I knew even before I ran the half marathon in Philadelphia that I was in a lot of trouble. My knee had been killing me for weeks but I convinced myself that as soon as I had the Olympic Trials marathon standard, I would have time to heal enough to give myself a chance to make the team a few months later. I would not give my mind a moment to consider what I knew to be true. My competitive running days were over.
I limped around for a few days after the race hoping against hope that my knee would feel better. I had qualified for the trials but I would need to train hard to have any chance of making the Olympic team. The pain did not subside and I had no choice but to see a doctor. An MRI confirmed the worst case scenario. I was done.
Then news got worse after the surgery where they removed 55% on my medial meniscus. I have substantial cartilage damage in the joint and will probably need a procedure called microfracture surgery if I ever want to run again. Not race again. Just run. The problem with microfracture is that the recovery will be at least six month with six weeks on crutches and very little activity while I am rehabbing. This was not an option leading up to Kara’s Olympic race so I have postponed having this procedure indefinitely.
Retiring from elite racing was difficult enough but not being able to go out and enjoy the sport I love was killing me. I needed an outlet. I needed to exercise and at least try to stay fit, so I started going on long rides on my ElliptiGo. With no impact on my knee I can ride with no pain and at least get some good cardio workouts in. Before my surgery I had been riding the ElliptiGo for a couple years. It was great for cross training but it had never been my primary means of exercise.
When I was first asked to race in the ElliptiGo Founders’ Cup World Championships, I was not interested. I love to ride, but it is more for fun and exercise than training for a competition. I know running. I don’t know the first thing about any other kind of racing and this race is 11.7 miles straight up a hill with an average grade of 7%. As hilly as Portland is, there is nowhere close to my home to train on similar terrain. But with the encouragement of my wife and the urging of the organizers, I finally agreed to enter the race “just for fun.” Will I try to win? Sure. Will I be disappointed with a finish outside the top ten? No. I just want to have fun, push myself as hard as I can, and see what happens. It will be a new experience and I am looking forward to enjoying a different kind of competitive environment.
I am a runner who cannot run. My heart and mind crave the feeling of the earth beneath my feet, but my body has other plans. I feel like a part of me is missing. I would give anything just to be able to run five easy miles a day, but until that happens I will attempt to fill the void with other activities and adventures. I joke with my wife Kara that if I somehow win on Saturday, I will be the first “World Champion” in our house. It brings a smile to both our faces and I am grateful for her support.
I am looking forward to a great experience this weekend. I intend to give it everything I’ve got and have as much fun as possible with some amazing people. But deep down inside I know one thing. I am a runner. No injury will ever change that!
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