Reflections - 1 year PO...AGAIN

Last year I reflected on my nearly 1 year post-op hip surgery. This second time around has been such a different experience all together. Without as many unknowns, I haven’t found myself celebrating the little things that make up the entire journey. I don’t know if it’s because a “been there done that” type of thing, if it’s me putting my head down telling myself no one really cares, or if it’s me trying not to think about everything I’ve been through with surgeries and recoveries the last 2 years, but it still doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take the time to reflect on the last year.

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but hip surgery is pretty sucky, and having 2 surgeries is really sucky too, especially 1 year apart. It feels like once I got my life back, it was taken away again. I’ve spent the last 2 years rehabbing my hips, 3 if you count the entire year prior to my first surgery, and all I want to do is be “normal” without having to think “oh my hips…hang on”. I know that my life prior to my hip injuries is gone, and I’ll never go back to that, but I still dream of all those extra hours I used to have. Enough of me complaining.

Last year 3 days after coming home from Worlds I went right back in the OR for my second hip surgery. I tried to cram as much as I wanted to do at home for those 3 days before going under, and then the day came and went, and the rehab started all over again. The second hip recovery was easier because I knew what to expect, but also harder because my patience wasn’t as great. I was constantly competing with my prior self, and all I wanted to do was prove to me and everyone else that I was going to be even better than before. This second surgery was anything but the same as my first. My experience was drastically different than the first time around, even though I did the EXACT same thing as the year prior. Life is a beautiful unpredictable journey. I look back at the last year, and I’m constantly reminding myself that I did in fact have a hip surgery. My body reminds me, but my mind hasn’t really grasped it, which is a weird feeling. The first surgery was so insanely scary committing to something that was unknown, that by the time the second one came along I didn’t even blink when it was time to put in the work of recovery.

I have no regrets of any of my surgeries, I have no regrets of my journey. Being 1 year PO officially on my left hip and 2 years PO on my right hip, I feel good. Is my left hip perfect (yet), the answer is no, it’s not. I’d put myself in the 95-99% range of being where I want it, and just like with my first hip, I know it will take time. Was my right hip 100% at the year mark? At the time I would have told you yes, but today I can tell you no it wasn’t. A year ago I succumbed to how my hip felt and just decided this was it, but now I know, the hip continues to improve, it continues to gain range of motion and strength. I know that even though I still think about my left hip, those days will come to end soon enough, and with time everything will be exactly where it needs to and is meant to be.

There's no place for heckling in Cyclocross

I’ve never been a fan of heckling. I find it distasteful, hurtful, mean, and just plain dumb. You’re not funny.

If you’re reading my blog, you most likely know I’ve had 2 hip surgeries the past 21 months. 2. If you didn’t know this, go back and read my posts, read how hard recovery is. Read about my restrictions, read about my come back, read about my tenacity, read about my failures. After both of my hip surgeries I started racing UCI races 7 months PO. 7 months, and not just UCI races, but World Cups. 7 months PO. The only other person I know to come back that soon (sooner) from hip surgery is Lea Davison. Her story motivated my first recovery, it showed that it’s possible with a lot work and dedication. But the work and dedication isn’t on the bike, and maybe people don’t know that. The work is the passive range of motion your support system has to do for you, the work is the hours of physical therapy to gain strength back in your surgical hip/leg. The work is learning to walk again, properly, while your watch yourself in a mirror. The work is listening to your body so your body will heal. The work is not allowing yourself to go thrash your body in your training, because you physically can’t. The work is not getting frustrated when at 5 months post op your hip hurts after a 2 hour Zone 2 ride. The work is the mental side of the sport, when you know you’re competitors have been training for 3x as long as you, but you have to figure out how to beat them with less training and less fitness.

To the man who yelled (multiple times throughout the race) “McFadden is going to McFade”, you have no right to make such a comment to me, or to anyone. I don’t care if it’s “just who you are”. It’s crude, it’s distasteful, its demeaning, it’s harassment. You aren’t funny. I would have liked to exchange a few words with you post race, but I didn’t see your face. I would have liked to tell you that on Saturday I suffered from a breathing attack and ended up in the back of an ambulance, but I still finished the race, in 4th might I add. I would have liked to tell you I’ve had 2 hip surgeries where I was told it’s possible my racing wouldn’t be the same. I would have liked to tell you that I’m defying the odds of racing at the top of the sport again after those 2 surgeries. But you know what, I don’t need to have an excuse for your poor behavior. There was a time where your comment would have made me cry. I’m a 33 year old grown adult, and your childish comments lit my fire to beat your friend, to fight aggressively and dig deeper than I thought I could on this given day. While, I disagree with your childish behavior that doesn’t belong in our sport, I thank you for those disgusting comments, it flicked my switch from wanting to just settle because that’s the easier option, to continue to fight to the very end.

