I will admit, one of my greatest fears is dealing with an injury or major illness. Being in top physical shape, its hard to imagine all of that changing in 1 day due to an unavoidable accident, missplaced foot or diagnosis. We work so hard to stay healthy and be strong and lets face it, setbacks can really be a downer. While I have never had a heavy hitting injury, I have fought myself back to fitness after having 2 babies. It's not quite the same, but it was a little taste of what staging a comeback might feel like. Its hard......really hard and certainly not for the faint of heart.
This month 4 of our members have graciously agreed to share a little bit of their comeback story and I cannot tell you how uplifted and inspired I have been interviewing them. Bob Norvelle was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent surgery to remove it. His life changed in a day and yet his positive character and endurance drive has motivated him to keep pressing forward. David Hibbs suffered a painful foot injury, successfully stalling his IRONMAN attempt and setting him back a while. He has adjusted his goals and set his sights on recovery. He will be back I have no doubt. Paul Weigel is not new to the setback/comeback journey. He has survived cancer and has had multiple surgeries including 2 hip replacements. His positive energy and consistent will are inspiring. Bridgit Egosque suffered a hip fracture and has endured a hip pinning surgery. Her sights are still set on an IRONMAN finish and she is fighting hard. All 4 of these athletes have endured and are still enduring the comeback highs and lows. I am grateful for their willingness to share a bit of their story with us.
What kind of emotions did you feel when you realized you had to step away from doing what you love to recover and heal?
BN: Honestly, my triathlon training didn't seem very significant at first, there were just too many other things at stake. It was hard to hear that I should not do anything for at least 6 weeks after surgery, but Del Ann and a couple of close friends made me promise I would wait.
DH: I was really bummed out when I broke my foot. Was hoping to carry some of the good fitness gains I had the prior year into this year when I attempt to do a full Ironman.
PW: Some of my emotions have varied from despair to resignation. Some times I was supposed to take time off to recover and heal, I didn't. And in those cases, still fighting through my pain made me a better person as a result.
BE: I was devastated. I was weeks out from my 1st Ultra 50 miler race and all that training resulted in nothing but injury. And then the rest of my race year flashes by...so many races I couldn't compete in.
Do you think your endurance and triathlon background has helped or hurt your ability to weather your "storms"?
BN: Absolutely, there is no doubt in my mind:
- Being in great physical condition made me a better candidate for surgery, and reduced my recovery time.
- Having endured many long rides/runs/swims has given me the mindset that I can generally outlast any unfavorable circumstance.
- Patience- something I realized during the swim in my first Olympic triathlon. I was about half way through the swim, feeling like I was going to die, and consumed with how far I had left to swim. Something whispered (maybe it was Dory) "just swim, don't worry about the finish line. You can swim, can't you?". That was a real turning point for me in triathlon, and that mindset has helped with this comeback.
DH: Training is usually my time to de-stress so not being able to do any form of exercise for several months made it really hard. But one thing you learn in triathlon is to control the controllables and let everything else fall into place. Had to just focus on getting myself back healthy before worrying about anything else. Was also great to spend time with family knowing the training will reduce the amount of time I get to spend with all of them.
PW: Cancer blinked. Damn straight. Being an IRONMAN triathlete allowed doctors to take risks on me that they wouldn't have on others, and is probably a big reason why I'm still alive today.
BE: My background had definitely helped the recovery process. Being a multi sport athlete I was able to still work out, which is a huge part of my lifestyle
How has suffering a setback changed your approach to life, triathlon and training?
BN: This setback has made us even more grateful. For life, family, health, everything. It has reminded me that we're not guaranteed any particular length of time, and that we should make the most of every moment and season. I am more convinced now that our bodies are amazing creations, and using them to the fullest potential is a form of gratitude and worship to the Creator.
DH: Reminded me that we are lucky that we get to do this for fun! Live in the moment and make the best of it.
PW: Life is way too short not to live it to its fullest. I try to pay attention to that all the time.
BE: I have learned to be more patient, seek the advise of many many others and to always question and do my own research. The practice of medicine can be just doctors "practicing" things on you. And serious people, always take your supplements!!! Women take your Calcium and Vitamin D!!!
Be honest.....have you ever felt like just giving up on the whole "having a comeback" thing?
BN: YES! But only for a few minutes at a time, lol.
DH: Never felt like giving up but definitely had to reset expectations on the time and effort it takes to get back.
PW: More times than I can count.
BE: Never, my perspective on what my personal comeback has been modified for sure. I'll never give up, that's never crossed my mind.
Recovery is hard.....really hard. What has been the hardest part for you?
BN: You have good days and bad days. I have found the worst bad days come right after the best good days. For me, when I'm feeling good, I tend to squeeze the gas pedal a little harder than I should. That results in several days of my body recovering from the activity while it is still recovering from the surgery. It's been hard to find that level of exertion that doesn't put me over the edge, and it's impossible to compare with what I was doing prior to the setback. This was demonstrated last Saturday on the Sunflower ride- I only made it 16 miles!
DH: Hardest part is being patient and going through the process.
PW: The biggest challenge with recovery is never knowing when the comeback is done. Some people would say my first race proved I made it back. I'd say I'm still trying to get there.
BE: The hardest part is having to be sidelined and watch all your dear friends and team mates crush goals and race races. It's hard to cheer and be supportive for others on races I was signed up for and should be racing too, although many won't ever admit this one.
What words of wisdom would you give to someone just starting their setback/comeback journey?
BN: Faith and patience! Pushing hard too early can set you back to square 1, but just like we all just keep swimming, biking and running- we will make it to the finish line. We always do :)
DH: I don't have any wisdom and still working on coming back so for now I'd say Just enjoy the process and be patient.
PW: When your back is against the wall, you just gotta do what you gotta do. :)
BE: Always seek two opinions, always. Never see just one doctor. Don't play the victim and don't blame others. All we can do is have a positive attitude and move forward through recovery. Also know when we start back we have to forget what past capabilities we had and start from scratch.
Thanks guys, I really appreciate the input. I think for me reading this I came away with a couple of really big pointers. Number one is that life is a series of highs and lows. The ups and downs of life are what give life its richness. If you experience a setback, frustration, loss and fear are all part of the territory, but joy, achievement and empowerment are also part of it. Your attitude and approach to the setbacks of life and training matter. Number two......coming back is hard for everyone. If you are tired......somebody is there too. If you want to give up....guaranteed someone else has been there too. If you have doubts....I know you aren't the only one. Staging a comeback back isnt about finding a singular victorious moment, but rather the journey to a more grateful, empowered, enriched and stronger you.
Training Racing and Doing our Thing!
Congratulations to everyone who took part in the Mountain Man races earlier this month. We also have had several Sunrise Series runners and plenty of members out and about making triathlon look good! Keep training! Fall race season is on the horizon!