Breaking the Pain of Regret!

Breaking the pain of regret.

I have been fortunate to have enjoyed  some success as an athlete in the world of track and field and for that I would like to thank my parents for their complete support and my brother for being competitive to this day, but along the way  I had to deal with some setbacks. I am not going to drum up how bad my injuries were or make drama of moments that  happened, but I will write this tale in a clear honest depiction of what it is like to get smashed in the teeth when you are standing on top of the hill, and what ‘I’ experienced on the way back up…

During my second season at the University of Wyoming I was coming off a pretty decent previous year having been ranked number two in the world in the thirty-five pound weight throw and setting both a Canadian and school record. However, it was clear to me and to the people that I trained with that I needed to add some horsepower to overcome the top athletes in the NCAA and on my very own College team, Horsepower that would come in the form of the weight room and a little added size to my frame. At the end of  May my current stats were as follows. 6’1” 229lbs with a vertical jump of 40.5”, bench press 365lbs, power clean 350lbs,

3 months post surgery

snatch 235lbs and squat 565lbs x 4reps, I was hovering around 11% body fat and in retrospect I should have gotten my weight up to 240lbs and called it awesome for the year…but I was a good soldier and when my coach at the time told me that bigger was going to be better I dropped my head and pushed through commonsense until 240lbs was simply a memory in my rear view mirror. At the start of the summer I began my training June 1st with my Brother and Father which had become a summer tradition for the Woodske boys and this summer was going to be epic. The training that I was doing was very simple, growing to a max effort in the sixth week in both the squat and the bench press.  During the sixth week I can remember achieving a body weight of 243lbs up about 14lbs from where I started when I got home and I felt fucking powerful. The first max effort of the week was the bench and I pressed for one rep 420lbs. The bench up 55lbs from the end of the season and I squatted 705lbs with a leather belt and knee wraps, also up around 100lbs for another personal record.  This all occurred at the midpoint of the summer and I had another few weeks before I had to get back at it and start training for track and field. During the next  four and half weeks my training went into what we would now call an accumulation phase and during this period I went from a hard 240lbs to a little softer 268lbs…and this was my mistake.  When I arrived at school it was obvious that I had now achieved the horsepower to lay out some big throws in the weight and hopefully have the type of season that would put me close to a ‘B’ standard for the summer Olympics in Sydney.  For the first month of training it was like I couldn’t do anything wrong my body weight started to harden up around 260lbs and my vertical jump had only dropped to 38” from the stand.  In the weight room the weight kept moving and at the end of September I squatted 550lbs for ten reps and power cleaned 350lbs for five reps….At the

Coming back 3years later

end of October we had our inter squad meet and all things were going well…Following the last event on Sunday we went into the weight room and during that work out I put up 600lbs for six reps in the squat and still had to take second place to Jason Hammond who knocked out 660lbs for the equivalent reps! You have to understand I was always the second best squatter and even when I benched 480lbs I was at best third or fourth on our team list for that lift….thank God I could jump out of my shoes…or maybe not, but I will get to that in a minute.  When we returned to training on Tuesday following that session things were going great and during a descent practice I heard the distinctive sound of a balloon bursting and then the next thing I knew my left foot was on fire….and I swear I could actually smell it!{I am going to skim this one because it wasn’t as important} But what happened was, I experienced a dancer’s fracture that was so sever I needed a metal plate and seven screws to correct. Best case scenario I would be out 10 weeks and then the foot would be healed….so I was put in a cast then a boot and after 10 weeks I was back to college around mid January. I had been cleared for activity and one week after being cleared I took over the 3rd spot in the country and things were looking up. In the weight room I squatted 500lbs for five reps only off by one rep and a hundred pounds but considering the circumstances it was ok. The next weekend at home I threw again taking over the early national lead in the event and even though I wasn’t 100% I was atop the NCAA leader board and I took a deep breath already forgetting the pain of surgery, injury and regret.

That next Tuesday, I was training with my team and during a very simple plyometric exercise jumping up and down off of six consecutive boxes at a height of 36” the question arouse. “Hey dude, do you think you could leap over all six boxes without touching them?” My response “Yep” and the first three were like cake…Landing before the fourth however; it was like my body exploded from the inside! I could sense my forearm making contact with the box but I couldn’t hear it and the pain was so blinding else where in my body I couldn’t feel it. I hit the box with such force that the top popped free even though it was held in place by 20 wood screws….But it is simple physics really, when your patella tendon ruptures so aggressively

The injury seems like a life time ago..

