It's been over 2 weeks since finishing my second half ironman. The journey to get there was a lot more difficult then for the first one. Interestingly enough, the actual race was easier. As happy as I am overall with it, I feel a little disappointed in that aspect. On one hand, I feel like I didn't put everything I had on the table. On the other hand, I recognize that I raced very safely. Not every race should be a "safe" race, but I was at a point where that's what I needed to do.
Coming through my first injury has been a huge learning experience. Now that I'm on the other side of it, I can look back at that process with interest.
For a very long time, I wallowed. I've received plenty of comments commending me on how well I took it, or how positive I was dealing with it. Let's just say that the public face I put on is often different then what's really happening. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. A more accurate statement would be to say that I avoid public (including my blog) when I don't like the face I'm wearing. What I say on my blog, I believe to be true (though sometimes I am in denial of reality), but when I don't blog, that's when I'm not so positive.
I think the first injury is really tough for any athlete. It sure was for me. Running is the one discipline that I never stopped, even at times when I took a bit of time off of swimming or biking. Running used to be a great big "I can't". I was afraid that if I ever stopped, I might never start again. And I love running. Really truly love it. There is nothing else that gives me the rush that I get from running. I felt like I had a part of myself ripped away when I found out I couldn't run.
Knowing that I can work through an injury has given me strength going forward. When I first found out I had the stress fracture, I was sure I would never be glad it had happened. While "glad" isn't quite the right term, I think it's become a valuable experience.
For one thing, injuries are a reality of doing sports. I had a fear that an injury could be a show stopper for me, an end to triathlon. I no longer believe that. If I get injured again, it will be with a knowledge that I possess the strength to get through it. Any injury sucks. It almost always means short term plans are compromised, but I now know that in the long run, it makes me stronger.
There are things we can all do to lessen our risk of injury. I wasn't doing most of them. Despite the presence of strength workouts in my training plan, I rarely did them. I did core work when I attended spin class, and not consistently on my own. I continued to carry unnecessary extra weight on my frame, and while it probably wasn't a factor in this injury (statistically a low weight puts you at higher risk of stress fractures), it increases my chances of other injuries.
While injured, and recovering from injury, I did physiotherapy. Initially, it was to address the muscle loss I incurred from wearing the aircast. Then we started addressing muscle imbalances and general strengthening. She added a couple exercises a week, and before I knew it, I found myself doing a full body strengthening routine, including core.
When I started this season, I thought I'd accomplish huge things physically. I knew I had untapped potential, and I intended this to be the season that I tapped into it. I planned to hit new speeds and blow away my old personal bests.
What I hadn't anticipated was this was the season I was meant to become stronger mentally. This was the season I needed, to find strength within myself. To learn that I have the ability to get through the hard times, rather then just riding through the good.
Training the mind is the biggest part of getting stronger. That little bone in my foot has taught me some valuable lessons.