On Wednesday, July 31st, it will be exactly one year from the day I found out the labral cartilage in my right hip was damaged. It was the day I was told that I had to stop doing everything that I love. No more swimming. No more cycling. No more running. No more competing. I had to start physical therapy the following week. Five months after that fateful day in July, I would have surgery on my hip. The physical therapy had helped, but it wasn’t enough. Almost 7 months after going under the knife, I competed in my first race: the O*H*I*O Masters Swim Club 24th Annual Lake Erie Open Water Classic. That’s right…I’m back in the game!
Damn, how much I missed those race-morning jitters! I was so nervous and excited, I had to choke down my breakfast, and I only managed half of that before I had to set it aside. Driving to Edgewater Beach in Cleveland, I listened to my workout mix to help get me pumped and to settle the butterflies in my stomach. Once I reached the check-in pavilion and got my cap, I took one look at the calm, gray water…and wanted to barf. It was awesome! Lucky for me I had my two swim buddies with me, Karen and Carolyn. We were all using the race as a preliminary to Big Shoulders in Chicago (which is looming – September 7). Karen and Carolyn stepped it up and did the 2-mile, but seeing as though it was my first race in over a year, I decided to stay in my comfort zone at 1 mile.
I was in the last heat, so I had to stand on the beach and watch 4 other heats swim out to the start line ahead of me. Just when I thought I would scream from excited energy, my heat was told to get in the water. I hurriedly entered, wading out until the water was up to my waste, then dolphin dove into the murkiness, letting the warmer-than-the-air lake wash over my silver swim cap. The jitters were gone. I was in the water. I was home. Because it was so cold outside, I opted not to warm up, so it took me about 2-3 minutes to get into my rhythm, but once I found it, I felt calm and strong. I had purposefully let everyone in my wave go ahead of me, but I quickly caught up to a large group of silver caps. I even passed a few blue caps, the heat that went out 4 minutes before me, and I couldn’t help but smile at that. I was swimming in a great line with little varying off course. Those open-water swim clinics I attended last summer were really paying off.
With about 500 yards to go, the waves started to pick up a bit and I found myself sighting more than I wanted to. I breathe to my left, so coming back in for the finish I was facing out towards the open lake with every breath. That, combined with the strengthening current, began to mess with my head, thus causing me to sight so often. It’s definitely something I will work on for future swims/races.
Despite being a little disappointed with my performance those last 500, nothing could ruin how throughly overjoyed I felt jogging (yes, jogging) the last couple of feet up to the shore and crossing the sand-covered finish line to hear the satisfying sound of the chip being registered: BEEP.
Carolyn was only a couple of feet behind me, and Karen was already waiting for us on the beach. I was beaming as I walked up to where Karen stood, and she hugged and congratulated me. Even though it was cold, windy, rainy, and overcast, it was perfect. I don’t know what my time was; I was so thrilled to be crossing the finish line that I completely forgot to look at my time, but they will post results in a couple of days. I know it took me around an hour, and while that is slower than what I wanted, I honestly don’t care, and I NEVER would have said that last year. Oh, how much a person can change in one short year.
Karen and Carolyn did very well. Carolyn took 1st place in her age group and Karen took 3rd in hers. I also took 3rd in my age group, but I’m pretty sure there were only three people in my age group. Ha ha! Oh well. I left with a ribbon, a smile on my face, lessons learned, and a wonderful memory.
So, I mentioned above that I jogged out of the water. The last time I wrote, I was beginning running on the treadmill in the harness at physical therapy. Since that time, I started to run on the treadmill sans harness. Steve helped me work on my form and cadence, and I started a walk/run program at home on the treadmill. I’m currently up to 10 minutes (in 2 minute intervals) a couple of times a week. I’m supposed to build up to 15 minutes in the next four weeks, which is when I will see Steve again. Yup, my weekly physical therapy sessions are over as of last Wednesday. I was a little anxious to say goodbye to the Cleveland Clinic, but that last session marked a huge milestone for me. Steve thinks I’m ready for my independence, and that’s a big deal.
While the time has certainly flown by since that horrible day in July of 2012 and since my surgery in December, I can attest to the length of the journey. It was very hard at times. I was not only broken in body, but also in spirit. There were highs and lows; there were tears of sadness and joy. And now, well, now I’m taking it one day at a time. I carefully lay out plans for my weekly workouts, but I don’t freak out if I have to amend the schedule. I have the Big Shoulders race in 6 weeks, but it’s not dominating my thoughts. For now I’m enjoying volunteering at races and cheering on friends, training smart, working on Grunt Girl Racing events, getting things ready for the launch of Ohio Multisport Magazine, hanging out with friends, reading books, and basically just enjoying the summer. I do, however, very much look forward to the 2014 race season as I know I will return to it a wiser and stronger athlete.