This summer, I fell in love with race day. Before summer 2018, I’d done exactly one race, my first sprint triathlon, which was two years prior. But, last Christmas I decided that I needed to shake up my life a bit and get back into fitness, so I signed up for my second Toronto Triathlon Festival (TTF). I also reached out to my cousin Nicole, and asked if she wanted to do the TTF with me. She suggested a different race, so I signed up for my second triathlon, in Gravenhurst near our cottage. Things snowballed from there, and all told I raced in two try-a-tris, one sprint tri, and two 5k races. I caught the race bug, and I was hooked.
This race season brought so many amazing experiences. I got to race in my first triathlon with my cousin; I ran a 5k with my best friend in support of our dear friend’s charity; I shaved 5 min off my 5k time between June and September; I persevered through horrible weather to finish just shy of my goal time in my sprint triathlon; and I finished 5th in my age group in the Toronto island triathlon. Most importantly, every single race was filled with an incredibly supportive community of athletes, always ready to cheer on strangers and lend a hand. The people at the races make these experiences so powerful and uplifting. Before my first triathlon, I felt like an imposter; now I know I belong.
At the end of August, I wasn’t ready for my race season to be over, so I signed up for an 8k in October and joined a 10k clinic at the running room. I was already running about 6.5km on a regular basis, so I thought an 8K was a goal I could push towards in the time that I had (which was about six weeks from the day I signed up). 10k still felt a bit out of range, but I felt confident I’d get there by December.
Over the next month, I pushed myself up to the 8k distance. I felt so empowered knowing that just a year before, when I signed up for my first learn to run clinic, running for more than a minute was a challenge. Looking back on the monumental gains I’d achieved filled me with a sense of achievement and pride, and it made me want to keep pushing, to face new challenges, and to go further. I finally got why people get addicted to running; I learned not just to like it, but to crave it and love it in a way I never expected.
A week before my 8k, I got up early at the cottage and decided to pull myself out of bed and go for a run. It was chilly, and I was underdressed. As I ran, I attempted to adjust my zip on my hoodie, and I didn’t notice a pothole covered in leaves. I was distracted, running full out, and fell, twisting my ankle. My first thought as I went down was ‘My 8K!’ I had been working so hard, and with only a week left, I was injured. When I came back to the cottage, and announced that I fell, my little nephew Max ran to me and hugged my legs and said ‘you felled? Did you cry’? I did, in fact, cry, because deep down, I knew in that moment my race season had abruptly come to an end.
I hoped against hope that my ankle would bounce back in time for my 8K, but it didn’t. I missed my race, and I walked a 2.5k that was supposed to be a 5k run a few weeks later on Hallowe’en. I also temporarily lost the ability to swim, because the injury was located on the top of my foot as well as the side of my ankle, so it was painful to kick. Fortunately, I could still bike.
After I fell, and was lamenting my injury, my brother-in-law said to me, ‘you got injured training, that happens to athletes’. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I am an athlete, and when athletes get injured, they go to physio. I’ve been in physio for two months now, and I’m slowly getting back my full range of motion. I’ve started running again, slowly; I can do about 4k now. I’m back in the pool using a pull boy to stabilize my legs. As frustrating and disappointing as it was to get injured, all that I’ve wanted is to get back to what I love. I’ve learned that sometimes there are obstacles you can’t leap over. Sometimes, you have to climb instead.
I’ll admit that recovering from this injury hasn’t been perfect. I definitely spent more than a few days feeling sorry for myself. But, this summer showed me who I am, and what I can do, and I have come to look at this as just another challenge. I’m working hard, trusting my physiotherapist, and keeping my eye on the prize: the amazing, fulfilling, joyful summer of racing to come.
Photo credit to DeNeige Dojack for the medal portrait