In an Olympic year you mostly only hear about Olympic dreams but not as often about Olympic nightmares. My Olympic season started off with complete certainty that I was on the Canadian Olympic team. People would ask me if there was a way that I could not make the team and my response was always that it would take a disaster for me not to make the team. I had no reason to be worried. All I had to do to stamp my ticket to Rio was prove fitness to Athletics Canada, easy peasy. After all, I had my best season yet in 2015 and I was poised to build on that in 2016. They always say that things happen when you least expect it. For the most part, people are talking about positive things in your life, not bad things. Unfortunately, you can’t choose when the bad things pop up.
For me, my nightmare started off slowly with some tightness in my hamstring in December. Nothing concerning, more just annoying that it wasn’t loosening up. I was able to maintain my regular training and just continued to get my weekly therapy. It didn’t start to get any worse until the middle of January. I started to not be able to do much or any of my hard workouts because I had pain in my hamstring. I was able to maintain all my easy workouts, even up to 25km’s with little to no hamstring issues. I started to get increased treatment to try to figure out the problem. I started getting a bit desperate that I was starting to see a bunch of different therapists, searching for someone who could fix it.
I was able to keep up most of my regular training but at the beginning of March I had my final straw when I tried to do a speed workout less than a week before I was supposed to leave for Japan to race. I got a doctor’s appointment to get an MRI and while I waited the week to get the scan done, I took time off training to see if that would help. The week off didn’t help, it actually made it worse when I tried to racewalk again. While I waited for the results I decided to go to Albuquerque to work with my former regular therapist, Jonathan Pierce. I had seen Jon every week for 4+ years until he moved in November 2015 so I was very confident that if anyone could help me, it was him. While I was in Albuquerque he worked on me for 5 days, twice a day and we found a lot of mechanical issues that we thought were causing the pain in my hamstring. We thought with some corrective and strengthening exercises that I would be able to overcome this. I got the MRI results and turned out I had a partial tear in each of my hamstrings and a lot of tendonitis in my left one. I was surprised about the right hamstring since I had been having no pain at all on that side. I was a bit shocked overall because we really didn’t think it was a tear.
From then on we came up with a treatment plan to see a chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist once each a week. I was also going to see my trainer twice a week to make sure I was doing all the exercises correctly. On top of these 5 appointments a week, I was also seeing my sports psychologist to keep sane. All of this on top of trying to racewalk but mostly cross train on the elliptical, it was a lot. It was all so worth it though to keep pursuing my goals of making it back with enough time to compete in Rio. I still had plenty of time, it was only the beginning of April, tons of time.
I started to see some progress as we came up with a smart plan to comeback slowly. It was going well until I started to do some faster workouts again and then I started to have some setbacks again. The frustration was building and we started to feel more and more desperate. Even with all the treatment I was getting and the trips to get worked on by Jon, nothing was working enough to have me completely pain free.
At the beginning of May we decide
The first harder workout I did was pretty promising except the fact that in the last interval I had a sharp pain. I couldn’t racewalk the next day and that’s when I felt like it was over. I spoke with Jon and we decided that he would come to San Diego to work on me for the weekend and see what was going on. After a few days of intense treatment, I was back to feeling great, the best I had in months and my spirits were lifted once again. Four days after getting treatment from Jon I did a hard workout and it was ok, nothing great but no real sharp pains so that was good. I should say that all of these workouts I had done totaled at the most 6km’s of fast racewalking…it’s not like I was even doing much when I’m used to doing 15+ km’s worth.
June 11th, we decided I would jump into my first race to just see where I was at, no matter what the result was. To say the least, I was nervous. I hadn’t racewalked 5km in a row in months (I had been alternating racewalking and running to keep the load off my hamstring) so to try and do 5km’s as fast as I could in a row was a little daunting. I made it 2200m’s and couldn’t take it anymore and I dropped out. I felt my hamstring every step but I would say that it wasn’t enough yet to drop out. It was my mind spinning and realizing that I wasn’t ready to see where I really was at. After the race was over, I decided to pick myself up and try to do some intervals to at least get some kind of a workout in. After doing another 1600m’s worth, my hamstring started to hurt more and so I called it a day.
