From this.... ...to this.
It is hard to believe that exactly one year has gone by since my crash at USA Marathon Nationals. I won't lie, it's been a tough road at times. Lots of hard decisions, hard work, and hard training days, full of both encouraging moments and frustrations. But, as I've said many times before, it has been an incredibly empowering and valuable experience, and opened the doors to some great opportunities and insights for me. I have had some opportunities to share what I have learned through coaching and presentations, and the connections and interactions I have had through this have certainly been inspiring.
Throughout the long months that I was injured and recovering, and could not focus on training or work, I had a lot of time to think. I spent hours on long, slow walks with the dog thinking about the healthiest, most holistic ways for athletes to both prevent injuries from happening, and also to deal with them when they do arise.
In my mind, preventing and dealing with injuries comes down to three main points: being prepared, being aware, and making smart decisions. I break each point down into four aspects: physical, mental, emotional, and situational. These can be applied to both overuse injuries and traumatic injuries on the bike- and may be useful to the rest of life as well.
Be Prepared for what you are asking yourself to do.
Be Aware of your strengths and your challenges.
Make Smart Decisions in every moment.
Combining all of these holistic factors - the physical, mental, emotional, and situational components of being prepared and being aware, the third element in the equation is to take all that information and knowledge and DO something with it. You can be the most prepared and the most aware person on the planet, but if you're acting like an idiot it's not going to help you.
It is on YOU, and nobody else, to take responsibility and to make the best decision you can in each moment. No one is holding your hand out there in a bike race or in life- and if they are, they are doing you a disservice. It's great to have people to coach you, be your teachers, and cheer you on; but when shit hits the fan when you're miles deep and you have choices to make, it's up to you. If you make the right choices, maybe you'll land on the podium. If you make the wrong ones, maybe you'll land in the ambulance.
Do you have right now the physical strength and skills, the mental steadiness, the emotional readiness needed to take that line, or to venture that far out into the unknown? Or do you need to prepare a little better first? If you miss, what are the consequences? Bumps and bruises, or a long ride down the mountain the wrong way? If you make it, what are the rewards? The same goes for the choices you make after an injury. If you are injured and you are facing a decision that could affect the rest of your career, your athletic endeavors, your family, and your life; making smart choices is critical.
Risk versus reward... always a delicate balance, and a very personal decision. I truly believe that the delicious juiciness of life does lie beyond your comfort zone. But there is a difference between confidently testing and pushing your limits knowing you are well-equipped, and blowing past them wearing a blindfold.
Life is going to throw you curveballs; you won't always know what is coming up around the next corner or over the next drop. The best you can do is to be as prepared and as aware as you are capable of being, in all aspects - and then make the best decisions you can with the information that you have and the situation you are given, in every moment. If you can pull this off successfully, in bike racing and in life, you will have little room for regrets.