“Pop!”That’s the sound that changed the last four months of my life.
And the instant I heard it and hit the turf, one thought crossed my mind, “I have a half marathon I’m pacing to PR in six weeks.”
This was the way I had approached any injury for the last 18 years of my life, through college soccer, and now afterward: find out the severity, ignore half of the restrictions and play through the pain. I was convinced that this would be no different. But three days later, when the orthopedic surgeon took one tug at my leg and labeled it an ACL/MCL tear, I knew this wasn’t going to be the case. I fought back the tears as the surgeon went on to describe the reconstructive surgery, which was accompanied by seven months of physical therapy.
Upon waking up in the OR, I was told that they found a torn meniscus, also. They replaced my ACL with a piece of my patellar tendon and stitched up my meniscus and MCL. This would mean 4-6 weeks on crutches and spending 24 hours a day in a full leg brace for that time. I developed bruises the length of my legs from sleeping with the brace on, completing day-to-day tasks was daunting, and I constantly wanted to give up, but I knew that wasn’t who I am or how I’m wired.
When my aunt passed from colon cancer six years ago, she left us with three words that I live by every single day: Redefine The Impossible. This was another chance to do so.
Three days after surgery, I was at the gym lifting upper body and doing exercises my physical therapist had suggested. I stuck to the program and had myself off crutches and on the stationary bike in 2 weeks. I was on cloud nine for the first month; touting my triumphs, messaging with other ACLers on social media – giving advice to get to where I was and bringing the most positive perspective I could to this journey. But after the fifth week, I started to taper, mentally and physically. My pain refused to subside and even though I had been approved to bike, squat and use leg machines, each PT session seemed extremely monotonous and I was less than satisfied because all I wanted to do was run. Each week felt like a month, and I quickly became bitter and tired of the process. After slipping in the mud getting out of my car one night, I spiraled into a month long pity party through December. I was constantly frustrated and in pain. Each morning, I would wake up thinking to myself, “get up, Krista, you’re letting this injury define you”. I would go to the gym hard for a few days, then taper off again. I needed a new goal, and the email to get me back on track came right before New Year’s. The Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation invited my cousin and me back to the NYC half marathon as a part of their fundraising team. It reminded me that my aunt had completed races while enduring countless rounds of chemotherapy. It was time to stop making excuses and feeling bad for myself.
Now, after being cleared to run two weeks before the required four month wait time, I’m looking toward the next victory on this ACL journey: completing a half marathon, exactly five months after ACL reconstructive surgery.
You learn a lot about yourself when you’re forced to overcome obstacles. The roller coaster ride wasn’t going to stop, even though I desperately wanted to get off. I screamed, cried and threw my crutches on the ground countless times, but at the end of the day, I had to remind myself that this was just another chapter of my story as an athlete. This was something I could learn from and help others through, which is what I intend to do. I’ve come out the other side stronger than ever, and in one month, I’ll be crossing the finish line in NYC – simply because I know I can.