Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Last entry cont...

I'm not sure if anyone's still reading this as I know nationals are over, but for those of you whom are, "Hello" my little loyalites (that's a word as of right now).

In my last entry, I left off wanting to touch on: my hip, attitude recovery, and the "limbo zone."

Some of these things also touch on my entry later in the evening on Saturday, in which I referred to some "unexpected things." It's funny how life ties into itself--like a pretzel... maybe my life is a pretzel. Okay, I've lost myself.

Anyway, I took two falls in my short program, both of which were more painful than I would have liked. There's a certain kind of fall that almost every skater has taken where the muscles and [insertion] tendons deep inside your hip are exposed because of the position your body's in, and when you fall, you come down straight on your hip bone, lying underneath these muscles. Consequently, everything between your hip bone and the ice get nailed pretty good and it causes quite a little discomfort anytime you need to use it (which is all the time when you're skating). It also ticks off the bursa on your hip causing another source of discomfort. Conveniently, I did this twice in my short program. Fun fun!!

I went to bed Friday night after icing, heating, and massaging (which probably wasn't the best idea) my hip in an effort to try and keep it loose and to speed up the recovery time. On Saturday however, I woke up with a VERY sore hip and feeling a little defeated--I'm not going to lie--and was less than anxious about a practice and a long program run-through that would inevitably be a part of that practice. I knew I would be very sore and uncomfortable; I knew I would have to manage my hip and keep a strong competitive attitude to combat any defeatist tendencies that so easily seep into our psyche when things aren't going as planned; I knew that I would need to spend some time relaxing my hip that would otherwise be spent having fun walking around and enjoying my nationals environment. I mentioned in a post early last week that it's important to pay attention to your last thoughts at night and your first thoughts in the morning as we often use them for the rutters of our day, steering us in the direction we seem to start with--if it's a bad/unpleasant thought, change your way of thinking and change the direction of your day. I knew that if I maintained my lack of excitement regarding my situation, the day was unlikely to improve. I specifically wrote in my blog to make myself accountable. I wrote, "Basically, today's all about choice!... I'm making the choice, right now, to have a great day, a great practice, and a comfortable evening." Essentially, I was only going to have a bad day if I let myself--why would I want to do that? Especially in the middle of nationals.

I went to practice and spent a lot of time warming up my very sore hip. WOH--can we say SORE?? I got on the ice and simply stroked around for about 4 minutes... it took this long for me to get over the fact that it hurt for me to stand on the ice in any way that would activate my glutes (sp?)(which is ALL the time), and for me to realize that any push from my left side would require an extraordinary effort. I went through the normal routine, starting with some edge exercises... more and more sore as we go... and then moving onto some waltz jumps. This is when things became a little more interesting. My waltz jumps were essentially very flat as I couldn't use my left side--my take-off side--to jump; I couldn't use the muscle in my arse to get myself anywhere. OOOOoooookkkkaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy.... well, we'll see how this goes. (Again, it's my choice to make it good or not) I did a single axel; terrible! I did a double axel, which took a few times circling and a few that I popped if I recall correctly; TERRIBLE!! Keep in mind, this was the easiest jump planned in my program and it nearly took an act of congress to get me to do it. Even when I could get enough energy to muster through the pain, there's the terrifying fear of landing on it again; any little fall in same spot and I probably wouldn't have been able to move--that's not comforting either. It didn't get any better from there. Everything was extremely tentative; everything was extremely weak; everything was extremely pain- and fear-based. For future reference, this is NOT a good way to approach a practice. I wasn't sure how else to cope.

I was third to do my program and needless to say, it was not a very good one. I told my coaches, only one of whom knew my hip was bothering me, that I couldn't do the triple axels and that I would make them doubles, everything else I thought I could push through. I didn't do my opening combination well as I couldn't check-out smoothly, can't remember the loop, doubled the flip, skipped my death drop, stepped out of the triple lutz (not completing the combo), fell on the second double (triple planned) axel, shaky triple sal, missed my combination spin as I couldn't hold my position on the entrance, marked the footwork, double axel tap-toe shaky double axel, doubled the last triple toe, and finished with a marginal flying spin. This was quite a difference from my recently consistent run of nearly clean programs... OOHHHH BOY!

After the program, I had a small conversation at the boards with my coaches regarding my hip... literally went like this

Coach 1: "which hip is bothering you?"

B: "my left."

