Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Surfing, Knee Injuries & a Brief History of my Pre-Triathlon-Days Fitness

I don’t know exactly when I got it into my head that I wanted to try out a triathlon, was definitely something that was on the to-do list for a number of years before I decided in October 2011 that I was going to sign up for Tri-Athlone 2012. I would have definitely done it much earlier had it not been for a long term injury that kept interfering or simply putting me off.

In 2008, I went on a surf trip to Ericeira in Portugal. It was a really enjoyable trip and I was actually getting the hang of it by the end (i.e. able to stand on the board for up to including 5 seconds). However over the course of the week I had my fair share of falls trying to figure stuff out. I would go through a spell of falling off the board a certain way for a dozen times or so, then I would discover a new way of falling off and try that out for a dozen times or so. One of my favourites was falling off in a way that my right knee would smack of the board every time on the way down. Another fall that stood out was when I fell off the board, and while I was still dead-man-floating in the water another wave yanked the board away from. No big deal here, except it was attached to my right leg via cord so that was yanked with it! I definitely felt a pop when this happened…

Ericeira 2008: "Not sure I'm doing this right..."
That said, these falls happened early in the week, and nothing seemed up, as we were quite mobile otherwise, travelling around on bikes etc. However, when I came back from my holidays, my knee completely seized up, and didn’t really loosen up for about 2 weeks afterwards! Then I thought it was over it, as it never seemed to effect my cycles to work. But every time I played football or anything that involved running, the same thing would happen, me knee would seize up and not loosen for at least a week. I spoke to my cousin, who is a physiotherapist, about this and she said it might be some strained or thorn cartilage - it’s the sort of thing that can be operated on, but can also sort itself out sometimes if rested enough. It took about 6 months of trying running, seizing up, resting and trying again before it started to sink in that this wasn’t going away. The tipping point was me having an awful time playing 5 a side football in early 2009 (I was not playing remotely regularly hence had a terrible touch), going in goal for the majority of the game, and still seizing up almost immediately after the game. It was incredibly frustrating.

I decided after a week of recovering that I was tired of this cycle of events. I decided I simply was not going to play football anymore, period (this was kind of depressing, but an easier decision to make when I hadn’t really enjoyed playing football for the last year or so), and I was not going to run or do anything that involved running for at least the next year. This wasn’t an entirely pleasing prospect, but all was not lost – I had my hybrid bike which I had only acquired in February 2008, and had really started to cycle everywhere, and to college or work, depending on the time of year. Also I was would go through spells where I would have a very regimented 2 months of going to the gym regularly, so all in all I was staying relatively active.

This was fine and good, but never really very consistent. Despite me thinking I was being pretty healthy, I was struggling with my weight, and there was always a final (failed) push to ‘get in shape for the summer’. This wasn’t really what living a healthy lifestyle was all about, was it?

(Btw, just to be clear, I wasn’t exactly a model of healthy living before my surf trip injury – I had probably been struggling with my weight since about 2005 – but not being able to run certainly didn’t help!!)

So, as previously documented, my previous Dublin Kilkenny cycles in 2009 & 2010, bookended a huge attitude change and life overhaul for me. My fitness and health was generally much better, and I was cycling pretty much every single day to work or somewhere at the weekends. As well as this I was just a bit more responsible and aware of healthier nutrition. However, my approach to ‘staying in shape’ was still somewhat aimless and inconsistent.

In Summer of 2011, my first ‘normal summer’ after graduating in 2010, I got into Boot Camp training in a local park in Lucan. I was weary of doing this, but it was a nice combination of doing some very involving interval training (lifting heavy tires/ pushing weighted sleds along the grass, various body weight exercises), and being outside in the good weather while working out. This was 2 sessions a week for 6 weeks, I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for another block of 6 weeks. I think part of the reason for this revelation was I had during these sessions -  I COULD RUN AGAIN!! During one of the sessions, we had interval sprints. I was pretty hesitant but seeing as we were only sprinting in a straight line a gave it a try – to my surprise not only could I run, I was the fastest person there! I think when I went to these sessions I was almost doing them just for the runs, it was such a great feeling to be running again!!

That summer my older brother completed the Tri-Athlone for the 2nd time. I decided I was going to finally sign up for it for next year. In fact, I was so buzzed about doing it I had to stop myself from signing up for it that year!

But I decided to be smart about it, I had a year to find out everything I needed to know about this sport, get the right gear and train right. If I was going this I was going to do it right!

Good intentions are great, aren’t they?