When life gives you lemons (rehab update #1)

When I first found out about my stress fracture, I’ll be honest, I was absolutely gutted. I had a silent cry in the clinic waiting room as I filled my payment forms out, and I even threw caution to the wind (no pun intended) and had a lactose filled coffee machine cappuccino to try and calm my nerves.  When I eventually got home after some procrastination, I drowned my sorrows in junk food and wine.

2 weeks down the line, having stuck to wearing “the boot” and resting from everything except swimming and aqua-jogging (more on that later), I was still feeling sorry for myself, annoying myself (and no doubt others) with my self-pity at having to cancel my race season. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and sit on the turbo with a reeeeally gentle set and a documentary. Searching for something uplifting or educational (I’m a big old geek at heart) I found myself watching a BBC documentary called “A Time to Live” – about people who have received a terminal diagnosis who have chosen to focus on living the rest of their life, rather than the fact that they are dying. My gosh, if I wanted a proverbial slap in the face this was it!! I’m used to seeing sick people day in, day out, and sometimes this involves patients with a life-limiting prognoses. But seeing so many younger people with different terminal conditions speak openly about how they wanted to take life by the horns and get the most out of their remaining time put everything into perspective. Well worth a watch if you need some of this in your life!

Since watching it I’ve finally moved to the final stage of “grief” (acceptance), and have really buckled down to swim training and finding alternative races and activities to do. I’ve decided to try to become the best spectator there is for Paul in all of his races (cow bells and possibly even signage will be employed). I’ve entered 2 open water swim events – Boulter’s to Bray (which I did a couple of years ago whilst still under the influence of a very nice malt whiskey…) and Swim Rutland 4k. I’m contemplating an aqua-bike (much to Paul’s amusement, though they are my 2 strongest disciplines..!) and I’m trying to put my case across for a late season triathlon/holiday in Thailand to give me something to aim for (and a tan).

I’ve accepted that these next few months are going to have to be focused on improving my swim, trying to maintain my bike and general fitness, and addressing other aspects of training like nutrition and stretching/conditioning. Hopefully the end result will be that I come back stronger and wiser, and with more to prove, and hence make me a better athlete.

Lesson learned: when life gives you lemons, be grateful it’s just lemons. Make lemonade, or add vodka, it’s up to you. But find the positives and run with it.


This week, I has been mostly… swimming.

Having been to my GP 3 days after the super-sprint injury and essentially being told to go away, I made the unusual decision to pay to see a foot surgeon privately so that I could get an MRI done ASAP. Those who know me know that I’m a huge advocate of the NHS so it felt very alien to me to enter the “dark side” as a self-funder. Still, I’d been unable to weight-bear since the race with pain running along my 5th metatarsal (outside of the foot), and with qualifiers and key club races coming up, I was desperate to rule out anything which would signal disaster with continued training.

So 48h later I was sat in front of the foot doctor. After examining me, he looked perplexed. On paper I had a classic stress fracture story, however nothing he prodded or poked hurt. He agreed an MRI was needed and postulated it might be a trapped nerve. Having spent the last 10 days keeping off my feet as much as possible whilst awaiting my MRI results, my follow-up appointment with the foot and ankle doctor arrived and I was feeling fairly positive about the results. Paul and I had scoured the images on the complimentary disc and found no fracture of the 5th metatarsal. Winner! It was feeling better to the extent that I could at least put my foot down flat on the floor, allowing a bit of a rude-boy style walk (bending my foot still sent a sharp pain along the outside edge). I’d convinced myself it was just a tendonitis which would be amenable to a steroid injection in the short term, allowing me to compete on 21st at Dorney lake for the Rotterdam worlds qualifier.

I arrived to the clinic late and flustered, having gotten caught in the God-awful Bath Road traffic. I was whisked straight through, and the surgeon asked me if I’d had chance to view the images. I had! I proclaimed, before launching into my diagnosis of no fracture. Cue puzzled look and an invitation to take a seat. He the proceeded to tell me it was “good news”, the report had shown only some bony swelling of my cuboid bone. No wonder I hadn’t picked up on that, I had been looking at the wrong blimmin’ bit of the scan! As he was showing me through the images, his smile faded as he proceeded to explain that there was a suspicious line. Yup, there it was. I’ve stress fractured my cuboid bone, one of the bones deep within the back of the foot, below the ankle. Great.

The rehab is more prolonged than a metatarsal stress fracture unfortunately, due to the poor blood supply of the cuboid bone. I’m to wear a boot until I’m pain-free, and until then only allowed to swim “gently”… I’m not sure the gently part will happen, but I promise to only push off my tumble-turns with one foot?! When it’s feeling a little better I can cycle, and no running for 3 months. Arse.

So my revised 2017 plan is to aim to do the swim +/- bike legs of Bananaman in July, Ride London end of July, and fingers crossed a return to triathlon mid/end of August. And to become a shark in the pool until then! Any suggestions for good swim events welcome – Boutler’s to Bray is on but I’m a goal-focused type A, so the more the merrier 🙂