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From Surgery to the Start Line in 6 Weeks

By Kirsten Kasper | March 27, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

Having Jarrod tell me it was possible to recover, train and be ready to race in the New Plymouth World Cup not only sounded daunting but almost impossible as I was lying in a hospital bed in a significant amount of pain and a sling! Trusting in your coach is one of the most important aspects of a coach-athlete relationship so I listened to what he had to say and said, “OK, New Plymouth World Cup here I come.” My training partner Molly and I were in a serious bike crash during a workout. Within hours of the crash, I was taken in to surgery to have a plate and screws put in place to fix my broken collarbone. The timing of the accident was not ideal as in two days’ time I was supposed to travel with the CRP crew to race the following weekend in the Takapuna Continental Cup and from there attend a training camp in Geelong, Australia.

My mom came to the rescue and flew out to Scottsdale, Arizona (the home base of the CRP crew) to take care of me and to also aid me through the initial stages of the recovery process (MOMS ARE THE BEST!). I was overwhelmed and extremely grateful for all the warm wishes and healing vibes I received during this time. It was amazing how much impact the support of friends, family and coaches had on my recovery process. So thank you to all those that helped me through this time and gave me positive encouragement through this challenging time. Hearing others share obstacles they had overcome, having people put things in perspective and having people simply listen to my concerns is what helped me get through each day and continue to progress in the recovery process. Two days after surgery, I was in the gym and on the bike spinning my legs. I was walking daily and attending physical therapy at Endurance Rehab where Nate and his team worked their magic and helped me regain shoulder strength and improve my range of motion. I began swimming again (at first, just moving around in the water was all that I could do) about three weeks post-surgery and each time I was in the water I was able to handle more volume with less shoulder awareness. This was when I started to get excited and realized that I really could still race in New Plymouth! I was determined to make it to Australia and New Zealand to race and join my teammates.

About four weeks post surgery, I was training for all three sports with little limitation and I finally received the call from Jarrod that I would be joining the group in Mooloolaba, Australia. Naturally after receiving this news, I was jumping on my bed and celebrating like a little kid! The motivation to get through each day and heal as quickly as possible was coming to reality. The adventure abroad was finally starting. I flew with Kevin McDowell from Phoenix, Arizona, to Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday, March 7, and was reunited with the CRP group on Monday, March 9, to start the race preparation.

My training leading up to my first race back at the New Plymouth World Cup required long and hard bike sessions, increasing swim strength and starting run workouts again. My body was in a state of shock, but I knew it was necessary in order to be confident on the starting line in New Plymouth.

The morning of the race arrived and I was nervous! I was disorganized, rushing and trying to wrap my head around the tough race course I was about to endure. I was thankful to have my training buddy, Renée Tomlin, to make me laugh and provide me with composure that is required of us. Race day conditions were wet and stormy and required a wetsuit swim, which I was excited about as I had the chance to wear my new ROKA wetsuit! Lining up to race Jarrod yelled at me to get right next to Renée in the middle of the start line. I was to get out hard on the swim and keep the intensity and sense of urgency during the entire race. I fought hard against the rough ocean and unfortunately drank a little too much ocean water during the process. I came out of the swim in about 8th place and was barely hanging on to the back of the first bike pack. The combination of the swim and my first hard race effort since the crash caused me to vomit while on the bike. Something I could never imagine would happen and wouldn’t recommend! After gaining my composure again, I fought hard to stay on the chase pack and make it to the run leg with a smile.

The swim and bike had taken all I had and when it came time to run I was toast. I came off the bike in 29th place and finished in 19th by digging deep and focusing on catching the athletes in front of me. I cannot say I am personally satisfied with 19th place, but given the circumstances I need to take it for what it is, which is a step in the right direction. Exactly six weeks after surgery I was back racing and doing what I love and for that, I am incredibly grateful. Being sidelined from the sport one loves is an obstacle many endure and is never easy. Again, I wouldn’t have been back on that starting line without the support of many people. So, thank you to USA Triathlon, my sponsors ROKA and Team Psycho for believing in my abilities and supporting me along the way. And thank you to Jarrod, Jono, Andy, Barb and Bobby for mentoring me and providing coaching and insight in my recovery. Finally, thank you to my friends and family — especially my parents — for being extremely loving and for continually supporting my dreams. The journey and racing continues this weekend in Auckland, New Zealand, as I compete in my first WTS race!