Hoping to redeem myself

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Manx Dane Jess Draskau-Petersson’s Olympic column

WELL, we are just days away from the Olympic Opening ceremony.

I will be watching this on TV like most people as my coach does not think it would do me a lot of good to be on my legs for hours, even though it’s more than a week before my race.

Last week was going to be about how - aided by sports massage and osteopathic treatment throughout June and July - my body had held together during the high-mileage weeks and was now ready to go.

Unfortunately, a new niggle has developed. Basically I have an on-going problem diagnosed in May 2012, whereby I manage to pull my pelvis out of alignment and then, as I keep running, I put too much stress through all the supporting areas.

Last time it meant I had an on-going left hip problem. On race day, the tight back meant there was a neural problem down the right leg and then once under stress it looked for the weakest link in the chain and pop . . . ripped my calf.

This time, when the back was unable to function properly and the pelvis tilted, all the stress was on the point where the left hamstring meets the glute and it is now pretty unhappy.

I tore my right hamstring just before mile nine in a 10-mile race. My next race was the Bath half-marathon in March where I had my pelvis and hip clicked back into place the day before the race and it was still really uncomfortable. I had been running on it for weeks in the wrong alignment.

Then, in the London Marathon, I tore my calf at mile eight making me so upset and frustrated. I really had to dig deep into mental reserves to simply keep going and forced myself to be positive until the finish line when finally it was over and I could ice my leg and deal with the disappointment.

It feels awful not able to put on a good race for people that have helped you, trained with you, coached you, come out to cheer for you. But it is also disappointing for the people that spend time trying to patch your body up to cope with another week that, when it mattered most, there was an injury and no opportunity to intervene. This is another part of the deal.

It means that now, shortly before my marathon when I finally thought I could relax and start to look forward to the event, I’m really worried about this new injury and certainly don’t want to tear a hamstring during the race.

I know from experience that it really hurts and there is no way I can do the pace I want dragging my leg around. Now, more than ever, I have to rely on my guys to fix my body and have faith in them that everything will be patched up best possible before the big day.

So, who are my go-to guys? For sports massage, Rich and Genair have really helped me out over the past couple of months and it has been great knowing that, after a hard session, they would patch me up.

I am amazed at the difference sport massage makes. In the past I thought it was for people who had too much time, money and a penchant for self-indulgence. Now I know I must find a way to have massages in the future, post OL. They can be a bit uncomfortable, but generally it’s great when you can finally feel your muscles relax and the next day your back and legs feel great. I am certain this has helped me go from not able to run at all at the end of May to suddenly doing 100, then 120-mile weeks shortly thereafter.

Rich has Ironman background and Genair PT, so they are both also very knowledgeable in understanding how the body works.

Torben runs an Osteopath and physio clinic, actually he runs a one-stop-shop clinic with all sorts of treatments. Both his staff and client list read like a who’s-who.

I have been seeing Torben on and off since 2008. Following all my bike accidents and moving from a Pro Ironman lifestyle to no sport and 10 hours a day in front of a PC and two hours on the train instead, coupled with knee surgery and total immobility for three months, I decided to do another masters level qualification to keep me occupied. This meant that my posture and back were in need of guru Torben. I was told by the NHS in April 2011 that I might be a candidate for ankle joint replacement as I had managed to knacker an ankle for nine months. I’d spent months doing the horrid theraband exercises to no avail. Finally, I thought, who knows maybe Torben can do something? He took the ankle I had ‘nursed’ for nine months and gave it an enormous yank. It made a noise like bark splitting from a tree. In 30 seconds Torben had given me back a functional foot. This week I met one of his colleagues who does applied kinesiology, which is really interesting.

I’m trying to change my mental attitude towards the wear and tear training takes, or the occasional injuries that happen. I used to find an injury basically an insult. ‘How dare you fail me now, stupid leg,’ or worse, ‘Oh, so you are going to whinge and try and disrupt an easy run are you? You want to hurt?, I’ll give you hurt, you are not stopping my run!’

I’ve even tried to out-run asthma. In 2001 I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma (still in denial over that though and refused to use an inhaler since 2002 - even then I only had the little round ones they give kids).

