.

I am truly fascinated by this healing process. Its not like a strained muscle where it can get aggravated and linger on for months and months. Bones are different. They heal. It only takes time (for minor fractures, that is -compound or nonunion ones with secondary complications are a different story). Each week I have been able to do a little more than I could do the week before. My fitness is still there, but little things like reaching across the front seat of the car to grab a jacket or trying to push the vacuum (I am still using that as an excuse to why I haven't house cleaned over the past 4 weeks) remind me that it is still not 100% back yet.

I am back running on the road and crushed gravel, but haven't attempted trails yet- thankfully, we had an odd snow and wind that created deep bluffs, melting and refreezing, and now turned to mud so the trails haven't been run or rideable really since the accident so I haven't missed them much. I tried swimming yesterday - my 1st time in the pool since Xterra Worlds last year. I did a mere 2200yd swim by myself, using different pool "toys" to see how my body felt with each. Interesting enough, using paddles and a pool buoy were painfree, but when I donned my fins and tried to swim a length of freestyle with them, my rib area protested. I didn't realize how much I engage the core and torso to keep the body swimming without twisting from the torque of using fins. An older lady was waiting to use my lane when I went to get out of the pool. She must have wondered why my face winced and I suddenly stopped as I attempted to lift myself out of the water and onto the pool deck. The hardest part of the workout -ouch! I decided it was time to head home and find the Motrin. Maybe I will wait another week before going back to the pool. Again, I'm not discouraged at the thought of waiting a bit longer, I am encouraged that the body is healing so quickly and just giving me little reminders to pace it out.
I am thankful for this injury. While it forced me to slow down, I needed it. If it happened in the middle of the summer at the heat of training volume and racing, I might have had different thoughts. I do believe it was God giving me a nudge, a reminder to slow down a bit, to not take so much for granted, to humble my competitive drive a bit, and remind me that being out there on the bike or running isn't all about winning. Suddenly the pressure I put on myself to place at Old Man Winter Rally or when we head home to Georgia the following weekend and run the Dirty Spokes Xterra trail race, Thrill in the Hills half marathon, is gone... and with it, a breath of fresh air fills my lungs. While I know when the gun goes off, I am going to run and ride to the best of my ability, hopefully now I will enjoy the day more,getting to spend time with my Pearl Izumi Ambador teammates at OMWR, spread some positive love for the sport, and celebrate the opportunity to make memories with my dearest friends and biggest cheerleaders at the Dirty Spokes race the weekend after.

OMWR training with my favorite guy.

After all, life isn't all about podiums and QOM's. It's about the friends we share those podiums with and the memories made on the rides along the way.

Never forget to slow down every once in awhile and take in this amazing world around you.


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