I Always Strive to be Top 10%

It has been a while since I have been on my blog, 7 months exactly. A couple reasons why is because I just was not participating in many races and after a series of events I decided not to do Ironman Oceanside and just figured no one would be interested in anything I was saying (still might be true but that is not stopping me!).

Some of you may know that last year I had a pretty big injury (jaw break) and was out of the game for a bit. In the last few months, I would say that I really was beginning to feel like myself.  I picked up the intensity of my workouts, my weekly mileage and was maintaining 7:00 min miles on my recovery runs with a low level of effort.  I decided to sign up for the Chicago Marathon in October this year to try and reach my (B) goal: 2:45 and A goal: (2:40) I set for myself last year.  In addition, I had signed up for a couple of local races and the San Diego Rock and Roll in June.

Fast forward 11 months from my jaw break…another setback strikes…

My best friends talked me into playing in their sand volleyball league every Monday night which is an absolute BLAST. We see a couple of months into our season and during one of our games I went up for a hit and when I landed all my weight was on my left knee and it buckled backward. I heard the dreaded POP!  I calmly said, “Oh, crap my knee.” (Insert side story: I tore my left ACL and meniscus playing basketball in high school). Our team called a mini timeout and the girls were asking me if I was okay.  I just remember thinking that it did not feel right.  I was not experiencing an intense amount of pain, the swelling was minimal and I could still bear weight on it which kept me hopeful. But it did feel pretty unstable, weak and loose.  The game had to go on so we finished playing.  When I got home I did the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevate) method for the next couple of days.

Initially, I thought that it could be a bad case of hyperextension. After googling it I decided I was dying.  Just kidding, but googling injuries is a sure way to scare the crap out of yourself.  The article I had read was informative but it did mention in some cases that torn ligaments were common.  The following day I scheduled an appointment with my high school Orthopedic Surgeon for him to evaluate.  This is when my Mom knew it was serious.

I could only stand taking about 4 days off from running. My Mom and I had flown out to visit my family in Alaska for my nephews 1st birthday!  I went to a beautiful park just down the road from them called Kincaid Park (pictured below).

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I was planning on taking it easy, about 6 miles or so.  I started running and within the first ½ mile by knee popped out.  I ignored it like all good runners do and another ½ mile later it happened again and again and again all throughout my four miles that I managed to get through.  I was not in any significant pain but there was some swelling in my knee.

After my run my brother took me to this beautiful sports shop called Skinny Ravens Sports (track from shop pictured below) to get a knee brace. We still had hope that I would be able to snowboard while I was there (good one right).  I actually made an adult like decision that snowboarding was probably not the best thing I could do.  At this point I would say that I began feeling a little depressed for a few reasons.  First, because I could not run in beautiful Alaska and second because I knew that if I tore my ACL again I would not be able to participate in any races until the end of this year.

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From the first time around I remember my Doctor performing a series of test one which was called the Lachman Test. That night I looked up a video on YouTube and against my boyfriends will I made him try and do the test on me.  It was pretty freaking hilarious! We could not really figure out how to do the test but we got a good laugh out of trying.  When my appointment with my Ortho finally arrived 11 days after the injury he performed the test and immediately said I tore my ACL and possibly my meniscus.  I tried keeping it together as he went into detail about what our options were the tears just started rolling down my face.  I did not want to believe it, I mean I had a 5k the next morning and the Sabino Sunset 7.4 miler the next evening and I signed up for the Chicago Marathon just a couple weeks ago. I had big plans for these legs and surgery was not one of them!  I asked him how common it is for people to re-tear their ACLs and he said 10%.  Lucky me, right? I laughed and said I always strive to be at least the top 10% in all I do…maybe more like 1%.

My Surgeon, being a collegiate athlete himself understands the athletes mind and knows that we have the patience of a Mayfly’s life (24 hours long) when it comes to injuries. He scheduled me for surgery the next week. We went over the options of the different types of ways he could reconstruct the ACL and we decided on using my Patella Tendon because we already used my Hamstring 10 years ago.  The typical recovery time until a full return to is 5-6 months for using the Patella.  One major side effect can be a lifetime of what is known as runner’s knee/patella tendonitis. Hopefully, through diligent physical therapy that will not be a problem. I do have a pretty gnarly scar though!

