Some people will be surprised by this post and others not so surprised. I think deep in my heart I knew that this day was near, but the obstinate voice of a person who never gives up was still too loud.
The past two and a half years have been incredibly challenging, fun, exasperating and thrilling. I started at a development camp at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center in April 2010 and finished my career at a National Team training camp in Colorado Springs. The things I learned about bike racing and myself between those two camps is immeasurable.
One of the most important things I learned over the past few years, is that I do in fact have a disability. It may seem crazy to some people that I never really realized this before, but I didn't really ever think I was disabled. I was raised to believe that I could (and did) do anything I wanted and that I was "just like everyone else." It is also somewhat strange that it took competing with and hanging out amongst other disabled people to help me come to this realization. But it happened. I still believe I can and will accomplish anything I want, but I also know that there are times that I need to cut myself some slack because I am not playing with a full deck.
Being a "professional" athlete is far more challenging than we give them credit for. It requires discipline, pain, sacrifice and being flat out lazy sometimes.
For the past few months I have been praying for a "sign" about what to do about the bike racing "thing."
In late October I had an appointment with a neurologist at UCLA that specializes in Guillain Barre Syndrome. We have had a few dismal discussions before, but this one was by far the most upsetting. He told me, flat out, that by training so hard I was giving up years of walking in the future. I know that my balance and overall body function has suffered from the intensity of training. He would support my decision to continue, but he could not predict the repercussions. This is upsetting news considering I had quit a relatively stable job to train. I was upset. But not quite ready to listen. As I was leaving his office, I wasn't paying attention and slipped on the floor in the waiting room. More worried about looking cool, I stood up and said, "Safe," accompanied with proper baseball hand signage. I went home, my foot was a little sore, but not too bad. I went to the movies that night. When we stood up I could barely walk and Baby Cody predicted my foot was broken.
After a trip to Urgent Care and then to UCLA Orthopedics, it was confirmed that my foot was broken. I had broken the top of my foot (which according to the doctors looking at the bone/scarring it has been broken many times that I haven't paid attention to) and in three other places. While I was there, I just had them x-ray my other tibia to confirm that I had a stress fracture. I bargained my way out of a cast, but I wasn't allowed on a bike at all for three weeks and no racing for six weeks. All of this news was upsetting since the next week was a team camp, Track Nationals were a few weeks away, as was an international track event in Wales the week of Thanksgiving.
It appeared that if I wasn't going to listen willingly, then I was going to listen some way.
The past few weeks have been filled with anxiety. I knew what the "correct" decision about bikes was - but I didn't want to be a quitter. I had invested so much of myself, my resources and so much support had been given that I felt like I was letting everyone down.
But as I had time to pray and reflect on a few things, I also realized something else. I hate bike racing. I love riding my bike. But the pressure of racing is something I dread. So why was I doing it? Because deep down, I believed that I would be more valuable (to whomever or whatever) if I had that achievement on my life resume. The past few months have made me realize that being normal and regular isn't a bad thing. I like waking up on a Saturday morning, laying in bed, drinking coffee and eating breakfast. I like going to the movies and the bookstore. I like riding my bike to the beach without worrying about power numbers and calories. Being a regular person isn't such a terrible thing and I kind of like it.
I always thought I wouldn't be living up to my potential if I wasn't pursuing some lofty goal - but I might be wrong.
So after some unsettling discussions with myself and others, I decided that enough was enough. It's a scary place to go because if I quit training, I really don't have anything else to do. But it is also a lesson in patience and trust in God. The next few weeks and/or months will be sketchy as I figure out how to reintegrate into being a "normal" human being (including finding a job where I will probably have to wear a real bra instead of a sports bra, disturbing!). I look forward to using the education that I am lucky to have in my brain (hopefully, after bonking my head so many times), having a regular income, getting my favorite Pink bike fixed, riding (probably very slowly) in charity rides, raising a guide dog puppy and investing in relationships. Although hazy, I look forward to what the future holds.
To everyone who has supported me over the past years of ridiculousity - thank you! My level of insanity will probably not diminish, it will just be redirected.