Friday, September 20, 2013

On Getting Back Up

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a few weeks now, but just haven't sat down to do it. Until now ... I'd also like to say that pro triathlete Jordan Rapp wrote similarly on this same topic a few weeks ago and probably a lot more eloquently than I.

As you may remember me posting in the recap of weeks 33 and 34, Brandon and I crashed at the end of week 33. I badly bruised apparently broke my elbow and that put me out of commission for several days and kept me out of the water in a serious capacity for about a month.

The crash was my second "serious" crash in 16 months. As such, it prompted a lot of people to ask me why.

Why do you still want to do triathlon if all you do is crash?
Why are you still riding your bike after two bad crashes?
Why haven't you come to your senses? After all, this has to be a sign that you need to quit, right?

It is a fair question, I suppose. But what is a crash but essentially falling down? And when you fall down, what else is there to do but get back up? Never mind those whys; I ask, why should I stay down? Why shouldn't I get back up again? If I stayed down every time I fell, I'd never be here, writing this blog, training for Ironman.

A good friend of ours from Run Colorado, Norm, is a rockstar runner. We're talking A wave BolderBOULDER rockstar. Also one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He also has, tattooed on him, a saying - "Fall down seven times, get up eight." I kept thinking of that when people were asking me why. I kept thinking of my own history.

Fall down.

New Year's Eve day, 1989 or 1990: I'm in Tucson with my parents, learning how to ride a two-wheeler. I'm riding around and around the parking lot of the church up the street from our house, asking for one more loop, one more time. Dad looks away for a second to talk to my brother; I'm sprawled out on the pavement. Lost a fingernail, fractured my orbital bone, undoubtedly had a concussion.

Get back up.

I don't remember exactly when I got back on a bike again, but obviously I did. What if I had quit then? Maybe my parents wished I had; maybe I should be thankful for the fearlessness of youth (and my inherent stubbornness) for wanting to keep riding. Or maybe it was the bike, one that I kept for the next seven years and still wish I had to this day.

Fall down.

February/March, 1999: I'm a few weeks into learning how to ice skate so I can ideally learn how to play hockey (this was right at the beginning of my hockey fandom craziness). My high school had class field trips; ours was to Big Bear Ice Arena for some ice skating and then lazer tag after lunch. In my excitement, I was one of the first to get my skates and one of the first on the ice. I don't make it an entire loop around when the next thing I know, I'm on my hands and knees trying to get up. Diagnosis? Concussion (complete with puking and nausea and everything).

Get back up.

I got back on the ice as soon as I could, continued on with lessons, started learning how to play hockey and then played club hockey all throughout college. Hockey took me to Germany and to the Czech Republic. I don't technically still play (silly triathlon and especially silly IM training), but I'm hoping to get back into it this offseason.

Fall down.

Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012: I'm out on a bike ride, tired as hell, and I crash. Thanks to the guys at Treads, I have a general sense of how I crashed, but I don't remember it at all. My best guess is I tried to avoid a runner and went down. Bruised the hell out of my legs, got bad road rash on my hands and right shoulder (still there!), fractured my other orbital bone (right side this time), split open my eyebrow (first ever stitches!) and undoubtedly got another concussion. I still thank the ambulance guys for giving Bob the bike a ride to the hospital with me.

Get back up.

I took the time to heal (and replace my helmet) and I was back on my bike two weeks later. I had thought that my tri season may have been over that year, but thankfully it wasn't. I got back in the swing of things and barely had anything get derailed. I don't ride tired anymore, and it took almost the whole summer to get over my post-crash PTSD (cornering at speed in particular was tricky), but I kept at it.

Fall down.

Friday, August 16, 2013: Brandon and I are out on a ride, collide and go down. I land primarily on my left elbow, apparently breaking it. It happens mid-ride, and we have nowhere to go but home, so we continue on, riding the 20 miles home.

Get back up.

Since the crash, I'm in the midst of my first full scheduled week of workouts (swims and all) and it's going fantastically well. Some stupidity led to our crash, so more vigilance is key. We're also going to now avoid the trail it happened on - South Platte River trail - since Brandon crashed on it two weeks later. Obviously it is not meant to be for us to ride on it this year.

Fall down.

Those are just the big ones. While in theory I've really only crashed once this year, it's really been more like three or four times. On 303 day (March 3rd), I stopped for a second, lost balance and toppled over, getting a bit of road rash for my trouble. On the Boulder Peak course pre-ride, I stopped, fell over and cartwheeled my bike, bruising nothing but my ego. I have countless stories like this from over the years. Back in 2007, I went on a ride, skidded out on a curve and got gravel all in me. I washed myself off as best I could, rode back home, bandaged myself up and went back out to finish my ride. I have a few running, too, from tripping, falling, skinning my knees.

Get back up.

Every time, I get back up. Not for any deep philosophical reason, but merely because it's what you do. Watch a young kid learning how to walk or even stand up. They'll try, fall down and get back up to try again. They don't try a few times, say "screw this noise," and decide to just crawl the rest of their lives. They keep at it until they can stand and then keep at it until they can walk and, if lucky, keep at it until they can run.

Same thing for me. So I've crashed my bike. So what? It happens. As long as I'm physically capable to do so and I still enjoy riding, I'll keep getting back on it. Unlike Rapp, I do tend to do a lot more of my rides on the trainer - right now, I'm only doing the weekly long ride outside, but that's also a safety thing; if the vast majority of my rides are going to be just me, I prefer to do it on the trainer.

(I can also get more structured workouts in, but that's neither here nor there.)

Since I've had so many severe concussions (at least three that we know of), I may need to take that into consideration if I get another one next time I crash, since I don't want to seriously damage myself. I also dread that possibility, since I don't want to think of a world where I can no longer fly, whether it be on skates, two wheels or my own two feet. Who knows what I'll do to keep my competitive fire alive then.

But until then, I'll keep in mind one of my favorite sayings. I got it from my sports journalism professor, the late Jack Falla and I keep it with me to this day as the motivational saying on my RoadID - The only way out is through. Quitting mid-way through something isn't an option. Finishing what you started is the only way to get through.

Fall down seven times; get back up eight.

I'm sure I'll keep falling down, but I also know that I will never stop getting back up, either.

My only other major injury over the years was a broken foot; happened in summer workouts right before senior year softball season started. I didn't add it here because of how it occurred - fell asleep on the floor; woke up; foot was asleep; stepped on it wrong and it broke. The only way to not get up from that one was to a.) stop sleeping; b.) stop moving at all or c.) stop existing, because really, stupid injury. However, I no longer walk if I feel an appendage asleep; I wait for it to wake back up before I begin moving again, so there's that.

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