Exactly 2 months ago today, I was racing at the National Champs in Dunedin. Precisely at this time... I would have been helping Wilson clean Carl’s bike ready for the podium, before heading off to the celebratory BBQ. Well done to my team mates Carl and Katie - both National Champions, and everyone else who braved the Dunedin cold. It’s not called Sunny Dunedin for no reason!
In the 8 weeks since National Champs I’ve been on a training break, in which I have undergone reconstructive knee surgery. The foreseeable future is a long time not training, and I really miss it. I miss spending 2+ hours a day with my bike, my Polar dictating those two hours by minutes, kilometres, and heart rates.
Prior to my knee surgery, and since the final NZ MTB Cup round in February, I’ve had my left arm in a cast, my ass in hospital for concussion, an eye infection, a nasty cold and now my left leg is in a knee brace for six weeks. My surgeon said to me “You’ve really had a bad time lately, haven’t you?” A few other people have said the same thing, but I’m starting to look at it a different way. A lot of my friends are a hell of a lot worse off, some have injuries that are permanent and affect their bike racing in a huge way. They keep going. The one thing I have learned from their experiences, is you can’t really control what happens to you, only how you react to it.
It would be easy to feel sorry for myself, not being able to ride my bike, drive my car, or even just walk without crutches. At the end of the day, though it seems like it now, it’s actually not that bigger deal. In 6 weeks I will be huddled next to a fire at a pub with my flatties, sipping some Emersons, laughing with them at how scared I was the morning of surgery. In 6 months, I'll be nearly finished my degree. Tomorrow I will forget what I did today, and tomorrow I will be one day closer to getting out of the knee brace. It’s all relative, and important to keep it in perspective in order to avoid frustration.
Let me tell you about hospital. I had the most peculiar experience at Mercy. The last thing I remember before going into surgery is giggling uncontrollably at the radio playing in the theatre and telling the theatre staff that they looked like they were from Shortland Street. They told me they don’t have nearly as much fun, then I feel asleep. I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room and sat straight up before being pushed back down on the bed, then fell asleep again. The next thing I knew, I was in the ward with my family. It was great to see them, but it was a real struggle to stay awake, so between talking to my parents and sending txts to people I drifted back to sleep.
When I finally woke up, I tried to eat something. I ate half a chicken sandwich and a yoghurt, which I threw up an hour later. I was then given some morphine and tramadol which made me a bit delusional and nautious. The night was rescued however, by a Nun. I have never met a nun before in my life, so naturally I was intrigued by her sudden appearance. I felt like I was in the Vatican. And in Sister Act at the same time, which is clearly impossible, Whoopi Goldberg would not be allowed anywhere near the Vatican with her grasp of the “French” language.
The surgery itself was a complete success in that my knee was reconstructed. Basically my knee cap was sitting 15 degrees out of the socket, causing my knee to be instable and dislocate randomly (which it did, 3 times over 3 years - don't recommend it). John Dunbar is the brilliant surgeon who performed the surgery. He is a very funny guy who does things his way, his own pace, and says the funniest things. He performed the surgery laparoscopicallu on two areas of my knee, where he released and reattached the lateral ligament, and shortened my VMO muscle, attaching it directly to my kneecap for stability. The most involved procedure however, was detaching my patellar ligament with some shinbone attached, and reattaching it back to my tibia with two screws, more medially. it's called a tibial tuberosity. Gross. But all of this stuff basically means my kneecap is back in the right place and will hopefully stay there for the duration... hopefully...
I’m actually happy to have gone through this. I was irrationally medically sensitive and used to have a big fear of injections and needles, to the point where I avoided taking blood tests a few months back because I was too scared of the needles. Last week I was given 7 injections in 3 days, and after crying at the first one I didn’t get scared of the rest. At all. So without the surgery, I would still be scared of needles! Proof that I didn't freak out at my IV:
So.... where to from now? Well, I’m approaching the whole saga like I would approach training. It’s all about numbers. I have 5 more weeks in a knee brace. So for the next 5 weeks, no I can’t ride my bike, I can’t walk, but I can study, learn about new things and do things I wouldn’t normally do. Once my 5 weeks is up, I am going to focus solely on aceing my exams and rebuilding my body. I will have some ridiculous muscle imbalances that will need to be corrected, and then I will be working on building strength and regaining base fitness for some exciting events next year. I'm moving to Wellington next year to start work as a fresh faced graduate which puts me in a better position to train and race. Secretly I love Wellington far too much and need to go back. Oceania’s in Rotorua will be the peak event in 2011, I will also be doing my first road tour, the Tour de Femme in December and tackling my first Karapoti in March.
Exciting stuff, but for now, I’m going to enjoy being a student.