that the knee cap end up in your thigh…well shit,  that energy has to go somewhere. I can remember hearing screams…and in a flash of a moment that I have never described to anyone I can remember seeing myself from above and in what seems like a blink of an eye I was back in myself staring at the ceiling of the field house. I realized immediately that it was me screaming and instantly I knew I needed to stop that shit…I wasn’t dead I was just in a lot of pain and my body was reacting to the shock and sensation. For the next 10 minutes the only thing that was going through my mind was vomiting…and how that would be so shitty if I did in front of everyone especially the girls on my team….God knows they already heard me scream…how much more respect could  I lose in such a short period of time. I was transported to the training room and my Doctor was on sight in five minutes….oddly enough it was 12 weeks to the Tuesday of my broken foot and it looked like this one was going to take some time to heal. I remember my coach coming in after we heard that I would be out for six months to forever, and I apologizing to him while I was laying on the table for fucking up our run at a national title….Me…apologizing….what the fuck is wrong with this picture? The Surgery was on Friday and it took a little bit longer because of severe complications, but in the end I was casted from hip to ankle for the first 8 weeks… and then the shit really hit the fan…

When I was in a cast I was only expected to do one thing…heal, but when that cast came off the realization occurred that I was expected to do more than heal, I was expected to use my fucked up knee again… A knee so broken that I still had 16 gauge wires running through my tibia and around the back of my patella to hold it in place. The cast came off on Monday and my first therapy session started on Tuesday, after they closed an unexpected hole in my knee with eight sutures, but that story is better told in person…So this would be the routine for the next twelve weeks, and this is the part of the story that I think is most valuable. When I was going through the process of therapy and eventually two more surgeries, I had one thought and one thought only. Walking…followed by running….and eventually competing. During the therapy I would come into the center and make very little conversation with the therapist that I had…because the one thing you learn very quickly is that the next 90minutes is going to be rough. In fact the injury rehab was much more difficult than the injury itself. In the beginning I would come in and lay on my stomach and due to the wires in my knee I had a max range of knee flexion equal to 80 degrees…not a lot, so my therapist a former All-American offensive lineman would take me to end range and hold me there…Now you have to realize that I have never had therapy so the pain that  I would experience from the wires cutting and moving inside my body was mistaken for normal in my mind and  in retrospect I could have asked him to ease up. In fact he didn’t notice that I was turning pale during our sessions until I stopped talking one day because I had finally passed out. Yet I think the ability to move away from the pain in your mind for short periods allows you to come back from something like this, because you have to push through some stuff that really, is no damn good. When I arrived for the session I would always make sure to greet my therapist  with a smile and I would always thank him for his time when I was finished. I would talk to my college provided physical  therapist openly about how I was feeling and if I saw that she was fading or becoming tired from the sessions I always made sure that I let her know how awesome it was to have her on my side (It did help that I had a crush on her and her blonde locks)….even though there were nights when I would get into my house and when the door closed and the ears and eyes of the world were no longer on me. I would lose…my…fucking…mind…The Rage! The uncontrollable anger that would pour through my veins as I watched my entire life’s work to this point melting away one stomach turning mind breaking torture session after another.  I wanted to scream at the sky until it bled, making the world around me know how unfair I thought this whole fucking deal was….But I knew this was not what gets you through, this is not what makes you pull yourself from your belly…Gripping onto the Earth with both fucking hands so that you don’t fall away into an endless pit of hopeless despair.  From your belly you pull yourself to your knees and on your knees is where deep inside yourself you find faith, faith in the tools that you were given when you were placed on this planet, and faith in the people that have been placed around you.  At this point you smash your fists into the Earth, driving your broken body and spirit up, not letting the overwhelming moment crush you down any further. Everybody is going to deal with pity and fear in moments of great adversity but you have to fight; you have to push to the best of your ability, not letting those around you absorb the hurt that is inside of you. It is not their place to take your grief… It is not their responsibility to carry you on their shoulders. So with that reality you force yourself to your feet and you stand tall every day at its start and you walk with a belief in yourself and you start everyday thankful for the people that you have been provided to help you on your path. At the end of each day you thank them for being on your journey. They don’t need to be reminded how fucking bad you’re hurting… Trust me they know how bad it is…
So I kept pushing through two more surgeries, hours of therapy and over the course of months not weeks, I came around. I pushed for the opportunities to compete again, I maintained a goal that would require me to heal to achieve. It took me five long years to achieve my goals following my surgeries, and the day that I did I remember feeling such intense relief that I began to cry… but not a sad boo-who cry, but it was like a tears of relief…not even joy. It was too soon for joy. Right after throwing the best throw of my life and breaking a Canadian National Record….I cried… tears and everything.  And I thought vomiting in front of the ladies, five years earlier would be have made me seem soft… well I guess somethings are worth it.

Categories: Written Word

5 replies

  1. Big D… First, this post was awesome. Second, I will never forget that day at practice when the toughest guy on our team was lying on the ground, screaming like crazy. We ladies all knew something had to be WAY wrong… and then we saw your patella hanging out in the middle of your thigh… I think the last thing that would have crossed our minds at that point in time would have been “Derek is such a softy, he should just walk it off!”

  2. moving personal story, Derek.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. You are a strong beefy guy; and I appreciate that you thanked your parents and your little brother for the support! This website is awesome!

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