May 21st, 2015.
Sport can be cruel. After riding the rollercoaster of emotions over the last 17 weeks and believing I was well in the road to recovery – I was clobbered with another road block. The ankle has consistently been sore to run on, throughout my rehab – albeit, at a low level around a 3/10 pain. I had been informed that some soreness was to be expected so I blocked out the discomfort. Over the last two weeks, the pain had been becoming increasingly unpleasant and inflamed the more I increased the impact. I attempted my first track session last week but the soreness was too much and so I retired the session after a total of two miles. I was clearly dispirited that the ankle had reacted in such a poor way – it cemented in my head that the World Championships were unquestionably, no longer an option. I set my sights on being able to return jogging again, pain free, with the possibility of racing some flat races towards the end of the season. Running pain free is beyond doubt, something people take for granted. I’ve grown into an angry old man. Driving past members of the general public out jogging, I get an overwhelming feeling of jealousy towards them – people I don’t even know! Yet, I just want to knock them out and steal their ankles to replace my own!
Initially, I was lead to believe this injury would take near 4 weeks. It then quickly turned out to be a little more serious than we originally thought and the time doubled. 8 weeks slowly transpired into 15 weeks. Mentally, it’s exhausting to feel you are at the end, to then be told differently. You begin your journey trudging on the upwards slope and just as you’re about to reach the summit – you are quickly plummeted back down again. This has happened several times over the past three months but last week sucker punched me a final blow.
Two days before I was scheduled to travel to Park City, Utah – the UKA medical team arranged another MRI, as the ankle had flared up once more. I had been getting a lot of pain around the joint of my ankle, shooting into my Achilles and plantar-fascia. I knew it was bad news after being called in early the following morning. The Physio and one of the endurance coaches quickly flittered out the room when I appeared – it was apparent that this meeting was going to end in tears. The doctor told me the disastrous news, that the fracture in my ankle was now fully extended and in a much worse position than the initial scan. I still can’t quite get my hear around it. After spending seven weeks in a boot and only beginning to impact at week 9 onwards – I found it very tough to accept. Who manages to break their ankle MORE, with no impact? Me, supposedly! I also feel like my body is approximately 80% milk, after living off a high calcium diet over the last few months and dosing up on calcium tablets – I swear I’m going to start urinating milk soon!
I have now been advised to return to the dreaded moon boot for a further 8-10 weeks, making it a stable fashion item in my wardrobe. They have recommended rest (as in.. Sit on the sofa) for three months. As you can imagine – that sentence went into one ear, did some somersaults around my head and exited very quickly out the other. It’s crystal clear that the World Championships are no longer a realistic aim but I would prefer to continue cross training or at least Aqua jogging, in order to maintain my sanity and perhaps even allow me to race a few late season, flat races. The steeplechase will not be an option for a long time.
The UKA doctor stated that I ‘was very difficult to work with’, which upsets me a little. I am certainly no diva and never demand anything from them. I am very introvert and like to do things on my own when problems arise with injuries – doing all my hard work behind the scenes, rather than floating around the HiPac Performance Centre. I admit, I ask a lot of questions and query their advice meticulously but it’s only because ultimately, it is my career on the line. They remain within their jobs, regardless of what happens to me and the conveyor belt of athletes continues moving, regardless of where I’ve fallen off. Although I am no doctor, I feel I am of a high enough intelligence to request each and every detail in-depth, rather than be shown a picture of an ankle and told to rest. I am genuinely interested in the details, not only with my own injuries but with other athletes – it fascinates me. I would like to thank UKA for helping me arrange my medical scans over the last few months and realise it’s a frustrating job looking after a broken athlete, who only wants definite answers. Sometimes there isn’t an answer to give but it’s definitely taught me a lesson, regarding the protocols I will personally take the next time an injury stops me in my tracks.
Discovering that things are a little more serious than the previous assumption – is tremendously discouraging. It’s the first time I’ve felt really deflated and actually questioned my time in the sport. Not that I once intended to quit, but it really made me think about my future, after athletics. For the first week, I was very upset and completely alone in Loughborough to deal with the situation. I told my dad that I was considering going back to university or finding a job but continuing with my athletics as a hobby – no pressures or expectations – run for fun. But after the initial upset, my determination kicked in. I was straight back into the pool with my moon boot in tow. I’m a determined little bugger and not prepared to put anything in front of my athletics just yet. I really want to give this a serious go, with Rio 2016 on the horizon. I have looked for some external advice and depending on the results of my scans – I may need surgery in order to heal the bone. After 17 weeks, the bone undeniably should have healed rather than regress but unfortunately, that particular area is notoriously problematic to recover. I will find out my fate next week. The specialist I have been speaking to, stated that I need to be certain that I don’t find myself in the same situation, another 17 weeks down the line. He ended the conversation on something that really resonated with me;