Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some things are important, other things are more important: Marriage, Triathlon, Injuries, & Life

The past three weeks have been the most monumental weeks of my life, to date…by far. A heel injury from the Miami race on March 20 left me limping, frustrated and very discouraged, but looking back I think it came at the right time, just in time to teach me an important lesson and focus on what matters most.

On April 2nd I married the most incredible woman that exists. I was obviously overwhelmed with excitement leading up to the big day, had a very hard time sleeping and thinking about anything else the week of, yet at the same time during the few weeks prior, my mind was still consumed with triathlon. Although I knew Amy wanted to, we weren’t going to take a honeymoon, mostly because of money but also because I didn’t want my training to suffer. We were going to go up to the mountains for a day or two instead to enjoy a weekend away, but nothing extravagant. It was a pretty selfish standpoint on my part, knowing the Amy wanted to go somewhere memorable but knew she would support what I wanted to do. After training my butt off the past five months I did not want to lose what I had gained, nor could afford to spend big bucks on a wild vacation. Truth of the matter is that a lot of it had to do with pressure to perform well this year, and time off or a cutback in training may not help that. Quitting my accounting job and pursuing my nearly unpaid life of a rookie pro triathlete while trying to grow a coaching business, naturally put pressure on me heading into marriage. This is the year I need to do well, very very well, I thought to myself. It’s the year I’ve hired a coach, and the year I’m training more than ever…which really means more than the past two years since I’ve still relatively new to the sport. I put the pressure on myself, and everyone has been supportive of the pursuit, especially Amy, so I cannot blame anyone for that.

I trained long and hard the past five months, raced in Miami in late March and came home with mixed feelings and not quite the result I had hoped for. At the same time, my run had improved a lot and my coach Melissa Mantak’s training plan was working. She continues to remind me the top pros did not rise to the top overnight. It’s simply not possible in this sport, and takes time. I took two days off running post-Miami, and attempted to run on the third day. I made it 20 minutes and was forced to hobble, stop, and walk back a few miles to the car. My heel was killing me. I thought it was a simple heel bone bruise from racing in road flats on concrete, so took a few more days off running and was certain it would heel. Fast forward two weeks - I was limping around just walking and the area around my achilles tendon was very swollen. I then realized this was more serious than I thought, and realized I needed to take some time to focus on healing it.

Wedding week was upon me, and honestly my mind was not on training. I skipped workouts, had a ton to do, friends came into town, and my training was sliding a bit for the first time in a half a year. With the injury and wedding events, it was easy to justify. A few weeks prior, I committed to not let the wedding events alter my training much, yet reality hit with wedding planning, running around town, relatives and friends arriving…and oh yeah, I’m injured. Honestly though, the biggest thing that affected it was actually my discouragement and lack of motivation. It’s amazing how motivation can change with an injury, and thinking about triathlon while being injured is no fun. So, that led me to not want to think about it at all, skip more swim and bike workouts than I should have, and pour my energy into the excitement of getting married. As excited as I was, this was very easy to do, and looking back, I’m very glad; this was a good thing. This was a necessary thing! Marriage only comes once in a lifetime, for me at least, and unfortunately not for all. It is more important than anything else, such as training, and Amy deserves my full attention. Getting hyped up all week on getting married was incredibly fun.

Thanks to my sister and the generosity of the folks at Denver Physical Therapy, I was able to get in two days before the wedding to have my injury assessed. At that point I was thinking it was Achilles tendonitis, since it was a lingering injury that was worsening as time went on. The doc was a bit perplexed, as the pain was not coming from my Achilles nor the typical spot of the heel for the most common bone bruise. Rather, it was stemming from deep in the calcaneus bone area, and on both sides of the foot. So, it was likely either a bruise in a rare spot, or a fracture of some sort. Stress fractures usually come on gradually, and this injury happened from the race, which was a good sign as an acute injury means take time to get it healed and get back to work, rather than having to adjust a training load and plan in the case of an overuse injury. The doctor performed dry needling on my right calf. He admitted it would likely help more in the case of Achilles tendonitis, but it was worth a shot. Ouch!!… sticking 15 needles in and out of the calf, going as deep as the bone, doesn’t exactly feel nice. However, the treatment can work and that’s all that matters. I was shocked to be so sore from it, and hobbled around for two days thinking, this will be fun to walk down the aisle like this :)

The wedding was incredible. We had over 250 people join us for the day, and great friends came from all over, including the Westmont crew from California, Multisport Ministries guys from various states, 20 relatives from Michigan, and the locals including my best friends from high school and people like my coach Melissa and her husband Rob, who I’m just getting to know well but value our relationships so much already. Somehow I was still able to dance a bit with a swollen foot, which I didn’t even think about the whole evening…other than when coach Melissa whispered “how’s your foot feeling” during dinner :).

