It was an idyllic mid-March day, one nicer than they’d had all spring—heck, all year in Amesbury, Massachusetts. 60 degrees, sunny. After months on the trainer getting ready for race season, Heather Koning wanted to get outside for a ride. Never mind that she had a new Quintana Roo PRsix2 Disc that hadn’t seen the road, ever. It would be a crime to not ride on day like this. It was too perfect a day.
Until it wasn’t.
It was just one of those things, and Koning, at speed, took a hard crash. “I hit my head pretty hard, had a mild concussion and cracked my helmet, fractured my right clavicle, and later learned I also sustained a shoulder labral tear, in addition to the requisite scrapes, bruises, and dings to my pride, and most importantly my confidence.”
It would take a few months, but the concussion abated. The bones healed, and with ardent physiotherapy, the shoulder injury healed as well. There was just one thing that was still raw and sensitive: her confidence.
Indeed, for many, a crash can be a painful scar to heal mentally, and it’s not an unfounded fear. To have the confidence to let go of the brakes, to lean into the corner, to trust traffic around, can be hard to regain. For Koning, it was something that had her concerned, because a fear had settled in, one that can become enveloping—but she wanted to break it. After months of trainer rides, it would take a brave ride to get over the concern brewing in her head.
“I rode for several weeks on the trainer only before I finally mustered up the will to ride on the road, and once I had made the decision, I was nervous about it the whole preceding week,” she says. “I rode the same route as when I crashed, and the nerves built up right to the point when I rode by the spot it occurred and then overflowed into tears as I rode past the site. Once I passed it, the nerves slowly started to fade and I was able to start enjoying my ride.”
The ride in and of itself was cathartic. “The physical act of riding past it definitely helped me work past it mentally as well. This sport is about perseverance, during the race, but also during training. The training sometimes more so and getting back to training after an injury is just another testament to the type of perseverance it requires. It’s a long race day, and the training is even longer, things go wrong, and you have to find a way to adapt and push through.”
With training confidence returning, so too did her drive to race. And race she did. Her first race back post-crash was the Dam Tri and Du in Amesbury, which netted her a second overall female and top bike split. She backed it with a bigger bite: a third-place age group result at IRONMAN 70.3, which included the day’s fastest age group bike split, and a seven-minute course PR.
She wasn’t done; on Oct. 2nd, Koning scored third in her age group (and sixth overall female) at IRONMAN Indiana, again notching the top age group bike split and second overall female bike split.
Lucky for Koning, it was a determination to do what she really loved, that helped her overcome. The racing (and the results?), just icing on the cake, she says. “There is nothing some endorphins and a competitive spirit can’t fix!”
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