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Cycle / April 3, 2016

The Painful Consequences of Losing Your Shoes

Written by: Roxanne Trujillo

Being an athlete has taught me many things about life, myself and that outside is free after spending $10,000. It has also proven that my risk of an injury is high. When a person is launching themselves off jumps bigger than they can confidently handle, or leading climbs up to 70 + feet, risk of injury rises. However, that is part of the thrill of being involved in extreme sports. The racing of the heart, the adrenaline, the uncontrollable smile and the pride in oneself after conquering something that seemed out of reach, usually outweighs the risk of injury. However, when injury happens, the perspective of the world is convoluted with no self-worth. Daily life struggles seem to linger and the negative mental thoughts over power.

Over the summer, I got cocky. First words in a sentence that are usually followed with “I got injured”. I was hauling balls down Bootcamp at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, Colorado. Please take the phrase “hauling balls” with a grain of salt, as I was probably only going a little over 20 mph. I was not completely comfortable with hitting “big” jumps and was still learning the proper weight distribution while boosting off one. However I have the mentality to just hit it and learn the right way while in midair. This approach seemed to be working for the first few runs, but this particular run resulted in that being a really dumb idea.

It didn’t help that I had my fork and rear suspension partially locked out. It was in trail mode, not downhill descent mode. Those small errors result in big errors. That is not the sole reason that threw me off the trail and I actually gave myself some credit for riding half a day with the suspension set up like this. “Bro, I’m such a pro!”

 

“I have the mentality to just hit it and learn the right way while in midair ”

As I launched myself off the 3rd jump of this run, there was that sudden feeling of knowing that my bike was going to go one way and I was headed another. Sure enough I found myself at the bottom of the hill off the side of the trail with no bike and my shoes were missing. Yes, both shoes were gone. I brushed the dirt off my jersey and kept checking to see if my nipple was still attached. Shoulder nerve damage can cause such a horrific feeling.

My state of consciousness appeared to be fine. Dazed and still very confused I yelled “Where the F are my shoes!?”

I heard my buddy yell back, “Where the F are you?!”

That 15 second crash resulted in a torn shoulder that put me out of mountain biking and rock climbing for 6 months. A painful, stressful, anxiety filled 6 months.

Through the healing process of this injury I began to recognize how much I relied on my sports to process stress, and give me self-worth. Basically I was a hot mess for 6 months. I like to explain my summer as a series of unfortunate events that all started with flying out of my shoes. Time had no mercy on me. From the torn shoulder, to falling on it again because I was being inpatient, to a broken heart, two hornet stings through my helmet (I refused to give up commuting into work), a sliced finger and a scare to my job. I wasn’t sure if my series of unfortunate events were hitting heavier because my outlets for processing stress were stripped from an injury, or if the world truly hated me. I still don’t think I will ever know.

I do know, that my body craved riding and climbing more than it ever had. Since I couldn’t have it, I wanted it more. Watching my friends leave town and hit up some epic town to play hard was torture. I had a persistent fear that I would forget all my technique, and lose my strength and endurance during the healing process. I didn’t want to get fat and worried my back and calve muscles would disappear. Such an aesthetic fear, but none the less a real one.

I sought out anything that would speed up the healing process. I held no health insurance at the time and determined that my shoulder would be fixed with therapy and patience. I somehow justified that spending $240 a week on a body works specialist was better than getting an MRI. Actually, come to think about it, it was. I’ll send you his name if you’re in the market. I also read up on the proper food intake to help heal a muscle tear which was increasing protein and potassium intake for muscle repair, omega-3’s to reduce inflammation. I enforced adopting any practices that would speed the recovery.

I wish I could tell you that I began running 100 miles a week, and picked up some wild sport of balancing on one side of my body, or read the entire library. But, I didn’t. I did try picking up the skill of an Australian accent. “Hey mate, want to es-cape the lie-bry and eat some straw-bry sher-bay”? I hung out on social media too much, and reminisced about climbing and the trail.  I did not completely fall into a blob though. I knew it was important to stay in motion and keep blood flowing, as ultimately that would help heal the injury faster.  

 

I turned to my road bike, and tried to conquer as many passes in Colorado that I could. I also continued to commute on my mtb into work every day on the city commuter trail, 20 miles a day. Let me tell you, I was so damn stubborn. Riding over a pebble made me sound as if I had turrets but I dealt with it, as I couldn’t stop pedaling. It was important to me that I maintained my fitness. I mean, I had summer dresses that I neeeeded to remain in.  I began experiencing pain in other muscles and joints from my body over compensating. I was loyal to icing my shoulder after every ride, applying some Chinese herb patch to it that made me high, smothering it in anti-inflammatory creams and truly just giving her time. I was not able to take my shirt off alone for some time, and when I was able to do so, I had hopes I was on the path of recovery.

I recovered after many months, though, a shoulder is pesky and there still remains to be a movement that irks her the wrong way.  My first ride back on trail I rode with a good friend that was there during my entire healing process. I knew he would be patient and would not push the pace or expect me to be boosting myself. I watched for warning signs; which movements created me to yelp and if it began to ache too severely, I stopped. I allowed pain to be my guide as I re-introduced my passions. I eased back into it, allowing enough time in between to avoid encountering a series of miserable and unproductive experiences.

 

My fears of losing all I knew about my sports only lingered for the first few rides and the first climb. I jumped right back into climbing, and was pleasantly surprised with how much strength remained and my maneuver capabilities. I am however, still trying to rebuild my confidence on the trail. Enduring a serious consequence of losing control hangs out in my frontal lobe on every ride. I have no ego now, and will gladly walk myself through a section that screams “potential risk of injury here”! Fear is another mental battle that I wish I could give you a “how to conquer”, but to be honest, I don’t have a freaking clue. Currently it’s my biggest enemy. Perhaps time, repetition and forcing to ride through what scares me, will conquer.

“People who are afraid of heights need to work at this problem step by step, day by day, climb by climb”.- Lynn Hill

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about the author

Roxanne Trujillo

Roxanne is a Coloradical single track slayer, crux seeking, pow loving, thrill taking mom of a child that's comparably wild. Armed with enthusiasm and good coffee, she devotes herself to the outdoors and keeping pace with her adorable and energetic daughter. She is an ambassador for RaceFace, a V-something climber and goes by Birdy. She fantasizes often about throwing herself, daughter, friends and bikes in a Sprinter wrapped in #canvasthetoddler and peeling out to chase the mundo hermoso.

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