I happen to be paying a maternity visit at a friend’s place when the doctor calls. “Hi there. I’m just going to tell it to you straightaway.” As a Dutchy I appreciate this kind of directness, but there was a little bit of hope in me that there would be some anatomical weirdness in my body that could be fixed with supportive orthoses (steunzooltjes) and two weeks bed rest. But these words don’t seem a logical introduction to that conclusion.
I hold my breath. “At the MRI we saw a severe hernia and two partially ruptured hamstring tendons.” Her words slap me in the face but I’m relieved to finally know what is the matter. It is a legendary maternity visit; At our whatsapp-group my friends joke that this is the first time a visitor cried more than the baby…
Things slowly fall into place. In the train rides to work I had been puzzling for months how the other commuters manage to sit consecutively for the entire 18.5 minutes, how people in the pool’s changing room can put on their socks without rolling onto their backs, and why nobody else in the office feels like walking loops around the table during a meeting. The ruptured tendons surprise the doctor “It is strange as we barely saw a difference in strength between your left and right leg” – perhaps my dedication to my physio’s drills and getting used to twinges upon sprinting may explain. On the plus side, I’m glad I don’t suffer from imaginary phantom-alike pain, which a manual therapists thought I had, or ‘cortisol imbalance’ which a chiropractor came up with.
Knowing something wasn’t right, I used the readily scheduled trip to my sister in Singapore last week to ease my mind and to prepare for changing this year’s goals from getting on the podium at Ironman Cork and qualify for the World championships to getting healthy again. It is kind of a 180 degrees change in mindset since – even though I struggled with pain – I did have a good amount of practice this winter and made huge steps in my swimming skills with the help of Tracy Markham and running technique with the help of Bram Wassenaar. Instead of a heat-camp in the tropics I spent my time sight seeing and visit roof top bars and hang out with ‘normal’ people that have very cool expat lives with impressive careers.
The amount of support from the people close to me is amazing. It makes me happy to see how much they understand how I’m feeling at the moment. They cheer me up and show me there is more in life than just sports. Also, it is great to spend more time with them. The response of people less close to me and non-athletes puts everything nicely into perspective. They shrug their shoulders when I tell them about the injury: “Ah my neighbor had that too, it is not such a big deal right: you do some exercises and it will pass”. I’m doubtful whether some back exercises will aid the rehabilitation (30-45 minutes has been part of my daily ritual the past years), or whether surgery may be necessary, but if I’m honest to myself: they have a fair point. It is not the end of the world. Everyone will face challenges along the way and for me this is one of them.
I consider getting over this injury as a race season. It is just another mission that I will fully commit to. Whether I will try to go back to pro level again, or whether I will continue with my professional social career only: I need a fit body. So my aim for this year is getting healthy. Luckily I can still swim – as long as I don’t push off the wall or make flip turns – so I do that everyday now. And who knows. Healed tendons and no restrictions in my back; I might even get out of this as a stronger athlete, and surely as a person.
In the meantime I continue taking the opportunity to motivate others to define and chase their dreams. I visited my nephew’s and niece’s school in Singapore and had a chat with the kids (of which 8 of 48 already had done a kids triathlon!) about what it takes to do triathlon. The responses were just brilliant:
- Best guess how long the swim takes: “15 days”.
- Most relevant question: “What is your favorite colour?”
- Most philosophical question: “Why would you do an Ironman?”
- Number of autographs I was asked for: 48