The last time you heard from me…
was shortly after USA Nationals after I had kind-of processed everything that happened both at the meet and throughout the season.
The week back home was rough.
Because as much as we want to have perspective and believe everything happens for a reason sometimes you look yourself in the mirror and say, “but why? Why is it THIS hard?”
That week, I felt like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, when…
He looks around at his people…
He’s reflecting on all he’s endured so far…
And ruminating on what’s to come…
And he says essentially…
“If there’s any way to let this cup pass from me, can we do that?”
But you can almost then feel him exhale all the oxygen from his chest before he eventually arrives to acceptance again and says,
“your will be done”
I’m no Jesus Christ so I wasn’t nearly as gracious in my acceptance of my path but to my credit I did get there.
I printed my training calendars, called my people, we got some precursory dates on schedule, skeletons of training blocks…
Began watching True Blood from the beginning. Which is ironic given what would happen to me next.
I knew that this was the leanest, strongest, and fastest I’ve been in a while (although you didn’t see that in competition). The training data doesn’t lie.
But I also knew I was missing some major components.
Like this one…listen to THIS story:
Just ten days before Nationals I got an urgent email from a doctor with the Athletics Integrity Unit with the subject line:
A recent Anti-Doping test requires your attention
I saw the email while I was filming myself jumping off my right leg, I was at Papendal in the sprint hall by myself music blasting on my super loud Bose sound link revolve plus speaker.
I thought two things:
1) no way it’s a positive test…I don’t take anything.
2) If it’s that urgent pick up a damn phone.
But it peaked my curiosity and I checked the email anyway between reps. In a nutshell it said,
“you are severely anemic go see a doctor ASAP”
I forwarded the attached chart to my manager who forwarded it to a doctor in The Netherlands who sends me a link to a supplement I need to go purchase and start taking asap.
I went from training to a steakhouse. My first red meat in a long long long time.
How did I not know I was anemic though? Wasn’t I tired?
Yes I was effing tired! But how was I able to distinguish being tired because of anemia and being tired because I’m an elite athlete in training?
But what was weird was my dizzy spells. I had started to get dizzy between reps. My solution was to extend my recovery time a minute or two and I’d get right back at it. My next reps were the same or faster than the previous. I didn’t experience a drop in performance that would have captured my attention enough to say, yea you’re not ok.
Maybe you’ve even seen this…I take a jump or a run through. I exit the pit and sit down. Like right there. Don’t even walk back to my gear right away. Yes, that was because I couldn’t. Too lightheaded, too tired.
Being dizzy isn’t okay but I always found a potential explanation for it, for example this was happening during my intermittent fasting phase, I could rationalize that maybe I didn’t have enough food as fuel at the time of the workout.
I got iron supplements and ate A LOT of red meat in the lead up to Nationals. And I couldn’t tell if I felt better or not because I hate eating red meat now…eating it makes me feel lethargic and heavy.
All the things anemia can make a person feel too.
Are you seeing the clusterfuck come together?
So I arrive at nationals, and we all know how that went (or didn’t go depending on your perspective).
I grieved for a few days.
I was both at peace AND grieving and I learned from my friend Jen while reading her memoir, On Being Human and from taking her workshop of the same name that you can be two things at once, heck you can be several things at once.
I was both deeply sad, and optimistic.
So I sent an email to my people at USATF asking to go to St. Vincent to get my legs checked out before I start training for the Olympic Trials.
I was informed that they were no longer sending people to St. Vincent in Indiana, which was kind of disappointing because I’ve been down with them for so long…
They got me back on track literally when I injured my back in 2013.
they had my stress fracture images too…
they nursed me back to health physically and emotionally after spraining my ankle in Hungary in July of 2017.
But I said ok and prepared for my trip to the Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs.
I’ve never been here before (oh, I’m here now).
I’ve never even been to Colorado before.
I was all like…ooo this will be a great time to practice Vlogging because it’s basically the first stop on my Road to Tokyo.
I thought, maybe people would be interested in seeing what goes into preparing a body for a run like this.
So I did my usual video clips, and airport photos trying to capture the journey from Montgomery to Colorado.
I don’t know why Montgomery airport does this but I swear that airport does not care one bit about on-time departures.
It’s an airport where most people absolutely have a layover to make on the other side.
I had to run in DFW to make my flight.
