The last few months have been filled with some of the most frustrating days in my sporting life.Read More
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It's not news to anyone that the last year and a half has been a huge disappointment in my triathlon career. The last few weeks have seen this trend continue with a niggling calf injury and a nasty bike crash that forced me to pull out of the Australia day aquathon and then Kinloch and Devonport, the first ITU races on my calendar since July 2014. The hardest part of this stretch of injuries has been not being able to run. Despite having a background in swimming, running became my passion and is what eventually led me into triathlon. Missing it has been painful. While I haven't been able to run much in the last month, I have made good use of my time by taking the opportunity to really get things headed where they need to be in the pool and on the bike. Despite the injuries, I feel I am in decent shape for when I do finally toe the line. For things to be where they are today, some massive changes have occurred. Most importantly, I have made a coaching change. 'WHAT?!' I hear you ask. 'You always had such great things to say about your coaching situation??' I did, and although Brian was a perfect fit for me while I was living in Toledo, after moving back to Canberra things changed. The triathlon scene in Canberra is on the other end of the spectrum to what I am used to in South Dakota and Toledo. Slogging it out alone in the snow and on the trainer was always fine to me because it was all I knew. Following surgery on my foot and after three months of absolutely no training, I began swimming with Corey Bacon's squad Performance Triathlon Coaching and my swimming quickly got back on track. I was still fairly comfortable with my situation being able to swim with the guys and girls in the squad and do my own riding and running with Brian but that began to change when I noticed the relationships within PTC. Not only is the squad a close-knit group, but being able to form good relationships within the community and in Triathlon Australia through the squad has already been a massive benefit to me. These relationships, along with having your coach on the pool deck and at bike and run workouts are invaluable tools.
I am very happy to have made the switch and am very thankful to everyone who has made me so welcome at PTC from day one. It's a big change for me to go from doing all my training on my own to doing the majority of my workouts with a squad and coach present but I am certain the benefits will show on the results pages.
I always looked at other athletes changing coaches and wondered where their loyalties were. How could you change coach after being so close and working so well together? Now I can answer my own questions. Sometimes situations change and in that instance the athlete has to take care of themselves first. After all, you only get one shot at it. I am very thankful for everything Brian did for me. It was not by luck that I got so much faster under his guidance and I will not forget that.
Moving forward I am hoping to join a pretty good field on the start line in Wollongong on Saturday. My calf has been on the mend day by day and I am itching to race. Thankfully I have a great team of people working with me to ensure my body is working at it's best so when the horn sounds and I am on the start line it's go time!
My luck is about to turn around. I can feel it. For the seven months I have been fighting hard to get back to racing at 100%. There have been hours of rehab, an extremely painful few runs and a long grind to get my fitness from zero to decent. I was starting to feel good about things and although there was a lot of unknown in regards to my run, I was feeling confident that I was about to shake things up in the Australia Day Aquathon. My training in the weeks leading up to the race had been great and for the first time in months I was feeling like an athlete again. That is until the Thursday before the race. Two streets away from being home and finishing my run, I felt a pull in my calf. I've had similar feelings before and usually things clear up overnight so I wasn't too concerned. Apparently I should have been.
Unfortunately, things turned south the day before the race. I headed up to Wollongong with the intentions of hammering out a good result but running the course that day, my calf felt terrible. I cut the run short and went home to rest and do my best rehab. Before bed I laid out my suit and shoes for the morning and went to sleep with the intentions of racing. Unfortunately my calf had other ideas. Waking up on race morning, I made the call to pull the pin and went for a swim session in the Centennial Ocean pool before watching my friends and team mates tear it up.
I'm proud of my decision not to race. As a brash teenager I might not have made the same decision. Sitting here a week and a half later, I am certain watching the race from the sidelines was the right thing to do. One of my coaches once told me that missing three days now is much better than missing three months later. With big plans for the year, my focus is on rehabbing and water running so I am ready to go in the coming weeks. On that note, there will be no Kinloch next week. I have set my sights on kicking things off in Devonport on the 21st.
