It's been awhile since I blogged/updated about my hip, mostly because I knew what was going on, I had a plan, and I had a cyclocross season to attend to. The start of the season was a heavy one. I booked my tickets and planned to be on the road for 5 weeks. 5 weeks is a long time to be on the road, alone with out your significant other. Seeing familiar faces, staying in familiar homes always helps, but it's still not the comfort of your own home, your every day life.
The first weekend in Rochester was a hot one, but altogether I was happy with how I raced, followed it up by another couple of days at the Trek CXC Cup, some results I was happy with for the start of the season. Headed to Vegas, got my first top ten at a World Cup, tired legs, but happy. Followed it up by a 12th at Jingle Cross, another solid result with tired legs, raced Sunday for a 9th place during the C1. So far I was happy with the way my season was panning out. I knew my legs would come around when it was time, they always do.
Day 1 in Thompson, CT, it was a rainy, misty, cold day in Connecticut, my favorite kind of weather (for cyclocross). The course was a mixture of techy and non-techy with some tall steps and steep run ups. I'm happy to have pedaled away with a 4th place finish, so close to the podium, but not close enough! That night both the front of my hips got the all too familiar buzzing, you know that tingly feeling when your hip flexors are so tight it feels like someone could rip them off your body. I thought a bit of stretching and foam rolling would help it go away. I awoke the next day stiff and sore. I chalked it off as a tough day in the office on Saturday, everyone had to be in the same boat. I was nearing the end of my 5 weeks on the road (1 week left) and I knew my brain was functioning at a pretty low point. I didn't survive the race that Sunday. My left leg failed me, in a big way. Everything hurt, my hip, my butt, my inner thigh, my hamstrings, my quads, everything. I pulled the plug, knowing it was a C2 and I still had 1 weekend of racing left, it just wasn't worth pushing past something that felt awful.
The week leading into Charm City I did everything I thought was right, massage, tons of foam rolling, stretching, took a couple days off the bike. My hips still hurt, actually they ached SO BAD. Sitting was painful, walking was painful, standing was a struggle. Flash forward Saturday at Charm City, doing pre-ride laps I could feel my left hip/leg, but I ignored it, during warm up it hurt...pretty bad. I made about 2.5 laps on course before I pulled the plug in the pits and collapsed into Chris's arms, I couldn't find the strength in my leg to hold me up. Every pedal stroke felt powerless, the burning, the cramping, in the top part of my left quad it felt like there was this balloon in there taking up all the space ready to explode. As soon as I quit the aching went into my glutes, then went up my back. It ached for the rest of the night and into the next day. I opted to sit out the C1 on Sunday, I couldn't even bare the thought of starting another race only to DNF. DNF'ing breaks you down mentally, more than crashing, more than a disappointing finish.
When I boarded the plane the following day I kept my head held high. I knew once I got home, slept in my bed, saw my body workers, everything would be back to normal. PT on Tuesday morning, Massage that afternoon, Surgeon (for X-rays/schedule surgery for right hip) on Wednesday, Acupuncture on Thursday, and Chiropractor on Friday. 1 week and I'd be spunky and back to normal. To use my Chiropractors words (when my back seized 2 summers ago) "FAI is a bitch". 1 week of care did not get me back to normal, but it was confirmed from the X-rays, that yes in fact I have some FAI on the left hip as well.
Bah Hum Bug.
There's no denying the compensation I've been doing. Once I knew for sure I had a tear on the my right side, I took to my left side to do all the work. Since May I have consciously made an effort to baby my right leg. Stepping up onto a tall stair? Use the left side. Demo'ing exercises? Use the left leg. I turned to my left side to do all the work for me, saving the right side from a potential flare up. Since the season started my right leg was feeling pretty solid, my PT and I worked out the kinks on how I could keep my hip going during the season, anytime I felt a flare up I had a list of things I could do to keep it at a minimum, and when the left leg failed me, I was shocked. I wasn't prepared for this, when the surgeon told me 5 months ago I needed surgery now and I was going to make my right hip worse if I raced, I wasn't prepared to lose strength on the left side. For the 3 weeks I was at home I saw my healers every week, plus an emergency trip to Portland for a bike fit (Thanks Annalisa). I was convinced everything would be the magic cure to make me better, but nothing worked overnight. Some days it felt fine, and then the next day it didn't. Disappointment doesn't even begin to grasp how I was feeling, I started to get a little worried, maybe I tore my labrum on the left side as well, nothing is helping, frustrated, stressed.
