labral repair

A Tale of Two Hips

A Surgery so nice, I did it twice.

Just kidding.  

everything I could do to smile after waking up from surgery #2

everything I could do to smile after waking up from surgery #2

Anyone who has been through a hip arthroscopy surgery knows, it's really not nice, but I did do it twice.  Some people like to ask me if I'm glad I went through with surgery (again).  If I could make a meme of how I currently feel, the top picture would say "how I answer" and would have a picture of me smiling.  The bottom picture would say "how I actually feel" and it would be me poking my eye balls out.  

I know that's kind of graphic, but it's the truth.  I haven't blogged much about this recovery because I haven't really known what to say.  I've started a new post, then I don't finish it, then I delete it, then I re-write, don't post, don't finish, delete, try again.  My recovery timeline should (in theory) be the same as last year, I know what to expect, and I know that I CAN get back to where I need to be when the time is right.  Some people like to ask me if this makes it easier, the answer to that, is no.  Just because I did surgery once, doesn't make the second time any easier.  One time is a mystery, the second time is hard.  I'm ready to put an end to this chapter of my life, and some days I'm holding strong, and then there are days where I feel like I'm hanging on by a thread.  

All in all, things are progressing, slowly, because that's the way it goes with this surgery.  Everyone keeps telling me they think I'm doing better than I was last year, and I just smile and nod and tell them it's the same.  In reality, I feel I'm in the same place process wise last year, but I have better spirits, less overall pain, and more knowledge regarding recovery.  I think because I came back from my first hip so well, people think recovery was easy.  Honestly, this second hip at this point in recovery, compared to the first, has been a breeze (I haven't wanted to say that out loud as I'm afraid I'll curse myself).  What people don't know is how much pain I woke up with everyday last year.  Every morning for the first 2 months-ish my hip ached and throbbed in the groin, any type of internal rotation or adduction, or external rotation HURT.  A slight pivot on that foot left me crumbling to the ground in pain.  For the first few weeks post-op BEING IN A CAR HURT, not the sitting (that hurt too though) but the accelerating, the braking, the turning, it was excruciating.  I couldn't sit without irritation for MONTHS (think....6+ months).  I had joint pain for nearly 8 months.  Yes, I recovered, but it came with a lot of patience, a lot of tears, HOURS of physical therapy, weekly acupuncture visits for 7 months, and persistence.  Hip surgery is not for the faint of heart and I'm continuously in awe of people who don't take it seriously.  

I even ate cake on my birthday!

I even ate cake on my birthday!

This go around I've had to hold myself back more often than not.  While I feel last year I was "conservative", I was still holding on to that tiny thread of hope.  Hope of being able to get back out there sooner, hope that I could hang onto some tiny ounce of fitness I had going into surgery. Hope that I could maintain my strength and muscle.  Looking back now, I realize I was holding onto so much hope, I ignored so many signs I should have listened to.  2018 Courtenay laughs at 2017 Courtenay.  I'm a much wiser recover'er this time around.  

What many don't know, because I didn't want to talk about it or go into details about, is my major flare up 3 months post-op last year.  I ended up with SI Joint Dysfunction, compressed vertebra, and a massively flared up hip.  I think I touched on it on a post at some point, but honestly, it broke me, physically and mentally.  I had worked so hard to get to the point I was at, I was (so I thought at the time) so incredibly patient, and when things flared, I lost all hope in my recovery.  I kept counting in my head how many months I had to prepare for CX, and each day as the pain didn't subside, was another day lost.  What you don't know, is it took me well over 2 months to recover from that back flare, the hip settled after a couple of weeks, but my back pain lingered into July, and on and off clear into the CX season.  To this day I'm not sure what went wrong last year, if it was a pile up of signs I should have seen before it all happened, or if the universe wanted me to learn something, I just don't know.  

