Ask any athlete if they have ever had an injury that wouldn't go away and you will get a definitive 'yes'. All athletes, from whatever sport, knows how it feels to train and compete and push through the pain with a long-term injury. But they also know when its time to get something done about it. I have joined those ranks.
For the last year and a half, I have had a shoulder injury that has affected both my training, racing and now even my everyday movements. I have tried to ignore it for this long, competing at both the European and the World Champs last year, and although it was possibly my best year yet, I feel it was hindered by my ever-slowing swim times. I told myself that after the World Champs, I would go back to my doctor to find out the cause of the pain and discomfort.
Since September I've had an MRI scan, CT scan and a diagnostic arthroscopy and I have finally found out what is wrong with my shoulder.
So in layman's terms the diagnostic how I see it: your shoulder ball and socket has to be able to move in many directions and the socket isn't as deep as your hip socket. In order for the end of the humerous bone (ball) in the arm to stay in the shoulder socket, there is a fibrous cartilage called the labrum that wraps around the end of the humerous to deepen the socket and hold it in. It also acts as a shock absorber.
Due to the repetitive circular motion in swimming and a sudden dislocation and relocation of my shoulder during a swimming session one day, I managed to damage the labrum (I remember this well as it sounded like a crack, then immense pain and immediate loss of power in that arm). After a year and a half of continued swimming and therefore continued dislocations, I have managed to flatten and dislodge the labrum so it no longer holds the ball in the socket. So my arm slips out of the socket at the back when using that arm, hence the pain when I am swimming and other menial tasks. (see picture below)
Because the labrum is severely damaged, the end of the humerous isn't being held in the socket properly at all anymore, so anything that requires even a small amount of force on my shoulder (ie. picking a bag up, opening a door, changing gear when driving) causes it to move out of place. They call it posterior instability with dislocation. You can see the difference in the two shoulders just with me standing upright with the weight of my arm hanging down by my side. My left side has a deeper angle to it and drops lower than the other side.
So that is the diagnostic, now here is the solution: an operation that requires at least 3 months of recovery!
They are going to drill 3 rods into the bone, two at the back (posterior) to fix the damaged labrum and one at the front (anterior) to even out the pulling on the bone. They will then stitch the labrum onto the rods in order for the humerous to stay in the socket.
I will be in a sling and block for approx. 6 weeks, with restricted movement (see photo below), to allow the bone to 'grow' around the rods, then for the next 2 months, I will be having physio to get the movement and strength back into my shoulder.
Apparently, there is the possibility that I will lose the full rotation of my shoulder, which means my swim stroke will have to change drastically to accommodate this and the power in that arm will not be as good as the right arm, but the pros outweigh the cons and my arm will be useless if I attempt to swim with it anymore as I have no strength at all, so I am happy to take any consequences for it!
It is going to be a few long, slow and painful months recovery, and then (hopefully, if I am recovered in time) getting ready for the Europeans in July and the Worlds in September. I may have to miss out on retaining my title of the last 2 years of British Triathlon Champion and National Aquathlon champion, but I am determined not to miss my big events, the ones I have worked hard to qualify for. Many people have been through worse and bigger obstacles than this and still managed to carry on competing, so this is only a little hurdle to overcome. Look at Alistair Brownlee - he was back competing again a few weeks after breaking his foot last year. If he can do it then so can I.
I am prepared to work my butt off to get back my swim fitness and in the meantime I shall be working on my cycling and running to counterbalance the loss in time on the swim section, so all is not lost.
I have only swam a handful of times since my last race in September so it will be hard going but I have my determination and will – and the help of a fantastic coach who just so happens to be a great swimming teacher (Kristian Whitmarsh you have your work cut out!)
Nothing has changed and like I said last year, BRING ON 2018 – I love a challenge!
2018 looks set to be a great year!
A couple of months ago, Richardsons Cycles told me that they loved how hard I have been working the past few years and appreciated my dedication and perseverance. They therefore wanted to help me with equipment and decided they would like to sponsor me.
I was over the moon to hear that and very pleased that I would get some help with some much needed bike equipment, ie shoes, helmet, tyre or at a push even some new wheels! Any of those items would be fantastic and would help release some funds for other things (ie entry fees).
But I was gobsmacked when they told me they would be sponsoring me with a BRAND NEW BIKE as well as other bits!!
It was one of those moments where you either laugh or cry with joy, and I laughed so hard I started crying! It was beyond anything I could have imagined, and I still don’t know how I can thank them enough to equal what they have done for me - apart from working my butt off this year.
On Saturday, I picked up my new bike and I am crazily in love with it!
It’s so nice that I don’t want to use it in case it gets dirty – I won’t even put it in the garage with my other bikes as it is far too grand for that.
It is something you see in the shop window and dream of a day when you could afford it, and now I am that person who has this amazing bike! I even got to pick the colours from a vast choice of colour options when they ordered it - I've never had that luxury before as I have always had to make do with second hand bikes (cyclists are always upgrading their carbon bikes and you can pick up a decent bike that has been looked after, but you have to put up with whatever colour they decided on at the time of buying).
And this bike is quite rare - in fact there is only 1 other like it which is owned by an Australian elite Ironman athlete so it will certainly turn heads.
Due to the colour and the speed of the bike I have nicknamed her 'Rocket'. Lets hope she lives up to that name and flies!
My mum is happy as she can now spot me coming and have the camera ready - no more missed photo opportunities.
I have this amazing, brand new bike, something I have never had before. Hopefully, it’ll help me fly on the bike course this season!
Richardsons Cycles, how can I thank you enough?! You understand the commitment I have made to my sport and the time and effort that I have put in, and I hope that I can live up to my previous achievements and promise to keep you updated on my progress this coming season. And, of course, tell EVERYONE where to go for the best bikes!
So, if you are in the need of a new bike, or need a bike service, shoes, tyres, bike clothing etc, then take a drive to Richardsons Cycles, Elm Road, Leigh-on-Sea. Their service is second to none and they certainly know their stuff. They have been in the business since 1926 and have passed down through the generations. You will get a personal service from guys who have a passion for everything 'bike', ranging from mountain bikes, kids bikes, hybrids all the way up to TT bikes and road bikes. They have an awesome service and mechanical team and what they don't know about bikes isn't worth knowing about!
I had great news arrive this week in the way of a cheque from the Essex Community Foundation.
This has been awarded to me by the Essex and Southend Sports Charitable Fund, and the Annabel and Gerald Malton Charitable Fund towards my Triathlon season this year, to assist financially with my European and World Championships, as well as national and local Triathlons.
As most of you know, my sport is totally self-funded and trying to keep up with the costs of 3 sports, including: all of the equipment (this alone is really expensive), the costs of each and every Triathlon, travel, hotel and entry fees for national and international races, it means out-goings are usually more than my mum and dad's in-comings (even with all of the over-time) - for instance, entry fees alone for the World Championships is around £340!
This grant will enable me to worry less about the costs and picking and choosing which races to enter. Now I can replace some old equipment which is close to failing (ie. bike shoes and cleats, GB trisuit and kit - the list is endless) but would otherwise have to last, enter important competitions and ultimately be able to concentrate on training for the up-and-coming season.
Basically, Essex and Southend Sports Charitable Fund and Annabel and Gerald Malton Charitable fund, you have enabled me to look towards the future instead of taking it one step at a time, and I hope to make you very proud by bringing home some bling this year!!
Looking forward to my 2018 season :)