That's about all I recall. There's not much of a point in complaining about something if it's not going to change anything. At that time, there's really nothing I was planning on changing. My program however, illustrated to me just how sore my hip really was; there was little I could do pain-free and there were a few things I just couldn't do. NOT A COMFORTABLE FEELING. What do I do now? What does this mean for competition? This is when an entirely new set of thoughts started flying through my head. I've NEVER scratched do to an injury--I've never had a pain during competition that was so unmanageable that I just couldn't skate. Would I have to adjust my program? Would I have to take the triple axels out? What about the spins? What about the confidence necessary to complete the rest? How do I approach a program full of elements if it takes everything I have just to stroke? This was a very different position for me to be in.

Numerous conversations ensued regarding my hip, non of which came close to the subject of scratching, and in my head, I couldn't help but to think there was no way... there was no way I was going to be able to do this. Then it occurred to me, I didn't want to; I didn't WANT to compete and have to take my axels out and adjust my spins. If I couldn't be confident and prepared the way I had trained, I didn't want to go and make [what I thought would inevitably be] a fool of myself. However, it'd be weak to pull out; it'd be ridiculous to back away at this point; how much pain can I really put up with for just a few minutes? Then, it becomes a lot more than a hip pain... it's the loyalty to your commitment... it's the follow-through with your goals and intentions... it's being an upstanding student and a hard working athlete... it quickly becomes a lot of things above and beyond mustering through some pain. This becomes a very difficult situation to try and balance. BUT I COULDN'T LIFT OFF MY LEFT SIDE AND I COULDN'T SUPPORT MYSELF GOING INTO A SPIN!!! Was I crazy? Was I scared? Was I weak? I don't know. But I told myself at the beginning of the week that this week was about me and not about managing what other people thought. It's my competition and it's my performance. They're my goals and they're my efforts. They're my interests and my satisfactions. Selfish? Maybe, but I'm not skating for other people, I'm skating for me. The people who are there for me are just that, there for me!! They're there to help me do what I want to do and help me achieve what I want to achieve.

I quickly came to the conclusion that I wouldn't want to skate if my hip weren't any better the next day, and as far as I could tell, and as much as I tried to believe, and with all that I understood at the time, my hip wasn't getting that much better that soon. My trainer/therapist travels with me to nationals, conveniently, and was a big part of this recovery process. She worked on my hip after practice, once we had returned to the hotel. She left me so I could take a [much needed] nap and to ice the heck out of my hip for the rest of the day. I still hadn't broached the subject of withdrawing from the competition with any of my coaches. I didn't want to. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it but again, I didn't have any belief that it would get better--not a good mindset. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to do.

I took a nap and woke up to go have a Starbucks with my trainer. I mentioned that I wouldn't feel well enough to skate if my hip weren't better by the next day. However, I had a new idea regarding my hip... something we had never done before (and something I always told myself I wouldn't even consider)--cortisone! I asked her about it and she had already thought that far ahead. We discussed it at further length, she had already talked to the competition docs, and we were set to have an evaluation of sorts. Essentially, I wouldn't be getting a cortisone shot, it'd be a shot of a simple numbing agent--marcaine--which is like lidocaine (the anesthetic used in dentistry and small superficial surgeries) but has a longer half-life. This gave new hope to the competition but didn't squelch my anxiousness, it simply turned disbelief into apprehension. I had basically spent most of the day assuming that my nationals was over... I wouldn't be competing. The nice thing about this is that I wasn't busy freaking myself out about my program. However, with the new idea of getting a shot, I wasn't sure what to think.

During the ladies' long program event, we met with the docs to look at my hip. I asked for a very small test run of the shot so that I understood what I'd be in for the following day. We used lidocaine instead of marcaine and it didn't seem to do anything. AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH, we're back to where we started. They said they couldn't inject the muscle, they could only inject the bursa, but the muscle is what I needed to use. What do I do?

My attitude regarding the competition had been all over the board during my limbo zone (the period between the short program and long program), from defeated and worthless, to anxious and apprehensive, to selfish and weak, to aggressive and strong, to nervous and worried, to lost and scared, to embarrassed and ashamed, etc..... I mean it--ALL OVER THE PLACE. I didn't know what to think. The way my hip was, I wouldn't compete. But with a shot (the affects of with which I was unfamiliar) maybe I'd be able to do it. How do I wrap my mind around that one?

The next morning we went to the rink extra early to get my hip injected before the warm-up. If it worked, great... if it didn't, oh well--we tried. I discussed my concerns about not feeling the affects the night before. We did it a little differently this time, used a little more marcaine and he sent me on my way. MY HIP FELT GREAT!!! It was still very sore as the numb area was small and the contused area was large, but it was MUCH MUCH better... it was usable and that's all I needed. I was back in business.

