Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

Week 9 Post Op Update – This Kind of Sucks

I’m not going to lie, crazy ass fans, this kind of sucks.

The Sob Story

I think – at least I hope – I’ve hit the low point of this recovery process. After 5 weeks of solid, progressive injury recovery, I’ve had a rough month. I took week 6 mostly off because of my first bout with Jude’s Revenge (mega sickness blamed on baby).  Week 7 I started gently easing out of the boot yet somehow developed posterior tiblial tendonitis (inner ankle), which has delayed my progression back to activity. The one positive point was that I was at least progressing in the pool, and could finally swim a decent amount without the ankle condom boot contraption. But on Saturday during an easy swim, my shoulder freaked out and now it’s sore as balls. WTF dude? Seriously?

So why am I writing this sob story? Because I said from the outset that I would talk about what it was like to go through this surgery and the entire recovery process. And while I’m generally a pretty positive guy, there are a lot of times when this s*!t really sucks. And right now is one of those times.

I was gaining some good momentum on my last update. I was developed my core strength, strengthened my shoulders, and maintained some aerobic fitness. Then the last four weeks have felt like a stall, or even a step back. Looking at my training log depresses me. The tendonitis is relatively common for people who’ve spent 8 weeks in a boot, but that doesn’t make it suck any less.

The actual, exact low point of my recovery was when this woman passed me on the bike path.

The actual, exact low point of my recovery was when this woman passed me on the bike path. Seriously.

I thought by week 9 I’d be back rolling into some real training again. I thought I’d be swimming and lightly kicking, riding a bike clipped in outside and potentially even running a bit on anti gravity treadmill. Instead, I feel out of shape, directionless, and my “workout” today was riding a flat pedaled cruiser bike along side Lauren’s 30 minute post pregnancy run.

Anger – Bike Path Rage

While I was pity pedaling behind Lauren on the bike path, some dude on a nice bike decked out in all his gear cruised by, looking all intense and in the zone. Instead of giving him the typical courtesy cycling nod…I said “f$%k you” under my breath. Damn it, I must really be angry! I’ve felt that way a fair amount lately, seeing people enjoy the beautiful summer on mountain bikes in Bend while I do core exercises in a gym. That’s not at all my style, but there’s a side of me that’s legitimately angry to be in this position.

Doubt and Fear – Messed Up Thoughts

It’s one thing to get a little angry, but the worst part is the side of my brain that projects this bad mojo into some seriously doubtful and depressing thoughts. Did I make the right choice to get surgery, or should I have just taken some down time and then rebuild into the season? Will my foot ever really be as good or better than it was?….Is my career over? There’s a sick piece of me – the same one that writes race reports WHILE racing – that sees the literary genius in a career that both begins and ends at Wildflower. It imagines people saying, “Yeah, I remember that Jesse Thomas kid. He made a brief splash on the scene. He showed some potential but he got hurt and never came back. I think he’s an insurance salesman now.” Man, the mind is pretty twisted, right? No offense, insurance salesmen.

Balancing Emotion with Logic – Birds in Your Brain

While my mind has an emotional side that can be pretty messed up and project me to bad places depending on how I’m feeling in the moment, it also has a logical side that reminds me of past experiences and puts things in perspective. My dad said negative thoughts are like birds in your brain, it’s ok for them to circle around, just don’t let them nest. See, I know, deep down inside, that I’ve been in this spot before, where things weren’t going as planned, a recovery was delayed, and the doubt was intense. And eventually, I got through it. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have accomplished what I already have. So this is normal. Life isn’t over. My career isn’t over. I’ll get through it like I have before, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy, and that I won’t experience the same fear and doubts again.

Double Down

I spoke with Matt about some of these feelings and he said something that stuck with me – “You need to double down,” meaning double down on my patience. You see, I cruised through the first 6 weeks because they all went according to plan. It’s easy to stay patient and positive when all is going as expected. It’s when stuff gets messed up that you get tested. I need to double down on my patience, and reset my expectations.

In all honesty, there was a piece of me – again, the same one writing stories during the process – that believed, if everything went according to plan, I just might be able beat expectations and race 70.3 Worlds. Ha! I know it sounds ludicrous, but I was told 12 weeks to running, and my brain said, Well, 16 weeks to Worlds means if I stay fit, I get 4 weeks of running in and who knows!?! Wouldn’t that just blow the expectations away! What an incredible comeback story that would be!

Obviously, that’s not going to happen, and really, I never should have let that thought into my brain. But it’s that dreaming that enables me to accomplish great things when the stars do align.

It Takes Time & It’ll Get Better

Regardless, it’s obvious I need to reset my expectations and double down. While the planned recovery is 12-14 weeks, I know from experience that recovery from major injuries always takes an extra 50-100% the time the doctors estimate. In fact, I wrote that exact thing in a Triathlete Magazine article that will be published this month. So listen to yourself, A-Hole! I should give myself 20+ weeks to really come back from this thing. Don’t be so hard on yourself and just let it happen.

Bottom line is, I know deep down that I’m going to get better, that it’s eventually going to work out, and I’ll eventually be stronger and faster than I ever have. I really, 100% believe that will happen. But I also have to be realistic and say that it will probably take longer than I hoped, and I have to let my mind and body recover at it’s own pace. Patience, dude. Patience.

