I wanted to give you all an update of how things are progressing with my #roadtorecovery
Today’s topic, The Mental Reset:
You’ve seen in my previous post that I started undergoing a mental reset in less than a week from my accident. Many of you have asked me in the meantime… How do you do it? Is it that easy? What was the process? How can you be so positive about this? Where do you get the energy?
I don’t believe I have any secret sauce or recipe and truth be told; the process is still ongoing. Yet the first few steps I’ve taken early on. I’m happy to share with you what, instinctively, my approach is and the steps I’m taking. Not necessarily in a straight line.
First, Accept Reality
No matter how much I wished this didn’t happen, it did. Nothing I could say, do or wish, my shoulder would remain to be just as injured. The reality is that my tendons are ruptured, and they will take time to heal. Recovery that gets me back to full mobility is the priority; strength will come back in due time when I can fully train again.
Second, Be Grateful
Be grateful for all the good things in life that are still around you.
I am grateful that the only place I am injured is my shoulder. It could have been a lot worse. My head, my spine… none of them even hit the ground. I hardly even have road rash. My reflexes allowed me to make a ‘clean’ tumble turn with the unfortunate single hard impact zone of my shoulder.
As a fellow crazy rider and colleague said “you walked away from this one, be happy about that”
All my partners are stellar and all 1 by 1 have decided that we’ll continue our partnership despite of this pothole (pun intended) in the journey. Beyond just making stellar products which are all part of my ecosystem as an athlete and healthy lifestyle, I am grateful that all my partners have a strong moral code and ethics that align with mine.
Another example of gratefulness is, that last Sunday I was unfortunately not able to compete during the corporate triathlon as part of a Nike relay team. However, I am grateful and excited that I was able to be a cheerleader and cheer on many colleagues and friends.
From friends, family and people dear to me helping me with day to day stuff, cooking, company, brunches, messages, laughing… and yes, even flying in for a weekend… What is there not to be grateful about?
Third, Focus on what you can do
Rather than what you can’t do. Yes, it is true that I can’t do many things for a while. I can’t run, I can’t swim, I can’t wear T-shirts, I can’t ride my bike outdoor, I can’t train… Racing will be out for quite some time…. I can’t…
Who cares what I can’t do?
Between my coach, physiotherapist and doctor, it is clear what I can’t do… yet we are devising a program on what I can do.
Here’s how the "new normal" came to life:
The accident happened on Saturday June 29th.
On Monday I was back at work, all be it from home the first week.
On Tuesday I started my first real Physiotherapy with, Dave Lee from UFIT. Dave is, not by accident, also a fellow triathlete (more on this in a next blogpost), with baby step progress ever since focusing on regaining mobility.
On Wednesday, I have started some training again. Basic and short as it might be, I was on the indoor trainer. My coach Colin O'Shea is a Rockstar at giving me short indoor bike sets and keeping them interesting and varied enough.
On Thursday I started resetting my goals.
On Friday I communicated those out, which you’ve read in my previous blogpost.
And on Sunday, 1 week after being discharged from the hospital, I did my first (leg) strength and core session. And as soon as the wound is healed, I’ll be back in the pool… Not swimming as that is not an option for a while, yet kicking my ass off. I will learn to love that weakness of mine… and who knows, it might even turn into a strength.
I’ve always been a believer in “do what you love”, follow your passion, in everything that you do. Work, life, hobbies, relationships, friends,…. One of my guiding principle is “Time is the only currency worth caring for. You can only spend it once, and never earn it back”. So spend it on the right passions and with the right people.
And finally, I have some extra time to add more content to my website. Something I have more often than not, failed to do.
Fourth, Celebrate the small (daily) wins
Every day I am able to do a little bit more. Putting on a shirt from 20 minutes to no time. Being able to cook again (all be it quite slow), go back into the office for work, enjoy walks around, even hold a fork and eat with my bad hand. My stretches are allowing me to move my hand every day a bit further. And most importantly throughout this, smile at life and laugh with friends.
One of my biggest challenges so far was sleeping flat. Yes, you read it correctly, for the life of me, I couldn’t sleep flat, not with towels or pillows bellow my arm. The pain was just too much. (oh, and I am not a big fan of painkillers, so stopped taking them as soon as I could). Well as for sleeping. The last few night, were the first few, where I was able to sleep flat with minimal, pain and discomfort. After almost 2 weeks of sleeping on a stack of pillows, I call this a big win. Thanks to some of the stretches that Dave lee, my physiotherapist, and I worked on.
This is merely a short list of examples among the many small wins I celebrate throughout the day.
Fifth, Surround yourself with stellar people with a positive attitude
Having friends that don’t talk to you in pity, yet are motivating you, supporting you, have that innate positive attitude… and even most important, treat this as the new, yet temporary, normal.
As for my athletic side and keeping my mental sanity, I’ll mention again the golden trifecta between my doctor dr Chin, my physiotherapist Dave Lee and my coach Colin O'Shea.
Some people, well intended, talk about how sorry they feel for me. I thank them, yet point out what I'll explain in my next step...
