“Patience is a virtue”

There are many things rough times teach you as an athlete and for myself and the last four years, patience, among many, is a big one on my list. And it’s finally starting to pay off after the rough patch I’ve experienced.

At the end of 2009, after having my most successful year as a junior, I got diagnosed with a navicular stress fracture in my left foot (something I’m sure many of you have experienced). This as a teenager is never easy, but in my case it was during my final year 12 exams, leaving me without the escape of running during my studies. I was first put in a boot and crutches for six weeks, only to find out no progress had been made, which left me with little option but surgery. Post surgery my recovery was 8 weeks, and then I pretty much had to start from scratch as the muscles in my left leg had completely disappeared; it was literally half the size of the other! It took me about 6 months to regain decent fitness, but even then I was really paranoid about getting injured again, every little pain or niggle I felt, I stopped, as I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to run again. It took me 6 months to even put a pair of spikes on and feel comfortable running fast again.

Training was going alright, but nothing like I had remembered. It was now almost a year post surgery and track season was here, only I was still nowhere near ready. I was training consistently again, and made sure my return to full training was gradual, but I was making no improvements. My return to track came with a win in the 800m at the Australian uni games that year, in a time of 2.12, which honestly was a fluke with the amount of training I had done. From there it only got worse, and with it so did my confidence. At first I just thought I was unfit due to the injury and the time out and so I trained through it, thinking if I just gave it time and kept training consistently I was sure to make improvements. But I didn’t . For four years I made little to no improvement in training and races.

I started to feel very fatigued, my body constantly sore and heavy. No amount of sleep or rest seemed to help. Backing off running, not running at all, made no difference. I would get puffed very easy and and wake up every morning more tired than when I went to bed. I couldn’t survive a day without going home and napping for a couple of hours. I felt like this for about two years. Although not running well, this time did allow me to experience other normalities of life such as completing a degree, travelling and working, all of which I think have helped me become a more balanced athlete today.

The worst part was really not knowing what was wrong with me, I saw several doctors, sports doctors and specialist who all drew a blank and had no answers for me. One doctor suggested that maybe it was psychological and that perhaps I “just didn’t want to run anymore”, which is something no runner wants to hear especially during a low point. With no answers I became frustrated, un-motivated and even started to lose weight. At least with the injury, I knew what it was and so I got it fixed, but with this I couldn’t fix what I couldn’t diagnose. In the end after no help from traditional medicine, I turned to alternative options and saw a naturopath thanks to guidance from Sydney based Coach John Atherton and fellow athlete Lisa Corrigan, who was also experiencing the same sort of symptoms, and for the first time I had some answers. I had developed a form of chronic fatigue, and my body was unable to absorb most nutrients from food and even some supplements, and so my body had become depleted and completely drain. I wasn’t ever able to recover, as I couldn’t refuel; I was constantly working on empty. I got put on a strict regimen of vitamins and minerals to substitute for the ones I was supposed to get from food. This included the most disgusting greeny brown goo drink which still leaves a bad taste in my mouth just thinking about it. There would always be excess sweet juice involved and nose blocking when it was my daily drink time. Subsequently I know hate cranberry juice. I also had to change my diet and began to get regular iron injection (as I couldn’t absorb any from food or tablets). One morning after a few months of treatment, for the first time in two years I didn’t wake up tired. To me this was unbelievable as for so long, feeling terrible and tried was my every day. Six months later and I was a different person entirely.

Now following the 2013 domestic track season, which was my first proper season back, and although not spectacular, it showed that I had the ability to run fast again and showed me a glimmer of hope with a few PB’s. I now find myself in a completely different situation. I’m healthy, running well and actually making improvements which is always exciting, and for the first time I’m extending my season right through to September. I’m currently based in London with the Melbourne track club (MTC), after prior being in the US, where I did some altitude training in both Mount Laguna and Mammoth Lakes with MTC, as well as raced in the Penn relays and the Oxy invitational meet, which were both amazing experiences for an developing athlete like myself. For me now, I’m really just trying to build my fitness and keep training consistently throughout the European summer, which I’m fortunate enough to be doing with some great training partners in Zoe Buckman and Susan Kuijken. I’m also lining up in a few more races, as I think I’ve still got a lot more to give coming off the Australian domestic season. After being ridden with injury and illness, I think when you’re fit and healthy you have to make the most of it as you never know what lies ahead. My next race will be an 800m in Belfast, Ireland, on the 25th June, where I expect to race in a good field, including the likes of fellow Aussie Kelly Hetherington, who always puts on a great race, and her company isn’t bad either. I’m hoping this year will serve as a nice development block and put me in a good position to qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

My patience, although greatly tested at times, has paid off and I really appreciate every success so much more, even if it’s just a good training session, it’s a big step forward from where I was and I’m just happy to be running and feeling life myself again.

(Training in Mammoth Lakes, C A)

The Good times definitely out weights the bad.
Thanks Runners Tribe for letting me share my journey!