The past 4 years have been dramatic and traumatic for me to say the least. In 2012, I arrived at the Olympic Games with a 3rd grade hamstring tear and two tears in tendon junctions in my knee, but I still managed to pull out the silver medal after all of that. I just knew the sky would be the limit if I would just return healthy. I knew that the world record and a gold medal at the next Olympic Games (Rio 2016) would be perfectly in my reach.
But this mission has been everything but perfect. I’ve struggled with injuries every single year since my silver medal, and you can see every bit of that in my performances. The athlete over these 4 years hasn’t come close to the athlete that I knew myself to be, and I think that’s what hurt my warrior soul the most. I went from being a consistent 52-second runner to barely running 54 seconds on my best day.
How did this happen? That’s the million dollar question.
So many speculations and thoughts from outsiders concluded that I probably over-train, which I find funny because it wasn’t considered over-training when I won a world championship and broke the American record. Over-training wasn’t the problem. I put my body through so much stress running through multiple injuries and not giving myself enough rest that it was bound to tap out on me. When I competed in my majority of my races I ran great races. I ran at a high level. It’s not common for 400 hurdlers to be able to run fast races from the start of the season until the end, and that’s what I was known for. I believe that in all actuality every athlete “over-trains”, we are all, if you will, breaking the universal law of physicality. So the higher performance any athlete consistently delivers the higher the risk of injuries there is. I fall in this group of athletes. This is one of the reasons athletes take steroids, to be able to train at an intense level more often without the risk of getting injured. Is this over-training or training to be the best? I didn’t get all the help I needed coming back for these injuries also. Athletes specifically on the west coast could use help from our governing body, especially those without a contract because caring for your body is super expensive! I use to leave the country to work with what I consider to be the best sports doctors. The success rate of being able to work with the best doctors proved to be worth it because I was one of the top hurdles in the world for 10 years! To add to the injuries, the stress from raising twin sons, marital strife, and keeping a shoe sponsorship kept the pressure up of continuing my success on the track. My plate was full…. I took on the hard task of being the main caretaker for my maternal grandmother who has suffered from brain tumors 2.5 years ago and has had 3 brain surgeries (you can see where I get the my warrior soul from). She needed me and that was clear. Usually I’m such a fighter that I could run through any injury or stress and remain the best in the world, but my the score has been 4-0, body failing convincingly succeeding the mind these past 4 years. This is not an excuse but a waving of the white flag. Me conceding to my body needs. Something I’ve never done before.
Coming into this Olympic year I had my mind set on winning that gold medal. Not only because I wanted to but because I didn’t want to see all the sacrifice, going back to my adolescent years, handwork, and ability to be done in vain. I honestly felt that it was only right for me to go out there and get the gold. But it seems like this is not the year that it is going to happen for me. No matter how hard I’ve worked this year to put myself in the right position my body responded negatively.
I started my fall training with cross country training that was plagued by plantar fasciitis, vitamin deficiencies, and a intense herniated disc in my lower spine. I’ve gone to numerous doctors and therapists, but nothing really helped and I was in excruciating pain daily. It came to the point where doctors told me I have no choice but to have surgery on my back. After extensive talks with my mom and dad about it and crying my eyes out, I decided to go forward with the surgery. Right after deciding to get the surgery, I had practice, fell, and broke my right arm (thank God I’m left handed)…I can’t make this stuff up! This was a freak accident but yet another setback.
The doctor told me that he was unsure of me coming back for Olympic Trials, but being the rebel I am I, told him that I’ve had less time to be ready for a championship in the past and I thought I could do it. Coming back from my arm and back injury was followed by a meniscus tear and PCL tear in my knee that happened when I fell and broke my arm. This will require surgery as well. This was the final straw. My knee pain grew with the amount of speed I tried to use in training. I realized my body was giving me its last call.
My mom and I went back and forth about just going for it, which I’m normally all for. But no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I wanted to train my body just wouldn’t allow me to give 100%. I’ve literally cried my self to sleep many of nights because I know what type of athlete I am, and this is not the way I wanted to leave my sport. It didn’t make matters any better how all my accomplishments have so quickly been forgotten and discarded. The sport has left me behind and is ready and willing to look for the next new thing. It hurts and it’s not fun to live with. I’ve never been truly acknowledged for breaking the 16 year American Record by the great Kim Batten, who’s accomplishments has seem to be forgotten as well. That record was simply looked at as another race and it wasn’t! It was a moment in history.
Training for the Olympic team is presently unobtainable and my coach/mom and I have decided to no further go forward with training. We both agree that I need to fully give my body all the rest and surgeries it needs and that I have yet to hit my full potential. For myself and my coach, I will train for next years world championships. Most think that I should retire, and I can completely understand that way of thinking, but my thinking is not aligned with anyone but myself. But let me tell you why I’m not retiring…. I know I have more to give and that I’m still capable of running at my best and beyond; it’s just not happening the way I planned it. It’s not about the money or contracts, I’ve ran without one of those for 3 years now. It’s about proving to myself that I am who a believe myself to be! It’s a feeling I can’t explain. There are two main reasons for continuing: I just can’t let go of something that I’ve known since I was a little girl to be natural and extraordinary and my parents. My grandmother passed down her warrior soul to her and I’m standing on the shoulders of their greatness. My mom has carried me when I was unable to walk myself. I want to honor her. My want to repay the countless hours my father gave me in grueling Los Angeles traffic commuting 2hrs+ driving me practice willingly. My mom has dreams about my greatness(her dreams are the real deal people!)and I believe that I still have a reserve tank for my greatness. Call it what you want but never get offended at a person for seeing the greatness in their self. You guys will see me next year – I’m coming back with a vengeance to make up for all the lost time! Until then I want to wish all athletes a successful Olympic Trials, and for those who make the team, a safe and successful Olympic Games.