And if you’ve ever had to run to a gate in any airport you know that that chest burn is unparalleled. I’d much rather run repeat 300s than to have to run to a gate in an airport.
Anyway, I arrive in Colorado Springs.
A volunteer is waiting for me in full US Olympic Team gear.
Passengers are looking from her to me wondering if they were in the presence of an Olympian and which one it might be.
Someone gathered the courage to ask what school I compete for.
Another wished me luck.
I rode in the back of a passenger van in silence, listening to a boxer on the women’s team tell the volunteer about her results at their last tournament.
I watched the mountains roll by.
I watched the clouds.
I said to myself that it isn’t a bad way to start an Olympic journey.
Everything was beautiful.
I checked in at the desk.
My room wasn’t ready yet.
I walked down the stairs to the dining hall and had lunch for about an hour.
I walked back up the stairs…
my steps slowing as I approached the receptionist’ desk.
I opened my mouth to ask if my room was ready yet
I sounded like Dory when she speaks whale in Finding Nemo
I wondered to myself if that’s how I sounded to the guy behind the desk too.
He said that my room wasn’t ready.
I said ok.
I switched my backpack over to my right shoulder.
Walked around the receptionist desk and headed towards the waiting area to pass the time.
I passed out.
I collapsed behind an armchair with my backpack and MacBook Pro being the only things standing between me and a concussion.
I went down in slow motion…
In my head I was screaming no no no no no
but it sounded like yelling underwater.
I blinked my eyes and gathered myself.
I thought…yep I’m on the floor.
I think it was a split second.
I think it was forever.
I slowly pushed myself up like they teach you to in yoga coming out of savasana slowly with your head coming up last.
I peeked over the back of the armchair like a meerkat coming out of his hole looking for danger.
There wasn’t a soul in sight. Not a single witness.
I climbed into the chair.
My chest was so tight.
I took some deep breaths and decided to go ask for a doctor.
“hey, this is going to sound random but if I were having an emergency do I just go to sports medicine or is there like a general doctor on call?”
“You’d go to sports medicine…are you having an emergency though”
“Yes, I just fainted, and my chest is really tight.”
“Oh my god!” He jumps out of his rolling chair. “I’ll call them, they’ll come to you!”
I said, ok, told him that I was just going to go sit down.
A few minutes later, two women greeted me and took my vitals.
I followed them down to sports medicine since I had an upcoming appointment there anyway.
What turned into a visit to get MRIs on my feet and ankles turned into blood labs, EKGs, and more walks down sterile hospital corridors than I ever cared to imagine taking.
the Anemia is what laid my ass out.
It’s what was blurring my vision
What was making me dizzy
Why I was tasting metal in my mouth (bleeding gums apparently).
Why I was struggling to get out of bed.
Why I couldn’t focus.
Dr. Harrall told me that I had three less units of blood than most people. And we needed to know where the blood went.
I told him where it went.
I told him that my menstrual cycle went from five moderate days to 14 heavy days, that this has been happening for a couple months.
He said, “that’ll do it”
He told me he wasn’t sure how I was functioning, that I didn’t just have low iron I essentially had No Iron.
I would be in the hospital the following day to receive iron intravenously.
Later that day I asked Dr. Dustin if we’re weren’t just treating a symptom of a larger problem.
Something made my menstrual cycle change…
Turns out Tianna also has a dysfunctional thyroid.
The the MRIs returned and my right leg is good to go for jumping moving forward.
But my left foot’s deltoid strain never healed.
The MRI of the left looked a little messy. But nothing was wrong with the joints, ligaments, or tendons, no ruptures and no tears.
Just thickened from being extremely flat-footed and inflamed from being overworked.
I’m working closely with Kelsey, a PT to create a strength and rehab program that corrects all of the postural, and firing issues that arise with being a flat-footed jumper.
I got PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma). A procedure where they draw blood, this time from my left arm. Take the sample to a centrifuge, separate the whole blood from the plasma. The plasma is then re-injected directly into the place of pain.
They draw the blood. It only produced 2ml of plasma which was disappointing because we had to inject both my ankle joint AND my posterior tibial tendon too.
Miyoko, the physician doing the injection said we would just inject the entire 2ml into the ankle joint and draw again.
“draw again” this made me queasy…the needle is so big in order to not damage the blood cells. The nurse said that maybe I could try not watching.
I told her I’ve made a living of staring down things that scare and hurt me. She gave me a weary knowing smile.
