I had two races planned for September, and beyond that was giddy at the thought of being able to soak up the fall weather in the form of long trail runs and beautiful bike rides. Fall reminds me of endurance training and the crisp air of the peak fitness that results from months of dedicated hard work. Even though I had no major races planned for this fall, I was simply joyful to be feeling fit and healthy and mentally in a good place with triathlon again. My confidence had turned a corner and I was restless to put that motivation to work.
I do a lot of solo riding but on this particular day was joined by my husband. A few weeks back he decided on a whim to sign up for a half ironman the same day as the olympic distance triathlon I was to compete in. Since then he has been tagging along on my weekend long rides, providing me with a huge motivational boost in the process. We had just discussed riding the Blue Ridge Parkway together in mid-October at the peak of the fall leaves, something I have always wanted to do. I typically lead in our rides but would frequently throw my head back to catch a glimpse of him smiling and pedaling along, wearing an extra kit of mine since he currently doesn’t own any cycling clothes. A few minutes earlier, he told me I looked like a "paint-splotched superhero" as then continued humming a happy tune.
Going into this ride I kept thinking, “peace is always beautiful.” It has not been the year I was hoping for in regards to triathlon, but I had come to terms with my setbacks and struggles and accepted where I currently was in the process. That morning at church reflected on how triathlon is an area of my life in which I often try to control and, in regards to the season ahead (2018), I set a simple goal: “trust.” God’s understanding transcends my own and peace comes from letting go and surrendering my own plans. That peace carried into my ride as I sought nothing more than to enjoy the cool breeze, the warmth of the sun and the company of my husband who was giddily trying out the aerobars we just added to his bike.
I’m not usually one to try new roads, but on this particular day I was up for anything. We made a turn off our usual route onto a quieter back road that featured a lot of steep inclines and descents (Seneca Hollow). As I was coming down a hill, I saw a tunnel ahead. My first thought was “that tunnel is dark, I had better slow down.” I was busy looking beyond the one-lane tunnel for potential oncoming cars and late to notice the monster pothole that lay just at the entrance. It was one of those bike-eating potholes that you avoid at all costs. Instinctively I hit the brakes and likely much too hard. From there I remember the feeling of my back wheel lifting off the ground and the bike and I tumbling forward.
The next few moments were a blur, but I can vividly recall the intensity in which my head slammed against the ground and my body sliding across the pavement. I had just lifted myself into seated position myself when Jordan cautiously approached on his bike. Behind him was a car that patiently waited as we moved to the side of the road and for Jordan to collect my bike, bottles and other gear that had scattered across the tunnel. I knew instinctively that I was too beat up to continue riding, so we picked up our phones to call for a ride. I was literally in the process of talking to my coach when Jordan pulled back my jersey and proclaimed, “we need to go to the hospital, your collarbone is definitely broken.”
I typed this post (yes, one handed!) three days later as I laid in the recliner exhausted but unable to sleep. Just a few hours earlier Jordan patiently readjusted me probably 15 different times, only for me to cry out in pain a few minutes later. Having completely displaced the bone, I have (had) to be careful how I moved so as to avoid the end of the broken bone stabbing into my muscles. Yes it is as painful as it sounds. The pain has been relatively manageable otherwise.
More so than anything it's my limited capacity that I find most tiring and frustrating… though also a bit humorous at times. Not to mention the lack of sleep, but hopefully I'll be catching up on that now that my bones are back in alignment! I am trying to be less stubborn and good about asking for/accepting help, and to focus on what I CAN do rather than what I can't. Naturally I'm pretty bummed knowing it will be a while before I can get back to training, but on the bright side, my legs work great and walking is also nice! Honestly I haven't thought (too) much in that regard (yet). My main focus this week has been getting to and through surgery, which was today and a breeze (just as coach said it would be!) Ok, other than not being able to eat or drink prior to my procedure - no coffee or breakfast equated to a hangry Kristen ("Hey anesthesiologist can you PLEASE give me those meds already??") According to the surgeon "I had a pretty nasty comminuted (splintered/fragmented), displaced (out of alignment) a complex, irregular fracture." In all honestly, I consider myself lucky that my injuries were not any worse. My helmet did it's job, my kit prevented major road rash, I WILL recover... Perspective is everything.
One plate and 7 screws later, I will be hanging on to my new BFF (the sling) for a minimum 4-6 weeks and might have to give it a little more flair in the meantime :P Right now I'm taking things one day at a time, resting in the peace of knowing that God will take care of my needs, relishing in the fact that I am surrounded by an amazingly awesome support system and acknowledging that, when the timing is right, I'll be back out there killin' it once again.
Peace is always beautiful. Being in one PIECE is also quite beautiful!!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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