Multisport Mastery is excited to announce the November 2017 Featured Athlete, Adrienne Bicek!
After being diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and a pituitary brain tumor in 2015, Adrienne not only overcame this medical setback and returned to racing this year, but qualified for the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in the process.
What challenges did you face as you returned to racing and how did you address them?
I have a lot of sympathy and admiration for any athlete who has endured a medical setback. It’s a grueling roller coaster of emotions. It’s gut-wrenching. There is a wave of contradicting feelings that flow through your consciousness—denial, acceptance, fear, hope and pessimism. In 2015 I was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and had a pituitary brain tumor. My medical treatment included transsephenodial surgery. I could barely say the word, let alone fathom what my future had in store for me. What really hurt me the most was being told I couldn’t race Worlds in Austria. Never, in my 24 years, had I ever been told that I couldn’t race. I had a hard time returning to triathlon because of the uncertainty and stress of the situation. I had more questions than answers.
In May of this year I contacted Coach Liz in tears. Up to this point, I had never been one to voice the struggle, but rather embrace the struggle and use it as fuel for personal achievement. Without hesitation, Liz gave me advice on overcoming the adversity I had been experiencing. I wanted to revert to my previous competitive self. Wondering how my body would respond to training, the self-doubt attached to my medical condition, the fortitude to surpass all the negative thoughts all presented significant challenges. The task was tall. I went from barely making it down the stairs, to avoiding working out, to training for an Ironman 70.3. Liz listened to my concerns and then got right down to business, asking me specific questions—“Do you have a bike?” (NO!) “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.” And that’s how the summer went….”We’ll figure it out!”
How has this experience influenced the way you train and race?
I felt scared going into the race (Arizona 70.3) asking myself if I was really prepared. I texted Liz the day before for some last minute advice. “Just race—enjoy it and stay engaged,” Liz replied. Sunday morning rolled around and I needed to just go out and do what I knew how to do….RACE! It was warm out, 95 degrees to be exact, but I knew I wanted it. It was a challenging race with a lot of ups and downs along the way. I crossed the finish line and I had tears in
my eyes. But this time they were happy tears as I hugged my father. My goal was accomplished…to finish another 70.3 without being told I couldn’t. And to qualify for Worlds was icing on the cake!
I owe a large amount of gratitude to Liz for her daily support. She gave me advice and instilled in me confidence, making me a believer in my own capabilities. At Ironman 70.3 Arizona I wore my heart on my sleeve and raced with a reinvigorated passion. I wouldn’t have been able to race the way I did in Arizona if it weren’t for my faith, family and friends supporting me.
This experience made me realize that working out and training is a privilege. No day is guaranteed to us and the ability to train and achieve is a blessing that shouldn’t be forgotten.
What advice would you give athletes facing medical setbacks and getting back in the game?
Give yourself time and be patient with yourself. Seek help early on and don’t feel like you need to be “Mr. or Ms. Tough Guy.” It’s okay. Lean on the people that love you.
Why did you choose to work with a coach? How did that influence your return to racing and prepare you to qualify for 70.3 Worlds?
I started triathlon training with Coach Liz Waterstraat of Multisport Mastery in 2015. There was never a question in my mind that if and when I got back into it that I would choose Liz. Liz and I get each other and I find that communication is KEY. It is an understatement to say that Liz knows what she is doing when it comes to coaching triathletes. My workouts were carefully planned into my daily schedule and instant communication post-workout followed.
What were your key accomplishment in 2017?
- Qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa
- Overall win at the Chicago SuperSprint
- Age group win at the Chicago Olympic Triathlon
- Qualifying for the USAT National Championship
- A new teaching job working in special education
- Riding for 5 hours and 42 minutes on a bike in Madison, Wisconsin at the Multisport Mastery 2016 Summer Camp – I had never ridden my bike that long before!
What are your goals for 2018?
- Top 20-25 at Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa
- Top 15 at USAT Nationals
- Continue to strive for life & training balance
What motivates you to keep training and racing?
It’s fun! I’m competitive and I like the challenge. It’s an opportunity to see what you’re capable of accomplishing.
A few words from Coach Liz
Working with Adrienne over the last 2 years has a gratifying evolution from triathlon beginner to world championship qualifier. Adrienne came to me as a former Division I swimmer at the University of Michigan, a career that took her to the Olympic trials. Not surprisingly, she had a massive aerobic engine, high capacity for work and killer competitive instinct. Channeling those qualities into a new sport as well as developing her fitness and technical skills in biking and running has been a step-by-step process of helping her to progress at a rate her body can handle, setting realistic goals and keeping her focused on the joy of the process. No doubt her future in the sport is bright!
When Adrienne encountered her medical setback, I could tell it shook her to the core. Here was a young woman whose entire life was built around her athletic identity. For someone who excelled at pushing herself and doing the impossible, being told to stop athletic pursuits and rest was a new experience. But I knew she would be back – stronger, wiser and more competitive than ever before. When she reached out in early 2017, I could tell she was timid but knew she owed it to herself to get back into competition. I encouraged her to simply check boxes day after day without looking at the big picture, to just set herself in motion and do something every day and trust that something would add up.
In the back of her mind, her goal was qualifying for the 2018 70.3 World Championship. With a new job, new relationship and still learning the ups & downs of her post-setback health, she kept moving forward and did the best she could in training. On race day, she reconnected to the joy of racing without judging herself or worrying about the outcome. And the result? She achieved her goal.
I’m looking forward to watching Adrienne continue to develop as an athlete but more importantly as a well-rounded person who fits athletics into the bigger picture of who they are and what matters in their life. That balance will not only promote better long-term health but also the potential for longevity in success on her path as a triathlete. From that place, I know we can accomplish big things in 2018 and beyond!