Rother Valley: The race that wasn’t

It’s been a tough weekend, and not in the traditional sense. My season started fantastically well, with two races and two qualifications. Having pre-entered all four qualifiers, I then had to decide whether to race the other two.

I decided not to race QE2, the race that would have occurred on a third consecutive weekend, but kept Rother Valley in mind, simply as a good quality training session.

The events that happened at the lake on Thursday were to change the complexion of my weekend completely.

Swim disaster
I went for a swim at the local lake, easy recovery swim, nothing too strenuous, having had a sports massage that afternoon and a race coming up at the weekend. I was on the first of 3 800m laps round the lake. This lake is navigated by means of a series of buoys which you swim through, roughly following the cable pulley that is use by the water skiers. At the top of the lake, I was heading for the buoys to navigate the turn. I could only see one. I soon found out why. I crashed head first into the other one, which was fully submerged under water. Normally this would not be too much of a disaster, but these buoys are fixed onto wooden posts, not chains, like you would normally expect. It took me by surprise, to say the least, and I felt my right knee jarring as I was knocked sideways unexpectedly. I completed the swim, (all three laps) and thought nothing more of it.

When I got up the following day for my taper brick session, the knee felt a little sore. Hmm, I have pulled a muscle, I thought. I carried on. As Friday progressed, it got worse. It became sore to fully extend that knee, and it was at this point that I began to grow concerned.

On Saturday afternoon I called my sports masseuse and asked could he have a look at it. I am not usually one to panic over a bit of pain; however I am also very rarely injured, so I do take pain rather seriously.



Phil Croney my masseuse, was kind enough to squeeze me in for a quick once over at his home on Saturday afternoon, which I very much appreciate. To be honest, I feared the worst. I knew, deep down, that this was not just a little pull. He told me that I had strained the medial colateral ligament, and that racing on Sunday would be foolish. A tear rolled down my cheek. Although expected, I was still devastated.
I sat in the car and cried. I had to try really hard to get my thoughts back under control. All I could see was injury, you can’t run, you can’t race. With the European championships in two weeks, I struggled hard not to go into blind panic.
I have never until this weekend, had to pull out of a race through injury. I guess you would call me lucky. All it means is I am finding this a real struggle to deal with, and right now am not feeling terribly lucky at all. This knee is also what I call my ‘wibbly wobbly knee’, by which I mean it is the knee that has had an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction operation almost 15 years ago, and therefore less stable at the best of times. For those who do not know, a ligament reconstruction operation involves replacing the torn ligament with a tendon graft. That means the joint will never perform 100% as it used to, and I have to work hard on muscle strength to keep that knee working at its best. It is also an operation that I was told had a 10 year shelf life, after which it will begin to loosen again. I know, therefore, that I must now be very careful with it indeed, in order to get the best possible recovery.
What now?
I sat with frozen peas on it all evening, 15 on, 15 off. By 10pm the ice was beginning to feel quite normal and not at all cold! I have been advised that I should not run on it for a few days, so I called my strength coach David Sutton and made an appointment to see him for some strength coaching on Sunday morning. He reassured me that he is experienced with MCL rehab, so I look forward to further instructions and advice.
I am trying my best to stay positive. I could have ignored Phil and gone to that race anyway. He said he apologised that I had gone to him on a wasted trip. Not at all. I went for advice, and the crucial question, will racing make it worse? The answer was yes, so there really is only one option from there. That doesn’t mean that I can’t also get upset. I am, I am devastated.
I have always been the one to read, research, and seek/follow good advice. I believe that is what has kept me relatively injury free all this time. I don’t intend to change that now.
I will do as I am told, recover well, and I WILL BE BACK!

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