Knocked Down But Not Out

Recent text conversation with my coach.

I went into this winter campaign knowing there’d be challenges. The whole campaign was born from the challenge of getting reselected into the senior team. However, I never expected the intensity and quantity of the challenges that have risen. Largely injury related, my coach put it most accurately when he said, “If you were livestock, they’d have put you down a long time ago.”

I’ve spoken in previous blogs about the cyst I developed as soon as I got back from overseas, and that eventually led to surgery. The surgery was successful but the rehab process has been long, only recently regaining the ability to squat past 90 degrees pain free. Fair to say, a rather important movement in the sport of rowing. Almost twelve months on, it turns out that was to be the start of more injuries then I’ve sustained over the rest of my 11 year rowing career.  

Injuries sustained over the last 12 months.

You’d think I had been treating my body as a punching bag, and negligence was at the root of the recent flurry of hits, but ask any of the NZ High Performance Sport Medical team and they’ll tell you the opposite… I think. I warm-up, warm-down, stretch, mobilize and, eat and drink meticulously with every single training session. I’ll admit, I could be better at the recovery part of that combination but, I've accepted that and am actively working on it. I was KO’d in a big way by the Man-Flu just after developing the paratendinopathy to which I threw in the white towel and took four and a half full days off training, which, anyone who knows me, knows that’s a big deal.

As an athlete, my body is my career. There’s a quote in the Avantidrome HPSNZ gym that reads “Germs costs medals.” This appropriately illustrates just how easily an athlete can go from being able to perform/do their job at 100%, to being off form and sluggish. It also highlights how vulnerable we, and our resulting performance, are. We can routinely practice all the evasive manoeuvres in the playbook, but sometimes, there are just some blows that can’t be blocked.

Two years ago, before I started really appreciating the psychological component of being a full-time athlete, I would’ve wanted to leave the ring after the second, or even third round of injury. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping around asking for more, but I’m reacting a lot better than I’d thought I would. I think back to Hamish Bond talking about how injuries are a part of being athlete and if you can’t handle that, you might as well find another profession. Plus, I'm of the impression that by going through a few extra bouts now, I'll be owed a grace period for hopefully 3 years and 78 days.... (Last day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics).

So, this campaign continues to go differently than I had envisioned 12 months ago. But, if I’m being honest, I don’t feel any worse off. I’m not going to be boarding the big tin bird with the team in two weeks but I’m still going to be doing what I love, trying to better myself as an athlete each day, and in the country I love, albeit a very cold one at the moment! I have the flexibility to do the training that I think is most beneficial and relevant to me, and when it suits me, further benefiting my studies towards my Masters, and my work with Karapiro Rowing. I’m also really enjoying working with this small group of underdogs training out of the Waikato Rowing Club. The passion and motivation is almost tangible. We’re not there because we’re obliged to be, we’re there because we want to be. The true essence of being an aspiring rower is well and truly being embraced. We’re coming out swinging.