Anyway, breathing problems kicked off on a run with friends in Idaho and the crazy thought that came into my head was: instead of slowing down, if I ran faster my body would figure out a way to snap out of it and to breathe, so I set off as fast as I could. I did not get very far and ended up lying on the ground making all sorts of scary noises and not being able to breathe. My lungs hurt for the next week.

I’d like to say the lesson was learnt then. Basically injuries and niggles were an affront. How dare they come and interfere with what I was doing. I’m trying to learn to listen a little to my body and work with it rather than dictating it needs to do A, B and C on a given day and then getting angry and feeling like I’ve failed if it is not able to meet my demands.

‘In the past, if I’ve been ill people have literally had to take me away from the pool or the bike. When I broke my collarbone it was a Tuesday and, after trying to convince the doctor that it was just my shoulder that was dislocated and needed to be popped back into place as I didn’t have time to be injured, he exasperated in the end. He showed me the x-ray and said: ‘Do you see those two bones there, about an inch apart? Well they used to be joined together.’

I nagged and nagged and by Sunday someone caved-in and took me to the pool. It was a 50-metre pool and I figured I could swim if I simply used my left arm. I had tiger stripes up and down my body from the road rash and struggled to swim as I’d forgotten that I would need to turn my head to breathe.

I was dragged out of the pool, only to triumphantly return the next day with an aqua-jogging belt.

I’ve always wanted to do everything, all sorts of sports, work, study, go out with my friends, travel, etc. Ironman was great as it was constant go, go, go and rest and recovery meant do a different activity. I generally had a ‘can sleep when I’m dead attitude’. If something did not work out the way I wanted I would throw more work or effort at it. I always thought, I can function with four to five hours sleep, or on having cake and coffee as a lunch stable. I’m doing ok.

I never really thought, am I actually getting (as the American’s say) all my ducks in a row to allow ‘optimal’ conditions to perform. I still default to bad habits, off wanting to take on more than I can fit into my day, and then stressing myself out as I can’t do everything at 100 per cent. I do feel slightly let down by my body that now, just before my big race, it has a problem. But I’m trying to be sensible, get treatment and have faith in the people patching me together. I’m really glad that I’m not in a holding camp in Portugal or at altitude training. Enjoying the luxury of having the Games on my doorstep, I’m able to get treatment from my team of people I trust and know right up to the race.

I just hope it works and that I can put on a decent run. Of course, representing your national team is a big deal but I can’t really compute that. I really want to do a decent run for the people that have supported me on this journey.

It is strange thinking that it was exactly this time last year, when I stood after the local running club’s Stragglers 10k in which I’d gone the wrong way - like a plonker - and was gutted as it was my first event in years and had wanted a starting point yardstick for fitness. I stood at the crossroads chatting with Mr Parkrun Danny, telling him of my crazy idea to try get fit again and to try for the Olympics. A few weeks later he introduced me to Noel’s training group www.harambeerunning.org.uk/

What a journey it has been. I just hope I can once more get patched up and put on a good show. That is the best way I can say thank you to everyone that has supported me. I felt very disappointed that I was unable to run my best in the London Marathon, so I’m hopeful for the chance to redeem myself.

Well, I gotta go . . . . to get more treatment on the naughty niggle.

Scott Molina [World Champion Ironman] sent a turbo trainer for me to use with my bike. It effectively enables you to use your own bike as a stationary machine. I’d met Scott a week before my accident for a gorgeous bike ride round Christchurch, New Zealand (I had just relocated there). Although he had only met me a couple of times he seemed to have got the measure of me as ‘another ironman nut,’ for the message that came with the loaned turbo trainer said: ‘This is not for you, this is for everyone around you so you don’t drive them crazy!’

Best thing in the post?

More compression calf sleeves, even in hot pink.

Question of the week . . . Do you think sports massage works?

Think from the above you can see I am a converted sceptic to addict.

I am keen to learn more, including specific trigger points, acupuncture points, fascia and active release, as well as remedial for specific sports injuries.

Next week. It’ll be just before the big day, will there be butterflies?

Will the niggle have gone (beaten into submission)?

Will I finally have received any news about my race?

Will the offending hotpants have been replaced with a pair of shorts?

More updates and press links on twitter and facebook . . . otherwise, see you next week. Thanks for reading.

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