Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Not an Option"

It's all in the shirt, a gift from my good friend Leland
(he "gets" it)
The title of this blog is something that Jason Davis, one of my team members, said the day I broke my rib. He's been through what most people would see as a career-ending injury. And he's heard it all, just like me. When doctors tell him that he's just not going to be able to do the things he wants to do as an endurance athlete, Jason tells them one thing - that's "NOT AN OPTION." On our ride that day, in telling me about his injury, Jason made me laugh so hard that I almost suffered a crash on my bike earlier than the rib-breaker at 95 miles.

And when I found out several days later that I did, indeed, break a rib in the crash, my doctor, Sam Patterson, said "you were lucky." Come again?

It's hard to consider myself lucky when I broke a rib. I didn't think I was the lucky one of three bikers when I was the one that crashed. I didn't think I was lucky when I couldn't run for a week and couldn't swim for two. How is that lucky? But that's exactly what Dr. P said: "You're LUCKY you didn't break your clavicle or tear your rotator cuff or break your scapula." Breaking a rib was the "lucky" injury. How can that be?

The answer? Apparently, I can still train with a broken rib. Oh, yes, it's painful, but I can "train." I can't swim all-out, I can't do flip turns, I can't run hard downhill, but I can "train."

Tell anyone who isn't an endurance athlete and they give you what I call "The Look." People at work are always giving me The Look. The "what, are completely mad?" look. They say things like "don't hurt yourself" and "why don't you take it easy for a few days?" They give me pearls of wisdom and caring speeches. And, although they mean well and they're just looking out for me, there are few things that frustrate me more than The Look.

How do I explain to these people what "training" really means to me? Dr. Patterson gets it. His "you're lucky you have the one injury that you can continue training with" was with the knowledge that I HAVE to train. That not training is NOT AN OPTION. Training is more than just a means to an end (the race) or a way to reach my goals. It's mental therapy. It's the reason I can go about my daily life and not end up in an asylum or addicted to drugs or driving my husband and friends insane. In fact, training is the very thing that keeps me sane. And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. (Ask any endurance athlete.)

When a doctor tells an endurance athlete that he/she cannot train, he may be met with a different "look." The look that means (all at once) "I will get a second opinion and I will still train no matter what you say and don't tell me I can't." When his doctor said he couldn't train, Jason summed up his feelings in those three words - figure something else out because that's NOT AN OPTION. In 1992 after my second marathon, a doctor told me I would never run another marathon, that I would have to settle for running 3-5 milers and be happy about it. That was not an option. Eight months later, I ran a marathon. The next day, I couldn't walk upright. But I ran another marathon.

I'm addicted to training. Like any addiction, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes I think the most successful athletes are the ones who figure out how not to overtrain. In the event of an accident, like mine, the most successful doctors will figure out how to get us back out there as quickly as possible - give me something I CAN do.

Anything else is NOT AN OPTION.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed! People always ask what I'm training for, and I'll tell them about my next race, but really it is my way of finding "my time".