Those Life Changing Moments…When One Jump Changes a Career
June 15, 2013, I stood on the starting line at Alpha Warrior in San Diego, California. I had driven over 12 hours to take on the race. At the time I was coming off a killer 2012 race season, my ego was huge and my expectations were through the roof for my 2013 season. I had finished 2012 ranked 5th in the world for women in the Spartan Points series. Had contracts with companies as a professional athlete, and saw podiums in 2012 in about 50% of my races and pretty much always in the top 5 of a race. I was ready to chase podiums, hold big checks, and my business seemed to be booming.
Alpha Warrior was a 1-mile obstacle dense race part ninja warrior part obstacle race. There were something like 25+ obstacles in that mile. No mud, just obstacles. I had looked at the competitor list before heading to the race and figured it would be an easy payday and I would end the weekend with over $500 bucks in my pocket after travel expenses. Not back for about 15-20 minutes of my time. My ego was honestly, pretty out of control being so cocky.
BUT LIFE HAD ANOTHER IDEA FOR ME.
As I was making my way through the course. I wasn’t in the position I wanted so I pushed harder. I reached a trampoline obstacle which was a series of three increasingly higher platforms to jump onto. I did the first two no problem and got to the third in the series.
That’s when it happened…
I had jumped once and not quite made the 6+ foot platform. So I attempted a double jump. I jumped hard to get enough air to come down for the second jump to get onto the platform. As I came down from the first jump my left ankle went “crunch, crunch”. I collapsed.
Stubborn and trying to just shake it off, I somehow got myself up and out of the obstacle with the help of a volunteer, and tried to get to the next obstacle, crying and limping with each step. I took one look at the next obstacle and knew my day was over.
Friends helped me over to a place to rest, I wrapped the ankle, and hoped for the best. As the swelling began to grow I weighed my options, go to a hospital in California and see what happens or get in my car and drive the 12+ hours home so at least I would be home when it got worse.
I chose to drive home.
My car is a manual and luckily I-15 goes from San Diego to my house in Utah so not much shifting would have to happen. The shifts that did were beyond painful. I hopped into a gas station as I was without crutches. My ego was deflated, I was humbled as I struggled to pee off the side of the road somewhere in Nevada, using the suicide doors for balance. I was too embarrassed to hop into a store. I went to McDonald’s drive-thru for the first time in years, hoping no one would recognize the car. Again, my inflated ego thought it was all about me.
I got home and it only got worse. A week later I still couldn’t put any weight on my ankle, a month later I did a photoshoot on crutches pretending to be healthy. While injured I had the most press in my life, including a magazine cover, all while sitting on the couch watching my career as an athlete fade away.
I watched my friends continue to excel in obstacle racing while I fell into a depression. I didn’t talk much about it at the time but it was really really difficult. I was once on top and now I couldn’t run or even walk without pain.
The official diagnosis was a 2+ (out of 3) sprain on both the inside and outside of the ankle. In a young sport, with a huge upward curve in athletes coming in I soon saw myself obsolete as a professional athlete. My glory days were over just as they seemed to be beginning. It was devastating. At the time I had no health insurance and had to do all the recovery work on my own, with the help of friends and a few tools at home and in my gym. A year later, I still had pain going for runs, and now 5-years later my ankle is still unstable at times.
What did I learn?
Well in the depths of my injury I learned who my true friends were. Many who I thought were friends abandoned me when I was no longer on the podium and racing all the time. Companies who once talked to me all the time stopped returning my calls and I just disappeared off their radar.
It was at this time I realized no one owed me anything. I had done a lot of work for companies at gratis and now in my time of need, they were nowhere to be found. It crushed me for a while and I held a lot of resentment and anger. Years later I have come to realize they didn’t owe me anything, I freely gave to them so that’s on me.
Luckily, around this same time, a few writing gigs came my way. They helped fill the hole in my income from not racing, but also gave me a new purpose in the industry that I loved, even if it hurt to be around it injured. I mostly suffered in silence at home, I always grew up being told it’s better to suffer in private and put on a happy face in public.
It sucked, it was hard, and a lot of times I was really struggling with what my identity was. I am so thankful for writing opportunities and the chances to become part of the media. It was an ego reset going from the one in the magazine as the athlete to just a byline. It took me a while to settle into a more behind the scenes role.
It’s not nearly as glamorous but over time I learned to embrace the role and actually find a new niche in the industry.
It’s been over 5 years since that life-changing jump, it hasn’t been easy. But it was a cosmic moment of the universe telling me I needed to slow down, make a change, and I wasn’t on my true path, I needed to cosmically have my ego be hit with a two-by-four. Still, at times it is tough when a now popular racer asks me if I ever raced obstacle course races myself. My ego gets a little shot. But now I can laugh and just say, “yeah I use to race and did pretty well in my day” then go back to interviewing them. Most have no idea my history anymore and why should they, it’s better to look ahead then always be in the past.
Life isn’t always how you planned.
Sometimes it gives you what you need.
I now look at the injury with gratitude. I can look at the time as one of growth and years later I see the pieces coming together and am thankful for the tough times to show me the way.