No, my surgeon was not drunk but the incision looks so crazy because I previously had the surgery done they had to use the same incision for parts of it.

This week I have been resting and recovering at home and there have been some moments of true sadness. Especially recently, no thanks to Facebook’s ‘looking back today’ for reminding me of the unforgettable Boston Marathon trip last year.  Now days the only marathon I am doing is on Netflix.  In all seriousness I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.  Although I am still searching for this reason, I know that through physical therapy, spin classes and swimming it will all make me a stronger athlete until I can run again.  I will be eager to hit the pavement and I will have a new perspective on never taking the miles for granted.  Hopefully, God willing I will be able to participate in the Tucson half marathon by December.

I truly feel extremely blessed for my family and friends who have been my caretakers and my rays of sunshine and I just don’t know what I do without you all!

I wanted to share some beautiful pictures from Alaska including the cutest nephew in the world!

 

MAY YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU ARE AFRAID TO DO!

“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you.” – CAROLINE MYSS

Racing an ironman is one of the toughest, grueling, intimidating, overwhelming events one can endure. I have never been more afraid to fail at something in my entire life.

In a matter of a few hours the emotional ups and downs you experience will test every human to the very core. When I think about that moment of putting my wetsuit on race day my heart immediately starts to race. When I recall standing on the pier in Oceanside, California with fog covering the water I just remember thinking, “Ohhh my gosh, what did I get myself into?” When your toes touch the cold ocean water as you walk down the ramp you feel as if you are literally about to have a heart attack. I could honestly see my heart beating through my wetsuit. True story.

Then there is the moment when you are suppose to swim out to the starting line. It was at this time I starting hyperventilating. I mean true, can’t breathe, think I am about to die, full on panic attack.   I remember everyone started to swim towards the start and I took 2 strokes, swallowed about a gallon of water and flipped over on my back! I was not even at the starting line and there I was, belly up, doing a back stroke while every single person passed me to get to the starting line. I thought to myself, “I can’t make it. How in the world am I going to swim 1.2 miles right now? Could I just back stroke it the whole time? I thought, I literally cannot complete this thing and make it out alive.”

I almost turned around at that point before the gun even went off. I tried justifying why it would be ok to drop out. Then, I had to make a quick decision to give it a try and if I die, I die or just turn back around. At that moment, I thought about every single person that helped me along the way and got me to that point. I thought about my friends and family who believe in more than I believe in myself sometimes. I thought about the athletes who I met the day before through the Challenged Athletes Foundation.   Everyone else gave me the strength to start that race that early April morning. I just can’t help but want to do the same for someone else.

This year I was thinking about not raising money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and just purchasing the general Ironman entry fee and getting out the easy way. But, the more I have been thinking about this the more I just could not pull the trigger. The main reason is because I feel bad asking people for money. I did not want to bother those folks who helped me out last year. However, it is not about me and my comfort zone. It is about those people who lives were changed because of CAF and to me it is 100% worth trying. I want to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation again. The CAF athletes got me through my first half ironman by sharing their stories of struggle and triumph. The stories they shared about such tragic events happening in their lives and how they overcame was the most inspiring thing I have ever witnessed. The Challenged Athletes Foundation pairs up with Ironman and raises funds for people with permanent physical disabilities. CAF provides American military personnel, veterans and first responders the necessary resources to compete.

Athletics has been a part of my life since I was a small child and I can honestly say that without question without it in my life I would have ended up a very different person. I believe in the power of athletics to change lives. I believe that it can take someone out of depression. I believe that it is part of my purpose on earth to provide that to someone that might otherwise miss the opportunity of experiencing such a powerful thing.

Please help me reach my goal of raising $2,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation by Jan, 2016.

You can donate on my personal CAF webpage at:

http://support.challengedathletes.org/goto/DanielleHiggins

***Tax Deductible***

Thank you and God Bless!