I’m on my way back from a week in Hawaii after an amazing honeymoon. Long story short, close family friends offered to let us stay in their condo on a beach in Kihei, Maui, and plane tickets were gifted to us in the wedding. Now, how can you turn that down? You can’t! I’m so thankful and grateful for generous people in my life. I ran 35 minutes today, in my first run in three weeks. I felt slow, a bit out of shape, but looking back maybe the injury had a purpose - to tell me to relax, focus on my wife since she more than deserves it, and maintain a healthy balance in life. I had imagined my honeymoon a time where I could log 55 miles a week at sea level in beautiful weather, but that was not to be. Funny how the injury finally healed enough the last day of the trip to run. Was God trying to tell me something? Maybe. I got in a few pool swims and 3 bike rides on a rented bike, but no structured training and an incredible time with my wife was what the week was about. Life is about more than triathlon, more than one’s job, hobby, career, etc. and sometimes it’s easy to forget about that.

I’m ready to get back to the swing of things, back to the training routine, and find out what married life is all about. I’ll have to see how fitness comes along the next month and decide if I am ready to race in New Orleans and Memphis in mid May. I met Amy just over 1 year ago, and now I’ve got a ring on my finger - pretty amazing how God can bless us just like that, completely unexpected. Some friends were surprised to hear I was getting married so soon after meeting Amy, and shared their thoughts on marriage with me. I love my friends to death, and love even more how we can share thoughts even when they differ. Some people think you should live together, travel the world together, and share finances together before you even think of getting married. I can see their reasoning, but don’t think it necessary. Others are shocked to hear Amy and I both committed long ago to remain abstinent until marriage. Although we chose this, which was definitely not easy, it’s cool to see most people respect it and acknowledge it’s cool to see two people follow through with it after 26 or 27 long years. These differences don’t get in the way of our friendships, they may even strengthen then. What really matters is how I feel about Amy, and not what anyone else says or thinks, or if they agree with my decisions and opinions or not; that we are right for each other and committed for life, and that we have friendships with people we can talk openly about this stuff with. Life is about living with people, similar AND different to yourself, respecting others opinions but yet ultimately following your own convictions - this is what matters.

I wanted to share a few pictures and highlights from the past few weeks, as well as my bike trek from the beach at sea level to the top of the Haleakala Crater at over 10,000ft elevation, an epic and memorable climb! The ride took about 3:20 minutes, and I was pretty taxed by the top after going out a bit too hard the first hour, not fully aware of the difference between a regular 3 hour ride vs. a 3 hour ride of constant climbing on a rented bike. *(I'll be writing a separate blog entry/post for the Multisport Ministries monthly newsletter on the trek up Haleakala, with pictures of the whole progression from beach to the top).

Thanks for tuning in!

-Ryan

The Kihei Aquatic Center, 25yd x 50m pool, & FREE to the public!

Swim workouts with the sea turtles!

I've worn my Powerbar socks at every formal occasion since 7th grade, why stop now? Years later they're a sponsor...irony or karma?

Some more wedding photos (by McCory James of Elevate Photography)

I was proud of my shrimp tacos I whipped up one night for dinner.

2 comments:

ChrisB said...

You will find that training gets a lot harder to do when you get married. You think you want to go out for a 4 hour ride, but 30 minutes into it you realize that you miss your wife and want to turn back! Love the wedding photos and I wish you two have a strong and happy marriage.

Brandon said...

Congratulations!
This marks a new chapter in your lives, a new start if you will.
I've started over many times in sport. Thirteen stress fractures. I know what it's like to start from scratch. Blessings come in strange ways.
Keep positive.
Once again, congratulations.
-Brandon