Like most people I took a couple of weeks off work this summer. Many of my patients will have assumed was lying on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails.
To spend your annual holiday competing at the World Canoe Sprint Championships is nothing short of amazing, but it’s hardly relaxing…!
In fact nothing about the last few weeks has been relaxing at all! After winning at the Europeans it was all systems go for the Worlds. A new technique to dial in, increased training sessions, increased weights, all aimed at getting me as fast as possible for August….
Unfortunately my body said no. After an incredibly tough year of learning a new sport, the additional strain proved too much and I developed a rib injury just 7 weeks out from the World Championships. I was absolutely gutted.
I am a physio and I have competed as an athlete. In my opinion training is 'relatively easy' – you just follow the plan and sweat a lot. Managing an injury so close to your main race of the season on the other hand is incredibly stressful. Everything I did for that seven weeks was a gamble; continuously having to think about consequences, change training plans on a daily basis and being extra smart about how/if I could train.
It was definitely on an emotional roller coaster, and for most of that seven weeks I was genuinely wondering whether I was going to be fit enough to compete. It was awful feeling my hard earned fitness seeping away, seeing my team mates training hard and posting PBs while I couldn’t even sleep properly without pain.
With some incredible support from hugely experienced and talented English Institute of Sport physios, and from my coach who skilfully managed to push me enough, but not too much, I arrived at the World Championships knowing at least that I would be able to paddle. It wouldn’t be my finest performance, but I was there!!
|screen shot of me racing|
I slinked off the water with my tail between my legs, not wanting to meet the eyes of my coach or fellow team mates. I knew I had deviated from my race plan and I had some serious 'brain work' to do to get it back for the final.
My final was to be the next day and I spent the time visualising my race plan, knowing that I just had to disregard my rib pain and what I couldn’t do, and instead focus on what I could do. The last time I disregarded an injury I ended up having to undergo emergency surgery on my back then wondering if I would be able to walk again, so this was going to be a massive deal for me.
|paddling in the final|
Go! The noise was incredible! Hooters, cheering, clanging, shouting! Never say that the British are reserved!!
In lane 2, I wasn't really aware of the race going on around me, which was perfect. The plan agreed with my coach was to ignore the competition and focus on my race plan. The pain in my ribs forced me to put myself into another place completely. I just went blank and paddled, paddled, paddled, focusing on technique and forcing myself to push on towards the finish.
The enormity of what I have achieved this last year as a para-canoeist is almost too much for me to comprehend. I’m sitting here now looking at my silver medal wondering if it was really me who won it.
|My Silver Medal:-)|
So a massive thank you UK sport for funding me, to all at GB paracanoe – the staff and my team mates, and particularly Colin who believed in me a year ago; to all those at my local club- Wey Kayak who have put in time, effort and encouragement – particularly my coach Claire Gunney who understands the way I tic; and to my amazing family – who have had to put up with a lot.
Im really looking forward to all the challenges of next year, but it doesn't get any easier! Jess and Will have their A level and GCSE exams and I have a gold medal to win;-)