April 15, 2012
Persevering Through the Open
By Amanda Allen

I was increasing strength, fitness, skills and confidence. I was competing in powerlifting, Strongman, weightlifting and CrossFit events. I signed up for virtually everything, which became possibly a bit much to ask of my body at 41.

In December of 2011, I was firing on all cylinders, still on a high after finishing 19th at my first CrossFit Games. I was utterly focused on a return to California in 2012 and having a hell of a time along the way!

I was increasing strength, fitness, skills and confidence. I was competing in powerlifting, Strongman, weightlifting and CrossFit events. If it involved lifting heavy things, I wanted to be doing it. I signed up for virtually everything that came along – back-to-back competitions, which became possibly a bit much to ask of my body at 41. I’m still falling for the belief that I’m invincible. Enter the source of the problem – me.

During an Atlas stone event last year, setting a healthy new state record, I developed an interesting twist in my lifting technique, which, at the time seemed nothing more sinister than just plain unattractive; it still managed to do the job. Over the coming weeks, however, a problem began to reveal itself. It was quiet at first. I began experiencing pain in my left hip, and as the weeks progressed, so did the pain. I’d been suffering a nasty Achilles injury for four months, so my focus was still on that, not on my hip.

But by January, I was experiencing 10 out of 10 pain when I was running, walking, stepping and sleeping – if I was doing anything, I was in pain. Big problem. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, take pain killers, anti-inflammatories and put ice on my hip to try to relieve the pain. It distressed me 24/7.

Day after day I managed my fear and my pain. I’d turn up to CrossFit Adelaide and find ways to train around the pain, but my options were limited and the pain was becoming unbearable. Then one Sunday morning in early February, I woke to find I was unable to bare weight on my left side.

Physios thought I had bursitis – an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac, or bursa, that lies between a tendon and skin, or between a tendon and bone. I was ready for a cortisone injection; I’d never had one before. I’d just reached that point where I was willing to do just about anything for relief. But something told me “not cortisone – yet.” So I headed off for an MRI. The best and worst things were revealed to me that day.

The best thing: An accurate diagnosis.
The worst thing: Fractured neck of the femur – way worse than bursitis.

Doctor’s advice was complete rest and crutches. This meant no walking and certainly no training, to avoid further damage and risk compromising my recovery. Recovery period was eight to 12 weeks. Shit.

I was devastated and embarrassed. I felt my CrossFit dream slipping away and I knew I’d done this to myself. The situation was avoidable with a better competition strategy and more critical decision-making practices in place. I felt like an idiot. At least now I was dealing with a known quantity. The unknown had been immensely distressing.

So I advised my coach, Ben Norman at CrossFit Adelaide. And thank God for his practical, no-fuss attitude. “At least it’s a thing, and things can be dealt with,” was his response.

I went from crying to laughing, and his comment changed everything for me. Ben devised a training program that kept me focused, working hard and building my gymnastics skills (these had been weaknesses). And we did a lot of workouts where I could sit down. C’est la vie … he got creative, I got on with it.

The pain was constant and gnawing, movements were severely restricted, but we dealt with it. There was one particular day I let my head get negative about all that I couldn’t do, so I sat down with my training diary and drew up an exhaustive list of all the things I “could” and all the things I “couldn’t” do. I was amazed to discover that the can list was far, far longer than the cannot list.

That was a positive turning point.

Enter February 22nd, the beginning of the Open. I was ready to withdraw from this year’s competition, convinced there would be no way I could compete. I certainly doubted my ability to finish top 60 in the region and not cause further injury to my hip along the way.

At that point, my No. 1 priority was to do no further damage. With that decision in mind I decided to enter the Open and just keep turning up to training and the Open Workouts one day at a time, and see what happened, willing to let it all go if I had to.

The first workout, 7 minutes of burpees, was immensely confronting. I was in fear, but I was willing to try. I was so careful – it was burpeefest-ninja-style. And that’s the way I approached the Open: One workout and one careful ninja-rep after another.  

Wall balls, box jumps, skipping, squatting, snatching … none of these movements are advisable with a fractured femur. But then CrossFitters have a knack of overcoming and persevering in spite of the odds. I kept healing a little more each week, and miraculously managed to get through the Open.

My gratitude is sky high.

I finished the Open in 4th place in the Australian Region and 49th Worldwide. I didn’t re-injure myself or do further damage to my hip, and my healing is coming along right on-time for a determined and fun-fuelled effort at Regionals.

Every problem carries with it the seed of opportunity. Since the results of the MRI, I have been living in the opportunities presented to me by this injury. I have the most supportive community around me and an incredible coach and training buddies at CrossFit Adelaide. I have rediscovered how important it is to stay mentally positive, despite the bleakest outlook.

“It all works out in the end, so if it hasn’t worked out yet, it isn’t the end.” I heard this recently and I love it. This year’s Open has been an absolute miracle. I am heading to Regionals, and I figure it will all work out in the end.