As many know I suffered a huge set back in early June at the Teva Mountain games during the steep creek championships on Homestake. This stretch of river is my back yard run and a place I have run hundreds of times. For weeks leading up to the race we were lapping it several times a day getting ready and I felt unbelievably strong going into the race and the season. After finishing up last season with a win on the Ogden River, 2nd at Gore canyon and even a 7th place at this year’s Paddling Life Invitational. Although it would be silly for me to think I could win Homestake with the world class paddlers there I still felt I could represent well on my home turf. I thought wrong.
My run the week before the injury : http://www.vimeo.com/4754712
After running the manky bit up top I was in the clear and felt great leading into the more significant and cleaner drops of the lower race portion. As I sprinted across the pool leading into the drop that would wreck havoc on my shoulder, I was stoked to know the finish line was only seconds away. What went wrong is clear to me now as I have watched the tape and relived the moment several times courtesy of the rewind button. As I came off the drop I knew I had to go left to keep my speed and momentum. My boat on the other hand was headed right and I knew it as I resurfaced. I decided to put in a hard right stroke to not only power out of the move but also to recorrect my boat so I would go left. As I did this my boat did a little extra motion to the right and forced me to pull harder on the stroke. Although I never flipped or needed assistance the two combined elements popped out my right shoulder. I paddled to shore and had it reduced within a minute of it coming out. The pain set in and as I sat on shore I thought to myself "damn, this is the first event of the season and I’m done". A terrible feeling as it even had me guessing my future in paddling.
Off to the doctor I go, arm in a sling and head hanging low. What a bummer it was. How would I save my summer and still be on the river? Would I safety kayak this season? And how could I play with my kids when I couldn't even lift up my arm? After a few x-rays and examination my doc suggested re-hab (due to my age) and to focus on the things I could do. And to take it easy. For two weeks my arm was in so much pain it was ridiculous and my head was all over the place trying to keep occupied. While the rest of the team was at other races and events I was at the gym trying to strengthen a very weak shoulder. It sucked.
Now fast forward 6 months. All summer I have focused on doing things I can. Riding my bike for cardio, lifting the same weight I did pre injury, swimming, rafting, stand up paddle boarding and yes, now kayaking again! Thru all of it I have managed to keep up my spirits as well as get back to my boat and back on the river. Although I have not pushed it as hard as I did leading up to the injury I am happy to be where I am. Not only have I managed this but have also been able to go back to my Jui Jitsu classes, something that is hard on joints.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it can happen to you. And the longer you paddle the more chance you have. At 38 years old I am no spring chicken but I still get after it. My goal now is to continue to get stronger and make another go of it for 2010. Over the next few months I am going to show you some of my routines to stay strong and flexible. Even if you have not been injured they will be great exercises to maintain what you have and to prevent it from happening to you. And if it does happen or already has, you know you’re not alone. Shoulder injuries are tough to overcome when you are a paddler. If and when it happens, it’s not the end of the World. Just the start of something new.