It’s been 367 days since my life was turned upside down. That was the day the black-faced fresh cow hit me and literally flipped me upside down.
    366 days ago, I was four months into a training plan that would take me back to the starting line of a triathlon after a 15-year break. I started competing in triathlons when I was in college, but stopped training when we started dairy farming. My return to triathlon resulted from the rekindling of a dream that had barely survived the starting of both a farm and a family. But swimming and biking and running in my 30s are still as rewarding as they had been in my 20s. And the anticipation of race day was still as thrilling.
    As I lay on the stretcher in the hospital, several of the tears I cried were disappointment tears because I knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t be un-bruised enough to race in 20 days.
    Along with all of the other “why” questions and “maybe” thoughts that riddled me after the attack, there were triathlon-related “whys” and “maybes”.
    Lines like these played on repeat in my head: “Why did God put racing again on my heart, only for the opportunity to be ripped away right before the race?” “Maybe God is trying to tell me that I shouldn’t be racing again.” Even though I believe there are lessons to learn from every life experience, those questions and thoughts didn’t seem right.
    A couple of months into recovery, I began to ponder: “Maybe God put triathlon back into my life so I would have a goal to pull me through recovery.” This thought gave me hope. I began playing Tubthumping by Chumbawamba daily and the line from the chorus became my motto: “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.”
    I was just starting to feel strong again when my recovery progress slowed to stop. Almost overnight, my shoulder pain went from tolerable to tortuous. I was diagnosed with two partial rotator cuff tendon tears, complicated by a frozen shoulder capsule and a trigger point syndrome. Hope turned to hopelessness for a while.
    But the tincture of time is powerful medicine and milking cows is good physical therapy. As slowly as molasses flows in January, my shoulder strength and mobility started improving.
    Last month, I found myself thinking, “I know I can’t front crawl yet, but I bet I can breaststroke. I know lots of strong women who have completed the swim leg of a triathlon without front crawl.” We took the kids to the lake that afternoon so I could give it a try – and my shoulder was strong enough!
    Then, I started to think about biking again. My first ride felt incredible. It also revealed that I need to strengthen my hip more before I can return to serious training.
    I added another maxim to my collection of revolving thoughts: “She turned her can’ts into cans and her dreams into plans.” – Kobi Yamada
    I might not be able to race this year, but I can start preparing for next year. And I know this: My return to the starting line didn’t happen when I wanted it to, but the thrill of triumph when I finally do cross that finish line will be twice as meaningful.
    It’s been 129 days since all of our lives were put on hold. That was the day our family’s first activity was postponed due to COVID-19.
    The biggest reminder right now of this “Great Postponing”, as Monika calls it, is the cancellation of our county fair. Just like triathletes plan and train all year long for the race season, 4-Hers plan and prepare all year long for their show season.
    Dan and Monika had several beautiful yearlings that they were looking forward to showing as cows. They both have a number of prospective fall and winter calves. Even Daphne was excited to show her winter calf, even though she would still be restricted by Cloverbud rules.
    But, true to what seems to be defining 2020, none of that went as they had hoped and planned. Their yearlings calved in with uneven udders. Instead of walking and washing and clipping for the fair, they walked, washed, and clipped their cattle to make videos and photos for virtual judging.
    During one of the more disheartened moments of that process, I pulled a few lines from my recovery self-talk script and said, “I know this isn’t what you hoped for. I know this isn’t very much fun. You need to focus on the cans instead of the can’ts. Find the positives. All of the work you’re doing this year will make next year better.”
    It might feel like life isn’t going according to plan right now. But we can keep dreaming, keep planning and keep turning can’ts into cans.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com