I have been quiet again, I know. There has been a lot going on in my world. And honestly there have been too many thoughts swirling around in my head, I was never sure that I could actually put them down on paper. As any athlete training to be they’re best knows, it is rarely ever easy. Lauren Fleshman stated how I have been feeling perfectly on her Facebook page this week: “Trying out for the olympics is being willing to serve your heart on a platter along with a knife and carving instructions.”
Balancing work, training, recovery, family, and friends is truly a difficult task in the best of times. And lately, it has been anything but the best of times. Christmas came at the perfect moment for me. It was truly a blessing to spend a couple of days relaxing with family and friends. It was a much needed break. But since we have gotten back into the daily grind, it seems like one thing after another just building up and weighing me down. The first was saying good bye to my Dad. He moved to New Zealand for a new job right after New Years. My mom will be following once he gets settled in and finds an apartment. Other than Geoff, my parents are my best friends. I know it seems silly being so sad that they are moving, and it’s only for a year. But it has really hit me hard. And anyone my age knows, mastering the internet and advanced technology can be difficult for our parents, right? So unfortunately since my Dad moved, communication has been sparse. It really has been hard to have them gone for such an important year in my life.
Other than the everyday stresses of work and training, the biggest obstacles in my way right now are these nagging injuries. I have a shoulder injury that seems determined to hang around. I don’t know what precipitated it, but it has really affected my workouts. I have had to make major modifications in my lifting. And on vault days, if I am taking off too close to the box or if I start my plant too late, I can really feel it in my shoulder. And even if the problem is minute, the pain in my shoulder causes me to hesitate, essentially ruining that jump. It has improved in the last few weeks, getting less and less sore. And I feel it less on the runway, either because I have improved my run and plant, or because the injury is healing. Either way it is a relief.
Unfortunately, the injuries that are not going away at all are in my feet. You may recall I ended my summer season in 2011 due to an injury in my jump foot. Initially I was told I had torn some tendons in my foot, but after an MRI I was told it was plantar faciitis. I got a cortisone shot in my foot before the start of fall training, and it alleviated the pain a little. But it never went away completely like we were hoping. Since then I have taken time off, dramatically altered workouts, and skipped more practices than I care to think about. I have taken every possible supplement that could help. I ice at least twice a day, stretch every morning and every night, treated it with the physical therapist and athletic trainers, all to no avail. If anything my foot has gotten worse. Over the last month and a half, I have developed the same exact pain in my right foot as well.
Dealing with a persistent injury like this it is a constant mental drain. At times it gets very hard to stay positive. Every workout is a struggle, and most of them get shortened. For a while I felt like my coach and I were not on the same page. I felt left out of every workout because my 27 year old injured body couldn’t do what my healthy 19 year old teammate could handle. I would go into every practice with a positive attitude, but I would always fall apart somewhere along the way.
Last weekend we had our first meet of the season. The pain was manageable. But I was unable to clear a bar. Realistically, I am not disappointed with the result. Compared to last year, I am gripping a foot higher, running from 5 ft farther back, and I’m jumping on the biggest poles I’ve ever been on. And I’m opening at a bar that is above my personal best. Some people think that’s crazy, but I know I can clear it, and I don’t really see the point at jumping at lower bars if they are not going to get me anywhere. I can handle the no-heights. But I am still not happy with an unsuccessful meet.
Practices this week were pretty bad. My feet are hurting more than they ever have. I wasn’t able to jump at all on Wednesday. The stress of it all was so overwhelming that I had serious conversations with my family about hanging up my spikes for good. I have been buckling under the stress for so long, and my body seems to be failing me. I have been doubting the faith that I have always had in my jumping ability.
But after talking to my coach and some important people in my life, I have reconsidered. We are making more major adjustments to the training plan. My feet are clearly not handling two vault days a week, so we will drop it to one. That means that the only vaulting I will do for the rest of the indoor season will be at competitions. I have also been blessed with an amazing boss/sponsor who is helping me afford some new shoes. New Balance hooked me up yesterday with a sweet pair of Grandma-like shoes to wear at work and walking around during the day (seriously hideous shoes. I am not usually one to get caught up in what I’m wearing, but I am definitely losing style points with these. But I don’t care how silly I look if they’ll help), plus a new pair of trainers, orthotics, compression socks, and special socks to sleep in that keep my feet flexed at night. I don’t know if it’s the socks, the shoes, my positive attitude, or something else at work, but this morning I wasn’t limping quite as much when I got out of the bed. I have refreshed my optimistic outlook on the season. We leave today for our second meet at Virginia Tech. My opening height isn’t getting lowered, I am just going to jump higher.
A huge thank you to those that helped me out this week. It was really a rough one. I really do feel blessed to have such an amazing support system from all of my friends and family. I am more determined than ever to give this everything I’ve got until I have nothing left to give.