Injuries are, and in my case quite literally, a pain in the butt. Unfortunately, I have been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury since dropping out at USATF Indoor Championships this past March. What was initially thought to be a bad high hamstring muscle strain, was later determined via MRI to be a partial tear of the hamstring tendon off the ischial tuberosity. Any other year a decision to take some time off and allow things to heal, while not easy, would have probably been made. This year, however, is unique only coming around every 4 years. The Olympic year makes pushing through and making risky decisions much more justifiable (or at least it did for me).
Measures were taken to continue to train, albeit greatly modified, while hopefully still allowing the tendon to heal (or at the very least not get worse). Runs and workouts were replaced with countless hours of cross training, physical therapy and strengthening exercises. Time spent running with teammates and bonding over hard track session were instead spent alone at the gym or on the ElliptiGo. The emotional strain was as challenging as the physical injury. The constant worry about how my leg would feel that day, coupled with the idea of my competitors getting in quality and consistent training was incredibly draining. I pushed on though, trying to stay positive with every setback, trying to do everything in my power to keep my head above water. A typical week would usually include physical therapy, strengthening, a visit to the chiropractor, dry needling, massage, laser therapy, stim, ultrasound, and sometimes graston. This was on top of my usual stretching, foam rolling, and other recovery modalities. Anything I thought would help I tried.
And it sort of worked. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of setbacks within that time, and my progress was never a straight line. There was a lot of 2 steps forward 1 step back, but as the Olympic Trials approached I really thought things were beginning to turn a corner. I tried to stay cautiously optimistic through it all. Was my build up to the Trials ideal? Not even remotely, but I was healthy enough to toe the start line and that was something.
I tried to hold on to that optimism as I stood at the start line on July 7th for my first Olympic Trials racing experience. Anything is possible (maybe not probable but definitely possible) and after witnessing some crazy occurrences in previous races, stranger things could happened. Sadly, the probable component won out. To find a positive, I was still in the mix with 150 to go, but that last gear change just wasn’t there (which makes a lot more sense now).
After the race I was frustrated and disappointed, but more alarmingly my body was not feeling so hot. Upon returning to NJ, I opted to get another MRI. The results were no bueno. They showed that my partial tear was now a full blown tear of the tendon off the bone with a 3 cm retraction. I was told my only option to hope to return to my pre-injury caliber of running was hamstring reattachment surgery. Not ready to call it quits, that is exactly what I did.
I had surgery on July 21st to reattach the tendon to the ischial tuberosity, and now 5 days post op things seem to be doing well. Surgery while daunting, was a no brainier. I have goals I still want to accomplish in my running career, and I maintain the passion and fire to achieve them. I believe the surgery is my best shot to get back to a place that I can chase these aspirations.
I hold onto the belief that I can come back from this setback stronger and certainly wiser than before. These past few months have been a roller coaster of emotions, questionable choices, and humbling experiences. I am sure the next 6 months to a year will be even more challenging, but I am choosing to also see this time as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, to address my weakenesses and to grow as a person both in and out of running. Sometimes life deals you a crappy hand, but that doesn’t mean you have to fold. Life is about playing a poor hand well, and believing you can still win no matter how bad your cards are.