Culture

Carmen Small Journal: Controlling my destiny

Bad luck and a separated shoulder can't stop Small from zeroing in on her goals and delivering a gold-medal performance at Pan Ams

The past six months have been nothing short of a roller coaster powered by a jet engine.

Up and then down. Super high moments and then the bottom drops out and leaves my stomach in my throat. When this happens, I ask myself, ‘What am I supposed to learn from this?’ And there’s always something to learn.

When I changed my direction, deciding to return to road racing, I hoped things would start to turn around, and my luck would change. I started training on the road again after a short break from the track, and was heading to Europe for some spring races to get fit for Pan American championships, the Amgen Tour of California Time Trial, and nationals.

And then the bottom dropped out of my roller coaster, again.

I was motor-pacing behind a scooter, and a car pulled out in front of us. Things turned ugly very quickly, and looking back, I am extremely lucky to have scraped myself off that pavement only partially injured. … Things could have been much worse. As I tried to adjust my wheel to get back on the road, I realized something was very wrong with my shoulder. I sat there on the side of the road, shocked, hurt, confused, and wondering what else could go wrong.

After I got cleaned up, I made the decision to go back to Durango to have my doctors assess the situation. The next morning, en route to the U.S., in lots of pain and terribly concerned for my career, I limped through airports and made it home.

The doctors diagnosed a grade-two AC separation in my shoulder. Basically, there’s nothing that will help it heal any faster, and it hurts constantly without relief. The good news was, as long as I could stand the pain, I could continue to do whatever the racing schedule required … but no more crashing. So, I decided to continue with my goals as planned. The first day back on the trainer wasn’t so bad. The next day was infinitely worse, my shoulder ached, felt like it was on fire. I was suddenly a little less optimistic. I was unsure I would be ready for Pan Am championships less than two weeks away.

The next day was the day, I changed everything. Nothing was going to change, and I needed to start controlling my own luck. I decided that I would not pull out of another important race, no matter what. I will suffer. I will train. I will show up and do my best. I will control everything that I can control and go from there. I focused mentally, physically, stayed strong, and I had a wonderful support group to help get me there.

I got to Mexico, and I was nervous, very unsure of the outcome. I had no idea how it would go, but I did know that I needed to give 100 percent plus some. I was going to control my future.

I did my warm-up as usual and headed to the starting area. The race was running 25 minutes late. I sat there for all of those extra minutes nervous and anxious, trying to live up to that idea of controlling my destiny.

At last, I mounted the bike and I was off. Everything went smoothly and all I could think about was, ‘faster, faster, faster.’ I ended up with the win! It’s beyond words to describe how I felt. I went through so much to get here — every ache, every minute was worth it. The focus paid off and thanks to my support group I can shift that focus to the next event and hopefully, enjoy a little more good luck.