To the man who think’s he is funny, to all the “hecklers” who think they are funny. There is no room for you in cyclocross. The reason I flocked to CX is because of the community and how they lifted everyone up at the races, the cheering, the way it felt like a family. The grassroots level of racing should make you feel good, it should feel like you’re spending your Sunday with all of your best friends. You should be lifting everyone up who is out there, you shouldn’t be mocking, cat calling, or other useless terms for your own enjoyment.

To the man who mocked my last name and my racing, bike racing is my profession. This is my job. I don’t go to your work place and yell obscene mean things about how you do your job, don’t do that to me, don’t do that to any other professional, and don’t do that to any grassroots racer.

Picture: Ethan Glading

Picture: Ethan Glading

I'm Not Okay

I’m not okay.

I thought I would be okay.

But I’m not okay.

I’m a positive person, I can find the good and the positive in every situation, but I’m struggling to be positive, and that’s when I know, I’m not okay.

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When I had my first hip surgery Feb. 2017 I knew it was going to be a fight to get back to the level of racing I wanted to be at. I fought hard through my recovery, I was focused, determined, and driven. There were days I thought I would never be the same, I fought hard in my isolation of recovery, and when the time came, I was right where I needed and wanted to be. I amazed not only myself, but everyone around me. I prepared myself for the absolute worst, and when things fell into place I was elated.

When I found out I had to have a second hip surgery I was devastated, I couldn’t imagine going through all of that again, through the pain, the learning to walk, the learning to ride my bike again. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I couldn’t continue to race with my left hip the way is was. Even though I knew I needed a second hip surgery, I pressed forward with my season, I kept my head down, I pushed through my PT, I pushed my training, I pushed my racing, I pushed my body. I started training last year (2017) June 8th, as soon as I was given the green light to push, I pushed, and then I pushed straight on through to Worlds, and 4 days after coming home from Worlds, I went under the knife for my second hip surgery.

Even though recovery is spending a lot of time in bed and resting, you’re still pushing. With my second hip surgery I knew what I needed to do, and I planned my life, every hour of it, ahead of time. When I was going to do my PT, when I was going to take a nap, when I was going to eat, rest, etc. I made my recovery as perfect as I could make it, because if I came back once, you sure as hell better believe I’m going to come back even better the second time.

Even though I tried not to put pressure on myself throughout recovery, you know I did. You know in the back of my mind I felt a pressure to do just as well, if not better, this second time. I feel a certain amount of pressure to perform and be the right/perfect athlete for myself, my fans, and my sponsors. I felt this pressure hanging above my head, people would have these expectations of me, I did it once, so theres no reason I shouldn’t be able to do it again. I have my own expectations, and my confidence was feeling pretty good. I wasn’t sure where my fitness was and where it would stack up, but I felt I was going in the right positive direction.

Then I went and crashed my bike and everything hit the fan, and all it took was 10 seconds.

10 seconds I’ll never get back. 10 seconds. It doesn’t seem long, but it is. I can’t go back, and I can’t dwell on what happened, but I can be frustrated. I live in a world of perfection that when I get thrown off, I struggle to figure out other options. I’m having a hard time putting into words where my head is at. Crashing, sitting out the first race of my season, 100% failing (of my expectations) in my first race back, and I feel demoralized and exhausted. I have worked so hard for this the last 1.5 years, I’ve put my head down and I’ve done what I’ve needed to do, I’ve been focused, dedicated, driven, and when I injured myself 4 days before the season, I became heart broken.

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I rested, I sat out Reno, I raced in Waterloo. Racing in Waterloo was when I knew my leg wasn’t okay, no matter how badly I wanted to say it was fine, it just wasn’t, and that demoralized me. I thought I would be okay this week, I fought back tears, I fought myself every day to stay positive and keep fighting and recovering. I told myself everything would be okay and things would be just fine. I don’t know how to put into words what I’m feeling, which is strange for me because usually writing is never a struggle. My light is dimming, my fire isn’t strong right now, I have no confidence, I’m scared, I’m timid and I don’t trust myself on the bike, when usually the bike has been an outlet, it’s been my freedom, my joy. Crashing killed my fight, I fought through my first hip surgery, I fought through my second hip surgery, I tried to fight through this, and something killed my fire.

I didn’t start the World Cup in Iowa today, Jingle Cross is my favorite race of the year, but my head wasn’t there. I crashed 3x in 1 lap of course recon before the race and that was when I knew I couldn’t fight anymore. I couldn’t focus, I felt timid on my bike, I didn’t feel confident, and I felt scared. That’s not me. I haven’t been able to stop crying the past 7 days. That’s not who I am. I’m a fighter, I’m driven, I’m motivated, and I do everything in my might to NOT cry (seriously even watching sad movies I hold back tears because I don’t want to cry), but I’m also human.

I don’t want to race to just ride my bike in circles. I want to race to FIGHT, I want to race to WIN, and I want to finish a race and be proud of the effort I put forth. Sitting out races isn’t easy, but when I know I can’t fight at the 100% effort I should be putting in, I know I shouldn’t be out there. I’m going to take a couple of weeks at home to re-collect myself, re-center my head, and I’ll be back. Just watch, because when I come back, I’ll be a whole new me.