Miyoko curses, or maybe it was me I don’t know I couldn’t feel much my foot was frozen but I knew something was wrong.
Halfway through the injection the plasma coagulated.
Cheerfully she says, “ok we’ll just start over.”
I offer the nurse my right arm. This week alone my left has received an iron infusion, given a blood sample, and today’s draw.
She takes the same amount of blood from the right.
They take the sample to the centrifuge.
She returns with 7mls.
Everyone’s happy. We do the injections. I walk out of the hospital.
The Sports Med staff remarks how much better I look when I’m walking around campus here, and marvel at how I was functioning, training, and competing so depleted.
I asked myself how I could NOT know any of this when I was so aware of my body.
And the answer is: I did.
I did know.
I’m just too financially strapped to go down the rabbit hole of America’s healthcare system. I knew I would have support from the USATF/USOC for my foot but not for the “other” things.
And honestly, I just didn’t know how much it mattered. Because in my mind I’m yelling “physics doesn’t give AF” while I try to do hard things and get through training and competitions
but the reality is our jobs as elite athletes, and as humans is to prepare ourselves.
to put ourselves in the best possible position so that when it’s time to yell “Physics doesn’t give AF” and go out and execute a jump in the Olympic final
you won’t also be out there trying to “overcome” hypothyroidism
generate extreme forces on a sprained ankle.
Because you may execute, but only as best as you can operating at 30% of your capabilities. It’s not a fight you’ll win over yourself or competitors who don’t have any of your issues.
And this is why I say you don’t make the podium alone.
There was a whole team of people keeping me alive and function with the knowledge and resources we had for the last two years.
A whole team of people who rallied and problem solved and are ushering me back to health now.
We need help. All of us.
And unfortunately this is a sport where when things aren’t going well the tendency is to withdraw support.
Lose your tier status
exercise the max reduction clauses
and no wonder we all sometimes panic and think that there’s not ENOUGH for us in this world.
But that’s bullshit.
Sure, not everyone’s reaction to a person struggling is “how can we help you?”
All you have to do is scroll Facebook or Twitter and see how fans and coaches converse and debate about athletes “not performing” to see that:
It’s just time.
The Changing of the Guard is here.
Just let the young ones take over.
As if there isn’t room or opportunity for all of us to work toward being better versions of ourselves.
As if there’s only a small window in which we either do the damn thing or are doomed forever.
If you want to get out there and try then try.
You want to train then train.
You want to compete, compete.
But prepare yourself.
Make sure you have the support, the team, the tests, the treatments, the therapies.
And then go see what you and your body can do.
I’ve got a bunch of thank you’s I’d like to get through. Essentially a Thank you timeout. Here goes…
Thank you to the AIU doctor who emailed me over and over until he got my attention and warned me I was anemic.
Thank you to USATF for not kicking me out of Elite Athlete Health Insurance or the program that allows me to get medical treatment through the National Medical Network because I would not have been able to afford any of this.
Thank you to the partners I have, like Energice, who have instead of reducing support, provided me more and try to lift me up in anyway they can.
Thank you to my divorce attorney Jeanne Coleman and her two paralegals Chris and Andrea who would wait until after competitions to send me court documents and to schedule hearings but send me good luck notes before. It will all be over soon.
Thank you to my defamation attorney David Snyder who is so calm it almost makes me angry but is probably exactly who I need on my team.
Thank you to Mario Bassani who’s my manager and friend who works so hard for me, even as having the reigning Olympic Champion jumping 6 meters becomes a harder and harder sell.
Thank you to Charles Ryan one of the few true friends I have both in and out of the sport. Who puts up with a lot that he doesn’t deserve because of his association with me.
Thank you to all the humans that visit my websites and make purchases as my financial resources dwindle your support in this way gives me tons of hope and encouragement. You don’t even know the happy dance I do when I see an order.
In fact, check your mailboxes I’ve been writing handwritten thank you notes to all of you who have made purchases international peeps too.
Thank you to all the people who follow me either via my blogs or across my social media platforms, because your presence helps me truly understand that it isn’t just a performance that makes a person worth believing in, or listening to, or following. You help me be human.
And last but not least, thank you to whatever divine mischief came together and arranged for me to pass out in the lobby of the Olympic Training Center. If that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have gotten any of the answers I’ve been looking for, and I wouldn't have gotten any of the solutions I needed.