Harry Marra, multi-events coach at the University of Oregon, was never my personal coach, but whenever he’d see me at university he’d ask:
“Hey! How are you? Are you healthy?”
When I asked why he never asked about how training was going or upcoming races, he simply replied: “Your health comes first. If you are healthy then I know you are able to do all the rest.” Coach Marra was speaking from many years of experience.
Athletes train their bodies in an attempt to push their physical limits; that’s the job description. However, somewhere between ambitious goals and pressure to perform, it can be difficult to respect that simple rule: “Health first – no matter what”. Last weekend at the World Triathlon Series in Stockholm, I was once again reminded of this simple lesson.
After slipping and fracturing my foot in Baku in June, it was a long two-month recovery period, but returning to running went relatively well. However, after my first race back from injury, the European Cup in Riga, I struggled with residual pain in my left foot and compensating on my right side. As the World Triathlon Series approached, my gut told me it was not a good idea to run – especially on the cobblestone course of Stockholm. My coach and I decided the day before the race to simply swim and bike as hard as possible, taking advantage of having the best sparing partners in the world, start the run and make a judgement call based on my position and feeling after the first hill.
In the end, my swim was moderate and I was able to tag onto the main chase pack on the bike. The course in Stockholm is fairly technical with many corners, cobbles and a short up and downhill section. While I was not yet as bold as I want to be on the bike, I was still a solid effort and a step in the right direction for me. Coming out of transition two our group was two minutes down from the lead group of 15 and it didn’t take me long to realize it was not a smart idea to run and that I would do more damage than good.
Despite knowing I would most likely need to drop out in advance, didn’t make actually doing it any easier. I hate quitting. But, I knew that if I wanted to get to upcoming start lines healthy and ready to race, this was the smart choice. Gambles with our health always catch up to us at some point. No one is invincible and if you want longevity and happiness in whatever it is you do: put your health first.
Thanks to all for the continued support! Next up: World Triathlon Series in Edmonton, Canada September 6th at 13:36 local time.