After warm-up, I relaxed for about an hour, went back to the rink early and got another injection in my hip... injection #3!!! Again, my hip felt great; still very tight; still very sore. There were two things this was for... I needed to be able to activate the muscle to allow me to use my left side, and I needed to eliminate as much as possible, the fear of falling on the hip again and not being able to get up. These injections accomplished both of these things.

I was all off the sudden back in business. I could skate and do so confidently. I got to do my long program. I was the lucky one to open the event, and remember what I said in my last blog: there is no bad place to skate (in regard to skating order).

The bonus of this whole event (my hip) was that, for the last day I didn't even think I'd be on the ice. I didn't let myself think too much about it cause I didn't even think it would happen. I was excited to be there. I was excited to continue. I was prepared and trusted that of myself. I went through all the normal competition angst and came to the conclusion that I was there to enjoy myself. It was only 4.5 minutes... live it up. I know my program. I love my program. I do my program every day. Go out and do it again and enjoy it. Look up and have a great time. I had a great warm-up. I did a reasonable program, popping two jumps (argggg--I know), but had a blast. I was there to compete and that's what I did. It was great.

The funny thing about the limbo zone was that I had come to conclusions and made decisions about a future situation based on something that existed now and assuming nothing would change. I had basically resigned myself to the idea that my involvement in the competition was over--there's no way I could've continued. WHAT??? THIS IS WHAT WE FOCUS ON DURING TRAINING EVERY, SINGLE, DAY!!!! This is unfair to do to oneself as the time to make the decision was not during limbo. I didn't have to compete until Sunday. It wasn't competition yet. Don't condemn yourself or your future based on what's happening right now. Keep working to make it better and make the decision when you absolutely have to; before that, fretting about it is a waste of time. Consequently though, my nationals turned out to be a few different little adventures that I certainly wasn't planning on, but all of which turned out as well as they possibly could have. I learned a lot, to say the least, about myself and the way I create my own experience.

In regard to my injections, undergoing this kind of procedure, though extraordinarily safe and temporary, was the most drastic action I've ever taken in regards to injury management during a competition. It was a great experience however and certainly something to learn from.

Despite the mistakes in my programs, and disappointing as they may be, I had an incredible nationals and an extraordinary week!! If everything always went exactly as planned, we'd never learn anything, we'd never grow, we'd never feel!! If I could have it to do all over again... I would do it the exact same way!!!!

I want to say a quick thank to my coaches for being an extraordinarily supportive force both in my life and in my skating. Thanks to Susan Williams, Joy Anderson, and Ken Congemi. I also want to say a huge thank you to my family and my girlfriend for being there anytime I need them--you guys are irreplaceable!!

Thanks for all of your interest in my random spoutings and my journey through life.

Until next time,



GypsyLou said...

I thought I'd drop by and comment that you have such an enjoyable LP! Nice Captain Jack ;) I'm glad you were able to skate it.

Later, the woman next to me realised you were sitting a few rows ahead of us, and she went crazy trying to figure out who you were. I opened my mouth to tell her a couple of times, but she was having such a great time trying to figure it out on her own, I didn't want to spoil her fun. :) She did eventually find you in her program book.

metapoet said...

Thanks, Braden, for your excellent, candid insight. I didn't see your program but did follow your scores, and knew something must have happened. The media also must have known that you're a skater to be reckoned with despite what happened, given that you and Coach Susan had one of the few photos in the senior men's 'gallery.'

Hope the healing goes well and that you are back to doing what gives you joy.

Zaphyre said...

As I told you in the arena, I love your blog.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I had wondered why we didn't see much of you during the week and it's nice to know why, although I'm sorry you ere in pain.

I was also impressed to see your name as choreographer for several of the other skaters (including one of your competitors!). You have quite a future ahead of you in that capacity.

Take care, heal fast and grow stronger.

Jazzpants said...

Braden (BTW: love that "BOGO" nickname, LOL!!!):

Thank you for giving us more insight into what was going on. I'm glad that you are candid and open about your situation.

*sigh* Oh, GEEZ!!! I "knew" (as in "I suspected but didn't want to speculate") it had to be that given what I saw on video. I'm sorry that it had to happen to you and at a pretty bad timing!!! I had that type of falls once and was off training for 3-4 weeks (no skating AND gym) and was extremely tentative getting back on the ice. But I survived that and came back fightin', as will you.

