Knowing the Path and Walking the Path

Sep
12

Posted by Coach Laura Henry

Every coach brings something different to the table in terms of experience, approach, etc.  Over the years, I’ve made mistakes, and learned many things the hard way.  One of my all-time favorite quotes is from The Matrix:

“There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” 

I think that one of my strengths as a coach is that I can relate to my athletes because I’ve walked the path, and sometimes some of the paths less traveled.  It’s not something I read in a book or watched in a webinar; I think that having that first-hand experience adds depth to my coaching.  One of these less glamorous sides of the sport is injury and the road to recovery.

In 2015 I was working full-time 48-72 hours per week on a swing shift schedule that switched between day shifts and night shifts every week, volunteering 10 hours a week for Team Red, White & Blue, balancing my life with my family and friends, and training for my first Ironman-distance race.  Just 4.5 weeks before the big day, I was diagnosed with a sesamoid bone fracture in my left foot.  My doctor advised me that I was not going to be medically cleared to participate in IRONMAN Lake Placid, that I would be out of work indefinitely (my job at the time required me to be able to run), and that if I didn’t let this heal I may never run again.  To say I was saddened by this would be an understatement.  All of the sacrifice that my family and I had put into my training for this one race was essentially being thrown out in a single four-hour office visit.

After my self-pity party, I realized something: IRONMAN Lake Placid was, and is, one race.  I’ve been blessed to complete many races, and according to my doctor, I would be able to complete many more if I followed his recommendations.  So, I made a choice to accept the diagnosis and listen to him.  A few months later, I was cleared to swim, then bike, and finally I was cleared to try running again. As fate would have it, I crashed my bike on the first day I was cleared to run, and I sustained an open, compound fracture to the radius and ulna of my left arm that required emergency surgery.  That injury is one I live with to this day (my ulna is still not healed and is a non-union fracture), and it ultimately cost me my job (100% functionality of my arms was required for my job; I have 70% functionality of my left arm).

On the day I broke my arm, I recognized that I had two choices: to wallow in self-pity and wonder why I wasn’t able to do the things I wanted to do, or I could focus on what I could do.  A few months later, I was taken off my activity restriction, and I began to figure out what my new “normal” was.  I applied for new jobs in different fields since I couldn’t work in the field I had been in for 12 years.  I set goals, though they didn’t appear to be as grandiose as IRONMAN; the first of these was to learn to operate my bike safely again with the limits I have with my left arm.  But they were goals, nevertheless, and they served as incredibly important stepping stones on a path that led to success and happiness.

One year later (almost to the day), I exist in a “new normal” that honestly, is brighter than the future I had planned for myself back in 2015.  I’m alive, and healthy (with the exception of that stubborn left arm ;) ). I have had an incredibly successful season, despite racing with a broken arm. I was able to pursue my passion – coaching and helping others – which lead me to Team MPI.  My athletes have flourished and reached their goals.  Going through these experiences allowed me to cultivate a spirit of positivity that has enhanced both my personal and professional lives. 

Long story short: sometimes the what appears to be the saddest news can lead to the brightest. 

~ Coach Laura Henry (contact her at laura@teammpi.com)

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