PROGRESS IS NOT LINEAR

The end of this season left me with questions. I’ve definitely shown reasons to be optimistic. Progress has been made. The end was rocky but even through some battles, we finished on a high note. 

THE EVENT

Around June, I got to a meet very late. My warm up was extremely minimal, and I rushed into discus. I don’t know what happened but I know it hurt. Something I thought was a simple pec strain, seems like it was more. From then on, shotput and javelin suffered. I didn’t bench. When I threw, i was in pain the following day.

My ‘camp’ had two legitimate options: 

  1. Cut the season off at a point of severe frustrations to evaluate and address the concern.
  2. OR battle through the end of the season and work around the problem.

I chose the later.

I didn’t think it was a big deal. We avoided benching for the last month of the season. I threw consistently when I could. I stopped throwing both Shot and Javelin two weeks before my last meet. It worked ok. I actually had a small improvement in Shot Put relative to the last competition.

Another overhead event, pole vault, was an outdoor personal best. During javelin, it felt like my arm was falling off a little. It showed in the result. With some major ups and downs, I managed the second best score of my life and major resilience was shown.

The end of the season was needed. I took some time to rest completely. It didn’t make much of a difference. My shoulder pain was consistent and uncomfortable so I spent a couple weeks explicitly rehabbing. While there have been marginal improvements, the pain is still there.  With all the symptoms of a SLAP tear, I scheduled an MRI. Since then, I’ve been training, avoiding painful situations where I can. The extreme shoulder range of motion during acceleration and the external rotation of back loading a barbell limit me. I have to make significant adjustments to every general strength circuit we have. It’s limiting. 

SLAP TEAR or NOT?

The MRI was the last chance I had to reflect on where I was then and what the future would hold without a major answer in front of me. I thought it was appropriate to take some time to reflect and evaluate the different situations before emotion comes into play. 

Situation 1: I don’t have a SLAP tear.

Awesome!…. but what’s wrong? In all likelihood, it would be tendinopathy in my throwing shoulder. It’s an extensive rehab process but there’s no slicing and dicing. If this is the case, I can continue to do most everything training requires with appropriate modifications to avoid pain and setbacks. There’s no way around it. This is the best situation.

Situation 2: Slap Tear

I have a good group of support around me. My family and my sponsor have been phenomenal. They’re the most immediate and direct folk I can point to in helping me keep this cranking. I’m grateful. Love and food will solve most of your problems. However, the body still gets beat up. I use a chiro (shout out to 919 Spine), a PT (thanks Raleigh Ortho), and a massage therapist (Rapid Recovery). I can solve almost every physical issue I have with that group. I know how to utilize that network to keep moving forward. This is legitimately the first time I haven’t been able to quickly solve an issue and move past it. With that being the case, I knew a specialist was necessary so I’m utilizing one that came recommended. I have an alternative if it seems that they’re too eager to cut me open.

Your plan is not going to look like your path. 

THE NEXT STEPS

Regardless, if it’s a SLAP tear, the likelihood of surgery for an overhead athlete like myself is high. If the most I ever did was reach for a spice out of a cabinet, it could be left alone. That’s not my sport and it’s not my life. If it’s a SLAP tear, I likely pursue surgery as efficiently as possible and begin a 6 month process from surgery to re-entering competition. That’s a tough answer. It means I watch indoor USAs. It also means I have a couple months of impacted training, even more time until I can focus on my weaknesses (throws).

It means the underdog story of finding my way to the Olympic trials is an even larger reach. If this is the situation, it’s hard to imagine avoiding some emotions and disappointment. Regardless, I pride myself on being a ‘process’ guy. While I allowed myself to be outcome driven during competitions this year, I made the correct adjustment late in the season. It will become about checking the right boxes and getting myself back in the game as soon as possible. My dreams aren’t fulfilled. I’m not done with the decathlon yet. 

THE LESSON

I’ll take this as an opportunity to apply this to those that aren’t struggling with something like this. In life, it’s really easy to look at the outcome without appreciating the process of what you are becoming. The decathlon has been linear for almost no one. Setbacks occur and challenges arise.

Life is just the same.

I don’t know my potential, I don’t know the answer to my shoulder, I don’t know where the road ends. I do know I’m re-committing to my lofty dreams. My coach at Central Missouri set his lifetime best at 30. He has the highest score to miss going to the Olympic Games. He finished 4th in the most competitive tryouts in the world. At 35, he went to the Olympic trials to retire. He made the Olympics. Your plan is not going to look like your path. 

  • Success requires faith.
  • Appreciate what is unknown.
  • A great process will lead to great outcomes. 
  • Progress is not linear.

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