Irwin ambassador Brenna Irwin ( yes that is really her name) tells us about how she has worked through her injuries and riding again:
2017 and 2018 were rough years for me. In ‘17 I was walking with my kids on the sidewalk when I was hit by a truck that veered off the street and was left with serious crush and compression injuries in my back. Then in 2018, I was in a head-on collision that broke six bones and damaged multiple tendons in my foot. With two serious back to back injuries, I was in the same position many athletes often experience – trying to keep momentum & mental sanity when faced with losing the activity that makes me thrive. And while I didn’t have a survival manual, I did manage to find my own guidelines of how to stay on top of life, even when stuck in the valleys.
Keep it in perspective: Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But life is so much more than the moment. To hear a recovery time that can last up to a year can be devastating and bring its own wave of emotions. But these months are just a small snapshot and will eventually be just a memory. Temporary first world problems can seem so insignificant, being surrounded by those who support and share the same view always provide the reminder to not wallow in the daily struggle. Instead, keep focusing on gratitude for what you have – strength & persistence to overcome and a value for what’s truly important in life.
Recovery starts with attitude: Being a competitor is as much about the mental game as it is physical. It is said that those who have a good attitude heal faster. So why not have some fun? Setting the mental road to be a positive one is imperative and takes many forms. Embrace a new perspective and learn a new skill. Improve your mechanic skills or learn how to cook nutritious meals — volunteer or work in the sag vehicle to support your friends and competitors.
My injury left me with the temporary use of only one leg, and I could have wallowed in self-pity. But instead, I discovered and was graciously welcomed into the RAMP handcycling group. The challenged athletes I that I got to ride alongside, even race with, during that time helped me to experience a whole new way of living that unless injured would still be unknown to me. Being surrounded by those that embraced a limitless way of life made me realize how much I was missing in my mundane daily rides. These athletes had it all figured out, and I wanted as much of it as my smiling cheeks & aching arms could handle. It’s amazing how much fun can come from the curves life throws.
Be prepared to do the work: Thankfully most injuries are not permanent, and I naively thought the time of disability would be the worst of it. But rehab and recovery often take longer than expected. As naturally competitive athletes, the pressure to be immediately back where you left off comes from teammates, race schedules, performance numbers – and especially from within the “Don’t be a quitter, don’t be a slacker “ attitude that is common in endurance sports — struggling with pain and additional effort to do basic training hard on the ego. But even small progress counts. Celebrate it, and keep working towards your goal. Keep in mind that athletic endeavors are not a destination, but a journey. An injury may be part of that journey but in allowing it to shape and add to life can bring great joy instead of sacrifice. Often there’s a scar or two, mechanical failures, or rough patches along the way – but how you choose to handle it can sure make for one great ride.