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What I do know is, 2018 Courtenay learned a heck of a lot from that flare up.  I learned how to handle the back pain I've dealt with for YEARS.  It comes and goes, but when it comes, I can make it better with the techniques I learned in PT.  2018 Courtenay learned when you go through surgery, you can't hold onto fitness, LET IT GO.  This year, I let it go.  I didn't push what I thought "would be fine".  With my first hip when I was told I was allowed to do something, I went and did that something 100% of the time (which is probably what got me in trouble with these damn hips in the first place).  When my surgeon said I could ride outside for 1 hour, flat pavement, easy, I looked at it as something I could do every day, because when I'm fit 1 hour IS easy, so I rode my bike every damn day.  Funny, right?  When I was told I could go back to Yoga at 8 weeks, I went back to Yoga, 2x/week, because that's what I did before surgery, so why would it be a problem now?  I got myself back into the gym 2x/week for some upper body work.  Everything was fine, until it wasn't, and then it was awful.  2018 Courtenay laughs at 2017 Courtenay.  2017 Courtenay was kind of stupid, but I was holding onto hope I should have let go of.  

If I'm honest, I'm scared of a big flare up like that, because it was bad.  It hurt, I cried, I was humbled by life, and I don't want that again.  Everything we experience in life is a lesson, or it should be!  I learned how to be a wiser and better recover'er from that flareup.  I can look back and see where I went wrong, and I can hopefully, make it better.  I've been intentionally taking this recovery even SLOWER than my first one.  I've been riding my bike less days, I eased my way into outdoor riding, I've only been going to Yoga 1x/week, AND it's not on a day I ride my bike!  I haven't had a focus on going to the gym as much, as I would rather my hip recover and we don't have a big ol' flare up like last year.  I survived not only 1 but TWO 6 hour flights to and from Hawaii.  Along with the flights, I survived walking on sand, travel days, walking on uneven undulating lava trails, SWIMMING with KICKS (something I wasn't allowed to do until 3 months post-op), lots of car time, and on top of all that, lots of pool and beach time while in Hawaii.  

I'm continuously amazed at my body and what it is capable of.  I'm amazed every day when I get out of bed and my hips support me, I'm amazed every time I ride my bike in the pure beauty of being outside, and how far my body can take me.  I'm amazed at my resilience to keep persevering when there are days I want to give up.  I know I'm strong both physically and mentally, and when I'm on the other side of this chapter, I'll be that much stronger.  

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1 year post-op (nearly)

I'm 1.5 weeks from my 1 year post op date (Feb. 9th).  It's really hard to believe it's almost been a year since Chris and I woke up at 4am for me to head into surgery.  The scariest part (to me) is I'll be turning around and doing it again on Feb. 8th for my left side.  

Driving home from surgery.  The anesthesia knocked me OUT!

Driving home from surgery.  The anesthesia knocked me OUT!

I wanted to take some time to reflect on the past year, and since I'm jet lagged in Europe and I woke up at 6am this was the perfect time to do it!  

Heading into surgery I had an idea of what to expect of recovery based on those I talked to pre-surgery.  I didn't know what the surgery day would be like, IE, how I was going to get put under, or anything like that, and honestly, that scared me the most.  I felt mentally ready to recover like a champ and put all my energy into healing.  I had that under complete control (kinda of...at the time), but the anxiety I felt going into surgery was like nothing I've ever experienced.  The nurse was kind and kept talking to me and asking me questions, I'm sure trying to take my mind off of surgery, but I just wanted to sit in silence and be scared, so I didn't really respond to her much.  

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Honestly, the first week post-op wasn't bad at all.  You can read more about that here if you haven't already.  What becomes challenging as the process of recovery continues, is your inability to do what you want, at the level you want.  Your body doesn't meet your mental expectations and it becomes disheartening and frustrating.  You get stuck in this circle of "what if's".  What if I don't heal?  What if I re-injure myself?  What if my hip is worse off than it was before?  Basic movements that used to be second nature, became frightening.  I was scared of any type of repetitive active flexion movement for a really long time (we're talking at least 8 months).  I didn't start feeling comfortable in the gym doing different type of exercises besides PT and stabilization until recently, at least 11 months.  I still haven't done any heavy loading on my hip.  I do feel that I could add in more heavy strength to the hip, as mentally and physically I'm ready, but being in season for CX, it doesn't make sense to start up that type of strength training right now, plus when I do anything heavy, it actually flares up my left hip.  So I'm kinda of in this conundrum with heavy strength right now.  I miss it, and I'll get back to it...some time.  

