Have any athletes out there ever got to the point where you actually wish something terrible was wrong with you so that you had a valid excuse for your disappointing performance?
2014 was the first “bad season” of my career. I have dealt with injuries and setbacks before, but I’ve always been able to get it together in time to salvage the season. This year, it was a no-go. I kept thinking and hoping that things would come together. My training had been going very well; I just couldn’t put it together on the track. After getting sick right before the Pre Classic, my body was imploring me to shut it down, but I had to go to Sacramento for nationals.
In Sacramento, I was relieved to make it through the rounds to the final. I didn’t feel great, but I got on the starting line ready to give it everything I had and to show everyone that I’m still here. I had a good first 200m and came into the homestretch in the lead! Then the wheels fell off. I went from first to fifth in the final 100m. As the current American Record holder, I didn’t even get interviewed on the track after the race. Devastating.
It was time for me to admit something was wrong. I had thought maybe it was a muscular issue, but no matter how much massage or other physio work I had done, it didn’t get better. My legs just didn’t have it in the race for the whole 400 meters.
There was a doctor advertising some extensive testing for someone like me trying to figure out what was wrong with my body (for an absurd amount of money). I talked to the St. Vincent’s doctors though, and they said that they do all of the stuff this guy was talking about at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, and they were pretty sure it would be free for me. I can’t believe I wasn’t aware of this! I went through USA Track & Field to set it all up, and sure enough, being an Olympic silver medalist, I qualified for the testing for free.
I took the trip to Colorado Springs right after nationals. They treated me so well! It was one of the few times I have actually felt like an Olympian. They were shocked when they heard I had never been there and was unaware of what they had to offer me. They said, “We are here to keep American athletes on the Olympic podium.” I replied, “We have something in common then – I’m trying to stay on that podium, and stand on the TOP!”
Upon arrival, I was surprised at the level of security. The entire campus perimeter was completely secured, with security checkpoints at each entrance/exit. When I checked in, the receptionist took a picture of me and put it on a badge. The badge gave me access to everything on campus, and without it, I couldn’t open any of the doors – not even for the cafeteria. I went to my dorm to prepare for the couple of days I had ahead of me. While I wanted something to be wrong so I knew what to do to fix it, I of course didn’t want it to be too severe. But above all, I wanted some answers!
I was given a detailed schedule. It started with a complete blood count (CBC) test first thing the next morning. I had a personal chaperone to walk me next door to a hospital that provided the blood test for me. Everything was set up, I just had to show up. I returned to the OTC for a medical physical by the on-sight medical doctor. The OTC is in the process of building a state-of-the-art office that has everything: MRI, ultrasound, bone scan machine, etc.
The tests I had over the course of two days were:
- Bone scan and body composition
- Movement screening and orthopedic assessment
- Concussion assessment
It may seem like a lot, but their theory is to find and correct as many errors in the body as they can. Small errors can add up to a big impact on performance; if all of the body’s needs are met, you will be able to perform at your peak.
At the end of the two days, I found out that I’m deficient in iron and vitamin D. I know that being deficient in iron is not terribly uncommon in female athletes, but the vitamin D deficiency was shocking to me because I’m in the sun everyday training in the sun. However, I’ve read that the pigment melanin in darker skin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. And guess what the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include? Bone pain and muscle weakness! The primary symptom of iron deficiency is fatigue. And now I see why it’s hard for athletes to know what’s wrong with them sometimes – those are the same symptoms we have daily at practice!
I want to personally and publicly thank the United States Olympic Committee and the OTC staff for investing their time and energy into me. They really rolled out the red carpet, and I felt that they truly cared about me and my career. I think all of us Olympians desire an acknowledgement of what we have done, who we are, and how hard we have worked. It’s so nice to receive that. Also, a special thank you to Dr. Dustin Nabhan, Heather, Alex and Randy Wilbur – I’m so grateful for your time and the professionalism you displayed when working with me. My only regret is that it took me this long to use the resources available to me….but you live and you learn.
So now, it’s Feosol and vitamin D for me, and I’m shutting it down for the season to get back on track the right way. I’m going to enjoy spending the rest of the summer home with the twindigs, as opposed to being overseas and missing not only their summer but the start of their new school year. I’m a newly minted swim mom now! The boys had their first swim meet a couple weeks ago. If anyone has advice for me on that, I’m all ears!
In the meantime, check out some pics I took at the beautiful Olympic Training Center: