Injuries & Racing

TW: Injury talk & wound images

words by Larisa Brown (@larisarene)

Cross is here. An exciting time for sure, but for those recovering from injuries, like myself, it is bittersweet. For the last 4 years, I keep saying, “Next year will be my comeback year.” During the season I build excitement as I work on recovering from that season’s surgery. I still show up, often on crutches, and when I close my eyes, I imagine myself between the tape, racing. People, both friends and strangers, ask if I will be out there once I heal, to which my answer is always YES.

Cyclocross reminds me of the cycling community I was first welcomed into. It makes me think of home. It also satisfies the competitive drive within me to push whatever limits are in front of me. As much as I appreciate my day job, I just want to be behind the bars out racing in mud.

Over the last six years I have had six knee surgeries including both tibia reconstructions along with multiple ligaments and a quad reconstruction. I have spent over half the last year on crutches, so much so that crutching seems easier than walking at this point. Unfortunately, as soon as I come within a week or so of being able to get back on the bike, I have either reinjured or developed a new injury in my legs. It makes staying encouraged challenging. With the start of a new season, I see excitement as folks come in with fresh legs and clear minds. As stoked as I am for them, I also feel discouraged that it is another season I will be unable to participate in as a racer.

Staying motivated through an injury is always a challenge. It is easy to focus on what you used to be able to do. It is easy to think, I should be at this stage in my training. It’s easy to get consumed by calculating how much fitness you’re losing. However, doing that won’t help you heal any faster. Healing takes time. More often than not, if you try and rush it, it will end up taking longer to heal.

Making peace with an injury is no easy task. For me at least, it goes through a similar process as grief.

1. Denial. When the injury happens deep down, I know the severity. But I brush off the seriousness and say it just needs ice. After being pleaded with, I promise I will let a doctor review, although, I can still walk so I must be fine.

2. Anger. I receive the news that I need another surgery due to a torn VMO, MPFL, and MCL. I will be on crutches again for 6-10 weeks. My cross season is over before it started, again. Fury that I’m being held back when all I want to do is put in work on the bike.

3. Bargaining. I try to see what I can make a “compromise” regarding my leg with. Maybe I can train with only one leg clipped in and the other is elevated. Maybe I can run a race on crutches. Ect.

4. Depression. I recognize the reality that I will not be racing. I have been wanting to race for so long, I feel like a part of me has been taken. While folks are out training, I’m stuck in bed, alone. I feel isolated from everyone and that a source of joy and serotonin is yet again out of reach.

5. Acceptance. This surgery is something I need. Getting it fixed now will ultimately help me be able to withstand more in the future and ultimately help me become a better racer. Also, there are other areas of my life that bring me joy. I can still be involved in cyclocross, just differently. While I might not be able to race this year, that means I have more effort to be able to spend supporting friends who are. If I want my leg to heal, I must give it time.

Getting to acceptance isn’t an easy road. There often is a cycling between anger and depression before getting there. These however are often hidden. I spent years in musical theatre as a kid. I attribute that experience to being significant in helping me hide emotion and play the role stable and accepting of my situation. In all honesty, accepting my scenario is something I have to put work into every day. I have to breathe, intentionally. I have to give myself a space to acknowledge how I am feeling in that moment about my injury. I have to let those emotions be heard. Then I pick myself up and am ready to take on the day.