Goal Setting & Jaw Breaking

“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”
– Dr. Seuss

This past year has been absolutely fantastic. I guess when I turned 25 it totally freaked me out. Quarter century old…and what did I have to show for it? I remember being in high school and thinking to myself…when I am 22 I am going to be married and by the time I am 25 I will probably have a couple kids! Was I totally insane back then? I am so far from that stage right now. Not because I don’t see it in my future but because I have my mind set on some different types of goals.

I remember sitting down at Starbucks and having a serious goal writing session last year. Goals are one of the single most important steps to reaching your dreams. It is important to write them down, to review them on a consistent basis and adjust them when needed. I think it is good to have short term and long term goals. I personally have goals that I know I can accomplish with a small amount of effort and I have goals that seem so far out of reach that I know it will take years and years of consistent work to obtain them. Regardless, you need to capture them so you know what you are working towards. If we just wonder around letting ‘life’ happen to us then we will miss our opportunity to reach our full potential.

It has been so fun reflecting back on this past year and a half and realizing how much I have crossed off my bucket list (goal list). It truly would not have been possible if I was not surrounded by amazing people, friends and family who have set me up for success. They have pushed me, encouraged me, supported me and believed in me when I needed it the most. My family, friends, riding partners and my boyfriend have been such a crucial instrument in my life the last couple of years I wonder where I would be without them. It is fascinating to me looking back and realizing how every little thing that happened, good or bad, has led me to where I am today and it all worked out for the better.

I have had a lot of first time items that I was able to complete this year! Here is a list of a few:

  1. Completed a half marathon in 1:20- San Diego Rock and Roll 16th place out of 10,125 females
  2. Completed my first bike race- El Tour De Tucson 55 miles- placed 7th out of females
  3. Completed my first full marathon 2:59 in Eugene & qualified for the Boston Marathon
  4. Completed my first half Ironman 70.3- Oceanside, California placed 3rd in my age group and 9th out of all females
  5. Completed the Grandfathers of all marathons…the Boston Marathon this past April.

I was signed up to compete in an Olympic triathlon last weekend, a half marathon in San Diego at the end of the month and was planning to run another marathon in the next few months (I want to qualify for the Olympic trials!). That was until I fractured my jaw in three places on Thursday, May 7th, as well as both of my temporomandibular joints.

I was riding with 5 other of my friends on Thursday morning. We were going for a short ride, maybe 30 miles or so. I had not been on bike since my half Ironman over a month ago and I was just ecstatic being back on my bike. Just about 20 minutes into our ride was when the crash happened. We were riding on the local river path and had come to a transition area where you have to get on a paved road for maybe 1000 yards to get to the other side of the river path. It was a total freak accident and I was not going very fast, probably around 10 mph. It is a very narrow road with some traffic and a cyclist started coming down the road the wrong way. I did not even see the man heading towards us. I was in 5th position and all a sudden one of my ridding partners had to move to the right to avoid this cyclist getting hit by the cars or hitting him. I could not move over to the right anymore or I would have gone off the road. I had to come to a quick stop and to make matters worse the road was filled with pot holes. I think it was a combo of coming to a quick stop and also hitting a pot hole that sent my rear tire in the air and my bike and face into the ground.

I stopped the fall with my chin. The bike is ok!! But, my jaw not so much… I didn’t think it was broken though, maybe dislocated. I was in shock I guess. Of course, by bike was my first concern. I was cursing a little bit and was pretty light headed and nauseated. My chin was bleeding and I had some road rash on my chest but other than that no injuries. I was spitting out some blood and was not sure if I bit my cheek or my tongue. I could not open my jaw more than an inch. I remember touching my ears at one point and saying that they freaking hurt. My face was in a little pain but mostly just angry about the whole thing plus I wanted to finish the ride! To make matters worse the guy going the wrong way did not even stop. He was probably clueless to the crash he had just caused.

