#myroadtokona – IM South African Championships 2017

For a long time I didn’t write on my blog and just posted on social media. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write but I just couldn’t. During winter happened a lot.  Just to make sure you stay with me, I start at the very beginning:

Last season was an up and down, with not finishing IM Frankfurt did mean not going to Kona in 2016 (we had decided to get there either with one IM or not at all). So I aimed for early points and did get them by racing IM 70.3 worldchamps in Australia, winning IM Barcelona and placing 4th at IM 70.3 Miami. Since Frankfurt I already felt a minor problem with my gluteus and hips, nothing to worry about, I thought, but I did have cramps every race I started and my stride just didn’t feel normal. Even Chris did ask me once why I did have changed my running posture from mid foot to front foot and I just answered that I didn’t changed it but it just happened (and felt happy about it). That should have been the point to stop and ask someone what was going on. Well at least we did ask but didn’t get the right answers. So we just kept going and hoping it will just be okay with having massages and doing stretching and drills. When I was able to win Barcelona in sub-9 I thought it might not be too serious. Then in Miami I still had one of my best bike splits (and the fastest of the day), but running didn’t feel normal at all. First day after the race I asked to go for an easy jog to get rid of my cramping gluteus, believing it would be better than resting. The flight back home made it even worse. Finding some rest the first week back I did hope for recovery which didn’t happen, gluteus got even worse. So I started training with almost no intensity, starting my runs with having pain in my right hip which did disappear every time after a few minutes. So I decided to go for one of the local running competitions which meant to do also speed work. On November 15th I went out for 5 x 1 k. It took me some time to settle into a nice rhythm. Intervalls worked out better then ever. Only the rests in between made me almost cry, pain got worse. But still not feeling any pain during my intervalls I kept going. Just to realize after I finished my speed work that I had no idea how to get home. It was still a 4 k jog home and it took me forever. This was the last day I did run for a long time. I was in pain walking, I was in pain resting, sitting and even lying – I was distressed. 

An MRI on Thursday didn’t show any significant pathological signs. Knowing that, I thought I just might need more rest and more massages and manual treatments. Friday night we went by car to the movie theater, me on the right side of the car. And then I wasn’t able to get out of the car. I wasn’t able to lift my right leg at all and had to take it with my hands and put it outside like I was paralyzed. Shocking!

I thought walking did at least look normal and every time Chris asked me why I was humbling I groaned at him that I didn’t, until also strangers asked me what had happened. There was no way to ignore it any longer that something serious was going on. Swimming was only possible with a pull boy and riding my bicycle only on my indoor trainer with almost no effort. For the last week of November I had signed up for a seminar in pediatric intensive care medicine in beautiful Blaubeuren. Not only intensive care seminar but it was also to be an intensive seminar since the talks started 7.30 am each morning until 8 or 9 pm with a break of an hour for lunch. First I had planed to have some running sessions during this week, make some trail runs, have fun. But I had to change plans and took my indoor trainer and bicycle with me. After another week of no training but swimming or better say pulling I just wanted to give my legs and body some turnover whilst sitting on a chair for 12 hours all day long. At least I did learn a lot and really can recommend this seminar to all German speaking pediatricians. The food was great as well 🙂 Just my walking didn’t get any better, but worse neither. End of the week there was a hike planned and I just wanted to get outside. Bad idea. It did only last 90 minutes. Going a bit uphill was fine but the way back, having some downhills I had to fix my hips with my hand to be able to walk anyway. I barely made it back. So I prescribed myself: no more sports at all. Back home I immediately saw my doctor again, got treatment, but nothing worked. With help from a friend I finally found the best orthopedic doctor I met so far. I was totally destroyed, willing to travel anywhere if just somebody could help me. As soon as I contacted her she just saw me. Being a former Olympic qualifier she knows how you feel being injured. When I told her my story she knew what my problem was. She even didn’t need to examine me, which she did anyway just to be sure. The same day she made me see an osteopath. The first time since 6 weeks I felt that something positive was going on, just a minor step, but something did work. I met another osteopath who also helped me a bit but the pain in my hip didn’t go away, still not being able to walk. Just before New Year’s Eve I met Berit, the sister of my orthopedic, also a physiotherapist and osteopath who also sees a lot of athletes. And after her treatment I didn’t have any pain. She wanted me to take 2 more days of rest and then start running again for 20 minutes. So I did. I immediately felt that I was still having a schon relieving posture and didn’t think it was good to keep going like this. I tried it 2 more times and then we had to decide to stop running again. I made appointments with her in Hamburg where she lives and works to get another treatment in the second week of January. At least I was able to push the pedals again on my bike trainer and was back to swimming. No big efforts but at least some. After this second treatment she got me back in my running shoes 🙂 Really slowly but making progress from day to day. I started running 10 minutes a day, after a week I did it twice. We did built it up like this very slowly, still having a relieving posture and not being able to stretch my hip for along time until it looked and felt almost normal again. In the middle of February I was able to run 10 k again, just easy effort and flat. Instead of a strong schedule of swim, bike and run I had a strong schedule of rehabilitation training, stability training and work at the hospital. In the time left I squeezed in my „normal“ training. Seeing Berit again in February she gave me the GO to increase my volume and go for my training camp at end of February, but kept my rehabilitation work doing every day. In between I still saw my other therapists and now have build a perfect network. I now see my physiotherapist every week, see my osteopath every 4-6 weeks to check on my body and meet Berit every 2-3 months or as often as necessary.

