Two years ago she finished IM Choo, and then five days after that glorious finish, Daniela was in a car crash. She had an incredible road to recovery with brain therapy for the concussion and two shoulder surgeries. Fast forward to 2020, and she's starting from scratch with a D3 Pre-Built Training Plan written by Head Coach Mike Ricci.
In a recent Facebook post to Team D3, she shared, "It’s taken a long while, and today I finally saw gains again. I was able to raise my FTP 15% and I'm looking forward to getting my FTP back into the 160s. I’ve been patient and have followed the training plan."
Daniela stayed in contact with the Team during her recovery, and we got a sense of her inner strength. She has steadfast, firm beliefs in 'the process', and that carried her through the challenging recovery. Unless you've experienced something similar, you cannot begin to imagine how it feels to be sidelined for so long from something that you love doing. Her patience through all of this has been remarkable. And she's found herself having to continue tapping that patience as we navigate the quarantine and race cancellations. Daniela is the kind of person you cheer for, you want her to be successful because you know she is all heart. She's in life at 110%!
We know her Q&A will teach you the importance of being patient.
1. During your recovery, you had some significant injuries to contend with. Please describe your journey through recovery.
After the accident I really had to go back to zero, since I had a concussion to deal with. The first few months I was dizzy ALL the time, it was horrible. I tried to run once, and at mile 1 I thought I was going to pass out, so that was it for running. I tried swimming, and after a very short - and slow - and painful time in the water (my shoulder kept “crackling”) I got out of the water, and spent the next two days in bed completely out of commission because of the horrible headaches and dizziness. Biking outdoors? No way! I was terrified of being a danger for myself and others out there. Too risky to even try! I tried riding indoors, and the head pressure was so severe, I basically hung the towel then. There was absolutely no way for me to do anything.
I started going to physical therapy, and after two months of not seeing any progress, I got an MRI that showed a labrum tear on my left shoulder, which could only be fixed with surgery. I started going to brain therapy for my concussion and spent months going there. I had no idea how severe it was, everything made me dizzy. It required so much effort for my brain to do mundane things, I was exhausted all the time. More than once I found myself crying between the aisles at Costco, with my husband (or my mom) holding me while I walked. I was so overwhelmed with sensory input, I couldn’t walk at a regular speed on my own. It was awful.
My accident was October 5th, 2018 which was 5 days after IM Chattanooga (which was also my birthday, and the reason I chose that race); and I went into surgery the following March. All that time, I couldn’t do anything. Zero training for someone fresh out of an Ironman felt like a punishment. I was severely depressed and started taking medication for it (the lack of endorphins and adrenaline is very real).
After the surgery I started rehab physical therapy with Julie H. (also a D3 Team member!), and she was wonderful. That basically became my training. I would see her 2 or 3 times per week. I couldn’t lift a 1 lb. dumbbell without it kicking my ass. It felt like it was going to take forever! And it was humbling to see my once fit arm back to zero. My shoulder continued to be “stuck”, and after 3 months my surgeon determined a case of frozen shoulder, so back into surgery I went to get all that scar tissue broken down. Sounds gross? Yep. Because it is!!
After the second procedure, they sent me home with a robotic chair to move my arm constantly and not let scar tissue rebuild. It was inside my pain cave, next to my bike. My treadmill and bike were standing by, and I had to sit in the chair for 6 hrs (at least) every day. It became my job (and it’s not as fun as it sounds!). I watched all of the X-Files seasons again … that’s how much time I had to sit there.
I didn’t exercise at all for a year, and that’s when I contacted Coach Mike to help me rebuild my fitness. Since I had used his training plans to complete IM Boulder in 2016 and IM Choo in 2018 (with great success), I figured he was my best bet to get back to it without injury. So he customized a plan for me, and I started very easy. I didn’t focus on how fast or slow I was going, but the fact that I was moving. That was the process. A million drills in the water. I had to re-train myself to be patient, and trust the process. Those words are powerful and true! I had to forget about my previous milestones and start again. Very humbling! Being winded or feeling so out of shape during a workout … sometimes it was tougher than other times. I kept going. I have only ridden outdoors one time since October 2018. It was in early March 2020, right before COVID, and it was a short ride with my husband. I was terrified of crashing or having forgotten how to ride! I've been strictly indoors otherwise.
3. Is there something that stands out from the D3 training and/or community that helped you stay focused on your goals?
The D3 community is simply the best! So many people I haven’t met in person and yet, by wearing the D3 Colors, I know I’m in good company, and part of a pack of like-minded supportive, and positive people. I was looking forward to seeing everyone at the holiday party, they’re such fun. I felt so weird going post-accident in 2018 and feeling like crap, it was still fresh; but the team peeps, and of course Mel and Mike were super supportive. Then at the 2019 party I was so happy and hopeful for the new year, to tackle a race, maybe even two. Spirits were high for sure! Thanks to this team I got to meet my super bestie Wendy, another Venezuelan lady from the team. I’m ever so grateful we connected!.
She’s become my partner in crime, Zwift badge hunter buddy, and an awesome friend. I think one of my favorite things about the D3 Team is that the sense of camaraderie surpasses whether you’re a pro, or middle of the pack, or back of the pack athlete. The love and encouragement you get is the same across the board. Everyone’s success is celebrated equally. Because we all know how much that means! I love that. I will forever be a D3 member!
4. Now, spring of 2020, you are reaching training targets that you haven't seen in a couple of years and you are ready to race! How are you managing the race cancellations and reschedules?
Now with COVID coming along, my life has changed severely. I just started working for BCC Live, the company that sets up all the audio and video for all the Ironman and Rock’n’Roll races (my dream job), and with everything canceling or getting postponed, it is basically a double whammy position. I can’t race, and I can’t work any races …. argh!
I decided when the quarantine started, that regardless of what happened (my race being canceled or not) I would continue to train, and work on my weaknesses, like core strength, and keep building my FTP on the bike. Using this “extra time” means getting enough sleep and have good nutrition because I’m home all the time, it has allowed me to spend more time “in the lab”. Some days suck, some days I see tons of success. I continue to trust the process. I was lucky I already had the now coveted swim bands in a sweet set up on the wall with hooks. I had asked my husband to make it for me for my rehab. Go figure!
5. What advice can you share with other athletes who have to be patient with recovery, injury, changes to racing because of COVID?
The best advice for this tough times. Stay positive. Count your blessings. If you have a roof over your head, food on your plate, and your family is healthy, you're already rich! Take it one day at a time, continue to train and build fitness, that fitness will "stay in the bank" when we're finally ready to race again.
I've personally have been leaning pretty hard into the Ironman Virtual Club events, and I'm basically "racing" every weekend with their VR series. Some times I push more than others, and I have surprised myself with efforts I didn't think I could do, and achieve PB times in sprint and Olympic distances. I'm always looking forward to the weekend as it feels like the most social event, with the live stream and the pros racing in their pain caves or living rooms. Seeing that reminds me that we're all weathering the same storm.
Another thing to add, take advantage of all the content D3 is providing us with. Attend the Zoom meetings, participate in the Challenges (even if they sound crazy). Like Coach Will said, when else would you tackle "Everesting" during race season? A coach's answer would probably be: Don't! Now, the coaches themselves are doing the crazy challenges! Join in, test yourself, and have fun with it. You may surprise yourself
And last but not least, in the words of RuPaul, "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?"
Love yourself, be kind to yourself and others! We'll come out of this stronger, we just have to keep putting in the work.
We could not be more proud to recognize Daniela for everything she's been through, and for everything that she does to improve, get stronger, and live her dreams! #D3Powered