Wednesday, 14 September 2011


On Monday night, while training on the indoor rower at the gym, I injured myself. I was doing a fast interval piece, 5x500mt, and at the end of the third interval I felt a sharp pain in my back, as if someone hit me with a bat, and my legs gave way.
The pain took my breath away, and I knew it was bad news. I eventually got back on the erg and finished the piece. A bit pointless, perhaps, but I thought I might as well finish it since there is a real possibility of not being able to row for months.

You see, I've had this injury before when I rowed at Oxford. Back injuries are relatively common among rowers, and often arise from poor posture or poor technique. In my case it was probably a consequence of over-training and over-straining. I was devastated, I got injured (and consequently dropped from the boat) a few weeks before my crew won the Headship in the intra-collegiate bump races. I was so close to winning blades (highest college accolade) and instead I had to make do with years of back pain, frustration and disappointed. The injury got many years to heal and because of the pain I stopped taking part in sports. I haven’t been in a rowing shell since.

When I started on Gold Challenge I secretly relished having a chance to get back into rowing: make right what I still consider a cruel and unfair blow of fate.

My plan was to train for the British Indoor Rowing Championship (BIRC), set my PB over the Olympic distance and then, eventually, in the summer months join a club and compete in a few regattas. I could do this sport properly, prove myself, get some real satisfaction from a sport that had left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

It was all going so well. I was following a detailed 5 session a week plan, I’ve rowed 600,000 meters since November, my splits (times) were coming down, there were only 3 sessions left before my quarterly 2k test, where I was expecting to come close to my university PB. And then 6 months to BIRC, where I’d be bound to smash through it.

So close, yet so far. Once more my back came unraveled, once more my hopes were dashed. In that split second on Monday evening, when I couldn’t hold back the moan of pain and agony rising from my broken flesh, I knew it was, again, all over. It will be months before I can row again, I will be lucky if I can run, walk, swim or do any sport at all.

I want to stay positive. But this evening, as I was crouching outside my yoga class, with my back seizing in agonizing cramps, I really did wonder how many of my 30 sports I won’t be fit enough to complete.

For the time being, I have to put my plans on hold while I visit my GP and a sport therapist. This evening’s waterpolo missed, tomorrow evening’s running session cancelled, Teakwondo at the weekend put on hold.

Wish me luck, overcoming this might be my hardest challenge yet.

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