Friday, April 21, 2017

Embrace

...and I'm BACK! Severe adrenal fatigue is no joke. My last post was back in August - crazy! There has been a lot of rest, rejuvenation and regrowth since then. Now that I have a clear(er) path forward I thought I'd provide a quick update.

I followed the doctors orders and took 3+ months completely off (with zero expectation of heavy training or racing for at least 6 months). This may seem impossible to conceive, but the truth is when you feel as beat up as I did you have little energy or interest in resistance.  Waking up before 9am was harsh (but clearly something I had to do for work). The reality was that morning workouts were no longer an option for my body, mind or spirit. My stage of adrenal fatigue was so severe that my cortisol levels were in turmoil. I was tired ALL day, but come 7:30pm I was jumping up and down in search of the next house project to tackle. Not ideal!
To add insult to injury (literally), during the initial weeks of rest I noticed that my knee pain was not subsiding. I finally got an MRI, and the images left me questioning how I ever ran an Ironman (let along 2) on this knee. Both the tibia and femur had large stress reactions and areas of severe edema (bone bruising). The cartilage showed substantial wear, leading to a diagnosis of arthritis. Yup, this isn't reversible folks. As the doctor rattled through the MRI results all I really heard was:"you may never run again." Say what??!!? "You may never run again."
     Caroline - Process the words that are coming out of his mouth...then respond.
     "Never run again, well that isn't an option. When this tri thing is done my next chapter will be    ultra running. So how do I get through this."
My amazing doctors and PT came up with a plan to slowly regain strength and mobility while allowing rest to potentially take care of the bone damage.  I waived my white flag of surrender with veracity.
Reunited with the Alter-G
I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel defeated, but I choose to look at this as an opportunity. I haven't taken this kind of break from training and racing since I was in law school (2006). This was an opportunity to truly rest, and rebuild in a way that wasn't obtainable while racing 4 Ironmans per season. I received a cortisone shot in my knee to assist with the pain and allow me to regain full range of motion. My PT started me on the simplest of exercises to prove to my heart and mind that I had a long road ahead of me. The muscles around my knee had completely atrophied.
Name of the game: Rebuild.
Mindset: Opportunity!

While strengthening my knee with simple PT, and sitting on my butt to reset the adrenal's I had another round of blood work and a second MRI in December. Both proved promising and the second phase of recovery was initiated.  Time to start moving again. Before you can run, you must walk.

Love the Hydro-Worx. This has been my #1
tool if returning to full weight bearing, and
then adding mileage. 
I started by just trying to fit in one workout a day - imagine that! The reality is that triathletes have a sick sense of normalcy when it comes to training volume and frequency. Thankfully I have a (kick ass) job that took every ounce of energy, so the indulgence to train was still lingering on the horizon. My focus was/is on rebuilding from the ground up: form and strength over volume and intensity. For a few months all of my running was on the alter-g and hydro-worx (deep water) treadmills (pictured).  I promise this made me hungry for the days when I could run for hours on the trails. I'm still not at the hourS mark, but that first 10+ mile run had me gleaming!

I've truly learned to embrace this opportunity. I approach each workout with sheer gratitude. I saw the light at the end of this pro racing tunnel.  For the first time I realized I never spent any time conceiving this reality and how this might look. I have the utmost appreciation for elite athletes who have stepped away! I am thankful that the mental, physical and emotional difficulties that come with this life altering change are more openly discussed.  I believe when I decide to exit I will be more equips to deal with the challenges it brings. That time will come (sooner rather than later), BUT I've been given a chance to make one last push towards the summit....and I will EMBRACE every moment of it!  

Plans for 2017

Race plans are still up in the air, but I am aiming for a late season Ironman as my first for 2017.  I hope to race a few local half ironman distance events, and maybe even some shorter distance events for shits & giggles. I'm taking things in stride and not pushing anything right now. For a girl that use to race 2 Ironmans before the end of May this is shockingly refreshing. I'll pick a race and likely put all my eggs in that one basket. Along the way I look forward to getting back to the social aspects this sport once provided me. I don't want to chase my heart rate on every single workout -I'd rather chase my fast friends!


Finally, I'm excited to announce another addition to this year's adventures: 
Coach Caroline?!

I have been debating stepping firmly into the coaching arena for quite some time. I've been coaching friends on and off over the years, and find great pleasure and passion in that journey. My life is hectic, but I know it's time to share my passion and vision with other like minded athletes. I am excited to take on a few athletes to coach this year. In the future I certainly hope to increase my roster of athletes, but for now I want to dedicate my (precious) time to a select few. I would rather give more of my heart to a few athletes then spread myself thin.  I sincerely feel I can offer guidance, support and a clear vision to athletes facing similar time restraints as I have. My journey to prove I could win at both sport and career has been fulfilling beyond my wildest dreams. I look forward to helping other career focused individuals the tools to excel at sport in a way that launches their career and makes them a more productive team player within the work place.
My methodology for coaching revolves around proper (two-way) communication! so it's important that I work with athletes who are willing to give to the process as much as I will invest in their success. It's all about the journey, and I can't wait to shape and inspire the triathlon journey of others. If interested feel free to reach out to me via email: ckgregory@gmail.com

Thanks for checking in, and sticking with me during the highs and lows...It's all about the journey!

CG

Time off afforded me the opportunity to travel (without my bike box for the first time in 5 years!).
Top to bottom: Maui excursion (to celebrate the ability to train again), visiting my BFF Kristin in Madison Wisconsin, trip to the Caymen Isands to give back to the triathlon community there and jump into Mercury Man, Quality time in San Diego including a visit with Simone-one of the people who encouraged me most to start racing professionally, Christmas in Bend Oregon with the family, working hard to help our Nike athletes break the 2 hour marathon (which is now only 2 weeks away)!, football Saturday in Eugene with my favorite little duck, beaches of San Diego with Bekah, and returning to Ann Arbor for our 20th reunion of UofM Rowing as a varsity sport = I'm old!