It’s not how you celebrate the victories but rather how you overcome the disappointments that defines you as an athlete.
The first half of this year didn’t exactly go to plan but Im super happy to be able to say I got knocked down BUT I got up again. I’m back and I’m smiling.
Injury isn’t for the faint hearted, it rips a piece of your heart out, tramples it hard but sure does make you come back fighting and even more determined. Most people, especially elite athletes keep very quiet and don’t say a word about their injury but I am going to and by doing so I hope that my story will help those of you who are battling with a niggle or an injury to hang tough, not give up and come back stronger.
At one stage during my marathon in Japan my knee did bother me but it wasn’t UNTIL I literally crossed the finish line and I stopped that is seized up. It was the weirdest thing that it got so sore after the race. I tried not to panic, which was pretty hard since I knew this “pain” all too well after having had the same knee injury twice before. I tried to reassure myself that both other times my knee had been a problem in the actual race and the fact that this time it was after must have been a good thing, it couldn’t be bad then. ICE ICE ICE and a few pain killers and I went off to explore and have some post marathon fun trying to ignore the immense pain and celebrate a good day out on the road. I had qualified for Olympics and it’s not often you get to celebrate that.
When I got back to SA I went straight to my physio and we put it down to ITB. It seemed like a huge relief that it “wasn’t” the patella femoral knee injury that had in the passed put me out for 7-10 weeks, no running at all.
I was due to run the Two Oceans half marathon a week later, two weeks post Nagoya marathon but with the advice of my physio decided it would be best to give it a skip which I did. I had rested up until then in the hope it would sort out the little ITB niggle and I would be back on the road rearing to go after a short break. Oh how wrong I was. My world came tumbling down very fast after this.
Two week post marathon, enough time for a small niggle to have settled down completely, I tried to run. It was like someone was shoving a knife into the side of my knee, I got to 20 minutes and had to stop and hobble home. To cut a long few weeks story short the injury got progressively worse and worse and WORSE. I couldn’t make a 100 m jog on a field without hobbling to my car and being unable to walk properly for the rest of the day. The pain was excruciating and just got worse as the days went by. I was in tears of pain and frustration every single day and honestly didn’t know what to do.
You name it I tried it. I had 5 ultra sound scans, two MRI’s and 4 cortisone injections. I spent two days in hospital, I saw two orthopaedic surgeons, the Olympic sports doctor, my incredible physio, my bios… you name it I did it.
Nine weeks post marathon I collapsed in the doctors room in pain, I could no longer walk, let alone run or cycle…even tumble turning in the pool was extremely sore and making swimming virtually impossible. I couldn’t live with this pain any longer, it wasn’t normal.
On the 7 May all my doctors, my physio, Brett and myself got together to come to some sort of plan forward. We decided to do a knee arthroscopy to see what on earth was going on and the plan was to singe the nerves to “try” relieve some pain. I was desperate and was booked into hospital the next day.
Before Dr De Vlieg operated on me he warned me that this may lead to nothing and we may be in exactly the same place after the surgery. A hard thing to stomach but a chance I just had to take, I couldn’t live in this pain.
Very groggy and hardly awake I vividly remember a super excited Dr waking me up to tell me he had found what he though was the problem. The fat pad of my knee was ENORMOUS, swollen and still Yhaemoragic,10 weeks post marathon, which would explain the immense pain I had been in. He cut the fat pad away until it was eventually that of a normal size, he took out a plica and did a few other things he needed to do. As I half listened and tried to keep my eyes open but fell asleep again I woke to another super excited person at my bed, one of my best friends and the person who quiet literally makes my running journey possible, Wayne, my physio was there explaining just what had been done and how they positive they were that “this” could be the solution to this recurring knee injury.
I cannot tell you the relief I felt, the excitement that my running journey wasn’t over and that I didn’t have to give up running marathons and my Comrades dream one day.
That aside, no one quite prepares you for the journey of recovering from surgery. I now know why my coach always says the knife is the VERY LAST resort. It’s certainly been a long hard road. I was on crutches for 2-3 weeks, I wasn’t able to do anything for the first 2 weeks which if you know me is not something I love. I eventually got back in the pool where I had spent every day before my surgery so was quite used to it by now but wasn’t even allowed to use my legs at all, a week later I was allowed to try cycle for 2 minutes, the following week it was 5 minutes and then 10minutes and 2 minutes walking on the treadmill and so we went on. It was an extremely slow process and although the surgery had been successful, the recovery was tough. I had many frustrating moments, many more tears, a few steps forward then a couple more back and more tears and pain.
I am now 3 months post surgery, I am back on the road, still not on my full program but progressing nicely. I am the happiest person in the world right now….AM, FREE. Running is such a massive part of my life. Its by no means my everything but it IS my “THING”.
This injury humbled me and made me realise that I don’t run because I’m a professional athlete or because it’s my career, I run because it defines me, it makes me happy, its sets my soul free and it makes me a better person, wife and mum.
I want to thank all the incredible people who quite literally held me together over this difficult time in my career.
Wayne Holroyd, Thank you for being there for me 24-7, both as a physio and as a friend, I don’t know how many times I cried on your shoulder and you were there for me either to pick me up or offer me some cement to harden up. You never gave up on me and you have been in charge of everything since the start of this injury, through the surgery to the rehab and still now. You are the most giving person I’ve ever known, I am forever grateful to you Wayno.
Dr Kevin Subban, you rock, you are the most incredibly passionate, giving, kind and awesome doctor, thank you for never giving up on me and being so determined to fix me and find out what the problem was.
Dr De Vlieg I am so glad I trusted you, I cannot tell you how happy I am to be back on the road. Running sets me free, you have given me my gift of running back and one day when I run a big race I will remember you as I race and run harder for the gift you gave me back. Thank you for fixing me.
Jaryd Rudolph, my super bouncy, energetic bio who has been there to lift me up when Ive been down and rehab me keeping me sain while I’ve recovered. Thank you for believing in me and for making me strong again. Look forward to many more hardcore session with you.
Stephen Caelers, my running partner, thank you for all the positive kind words, the shoulder to cry on, the many coffees since we couldn’t run and even once coming to do a swim session with me… that was a good giggle. You are a one of a kind partner, so stoked to be back tearing up the tar again with you.
My dream performance boosters, my sponsors I have no words to thank you enough for not losing faith in me, for sticking by me when you could have pulled the pin. I promise to make you proud. Im back and I’m more determined than ever before. Watch the space, I’m going to fly your flag high.
To my little girls, I am sorry when I was sad, when I was impatient and frustrated. You three girls were so understanding and just so amazing. Thank you for always making Mommy smile, I am so proud of you. Being “mom” got me through this time a lot easier.
To my number one fan, my Brett… I have no words to thank you enough. I was a horror and you never once got angry with me or lost hope. You were my rock through a very trying time. I honestly don’t know how you did it, I would have donated me away if I was you. Thank you for kicking my ass in the pool and making me smash such hard pool sessions with you, they certainly helped keep me fit and sane.
“TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK”
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