Ever since racing ended last year after the high point of winning an overall world cup title life has been a bit of a bore up until a couple months ago. The injury I had just before the world cup finale in Spain took almost 6 months to heal. When you bruise your entire right side front and back I guess it does take some time to get back to normal. Or what I can call normal. It is in this time as my body had taken a beating my mind decided to join the fun.
Something many don’t talk about is the blues. Not the music but the depression kind of blues. I’ve heard it referred to the “paralympic blues” or something similar. Those that aren’t familiar with it has been defined as, or there about, is when after experiencing the highest of highs in athletic performance one has difficulty adjusting to normal life again, experiencing times of being bummed out to full blown depression. Dave Mirra comes to mind when I think about this.
Now I did not make it to the Paralympics, however, I feel one can experience something similar when they’ve reached the highest point, so far, of their young para-athletic career. For me being injured and still training trying to occupy my mind as my body healed, I experienced a whole host of emotions from being bummed out, to sleepless nights, to flat out dread that I had to drag my reluctant ass out and train some more when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.
Not many like to talk about the emotional side or even more specific mental health. The financial side was HUGE and took its toll on me to say the least…but humans run on emotions and when those are messed up we tend to run like a car on bad gasoline. I talked a lot with my coach and read as much as I could on the subject and s-l-o-w-l-y I got better. Something I did realize was I don’t have an “after” plan for what I’m going to do after racing. For 25 years I’ve been around racing, racing myself, or just thinking about it. My emotional state was tied heavily to how I did racing. For the first time in 25 years I realized I didn’t have a plan for after racing and I sunk deeper.
BATTLE STATIONS, BATTLE STATIONS!!??!
Of course I’d like to help progress the sport as much as possible and ride but what else? Do I just walk away and not look back? Probably not smart, but it’s possible. But I don’t want to regret anything or any decisions in my life. Seeing some friends that have retired from racing when they didn’t really want to, gives me hope seeing how they handled it. They do talk about it from time to time and I think that really helps them and those of us that haven’t got there yet. It’s not perfect but really what is? I have no doubt that will be a day to day battle and the tools I learned from training and racing will no doubt help ease the transitional pain to a post racing life.
The distraction of researching my “after plan” helped ease my mind, as I got better and finally my body stopped hurting just to take a breath. My intensity of my training rides increased not only in my mind, but also according to that “IF” metric in Training Peaks, I was actually getting better physically too. YAY!
I have to admit the “Intensity Factor” metric I hated it so much for months because I was busting some ass and it was like, “Nope!” in its silent judgmental way. If anything I was bound and determined to make it my bitch or die trying!
Fast forward a few more months with better nutrition and keeping a constant eye on my emotions, with the help of my awesome coach Rick, I seemed to be okay and was progressing quite well.
Yep, you guessed it I made a change.
For years I have been taking Ditropan for bladder spasms and it works except two side effects that are hard to deal with, one is overheating and two is not sweating. Not good when you live in Las Vegas. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I changed medication and my body had a chance to take a breath for the first time in 12 plus years. Shit got crazy! Sensations were happening like someone was flipping switches and 2 weeks later I ended up curled up in the bathroom in MASSIVE pain!
Let’s put that in perspective: breaking my neck was a 5 on the pain scale, my nerve pain is higher than a second degree burn so that’s a 7, and the pain I was in the day was an autonomic dysreflexia fun level of 11.
After a few hours of nothing really happening it was decided that a trip to the hospital was needed. An ambulance ride was the only way it was going to happen, just in case…plus I couldn’t move. As in completely locked out straight in a full body spasm and any movement made the pain worse.
I won’t bore you with the details of going to the emergency room or the week following that but after a few tests there was nothing found to be the cause of my issue. I can sit here and spit ball some ideas as to what it was but would they be correct? No idea. Was it an overload of sensations after suppressing them for years? Possibly, I really don’t know. For 12 plus years I’ve been my own lab rat. Trying meds and modalities to regain what I lost when I broke my neck, injuring my spinal cord, back in 2004. Some things were good and some bad, but one thing that has helped me through the whole process has been a positive attitude. Yes even when you feel like the world is crashing down around you there is a lesson to be learned. Failure is an option and a tangible result in my world. Might not like it but it is what it is.
Almost forgot to mention what’s it like on the new med. Well, my heat tolerance is way better. I kind of sweat but not full-blown sweat like before. Something is happening and my brain doesn’t freak out like before. Maybe in a few months this will be different so until then I’ll take it. I would imagine that after not sweating for years the “pipes need cleaning” so to say. I process liquids more normal and I’m not nearly as thirsty as before. No more overheating has been great and a positive move in the sweating direction is a nice bonus.
So it’s back to training because in a few weeks I leave for Nationals in Grand Junction, CO., then home for a night and off to Redlands, CA. for the Redlands Classic. Something like, 4 races in 8 days. Gonna be sore that week but that’s the beautiful part. For the first time in 12 plus years of having a spinal cord injury I actually enjoy that kind of pain. It means I’m alive and that my legs, albeit a bit wonky at times, have recovered to a point where I can do that.
Until next time,