Photography courtesy Chantal Warriner.
Bouncing Back Strong
The world is full of advice about living in the moment, believing in yourself and simply being optimistic. Ultra-marathoner and triathlete, Chantal Warriner, took this advice to the next level, recovering from a devastating spinal injury 10 years ago.
Chantal was a top runner and triathlete from Minesing, Ont., looking for something fun to do in her downtime, when friends invited her to try trampoline. During her 10th lesson Chantal’s instructor-assisted backflip effort went wrong.
“When you are in rotation, in the air, the instructor puts a crash mat under you to land on. I ended up landing on the back of my head and neck and by the time my entire body was on the mat, I knew something was wrong. My lower legs were completely numb,” says Warriner. “I actually knocked the wind out of myself and, being a paramedic at the time, I thought I had actually broken my neck and I was breathing my last breaths.”
Warriner was transferred to hospital and didn’t leave the building for three weeks. She stayed home on bed rest for another three months, with no clarity on if or when she would walk again.
“I was completely focused on competing in triathlons again. I think that’s what kept me going and kept me motivated through those long months,” she says. As she journeyed from bed rest to a walker and finally a cane, Warriner struggled through some dark times.
“The hardest part for me was not to think about how fit I was or how fit my friends were. Reading triathlon magazines and race reports was depressing — but in a happy way,” she says. “I was so happy for my friends to be achieving goals and moving ahead, but it was hard not to be making that journey with them.”
But persevere she did. With a smile plastered on her face and her face turned to the sun, Warriner took baby steps through physiotherapy, with her walker and finally onto the trails.
“The body is capable of so many great things, you just have to believe. I stuck with it. I was lucky to have a great team to work with, including my doctors, physiotherapists, coach and teammates. Everybody was so positive and that really helped me stay positive and motivated through the dark days.”
“People get in shape every day. There are amazing stories of people losing weight and running ultra-marathons, of people having amputated limbs doing Ironman: it’s not like I was trying to get to the moon for the first time. I just had to keep it in perspective and keep doing the work.”
Now Warriner is fully recovered, she ran her first ultra-marathon this summer at the Bighorn 100-miler and now she’s training for September’s Golden Ultra in B.C. She’s got a young family and a home-based nutrition consultancy. While the back injury is 10 years in the past, the lessons she learned from the experience are something that she lives every day.