The next day, Sunday June 12th, I went to training hoping to do an easy 15km’s and made it about a minute and couldn’t handle the pain and the emotional stress anymore. That was it, it was over. I burst out crying like I had been doing all too much the past few months. I knew that I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew that my journey to making my 2nd Olympic team was over. Tim and I took a walk to decompress and reflect on everything. This was the FIGHT OF MY LIFE! That is what I often thought throughout this process. I wasn’t going to not do everything I could to achieve my goals and I definitely can say that I am confident that I did everything I could and so did all of my support team.
It has only been a few days since deciding to end my journey and I still feel like I have this whole time, that I am in an alternate reality. That this cannot be happening to me. I have never even had a minor injury and so to have a major injury in an Olympic year is a complete nightmare. I still have not woken up from this and I feel as though it will still take months for me to overcome this reality. I don’t think that I am depressed but this injury has torn me down to the point that I have become unmotivated to even cook my family’s daily meals. My relationships have suffered because I can barely deal with the relationship with myself. I now feel like I really want to escape my reality and curl up into a ball somewhere. I am finding that I need to force myself to stay busy otherwise I don’t think I could take it. How did this happen to me?
This process has been so emotional. You go from feeling invincible to feeling like a total failure and everywhere in between. Even now after taking 3 days away from racewalking and only doing activity that doesn't irritate my hamstring, I find myself feeling optimistic again that I am healed, that I am actually ok. Sometimes I feel like I would rather have it that I am just not fit enough, not injured, that at least I could work harder and improve my fitness. Injury just comes with so many uncontrollable variables that it is so difficult to comprehend.
I feel like people only follow the journey of those who make it. I made it and should be in Rio but despite my best efforts and circumstances I can’t control, I will not be there. I am not alone and I know that. There are more people who have hopes and dreams of being at the Olympics than those who actually make it. It is not an easy thing to take or get over as the opportunity only comes every 4 years.
I still plan on continuing my career once I overcome this injury and I plan on returning with even higher goals than I had for myself this year. I will be wiser from this and I know that I could have far bigger problems in my life than a tear in my hamstring. Even though that is all true, at times, this can feel like the end of my world. Athletes put so much of their lives into their training and racing that it is really all consuming. This is who we are, this is how we define ourselves. Since there has been nothing that I could control in this situation, it really does feel like the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
I need to thank my support team that worked so hard with me to get me back. Tim, my husband and coach. Even though he felt helpless most of the time, he was extremely supportive and did everything he could to help. I know that this injury has affected him just about as much as it has me. Jonathan Pierce, he spearheaded my whole comeback plan and was the mastermind for all my team of therapists here in San Diego. I am eternally grateful for his help and wish I could have produced a better outcome for him and all his hard work. Ben Kleinert, my strength trainer. He worked with Jon to learn all of the different therapy techniques that Jon thought were important for me so that he was able to do ART on me during our sessions. He put together all of the strength exercises to overcome some weaknesses that I had developed. I so appreciate his devotion to me and I can’t wait to keep working with him. Dr. Okazaki "Dr. O", has been my chiropractor on and off for 6 years. He has always gone above and beyond for Tim and I, staying late and coming in on holidays to work on us. He has made a big impact on us and many of our training partners. Tara my massagetherapist and Ian my acupuncturist. They were both brand new therapists for me and came on in the heat of my injury. Without hesitation, both were willing to commit to my case and make me a priority with no prior relationship. Dr. Anne Shadle, my sports pyschologist. I have worked with her for a year and a half now and she really revitalized my career last year to help me get to the point where I truly believed in myself. She has helped me keep perspective during all this and let me bare my soul. She is not only a great therapist but a good friend. You truly do find out the people who are willing to go to the end of the earth to help you when you are at your worst. These are the types of people you want in your corner but most importantly, your life. Click on their name to go to their website to get more information!
I plan on enjoying my summer as much as I can by spending time with my family. I am also going to figure out what we can do now to fully heal my hamstrings now that I have more time to do what it takes. I will be back though, don’t count me out. Thanks for the encouragement along the way. I would appreciate the continued support as more tough times are yet to come. Thank you, thank you J
Keep on walking,