Sixth, Every challenge brings a new opportunity
Never let a good crisis go to waste. I am confident I will look back at this period as a ‘small’ detour from what is anyway intended to be a long epic journey… my Odyssey. I might not be able to assess all new opportunities yet. However, I firmly believe that something good will come from this. Hah, as an athlete, who knows, maybe I’ll become a stronger cyclist… like my friend Matteo said, we can all use those extra watts.
And as for my goals, you’ve seen that I had to adjust them and create some new one’s. and that’s ok, it’s about the journey, not the destination as my friend Charlene always says.
Find peace within. Every challenge we face in life bring along so much stress. Meditation and mindfulness have been a great aid for me to ease the ‘monkey’ going crazy in my mind.
Calming my worries for the many what if’s in the future, by helping me accept the noise of what I can’t control and even not respond to the noise. It aids to live in the now. Ground myself and recharge the mental batteries. Enabling to try to live life with a smile as much as I can.
Eight, Reset your Goals
Having to reset your goals doesn’t mean you have to let go of setting crazy goals.
My primary goal is to get back to full mobility and strength in the shoulder at the right pace, guided by the right trifecta. In a next post I’ll share deeper how the progress is going.
I had to let go of some short-term goals. Yes, that includes letting go of the Ironman World championships in 2019 in Kona this year.
As for my long-term goals, I can already tell you that the way things are unfolding, 2020 will be an epic race year. Stay tuned for some more exciting news on this. #phoenixrising
I’ll spend some more time on this in a next blog post on how I leverage nutrition to aid in my recovery.
To close this post off and back to the question asked by many of you:
“How can you be so happy with this situation? How can you smile?”
I simply ask you this:
“What’s the alternative?
When choosing the name of my website, The Odyssey, I had no idea that, what I perceived to be an already transformational journey, would be nothing compared to the next challenge to be overcome.
On June 29th 2019, while being on a social ride with friends as part of my Kona 2019 base build preparation, faith threw another curveball.
I was surveying for oncoming traffic, while navigating a roundabout, leading a few fellow riders/friends. In doing so, I didn’t see a large pothole in the road... I went over my handlebars, had the instinct to tuck my head and tumble turn, yet took the full brunt of the hit on my right shoulder. While tumbling, my black beauty still attached to my cleats, smacked the ground hard and was catapulted away from me. Instantly I knew this was a major hit for my bike… and probably even worse for me. I took a loud scream.... FUUUUuuuuuu..... Shook my head, moved my body to check its state limb by limb. All was good, considering the hard crash. All ... but the right shoulder. I could see a bone sticking out from my shoulder through my skin tight fire-red DT Swiss bike-kit.
Within minutes, with some aid from my friend, I was put in a taxi and on my way to the hospital scrunching at even the slightest bump in the road. By 8am I entered ER and was being examined, X-rayed soon thereafter, followed by a doctor's consultation. He was clear about the situation and I was scheduled for surgery later that afternoon. Luckily he understood that I am a competitive (amateur) athlete and confirmed that he would go above the norm to ensure I can get back to full strength and mobility... over time.
Prior to surgery, I felt blessed, I had friends swing by the hospital. Not the sad type of visit, yet the happy talk, life chats, and was eagerly listening to some of their epic next steps in their endurance journey. Yes you guessed it, most my friends are fellow crazy athletes, dream chasers and dream makers.
A few of them I’d like to highlight.
So what now?
The good news is that there are micro gains and micro progress. Since Tuesday, I have started physiotherapy. Since Sunday, yes 12hours post-surgery, I was encouraged, to start doing mobility exercises, and having been doing these diligently with small gains along the way. Some base mobility is coming back. I’ve also been briefly on the indoor trainer in the past 2 days, working with my physio, coach and doctor on what I can do, versus what I can’t do. The latter list is, of course, still the longest for a while. I also manage to put on a shirt sub 1 minute while this took me 20 minutes just a mere few days ago. Micro-goals and micro-gains… I take anything I can get and am celebrating those mini victories.
Some less good news on Black Beauty, the initial feedback from my experts at my bike shop @t3bicycle indicate that black beauty could still work in the stable on an indoor trainer, yet outdoor riding is not safe anymore. I’ll learn more when I go visit them in the next few days. After seeing pictures my my bike frame, I realise how hard the crash must have been. The component damage, which there is plenty of, is the easier replaceable part.
As for work, theoretical, I am on medical leave, yet have been working as normal this week, just taking all meetings from home this week, as things do take a bit more time. This helps me stay focussed, and stay sane. As of next week, I will be back in the office as normal.
In the meantime, I have spent some time to reset some of my goals, say them out loud, and write them out.
Allow me to share with you where I landed them so far:
Before I close off this first post on my #roadtorecovery, I’d like to thank all of you. From all over the world, you have reached out over the past few days. Thank you for your kind words of support. Even more so, sharing some inspirational thoughts, like Tim Don’s and Frodo’s comeback (boy, mine are nothing compared to their challenges) . And in some cases, even more special, You have shared your very own personal stories of adversity.
I feel blessed, I feel energised, I feel inspired and ready to move onwards...