Dispatch: Half Full

Despite being doubly incapacitated due to concurrent foot and knee surgeries, Julie Dibens insists on seeing the silver lining.

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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com

Julie Dibens’ glass is at least half full. Despite being doubly incapacitated due to concurrent foot and knee surgeries, this four-time world champion insists on seeing the silver lining in an arguably cloudy situation. Dibens’ injuries derailed the latter part of her 2011 race season and will force her to sit out much, if not all of 2012. But the sprightly Brit is as upbeat as ever.

“I’m just staying focused on what I can do, rather than what I can’t,” said Dibens, as she took time to enjoy a snack at Vic’s, one of Boulder’s many laidback cafes. She barely even flinched with envy when a group of cyclists zipped past, enjoying the early spring sunshine of an ideal training day. Instead, she proudly described the progress she’s made over the past several weeks since her simultaneous surgeries.

“Today I got the thumbs up to stop wearing the knee brace,” beamed Dibens. “And any day now I should be able to ditch the crutches!” Even laden with all this equipment, Dibens has hardly been idle. She progressed quickly from spending six hours daily strapped to a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine that rhythmically moved her knee joint. Now she can move her knee independently and her range of motion is almost two thirds of normal. She’s been back in the pool, albeit using a pull buoy for support and carefully pushing off the wall in one-legged fashion. And she’s become a regular gym rat, crafting a strengthening routine she refers to as “guns and bun.” Or, as her good friend and fellow pro Fraser Cartmell joked, “bum and tum”. You get the picture – Dibens is working every inch of her body that can currently bear the load.

Once Dibens is free of her crutches, she’ll be able to bust a move on the elliptical machine. And she eagerly awaits the arrival of a custom cycling shoe (in the works at Trek) designed for mid-foot cleat placement, thus preventing focused pressure on her forefoot and allowing her to cycle two-legged again. She’s obviously excited at the idea of regular riding in the great outdoors – as opposed to the single leg indoor trainer stints she’s been logging.

Meantime, however, Dibens has found a way to simulate that rush-of-wind-in-her-face feeling. She purchased a snazzy red scooter, giving her a taste of speed as she buzzes about town. The scooter also provides a vital bit of independence, as she’s been unable to drive a car since her right-side surgeries. Of course, much like a bike the scooter has its fair share of hazards. Riding home from the dealership on the scooter’s maiden voyage, Dibens was stung square on the nose by one of Colorado’s notorious bees, a common occurrence for cyclists in the Rocky Mountain region. Her face swelled up unrecognizably due to an intolerance for the bee’s venom, but even that didn’t deter Dibens from having a good laugh at her own fat-faced fate. Sure, she may have hid out at home for a few days until the swelling subsided, but she certainly didn’t hesitate to document the puffy event with iPhone photos that she later passed around the table at a dinner party to the amusement and amazement of guests.

On this sunny afternoon six weeks following her hospital stay, Dibens made the most of some forced downtime with a lemonade, a giant cookie and the company of friends. She took a moment to send a Twitter shout-out to her husband Mike, her wry Brit wit acknowledging both her optimistic attitude and Mike’s eternally helping hand throughout her rehab:

“Today is a big landmark. 6 wks post surgery and I still have a sense of humor. Time has flown by isn’t that right @mikedibens #bundleofjoy

With Dibens’ spunky spirit and her dogged determination to get back in the game as soon as her body will allow, the future bodes better than ever for this unrelenting star.

Follow Julie’s progress via twitter and her website:

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