“Don’t Call It a Comeback”

Finishing the 4th workout at the 2011 CrossFit Games Regional crushed me. Emotionally and physically I was drained. I had poured over 3 years of training into one brutally hot weekend, only to come 1 rep shy of making it to day 3 (top 14). I lay on the ground devastated and filled with emotion as the crowds departed. The road to last year’s regional was tough: I tore my left meniscus at an Olympic lifting competition in October, had surgery in November, and began my march to recovery in December. The process was a roller coaster of emotion that was only remedied by my Mom’s infinite wisdom. “Be glad you still have two functioning legs,” she said “it could be a lot worse.”

As that is now over a year ago, I vaguely remember the struggle of making it back. Sadly though, I can vividly remember that day of defeat, and can still feel the tears of sadness, sweat, and struggle dripping down my face. After finally recovering from that Regionals weekend (average 110-degree heat, black bars, black kettlebells, hand searing), I was ready to get back into training. I knew where I stood in the region, what my weaknesses were, and how I could make it to the top.

The summer ended and my training was ramping up. I was becoming stronger, more flexible, and felt incredible. Then it happened, on a routine warmup squat, my uninjured knee clicked and popped. The heat intensified and I was laying there again, motionless, crushed and defeated. I knew what it was, but I decided to walk it off and call it a day. I talked to my sister, Becky, as I drove off and she asked me “do you think it’s ok?” As the inside of me welled up with emotion, I jokingly told her that I would always be ok, and that a little knee swelling would not stop my march to the Games.

With the help of the fine folks at Airrosti, I started getting some good motion into my knee. Progress was being made, and I had begun a rehab program hoping that the pain was not another meniscus tear. Squats became possible, hip bridges and thrusts kept my butt firing, and I was intent on making it back. Then my doctor gave me some bad news, and SOME of my hope was quickly taken. He told me I would need an MRI as he believed I had torn my meniscus. All the drive and hope I had left was pulled out from beneath me as I lay there again, on an operating table, to end what I believed to be my last chance at making it to the Reebok CrossFit Games. Every pull-up, push-up, squat and row meant nothing because my knee was going to need meniscus removal rehab again. I had given up and I told my lovely girlfriend and family that the 2012 year would be a “bench” year for me. I was going to sit it out. I won’t sit here and say it was easy. I spent much time alone crying, all while outwardly expressing hope and joy. I felt sorry for myself, and I didn’t understand why God had chosen to injure me twice in the same year. Why did each knee have to have a torn meniscus, why did I have to work so hard to climb out of another hole. I still don’t know why, but I no longer question.

My Games season as an individual was over September 13, 2011. Fast forward to today and you’ll see that my Games season as a teammate began on September 13, 2011. This year isn’t about me, it’s not a comeback. I don’t want to talk about the hours I’ve spent in the gym since my surgery, scared to get into a squat for fear that I may reinjure myself. I don’t want to talk about how difficult it has been seeing my friends continue to excel. I don’t want to be asked if my knee is 100%. I don’t want to talk about these things for they do not matter. I want to talk about my team and their excellence. I’ve come to believe that God placed me where I am, forced me to struggle back from surgery, so I could glorify His name. I’m able to take my 3 years of competitive experience and help others around me. I’m no longer training on an island where any small breeze can send me tumbling. I’m now sitting on new foundation with 7 other teammates; great people who will pick each other up if we falter.

I can still remember my devastation from last year’s Regional competition. I can still feel the heat being cooled by tears of sadness dripping down my face. There is still a cage of emotion when I look at that photo that captured everything. That chapter is over though, and now I will march towards the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Regional with team #paintitpink. I will lift them up and perform to the best of my ability. Don’t ask about my knees because they are fine; my smile tells you they are fine. This isn’t a comeback – it’s a new beginning, and it won’t end with devastation.

Coach Miguel