Heather Wilson travels onto the road of endless possibilities

If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.” –Ralph Marston

These words have aptly described my life over the past seven or so months.  In particular, endless possibilities comes to the forefront. Reflecting back on my start of 2016, I was poised for a great year.
I came into the Olympic year, my fourth year with the New Jersey – New York Track Club, as fit as I’ve ever been, hungry and hopeful for big things.

Unfortunately, things took an unexpected and unwanted turn. In the middle of racing the 1500 meters at the USATF Indoor Championship, I felt a sharp pain in my left hamstring, forcing me to stop in my tracks. Initially thought to be a high hamstring muscle strain, several months later I discovered I had a partial tear of my hamstring tendon off the ischial tuberosity.

In a non-Olympic year, the most likely and rational course of action would have been complete rest. But alas, this was the year all the miles, track workouts, hours, and dedication were to come to fruition.

I made the decision to continue to train, albeit greatly modified.

Runs and track workouts were replaced with countless hours of cross-training, physical therapy, and every modality under the sun to help heal (or at least prevent further deterioration) of the tendon. The most challenging part of this injury timeline was not the initial and obvious setback, but the one step forward, two steps back nature of trying to prepare for the Olympic Trials with high quality training while not further irritating the hamstring. To say the lead up to the trials was an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement. In spite of it all, I managed to make it to the start line of the 1500 meters Olympic Trials Prelim in Eugene on July 7th.

While I was aware that I physically was not where I had hoped to be, I was proud to have the opportunity to toe the line and remained cautiously optimistic at my chances to advance to the next round.  As I stood waiting for the starting gun, I thought about my journey to this point, and that while perhaps not probable, anything is possible.

Sadly, as it often does, probability won out. I raced to the best of my ability on the day but just did not have the gear change the last 150 meters to advance to the semi-final (which now makes more sense). Post-race, I was disappointed and frustrated, but I was also aware something was definitely awry with my body. Upon returning home to New Jersey, I had an MRI, and the results were less than ideal. They showed that my partial tear was now a full-blown hamstring avulsion with a 3-centimeter retraction.

Translation: while trying to kick that final 150 meters, my hamstring ripped off my pelvis.

After consulting several doctors, it became clear that the only option to return to high caliber running and racing was to have hamstring reattachment surgery.

I had surgery on July 21st, approximately 7 months ago.

Since that time, I have slowly progressed. I have gone from a full leg brace and crutches to 60 minute runs. Additionally, my means and speed of locomotion are not the only things that have changed in that time. After surgery, I moved back to my hometown in Upstate New York. Moving back home presented me with some unique and unexpected opportunities.

I was able to reconnect and spend more time with friends and family. The ability to reconnect with a community that unwaveringly supported my Olympic efforts was a huge plus.

The chance to test the waters of  being a coach became a reality.  This is something I have wanted to pursue for a while. I started my position as assistant cross county/track and field coach at Le Moyne College in the fall. Coaching has been an incredible way for me to share my experience and knowledge of the sport. But it also reminds me of why I got into and love this sport.

Finally, my injury also presented me the pleasure of becoming an Elite Ambassador for Cocoa Elite.

I started using a Fitbit as I began walking and biking after my surgery. It was through the Fitbit app that I became friends and attempted to ‘out step’ the husband of the Cocoa Elite founder. After I sampled the incredible Cocoa Elite product, I quickly began using it in my training and recovery regimens.

The addition of Cocoa Elite to my training and injury recovery has proven pivotal. The carbohydrate-to-protein ratio is perfect for the post-workout refueling for muscle repair from the damage caused by my training. The cocoa flavanols promote circulatory health**. This benefit also enhances blood flow to aid in injury repair**. The simple, all-natural ingredients mean there are no inflammation-causing additives or preservatives. And most importantly, who doesn’t love delicious cocoa?! Anything that allows me to increase my performance, speed along my recovery, and tastes great is a winner in my book.

So, does it majorly suck that my hamstring decided to call it quits in the last 150 meters of the Olympic Trials 1500? Absolutely. Does that mean that I in turn have called it quits?  Or dwelled on the negativity of the situation? Did I abandoned my drive and passion for the sport? Absolutely not. It is how we react to a difficulty or approach an obstacle that defines our character. By choosing to find positivity and opportunity in these situations, by committing to learn from our mistakes and take advantage of new possibilities, you can turn a setback into an epic comeback.

So here is to a bum hamstring. I am turning into a stronger, wiser, and even more determined athlete with endless positive possibilities.


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