I can't deny heading to Europe in November (10 months post op) and crashing hard twice on my surgical hip wasn't brutal.  My hip definitely regressed a good amount after those crashes.  We're talking...regression back to how it felt in August.  It was a really, really, really big bummer mentally.  I had a few freak out moments and thoughts, but none-the-less, I worked to stay positive about the whole situation.  I had to have known pushing my hip to it's limits week in and week out would at some point regress it.

My leg looked like a peg, and my butt was saggy.  This was when I realized (even though I already knew this, but it took me seeing it on myself to realize) muscle is boss

Having surgery was mentally so tough, but the saying goes, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger.  I hate cheesy things like that, but I'll tell you what, having surgery changed me, and changed me for the better.  I was kind of a head case in August as I was preparing for the season, but as the season approached I set my expectations low, and realized I was just happy to be there.  Surgery opened up my eyes to what our bodies are capable of.  We spend too much time hating ourselves, trying to get our legs to look slimmer, wishing our butts were a little smaller, dying for that flat stomach, trying to lose that extra pound, because once we shed that pound, we'll be happy.  We all know that's not how it works.  With surgery, I learned to appreciate my body for what it went through and how it bounced back.  I learned to love my body for how far it got me in 32 years.  I learned this body is a gift I was given with my life, and I need to treat it respectfully, not only with movement, but with nutrition, and my mental attitude.  I needed to love my body in a positive manner in order for it to heal.  

Being on crutches and 20lbs weight bearing for 4.5 weeks, your muscles atrophy.  My leg shrank and my butt dwindled, to the point that for the first time I can remember, my butt (okay lets be honest..my right butt cheek only) ACTUALLY fit into my swim suit.  

Guess What. 

I hated it.  I hated the way it looked.  My leg looked like a peg, and my butt was saggy.  This was when I realized (even though I already knew this, but it took me seeing it on myself to realize) muscle is boss.  Muscle rules all.  There are all these stupid campaigns out there about "strong is beautiful" "strong is the new skinny", they make me want to vomit, especially because when you look at them...it's pictures of skinny girls!  It kills me every time.  Strong is functional, strong is stable, and strong should be your goal in life.  Strong is your key to a long healthy amazing quality of life up until the day your die.  Movement, without our bodies and our strength, we wouldn't be able to move.  I grew to appreciate this mantra to myself throughout my recovery, it allowed me to stay positive and keep my head up. looking towards the light and the "end" of my recovery and onto bigger and better things.  

Nationals.  (Sorry I forgot to snapped this photo.  If it's yours let me know and I'll plug you in).

Nationals.  (Sorry I forgot to snapped this photo.  If it's yours let me know and I'll plug you in).

The season was a mystery, but my mind was in an amazing place, and my body performed when the time was right.  Having surgery was the best thing I could have done for my racing.  Sounds crazy right?   I missed out on a lot of fun over the Spring and Summer.  I missed out on my long soul rides, mountain biking with friends, lost adventures, but because of this, I had a sense of calmness about the season, in a really strange way.  For me, I was just happy to be there and racing my bike, pain free.  This calmness helped me have more focus, fun, and less stress.  Because of this, I out did myself with every step throughout the season.  I didn't imagine a top 20 at either of the US World Cups.  I finished 20th and 12th.  I didn't imagine any UCI win's this year.  I won twice.  I didn't imagine a trip to Europe this year.  I went twice.  In August I wasn't going to race Nationals, I finished 4th.  I didn't imagine making the Worlds team, I did.   

You guys, the sky is the limit when it comes to your mental shift in attitude and positivity and how far you'll physically go with this shift.  The past year was hard, insanely hard physically and mentally.  Hip surgery seriously sucks.  I don't look forward to doing it again at all, it actually really bums me out.  The thing is, if I gained this much strength and knowledge from 1 hip surgery, I look forward to seeing what I can conquer with hip #2.  

You'll hear from me on the flip side!

An unpredictable season

Whoops, I haven't blogged since the end of September, and as we're past nationals, I thought it would be the perfect time to post!  

Cincy CX "Pan Am Plunge" Photo Credit: Meg McMahon

Cincy CX "Pan Am Plunge" Photo Credit: Meg McMahon

First off, can I say "Happy New Year" to my readers!  It's 2018,  so insanely baffling, I'm 32, going on 33 in March, where.does.the.time.go?  Seriously.  I remember in 5th grade receiving a white sweatshirt that said "Class of 2003" on it, and had everyones name that was enrolled in the Mercer Island School District in my grade on it.  At the time, they were the coolest things ever, and I remember thinking 2003 was SOOOO far away (after all, I think the year was 1996), and here I am nearly 15 years after graduating high school wondering where the time went, not really where I envisioned my life, but wouldn't trade it for the world.  

