Handling Ingury

Handling Injury

Training is officially in high gear for the BW Racing Team. Less than eight weeks until Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston and less than 11 weeks before Ironman Texas in The Woodlands. Several of us on the BW Racing Team are planning to kick off our seasons with one of these great races.

If you are, too, you won’t want to miss a terrific clinic on Feb. 24 at 3:30 p.m. at Bicycle World. Professional triathlete and coach Paul “Barny” Matthews will give us a preview of the race courses and share some training and racing tips that will help make your race day performance one you will be proud of. Mark it on your calendar now.

And don’t forget, we have plenty of opportunities to share the training miles with good company. Check out our free weekly community workouts. My favorite is the Wednesday track session at Austin High School. There’s always a great workout, and plenty of athletes to help push me.

Now let’s get to some real talk. If you’re an athlete for any length of time, it’s bound to happen: the dreaded injury. As training for the triathlon season gets into high gear, I thought it would be helpful to talk a bit about dealing with injuries.

The thing about being injured is not only the pain from whatever ailment afflicts you, but there’s also the mental toll of hitting the pause button on training for whatever race or event you’ve been preparing for. It can be a heck of a double-whammy.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad news. Injuries can also be excellent learning experiences, especially in triathlon, where being hobbled in one or two disciplines might give you the opportunity to make serious gains by focusing on other activities you are able to do.

This week, I asked fellow Bicycle World Racing Team member Alan Smith to share his reflections on a recent injury. Alan got bad news about a nagging pain in his hip shortly before the Houston Marathon in January. After six weeks of recovery, he’s almost ready to get back on the bike and try some running. We can’t wait to see him come back even stronger than before.

Q: When did you know you were injured and what prompted you to get into the doctor's office?

A: December 19th was the first time I noticed that my hip was hurting at a level that I knew something was wrong. I thought it was a strain and ran through it. After my long run a week later, I could hardly walk. I knew it was serious. I took a few days off but when I resumed running the pain was still there. I was limping around for days after a run. I decided I had to get into a doctor. It’s a tough decision, because you know that if you go, most likely your running season is over.

Q: What was the diagnoses and how did you respond to it initially?

A: It took a couple of weeks to get into a sports medicine hip orthopedic specialist; so in the meantime I saw a couple of other physical therapists hoping they could help. I had trouble describing the pain to them, and, honestly, I might have subconsciously influenced their assessment by my desire for it to be a strain. With caution, I carried on with foam rolling, stretching, massage, rest, running and pain for a few weeks.

When I finally got in to see the hip orthopedic doctor, he suspected a stress fracture or stress reaction immediately and ordered a MRI. It would be a few days before I could get the test and a few more before the results would be back to my doctor. By then, it was the week leading up to my “A” race, the Houston Marathon, and I’d been running for weeks in some pretty serious pain. I did not want to give up!

I got the call on Friday, two days before the Houston Marathon. It was a femoral neck compression stress reaction. If I didn’t shutdown the running, I’d have a stress fracture. That was a tough pill to swallow. All the emotion flows out. How did this happen? Why me? I’ve been doing everything right…right?

I started thinking maybe I would run the race anyway. I’d done all the training and ran a 20-mile race on New Year’s Day. Maybe I could do one more race, I though. I decided to give it a try and got my race packet. I figured I’d warm up Sunday morning and if the pain was manageable, I’d race.

I got up early race morning and went down to the hotel treadmill and did a little warmup run. The pain was not manageable. So, I decided to be smart and go support my teammates on the sidelines.

Knowing how serious the injury was played a part in my decision. Knowing that I was almost guaranteeing myself a stress fracture changed how I felt about pushing through the pain.

Q: Do you have an idea what caused the injury?

A: It was a classic running over use injury. Looking back on my training logs, my training plan was solid but I should have worked in more rest and easy running, especially after hard races.

Q: Have you been able to do any training while you've been injured? If so, what? And how do you make the most of it?

A: At first, I could only swim with a pull buoy. After a few weeks, I added in water jogging and normal swimming. That’s where I am now. But soon I’ll be cycling and running on the elliptical, before finally reintroducing running. It’s a 12-week healing process.

Q: How do you stay strong mentally while you're getting your body stronger?

A: This has been tough, especially as swimming has traditionally been my least favorite sport in triathlon. So, I decided to embrace it and make the most of this period focused on swimming to improve my swim and maintain fitness as much as possible. I also discovered that water jogging is pretty fun. I get to do a lot of people watching at the pool.

Q: What, if anything, will you do differently next time you train for a marathon?

A: I’ll be very careful on the build, take time off if I’m hurt. I’ll also work in more easy runs.

Q: Do you have a comeback race on the calendar?

A: Castell Grind will be by comeback cycling race and the Rookie Triathlon will be my first triathlon of the season.

Q: What have you learned about yourself during this process?

A: I have to be more thoughtful of myself as I age. Things don’t heal as easily or quickly as they once did. I’ve spent more time with my family which has been nice, so I’m planning to keep a better balance with work, family, sport and rest.