At the end of 2013 I had raced nine Ironmans in just 2 years along with seven 70.3s. I had managed to win 3 IMs, place on the podium 3 more times and finish 13th overall in my first Kona. After my last race in 2013 I was excited for more and I was dreaming up new challenges for myself. I think I may have thrown out the idea of 10 IMs for 2014 to my coach, ok, I’m sure I did. Then my 2014 season looked a bit like this
When you are an athlete and you have an injury you just want to hide it under the rug. It’s like a dirty little secret that you really don’t want to talk about, it feels like a sign of weakness when you just want to be strong. For the past year I have been in pain, there, I said it. I tried stretching, strengthening, PT, massage, chiropractors, time off… but the pain in my hip and leg just wouldn’t go away. Sometimes the worst pain of all would be when I was just sitting trying to work at my “real” job as an analyst. I couldn’t think straight and I would often feel like I just wanted to take my leg entirely off so I could get rid of the pain. What made this injury even more frustrating at times is that it didn’t have a name. There seemed to be no clear diagnosis beyond “nerve pain” which seemed like such a wuss diagnosis. I wished I just had a broken leg so I would know what I was dealing with instead of this mysterious pain that would move from one side of my hip to the other, down the outside of my leg and then the inside. So, I did what any typical athlete will do, I did my best to ignore it and push through the pain.
After finishing Ironman Cozumel in horrible pain, blacking out in the medical tent, waking up to an IV and spending the rest of my vacation with my husband and 3 kids limping I made myself a promise. I would not race again until I got rid of the pain.
Step #1 – I took 6 weeks off, for the first 4 weeks I didn’t even walk down the driveway. People asked me if that was hard, not at all. One thing I learned about being in pain is it’s exhausting. My leg would often wake me up at night, I wasn’t sleeping well and I was stressed about how much it would hurt, if it felt better when it would hurt again. I had zero urge to do anything. I was on a mission to fix this thing and re-finding the happy Jess who always wants to go longer and harder. I was on step one and feeling great about it.
Step #2 – Consult with some Doctors. After taking the time off my hip still hurt, I just had something telling me that something was wrong. I went to see a new Dr who ordered some x-rays, those came back and the conclusion was arthritis. Not just a tiny case of arthritis but real arthritis as in never run again. Hmmm, I had a hard time digesting this one. I remember asking if it would be ok to get into ultra running because that was all on trails. Hello Jess, when they say never run again that even includes 100 mile runs on trails. So, I did what any normal triathlete does, woke up and went to masters swimming in the morning. When I got back I remember saying to my husband “I love swimming in the morning, I just love masters. Do you think it’s ok if I just swim because I love it even if I can never race again?” He gave me a smile and a hug and said “Jess, of course you can, why do you think everyone else is there?”
Step #2 – Consult more Doctors – Next diagnosis was a labral tear on top of the arthritis, I guess arthritis can lead to that. After this news I did what any normal triathlete would do, I read about Lea Davison’s comeback from hip surgery http://www.teamusa.org/News/2014/September/10/Lea-Davison-From-Surgery-To-The-Podium and dreamed of my comeback.
Step #3 – Get super high powered die injected MRA of hip. This of course took a while to schedule so in the mean time I just kept building back up my bike volume and truly falling in love with the sport of swimming. For the first time I was swimming with a group, pushing myself to new levels and loving my time in the water each day. I had moments when I asked myself “What am I doing?? They told me I won’t even be racing again” But then I remembered I was just doing what makes me happy. I was still holding out hope that there were many more races in the future but in the mean time I was coming home from the pool each day with a smile on my face, not because that last swim was a means to an end but just because it felt so good and it was fun!
Step #4 – Get results from super high powered MRA. Well, turns out I have zero arthritis, no labral tear, no hidden stress fractures in my hip but they did find something. I have/had a benign ovarian cyst about the size of this little grapefruit you see here. Wow, not what I expected. Thankfully it was a large but simple cyst and all fluid filled. I am happy to report that as of 12 hours ago it is gone, and all those nerves that it’s been bumping into can take a sigh of releif. I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be the end of this injury’s story, time will tell.
Step #5 – Email coach and say “Now time to plan 10 IMs in 10 weeks, this is going to be crazy fun!” Of course that’s not really my plan, there are not actually 10 weeks in a row of IMs I can get to Whatever the plan is I’m going to make sure I continue to enjoy the journey.