2017 was a wild ride.  It started off with a bang at Cyclocross Nationals, finishing 5th, making Worlds, going to Europe, finishing 15th at my first World Championships in the snow and ice.  10 days later I went in for hip surgery and so many things changed.  Spring was hard, Summer perked up (except for the news of needing another hip surgery on the opposite side), and then racing commenced!  I committed myself to a lighter schedule at the start of the season, not knowing how either of my hips would fare, and wanting to have the ability to focus a bit more on training at the beginning of the season versus racing, since my training was a bit delayed compared to others.  The season started out with a BANG!  Seriously, I was shocked, a top 10 in my first UCI race back, a C1 leading up to the Jingle Cross World Cup with top international talent.  At that point I knew my season was going to fare better than I anticipated, but I still held my reserves.  

Nationals Photo Credit: Cathy Fegan-Kim

Nationals Photo Credit: Cathy Fegan-Kim

August 2nd I sat in my surgeons office reviewing my MRI from my left hip (the non surgical one), discussing options, and we both agreed that because I had been feeling it since the previous Fall (you can read about it here), and it didn't get better with rest (you know the 4 months I spent doing nothing after surgery), then it probably wasn't going to get better, and surgery would be my best option if I wanted it fixed.  Given how well I responded to the first surgery we agreed it would be a good option for me, but first, we race.  Time and time again he told me my hip wouldn't feel good, I wouldn't feel normal, and I shouldn't expect a very good season this year, and that I should look forward to the following year to have a good season.  I believed him.  Call me a fool, because I know myself better than that.  When someone tells me I can't, I tell them I can and I will.  It's just my nature, it's who I am.  Well, since believing him, and having very very very low expectations for the season (like hoping to get a top 30 in the US World Cups), I originally planned to have surgery in December on my left hip.  I figured that way I would get some racing in, and get a jump start on my recovery for the following year, which would mean I could get some mountain bike racing in!  Plus, I had met my deductible already, so it all just made sense...at the time.  

Life is never what you expect.  

Winning Day #2 at Boulder Photo Credit: Ethan Glading 

Winning Day #2 at Boulder Photo Credit: Ethan Glading 

Turns out, I kinda kicked ass for having had hip surgery in Feb. and not really starting any formal training until July.  Season goals changed, and I realized I was going to salvage this season I thought was a lost cause.  An outsider looking in, someone who doesn't know the back story, a stranger to the cycling world, my season would look normal, just about right, lighter racing schedule than last year, but you could say it was on par to last years season, or even slightly better.  This person wouldn't refer to my season as magical, like I do.  Magical, like a unicorn.  A fairytale story with a weird tragic ending for a twist.  

World Cup racing in Europe in muddy.  I love the mud.  

World Cup racing in Europe in muddy.  I love the mud.  

The past 5 months have been nothing short of magical, and I'm thanking those that have been a part of it, those that supported me, believed in me, and helped me get where I am.  The last year has been a journey, a challenging experience (I'm so lucky to do AGAIN, but we can talk about that later), and while I wouldn't wish it upon anyone, yet I wouldn't change it for the world.  Looking back on my post from September, I raced with more heart this season than ever before.  I had more fight than ever, and more to smile about than anyone else out there.  I stood on 7 UCI podiums, raced in 4 World Cups (1 to go), won 2 UCI races, I finished 4th at Nationals and have been selected to race World Championships in the Netherlands in 2 weeks, all within less than 1 year post hip arthroscopic surgery.  This didn't come easy, but I proved to myself that I could do it, I can be the 1% to come back stronger, better, happier.  The odds weren't in my favor, I was told I shouldn't count on anything.  I look forward to my final 2 races of the season, and I anticipate another challenge of coming back from yet ANOTHER hip surgery.  It's not something I want, but it's a story I'll hold onto for a long time, it's a part of my journey to become the best I can be.  

The "I did it" face to Chris.  Photo: Cathy Fegan-Kim

The "I did it" face to Chris.  Photo: Cathy Fegan-Kim