My riding partners were so sweet. I could tell that they were all worried but were trying to just stay calm. I was debating if I should try and ride back to the car or not…ya I know, I am crazy. Luckily, they had their phones and called my boyfriend who was on his way to work and only 10 minutes away. He picked me up and took me to the emergency room. On the drive there I got out my phone and was snapping pictures to my friends, ‘my first real bike crash’ completely oblivious to how serious the injuries were. Once I saw the Dr. the pain started creeping up a little bit but he seemed hopeful because I was able to talk to him and did not feel like I was in excruciating pain or anything. The Dr. had ordered a CAT scan and while Andy and I were waiting I said, “I feel like there is some liquid in my ears” and then blood started to run out of them. That was totally freaky! That is when I thought to myself, this cannot be good.   At that point Andy, my boyfriend, went out into the hall and was yelling, “Excuse me, my girlfriend’s ears are bleeding!” I think the blood in the ear part really had us both a little panicked.  When the Dr. came back in he took one look in both of my ears and told me that I had broken my jaw pretty good. Once the results of the scan came back it confirmed that yes, I had done some serious damage. My Mom was teasing me that I never do anything halfassed or halfhearted and that includes when I hurt myself. I couldn’t agree more!

I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon the next day and he scheduled me for surgery on Saturday morning. The plastic surgeon also did breast augmentation so I joked with him if I could get a two for one deal. He told me that they would be too heavy to run with and he talked me out of it. I had a plate put in my lower jaw for two of the breaks and he also had to wire it shut. The night before surgery I googled ‘wired jaw’ and let me warn you, do NOT do that. It is very scary looking. Plus, they use screws and rubber bands now that do not look as freaky as all the metal in your mouth.

I remember waking up in the operating room and my jaw was already closed.  I started yelling that I was in a lot of pain and I was shaking.  The people in the operating room were rushing around trying to re-do my IV because it was not in my vain correctly so I was not getting the pain medication. It was totally like a real life Saw movie if you can imagine! I came to in the recovery room. My family started to come in and the nurse was trying to have me drink some liquids. My stomach was so upset from the anesthesia that as soon as I tried drinking I vomited. Trust me, vomiting while your mouth is wired shut is not good. Not good at all! Finally after being in the recovery area for way too long they released me to go home. I threw up one more time after the car ride and I was in so much pain. I did not keep my pain medicine down that they gave me in the recovery room and I couldn’t wait fast enough for my pain prescription to be filled so I could take it. The first day was the worse but every day since has been better. Today marks day thirteen of recovery and the swelling has gotten much better and the pain is pretty bearable.

The couple things I will take away from this event are:

  1. I need to pay more attention to detail when riding. I think it could have been avoided…maybe.
  2. I am so grateful for the family and friends in my life. Everyone has been so supportive that I am just overwhelmed with happiness.

Breaking your jaw does not hurt as bad as racing the Boston marathon or an Ironman. However, the surgery itself just about killed me. Looking forward to the next race because I know that the pain I will feel will be insufficient to what I just went through and I will force my body to run faster.

Thanks for reading my blog! Hope you enjoyed this session on goal settings and jaw breaking. Come back soon.

Hello world! Welcome to my blog.

Gosh a white blank page sure is intimidating isn’t it?! I feel like I am in college again trying to start a research paper. I have been talking about creating a blog for a VERY long time. I guess I never thought about what I actually wanted to talk about for the first post. I figured what a great opportunity to start my blog now seeing that my jaw is wired shut (more on that to come later). But, I suppose that I am to introduce myself and let you all know what this blog will even be about.

My name is Dani. I am 26 years old, I live in Arizona and I love all things fitness! I love it so much that I have a hard time trying to pick one sport to excel at. I train for it all. I was born a runner and was a collegiate athlete participating in cross country and track and field at Texas A & M Corpus Christi. Just recently, I have transitioned into a triathlete; completing my first half ironman in March. I love weight lifting, spin class, hiking, yoga…basically, name anything that makes you sweat and I love it! Of course with all the working out I do, I have a big appetite and enjoy cooking healthy, nutritious, creative meals. If you are you looking for workout ideas and delicious meals to cook you have come to the right spot. If you are looking for elegant, grammatically correct writing, you have probably come to the wrong spot.

I will be sharing weekly workouts and weekly meal preparation.  I also have a full time job so I am all about utilizing my time. My workouts are usually quick and dirty and my cooking is fast, easy and delicious (most of the time). I will also just be sharing some of my crazy life stories…like what it feels like to break your jaw. If there are any questions you have please feel free to leave a comment. There is nothing that I enjoy more than helping others along their fitness journey. Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you return!

Believe in your light!