But back to the story: Training camp went very well. We had 8 days of great training in the southern sea alps, some long rides on the bicycle, a lot of brick runs. Most of them starting fast and also had my first run longer than 75 minutes. And it all did work very well. The day of our trip back home I did a two hour run in the morning with increasing my speed on the last half hour. I was so happy that even after a tough week of training I was able to run some k’s in Ironmanpace. For the first time I didn’t feel my hip at all this week. Before I still had a strange feeling like my hip being tired (no pain). But this week I did enjoy running again. Didn’t last long though. Sitting in the car for an hour I already felt the pain coming back. Anyway we had planned to stop at least every 2 hours to get me do some stretching but now I really needed to work on it. Having our first stop Chris got shocked when he saw me walking. In his eyes it looked like I did walk as I did back in December and January. I knew I wasn’t walking normal but I also knew it was different from what I felt back then. Stimm on our trip home I contacted Berit who did answer immediately. Back home I did my hip routine and went to bed. Now I had to admit that something was going on because I again did feel a discomfort. The next morning she gave me an additional hip routine which I was supposed to do after having done a 20  minute run…. and it did work out! I was so happy!!! Also I knew I was kind of safe because I would meet her again the next weekend. Feeling better from day to day we decided to stick to our plan and test how far I can go. So on Friday I had an Ironman specific bike session with some Intervalls and on Saturday a 28 k run, my longest so far (3 weeks before the race), again with increasing pace towards the end. In the evening I saw Berit and she was very happy. Just from the therapists view I did look much better than before, she didn’t find any major problem. You can’t imagine how happy I was, it might actually become true that I’ll be on the start line of IM South Africa on April 2nd to chase my points for Kona.

Well, not the last time of a setback. Back at work the next week I got asked if it would be possible I could work a full time job again (I did cut back my hours in February) and only a few minutes after being asked I started humbling again like in December. I just thought, this cannot be true! What did I do wrong?? I was able to take some minutes to just lay down in our office, come down and do a bit of hip routine. Getting checked by my physiotherapist the next day we were sure it wasn’t a setback but just my soul crying :-/ I had a though schedule, maybe not wise to register for my neonatology exam one week prior to the race. Anyway, I managed to calm down at least a bit, nailed my training sessions and was perfectly prepared for my exams, which I happily passed. Not much time to relax the next days as I was on duty all weekend, really looking forward to leaving on Tuesday. To be sure I didn’t take any minor or major problems with me I had a last body check with Andreas (osteopath) on Monday. After arriving in PE on Wednesday we did go for an easy bike and run in the afternoon. On Thursday I saw Marolien (physiotherapist) who checked on me a last time that I didn’t have any muscular problems from the flight (thanks for making the contact Kyle!) she herself raced the Ironman and she got hit by a car about 4-5 weeks before the race and she still made it to the start and from start to finish! CONGRATS!!!

About the race itself:

I needed at least to place 7th to get a safe Kona slot. I knew I wouldn’t be able to have a fast race, but of course I dreamed of the podium. And I was really excited for raceday.

IMG_3161

My swim got much stronger. So my plan was to catch a group and somehow have the swim of my life. Did not happen 😦  From my trainings we knew I hadn’t the fitness on the bike like before IM Barcelona and I missed a lot of running. So our plan was to take it kind of easy on the bike, and went out with a lot less power than what I raced last. It seemed like the other girls in the front did push very hard and they gained some time on the first of two laps, only Daniela Ryf, the reigning world champion didn’t go much faster, so either she didn’t have a good day or had a similar strategy I thought. Passing Chris at the beginning of lap 2 he shouted at me to go just 5-10 watt harder on the second lap. And just as said I did go some minutes faster. I had to be very patient all the time. Well, I know what it feels to exit the water far behind but usually I gain place by place much faster. Not this time, holding back. Counting places I moved from 20th after the swim to 6th after the bike, not realizing I overtook Nikki in T2. Racking my bike I hit my toes, but anyways this didn’t bother me much longer. Running off the bike felt easy and smooth. We just changed strategy here and decided to not go out for an even pace but start a bit faster to gain some time. It was going to be a very hot day out on the run. The crowds made it a bit easier, they were cheering loud! From the middle of nowhere I started to struggle with a pain in my right knee it did bend when it wasn’t supposed to, it came and went away and came back. Trying not to think about it too much, but didn’t help, it slowed me down. Thanks I have a dream and I believe, I just thought „never give up, keep smiling and keep going“. I was able to settle into a new rhythm. In between I made it to 4th place, knowing that close behind me are 3 or 4 girls chasing me. Instead of looking back I kept looking forward, counting k by k. I still wasn’t going for the 7th or 4th place, I was going for as many points I could get, I was willing to fight for my road to Kona. I had already did put so much blood, sweat and tears into it for my comeback and that made me defend my 4th place until I crossed the finish line 🙂

The next day I didn’t know how to handle my emotions. On the one hand I was soooo happy I made a safe Kona slot, on the other hand it wasn’t satisfying not to have a close fight for the podium. Because I race to fight for the win and compete with the best. 

I love to say thank you to everyone who believes in me: My husband and coach, my family and friends, my sponsors and partners AND my docs, physiotherapist and osteopath! THANK YOU for BELIEVING in me and MY DREAM!

Fotos: Ingo Kutsche, Chris Decker

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