Risk vs. Reward

I glanced at the clock.  7:25.  35 seconds left to go.  It was time to go HAM.  I could fit the remaining 9 box jumps in before time expired on CrossFit Open 14.3, an 8 minute AMRAP of box jumps and ascending heavy deadlifts– my cup of tea.  My teammates (who stayed late to watch my solo WOD) were going crazy, cheering and yelling, trying to push me onward through the last reps.

As I landed on the top of the box, my eyes were on my feet, because I didn’t want to clip the box and fall.  Everything seemed to be in slow motion as I watched my feet land, and my body traveled downward as my legs absorbed my weight.

Except my left one did not.  My shin was straight up and down as I watched my thigh and kneecap travel another inch or two inward.  Crunch.

I gasped from the surprise as much as the pain.  It was the weirdest sensation, like my leg had turned to rubber beneath me.  30 seconds left.  I tried to crawl to a stand, to get the rep.  I collapsed.  My coach (/boyfriend), Zack, came rushing over.  “You are done,” he said as he picked me up and carried me to the edge of the gym.  I protested.  He told me I was a dumbass.  Beeeeeeeeeep said the clock, as time expired.  “Fuck,” I muttered.

Lesson learned: Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.  As I repeatedly asked what my official score was,  my teammates had already arrived with ice packs and compression bandages, stripping off my shoe, knee socks, and knee sleeves to check for discoloration.  “121.  Good job!” said Jacqueline, my judge.  I swallowed hard.  It was a pretty decent score for me.  But all I could think of were those last 9 reps.  Zack flatly reminded me, “It’s just a workout, Lindsay.  You are out of the Open.”  It finally dawned on me that I had failed the only goal I had when I entered the Open in the first place: Don’t get hurt and undo the months of calculated strength gains I had made.

I’m lucky that my box has a talented chiropractor under its roof– Dr. Lance Robbins of RxChiro.  He was by my side in a flash, and soon I was on the table in his office.  He told me what I already knew– that it would be a couple of days before we knew anything; rest, ice, compress, and elevate; and to come back the next day for a follow-up.

I went back Sunday, and Lance gently pushed and pulled on my leg, then gave me news that was not entirely surprising– that worst case, it could be a low grade ACL or MCL tear, a common injury pro athletes fully recover from all the time.  Best case, some sort of sprain or a very pissed-off ligament.  He stuck a bunch of acupuncture needles into my leg and then hooked up horrifying-looking electrodes to them to run a “healing” electric current through my leg.  RockTaped me to reduce the swelling, and gave me instructions for the next couple of days.

My leg has been stiff, sore, and I’m walking with a little limp.  I’m lucky for the immediate ice and compression I received– because of that I have very little swelling.  I have thought nonstop about what went wrong, leading up to the box jump that went awry.  There are technical things I wish I could go back and change (strengthen my adductors, spend more time on IT band flexibility).  There are different choices I could have made about how to approach 14.3, or if I should have been in the Open in the first place.

At the end of the day, I love sport.  My heart is most at peace when I can barely breathe, hair flying in my face, sweat flying.  I’m the girl who passed out about 30 feet from the finish line in the 2002 800 meter Montana Class B State Championships, losing what would have been a second place finish.  I crawled across the finish line.  I rolled my ankles numerous times in volleyball, slapped on a brace, and got my ass back on the court.  I’m the girl who won every sprint in basketball practice, knowing full well I was going to sit the bench because I suck at accuracy sports.  On a macro view, I knew it didn’t really matter if I won those challenges, but it mattered to me.  I could go to bed at night and sleep knowing I did my best.

I’ve matured a little since.  When I hit a PR, and fail a heavier attempt, I call it a wrap and choose to live to lift another day, instead of repeatedly trying to bang it out until my body is wrecked.  When an old track injury (my lower back– due to lopsided legs) hit me hard last year, I made the choice to back off of high rep WODs and endurance work, focusing on building my core and restoring strength balance to my body.  I had to say good-bye to my six-pack, but I am a better athlete for it, mentally and physically.  Endurance will come back one day.  I will never regret PRs in every single lift over the past two months.  And I’ve learned to dig into my weaknesses with focus.

The truth is, I am at peace with this knee injury.  I accept the inherent risks of sport, because they are worth it to me.  The reward CrossFit brings me is so great that I will gladly spend the next couple months of rehab just to get back to deadlifts and box jumps eventually.  I’m sure I will have people who snark behind my back about the dangers of CrossFit, and how it wrecked my knee.  And nothing makes me more furious than someone telling me what I should be doing with my own body.  Cautious people have the same Risk vs. Reward conversation with themselves about sport, and decide it is not worth it to them to participate.  I say they are not fully living, but their lives are their own, and I must respect that.  More weight stacks for me!

I made it through years of snowboarding, wakeboarding, volleyball, basketball, softball, powerlifting, plyometrics, running track and cross country.  A decade and a half later, trophies etched, lifelong friendships forged, fond memories made, personal records shattered, bloody shins, braces through my lip, and gravel in my face from falling over a hurdle… I finally (maybe) blew out a knee.  I think I have played the odds pretty damn well.  And if that is the price I must pay for all the joy sport has brought to my life, I’m okay with it.

This tape is the only thing holding my leg together. Kidding! It’s fancy RockTape origami by Dr. Lance, strategically placed to reduce swelling. Because science!

4 thoughts on “Risk vs. Reward

  1. What a great narrative about an amazing athlete. Please take the time to fully recover, regroup and become an even not amazing example to us all!

  2. I hope your knee heals quickly! And yeah, injury is the price we athletes sometimes pay for pursuing our passions. We can do a lot to minimize the risk but it’s always there to some extent, and like you, it’s a price I’m more than happy to pay. (Although I definitely have to remind myself of this when I’m actually in the throes of injury…)

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