I think it's very fortunate that you were the first one out of the ice. Get it over and done with!!! No need to go in the back and work on keeping warm for at least 30 minutes after the 5 minute warmup and worry about your muscles tightening up. Then again, you probably know all that stuff about keeping muscles warmed and stretched before you took your turn....so (as you said) "there is no bad place to skate."

You did a very brave thing! And I certainly do understand why you've made the decision to do everything in your power to get on that ice for the free skate -- you've put in all this training mainly for this competition and you don't want that moment to be wasted!!! I'm not sure what I would do if I were put in your shoes either. (I mean, we will have doctors and nurse there at Adults Nationals, but I'm not sure they could go and inject numbing agents and cortisones at the event. And my trainer will be there too, but she's there to compete!!! LOL!!!)So... I think you've definitely more than redeemed yourself putting out that long program with an injury like that!!!

Now that Nationals are over... take care of that hip and DON'T skate!!! We want you to heal well so you'll be ready for next Nationals so we could see you make your TV debut, become rich and famous and support your girlfriend and family in the lifestyle they so deserve! ;) ;) ;) :P

Take care,

penguin girl said...

So glad you could give us the gift of your performance. I am so sorry for all the pain you went through but so glad you were able to overcome all the obstacles. I hope you will be skating for a long while and sharing your gifts for an even longer time, with skaters and obsessive fans like me. We had a good time cheering for you both in the xcel practices and the competition. Stay warm!

lutzbutz2687 said...

Ahh BOGO, well you could definately tell that you were just excited to be on the ice for long. Sorry to hear about the hip, i know how those go except the last time I did it I wasn't skating on ice I was walking to class on ice and yeah Ouch!! I was still very impressed with the triple axel combo they showed during the warm-up. It's nice to see back to your old tricks after the collerbone problem. Can't wait to see you in April, rest up and get ready to tackle being Troy.


Cleo said...

Braden, thank you SO MUCH for all of your wonderful blog entries the past few weeks. Your journey on coming to the right mental attitude and how to deal with adversity will be valuable to everyone, not just skaters/athletes. I am going to point some friends & family members to this blog, esp my hubby (twice your age) who has taken up long distance endurance bicycling and has put himself thru much physically and mentally.

Anyway... I wasn't surprised that your hip was so badly injured after watching the short program. Those falls looked devastating to your body. OUCH indeed. Getting up and finishing so strongly shows your toughness.

I am glad you decided to go with the injections. For one, they worked (!), second, you would have second guessed yourself had you not had them and then not skated, forever wondering 'what if' (or maybe you wouldn't have?), and thirdly, had you not skated, you would have deprived the audience in St. Paul and on icenetwork of your delightful free program. Several commenters on the SkateFans list that were in St. Paul have posted on how much they enjoyed your program, and Nancy Kerrigan also was complimentary to your skating on icenetwork.

I'm so glad you got to go out and have fun and skate well. Now take care of yourself, take a break, relax!

e-skater said...

Thought I might be back to read a follow-up. What an entry!

I had a fall similar over a year ago. According to my coach it was a "waxel" fall, though I was only doing a waltz jump. I didn't seek medical attention, though in hindsight, I probably should have. I'm glad you got intervening care....which allowed you to skate.

With your being in prime physical condition, and your high level of conditioning/training, I bet you will be ready to go again with everything being fine, once healed.

I can't imagine how that injury would feel with the force of your jumping, and the resulting concussion on those falls. Yikes. I imagine it was 10 times worse than I experienced.

And to skate such a LP comeback...with that injury. Hats off to you. What a strong competitor you are!

Take care. I'll check here from time to time. I hope you heal well, and return to training stronger.

sk8ngiraffe said...

Wow, I don't know what I'm more impressed with - your incredible courage in doing a fantastic LP with that kind of injury, or your brilliant writing talents and willingness to let us all grow while learning from your journey! You continue to amaze and inspire me. Keep up the great work, and I can't wait to see what programs you come up with next! Heal well, and continue your incredible progress.

Icarus said...

Braden, this was my first Nationas and you're one of the ones I came to see. I can't wait to see more of you.

Yes, your falls all seemed to be really bad ones, that fast sideways slide and -- wham! -- on the hip. OwOwOw. My eyes watered when I saw it Friday, and now, knowing what you went through... holy cow.

Thank you for the detailed insightful commentary. It really helps me to understand and get a multi-dimensional picture of what's going on.

You were sitting a few rows down from me on Sunday, but I decided to keep my fan-squeaking to myself and let you enjoy Nationals in peace. But now I can't wait till next year.