Although it's frustrating to withdraw from race after race, I'm getting closer. After all, if we never experience any lows, how would we know when we are experiencing the highs?
It's funny. The last few weeks have been some of the toughest of my life. When I step back and look at it that way, it's easy to see I have had a pretty good life. In the scheme of things, a few injuries are not much. Most days it's easy to be positive, scroll through the race calendar for next year, do some rehab and get on with it. Then there are the other days.. The days where you go into the doctor to be given the news you didn't want to hear by someone you think doesn't know what they are talking about. At those moments I have wanted to throw my crutches at the wall and explode. I consider myself one of the most mentally tough people out there, both on the race course and in life, but I have come to realise those days would get to even the toughest of us. Thankfully I was able to do some traveling when I first broke my foot or I think you might find me in a much more negative state. I came across some awesome people during my travels and I am so grateful for that. Unfortunately, I also came across some not so awesome people. The guy at the train station in Rome who grabbed me with the intent of stealing my wallet despite the fact I was in a cast and on crutches stands out... Thankfully this was a rarity. One particular encounter that also stands out is meeting a Danish guy standing outside a 7-11 in Copenhagen at 5am. He hit the nail on the head for me. He said it takes going through these kinds of things to appreciate life. A broken metatarsal is a small thing but 12+ weeks of not being about to walk has given me a new appreciation for the fact that I will even have the opportunity to get back out there.
That brings me to the other side of the coin.. To the people who have been there from day one, The people who have understood that just because I had been on crutches for a while, it was just as impossible for me to carry my food to the table on day 84 as it was on day 1. I love you all.
I am beginning to see the end of this chapter. Despite being told my latest x-ray didn't look so good, I have had some more positive news from a second and third opinion that I have placed much more trust in. I owe a huge thanks to Brad Williams for pointing me in the direction of Dave at XLR8sportsmedicine. I am wishing I flew directly to San Diego to get him to fix me up from day 1. I can't stress enough the importance of finding someone you trust to work on these kinds of things, especially as an athlete. As Mary Schmich put it, "Your body is the greatest instrument you will ever own." Take care of it.
As I sit here with a bone stimulator on my foot booking some sessions on an alter g treadmill, I am certain I am doing everything to get back out there as soon as I can. Having said that, I am enjoying watching all my friends crush it and I can't wait to run alongside you all in the not too distant future. Until then!
The journey from couch potato to triathlete is something I have become all too accustomed to. Breaking my foot was the third major setback I have faced over the last two years. Quite frankly I think I have been to the hospital enough during that time span to satisfy me for the rest of my life. For this reason it's easy to understand why people have been asking if it's worth it. Why bother investing yourself in something that has been the source of so much frustration? Although I have been asked the question, I have never answered it with more than chuckle. In my few years in the sport I have fallen in love with the raw competition of going head to head with someone at km 7 of the run to see who can dig the deepest. In that moment there is no hiding. You have either done the work, or you haven't. You believe in yourself enough to make a move, or you don't. There are no ifs, buts or maybes. Just you, them and the finish line. The confidence I have found in myself as an athlete has spilled into my personal life which helps explain why I refer to myself as the happiest man alive. I crave the happiness and confidence competition draws out of me and it inspires me to work hard and get back to competing at the highest levels.
Thankfully I have been given the all clear from my doctors to start working towards being an athlete again. Successfully knocking out three easy 20 minute rides on the trainer has been hugely enjoyable and I am looking forward to getting back in the water tomorrow. After working my way back from tearing my calf earlier in the year, I have an understanding of what this is going to take. I have never quit anything in my life and I'm not about to start now. I am extremely thankful for the continuing help and support of my family and friends. The road is long and sometimes it's under construction, but it leads somewhere worth going.