Thanks Pearl Izumi for the video interview & support during the recovery. I talk a bit about getting injured, how it sucks, and some other stuff that’s actually pretty awesome.

18 comments to Week 9 Post Op Update – This Kind of Sucks

  • marian

    hang in there, jesse! you’ll be back stronger and faster.

  • Man, it does suck and you have every right to be pissed and frustrated. From a masters athlete ( gentle term for i am in my late 40’s) i can tell you that you WILL get thru this and you WILL kick A$$ again:) I am also a PT and trust me when i say i wish there was a linear progression to injury recovery and healing. Ya there is for ADLs and ” yes you can tie your shoes now and you can dress yourself” but for what we are doing ( at your level) its gonna be a ping pong game back to the top. Hang in there:)

  • Regina

    Be patient. That’s my mantra as well.
    It’s exactly the same here with my injury just replace your foot with a seperated shoulder and your sore shoulder with a rupture of a muscle joint in the calf. It’s more than 8 weeks after the surgery and the recovery and getting back to a proper state of fitness seems to get further and further away. This sucks 10x…
    All the BEST for you and even quicker healing.

  • Brett

    Love this, “Negative thoughts are like birds in your brain, it’s ok for them to circle around, just don’t let them nest.”

  • christine

    Having had shoulder surgery 2 days ago, this was a good reminder to focus on the long term and not the fact that I can’t make my own sandwiches right now. I think it’s ok to be angry… channel it! Happy recovery and enjoy that little family of yours.

  • Jomo

    Dude, I can so relate — to the bike path rage part. Not to the world-class athlete longing to get back into world-class shape part so much. I had a bout of runners knee that lasted for about 3 months where I couldn’t run for a bus. It felt fine if I was just walking around, but the second I started even a slow jog — intense pain. I would see people running down the street, innocent people, out running with their dogs or whatever, and I would think “I hate you so much!” It was a nasty, ugly place. Hang in there — you will get back.

  • Neil

    Love that you’re giving people a look inside your head as the recovery process goes on. So much of your advice can be applied outside of sport, too.

    As always, keep on trucking, man. We all know you’re coming back stronger and more motivated than ever. And have to second Brett’s comment on the birds in the head – that is brilliant.

  • cassondra

    Inspired by your candor & courage. Keep up the good stuff. The best is yet to come.

  • Robin

    Like Julia (above) I a masters athlete, a physical therapist and also a running coach. I’ve been on all sides of the coin (are there more than 2 sides?). I GET your frustration, and I back Julia’s comments 100%. I also appreciate what must be painful honesty in sharing all this. You are helping others understand and get through their own ‘things’. You’ll get through this and come back with even greater mental toughness and tools, just like Lauren is doing. I really love your dad’s quote about birds circling, but don’ let ’em roost! You ain’t washed up yet!!!

  • Aaron

    Hi Jesse — Hang in there, my friend. Glad to hear things are at least going well in the other parts of your life (Picky Bars and J.E.T). Best wishes!

  • Dawn

    Jesse, I haven’t even finished reading your entire post but had to comment. Of course you will come back (even better!). You recovered from a spinal injury didn’t you? Don’t get discouraged. You have so much going for you (you know this), I don’t even know you. Good luck! God bless. And congrats to you and Lauren on your beautiful son!

  • Chris

    Your father sounds like a smart guy, you may want to listen to him. Keep on keeping on and you’ll be back at it, stronger then before.

  • bendmichael

    A year from now this recovery time will be history and inconsequential. 20 weeks is nothing in a career. But Careful of coming back too hard.

  • Jesse-

    I hate that you are going through this, and I know that things will get better. I’ve learned through these tough times it helps me to take a deep breath and think of my wife and two girls to help get myself re-centered again. Good luck and I truly wish you the very best in your career and recovery.

    Sincerely,
    Keebler

  • darren

    i think it is funny that your voice still cracks. i would probably be worried more about that than a little stress fracture.
    love you, bro.

  • Nora

    I’m trying not to be a little crestfallen that you appear to think that the “lowest” possible thing is to be passed by, *gasp*, a woman (who looks to be of prime endurance sports age, i.e. late 30s, and outfitted in clothing that suggest she is at least a hobbyist cyclist).

    Just sayin’.

  • DPutts

    Keep your head up bro. It will get better. Kinda like how it totally sucks for the first few weeks of parenthood at night…you never think you’ll get a good night’s sleep again…until magically one night baby sleeps a solid 8 hours in a row. Stay positive. Great blog…keeping it real.

  • Jen

    You will thank yourself later for being patient with the rehab. The patience is WAY harder than the PT and the physical work, or it was for me. I had foot surgery a little less than a year ago, and just did my first full Ironman in June. Reading your posts, watching your 10,000 hours video– it brought back a lot for me! (butt-walking down the stairs or from the bed to the bathroom at night when I didn’t want to use crutches and wake up the kids, ugh)… The better job you do now at letting the body heal properly, the bigger your dividends will be come spring. Enjoy that sweet baby. Thanks for making Picky Bars. 🙂

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