Trying to fix a stubborn injury can be demoralising. Trying to recuperate from a stubborn injury caused by a vague driver is maddening.
After spending the first three months of the year accumulating frequent flyer points, racing heavily and training lightly, I had finally put together six weeks of consistent work. It had been a solid block of riding and running longer than I had ever done before, albeit a brief fling with the black lung (I’m an asthmatic so colds are never just colds in the house of Annabel). I was excited about the Ironman training I had accumulated. I was even starting to dream. To dream about my catered training day in the tropics- the chafe I hear women talk about, the GI upset that can plague athletes, the sunburn, the sheer boredom of riding a bike for 180km in a TT position, and then the last 15km of the marathon where you just want to sit on the couch with a cold drink. Well I managed the task of sitting on the couch, but I didn’t manage the task of Cairns Ironman.
One month ago, a car struck me as I was riding my bike in Melbourne. It was 9am. I was on my way to meet Belinda Goss for some moto pacing. You could say that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was most certainly not a serendipitous moment. Minutes earlier, Mitch, another cyclist and I had stopped to help a Border Collie that was meandering across the road. Horns were beeping and cars were halting. We dragged the dog from the path of destruction, only to find that his tag read, ‘I am blind, please take me to a vet’. FYI dog owners- this is not an example of a useful dog tag. The owner’s phone number would have been much more helpful. Locating a veterinary surgery and dinking a blind Border Collie, perched perilously on my Profile bars, wouldn’t have ended well for the dog or the rescuer. In hindsight, however, perhaps it would have been a better to miss the ride and take the pup for a joy ride that morning. Mitch and Simon stayed with the dog, eventually finding the owner and I continued down Ormond Parade towards Brighton. It was at the intersection of Beach Road and Ormond Parade that my dreams of being Marianne Voss that morning were crushed, along with the Scott bike.
This was not the case of an aggressive driver with a lack of respect for cyclists. It was simply a woman coming from the opposite direction, who did not see me as she cut across my path to turn into a street. I had nowhere to go other than into the back of her car. I knew that I was in more strife than Mandrake. Life was about to get real. In the blink of an eye, I hit the rear of her car, rolled over the car boot and bounced onto the ground. All those army rolls I had practiced years ago in my bottle green Clayfield College pinafore during school lunch times had paid off. I was in quite a bit of shock but I knew that I had been lucky. I could feel my arms and legs, and I didn’t seem to be brain injured, well at least no more brain injured than I was prior to the accident. Some witnesses at the scene, as well as the driver of the car, assisted me off the road. Police were called and an ambulance arrived. After being taken to the Alfred Hospital and spending hours getting x-rayed and observed I limped out. Thankfully I was still in good enough spirits to eat a lemon cream filled donut from Melbourne treasure, Baker D Chirico.
This was the fifth time in my career that a car has hit me. Perhaps I’m like a cat with nine lives. I feel very fortunate to have survived all five times. The incidence of cyclists being critically injured or killed by motorists is shocking. Whilst I noted that the driver was not aggressive or lacking in regard for bike riders, failing to see a cyclist can have catastrophic consequences. I implore motorists to please look out for people on bikes. Enough is enough.
It is now four weeks since the accident. I initially took five days off to recover, as I was stiff and bruised. After getting back into some light training, I noticed very sharp pains in my abdomen and under my ribs. It was too painful to swim, or run and only just bearable to ride. Laughing was totally out of the question. I haven’t been in that much pain with an injury in all my years of doing triathlon. Following more x-rays, ultrasounds and an MRI, a large tear in my rectus abdominal muscle was discovered. Time is the only remedy for such an injury. It is a stubborn injury. Complete rest is what it craves. Abdominal muscles are used for nearly everything.
Sitting well on the Kona qualifying table, I really only needed to race Cairns IM to qualify for Hawaii. Unable to race Cairns, however, there is no chance of me racing Kona in 2014 unless I’m prepared to race an ironman in August. The 70.3 World Championships at Mt Tremblant is my major focus for the year. It would be foolish for me to chase an ironman and jeopardise that race. It would also be shortsighted to go into Kona without the background or preparation that I would require to do as well as I would like. After all, this is only my second season of racing the half-ironman distance.
So when will I race next? That is the million-dollar question. As like most injuries, it is difficult to put a time frame on recovery. I have just started gentle riding and managed a few laps jogging around a grass oval this morning. I’m still probably a couple of weeks away from being able to swim. Even if I am back into decent training by July, I won’t race until late August. At times in the past, I have over-estimated my fitness coming back from a long layoff with injury. Because of all my years of experience and natural ability, I can manage a few great training sessions that trick me into thinking that I’m race ready when in fact I’m far from it. Additionally, rushing my return to training and racing would put me at risk of developing another injury. It looks like I’ll be spending a glorious winter in Melbourne. It’s time to get tough. Luckily Mt Tremblant will not be a warm race or a race for softies!