I started pondering some options, rerouting my season, changing my goals. I already had my tickets purchased for the Cincy and Louisville weekends, I decided those would be my test weekends, how would I proceed with the season? If you've followed results, you know how the weekend went, well from my perspective it went well, considering I'm pushing the pedals around with a couple of bum old lady hips!
Saturday was the Pan Am Continentals. For the past 2 years I've gotten 7th, and never felt like I was racing at my best. This year I wanted it, I wanted a good result and a race I could walk away with being proud of. I had a good start, a little too good, I found myself getting the hole shot, which I really didn't want, because you know...the hole shot winner never actually wins the race! After the first turn Amanda Nauman came blazing by me at super sonic speeds, and then following the third turn (maybe 4th) on the off camber I caught my bars on the fencing and tumbled to the ground. Lucky for me no one ran me over AND I blocked nearly the entire field, so I didn't lose too much ground. From there Crystal Anthony and I traded blows chasing Katie Compton (hahah) and Maghalie Rochette, but Crystal got the best of me and ended up finishing 2nd, and I finished a smiling Courtenay behind Maghalie for 4th. While the podium would have given me a smile larger than the moon, I'm really proud of the way I raced, how I managed the pain in my hip during the race, and that I COULD race. I lasted 4 laps before the pain started to get substantial (tolerable but substantial), to me, that was success, a step in the right direction.
Sunday's race scared me, well scared my hip. What I remember from the race last year was a slog through grass so slow it zapped away every ounce of energy I had. I had this fear the course would rip apart my hip and eat it for dinner, then spit it up with indigestion. I was pretty sore and tired on Sunday, particularly that left hip. I didn't know how racing would go and how it would respond, but I knew I just needed to get out there and try my hardest. The course, while being the same lay out, was dusty, bone dry, hard ground and scary fast, the opposite of last year. I remember one point during the race I thought to myself "it would be so much easier if I just slowed down, I don't HAVE to work to stay on these wheels", but I shook that thinking and remember it's ALWAYS easier to stay on the wheel, especially when it's windy, and it was windy!
Once again, I'm really happy with the way the race turned out for me. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I had this super human brain telling me to keep going and dig harder than you think possible. There were times when my hip ached so bad I just wanted a break, so I took it, but at the same time I knew how I could make up the time, I knew where traffic congestion would help me. I'm so incredibly happy with the whole weekend of racing, the way I raced, how my body (mostly) held up, and of course the results. The brain is a powerful thing.
I have to say thank you to those who helped me out when I ran into their offices panicking. My lovely PT (and friend) Sarah, who puts up with me weekly and let me borrow her car to drive to Portland (life saver). My PT dates with Sarah always feels like a reset for my hips, and I notice a big difference when I skip a week. Kerry my massage therapist/athletic trainer, who diligently responds to texts when I'm on the opposite side of the country freaking out because I'm in pain. Ash, my acupuncturist who giggles when I yelp after a needle gives me a zinger, but who follows and cheers from a far, and is so dedicated to helping out her athletes get back to prime shape. Erik, my chiropractor, who I've known longer than I've known my husband, and knows exactly what to say when I, once again, come sulking into his office freaking out over my most recent surgeon visit, oh and he cures me right up too! To my friend Aaron in Cincy who squeezed me in on Friday and Monday to do a little MAT (muscle activation technique) treatment for me, because nothing else was fixing me over night, so why not try something new? To Annalisa who spent more time than normal helping me with my bike fit, teaching me on my technique and helping to get my body back to "normal".
My friend asked me which one helps/ed the most and I didn't have answer, because without all of my people I truthfully believe I wouldn't have had the successful weekend I did. Thanks for the energy, the good vibes, and all the cheering. I can't wait to be back next year !