How I ran a half marathon personal best 7 weeks post-op

On the 8th of March, I broke my collar bone in a rather silly accident. As all accidents tend to do, this one involved a certain element of human stupidity. Actually, quite a lot. Anyways, you live and learn.

I was in the Philippines, and it was 4 days before what was meant to be my first race on the Ironman 70.3 circuit as a Pro. As you can imagine a lot of time, energy and pain had gone into race prep, and I was devastated when I was told I had a broken collar bone. The scariest part was not knowing what to do next. Different doctors telling you different things from different corners of the world. When you’ve always just believed the first thing, it was unnerving. Luckily I had the incredible assistance of Subic Bay local Monica Torres who looked after me and got me to the various X-rays for 3 days. When I got on a plane back home to Geneva I felt extremely relieved, as finally it had been decided what the next step forward was.

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Subic Bay 70.3 underpants run/walk turned into priority race. Booked flights and flew back that afternoon. (P.C Madhu the Triathlete)

I got off the plane and was picked up, taken straight to hospital by an incredible friend, and within two hours of touching down I was out cold being cut open to have a plate drilled onto my collar bone.

For 2-3 weeks I felt out of it, and I think it was from the anaesthetic, and quite a bit of pain. Of course I tried doing things to fast; lifting things when I shouldn’t have been, not wearing the cast, trying to decrease painkiller intake too soon. This was put to an end after I had a back muscle spasm and had to spend 6 hours spent bolt upright on the sofa one Saturday, in agony on every inhale. Thankfully it wasn’t hay fever season yet as sneezing would’ve been agony.

I could get on the turbo relatively soon after surgery, within 4 days, but it took a couple of weeks to be able to hold the handle bars and to get running. The first 3 km I did was quite painful, and extremely slow. But I had run, and that was exciting.

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Zonked after my first 3km plod. P.C Lucy. S

Swimming was a different thing, at first I could only kick with my arms by my side for a week. Those were riveting sets. But soon I was throwing in a length of crawl here and there, not using any force in the arms.

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A momentous moment: getting my arm above my head

I had a training camp booked in Mallorca for mid-April, a month after surgery, and I was determined to be able to bike. So I did. There were times I cut rides short when I realised I had no more force left on my left arm and attempting another descent would be dangerous. But overall it was so liberating to be back on the road and training with the awesome and dynamic group that is Geneva Tri Club, even if it was largely one handed.

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Getting up Puij Major was easier than going down. Thanks to the boys for looking after me. P.C Random Cyclist

Whilst in Mallorca I had realised that running was in fact by far the least painful of the three sports to do, so the majority of my training consisted of running. Plus to minimise the impact and imbalances I had developed after protecting my left side for a month, I was doing a bit more work on form and back to basic conditioning.

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Couldn’t wish for a better running partner/ bottle carrier on a long run. P.C Shameless Selfie

People had been discussing the upcoming Geneva Marathon, and without knowing it I had been entered into the half marathon by my mother. Thanks to her I had a goal to focus on and motivate me through my self-pity: sub 1.26. With Jürgen and we mapped out a training plan to get me to the start line as run-fit as possible.

On the start line I didn’t really know what was possible, so I started off with a few of runners I knew from the Tri Club, going out perhaps a touch strong. I then realised that up ahead were a couple of the top girls so got on one of their heels and stuck with her for as long as possible. She was very strong, but ran reasonably consistently and I hung on for 16km. In the last few Km I faded a bit, and another girl came past who went on to finish 2nd. It all became very painful, and my legs were going but I plodded on not wanting to let my goal of 1.26 slip by.

The Geneva half course is stunning, running through the countryside then down and along both sides of the lake to finish on the Pont du Mont-Blanc. On the approach a couple of the boys from the Club over took me, and try as I did to hold their heels there simply wasn’t anything there.

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Attempting to hold Jo’s heels

 

I crossed the line in 1.22.46. Much better than I had expected, coming in 4th with the “medaille en chocolat”. The time is 6 minutes faster than my previous best, which was admittedly set a few years ago when I last did a half on “fresh” legs.

It’s an ok time but nothing spectacular. What it is to me is motivating though. It’s shown me that progress has been made, but also opened my eyes to how much I have to make still. Despite still having been incapable of lifting a gel to my mouth with my left hand during the race, I had managed to smash my PB.

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That finishing feeling

Congrats to everyone who ran or walked in the 10km, it was such a fun day and racing with friends makes it even more exciting. I even bumped into my surgeon in the finishing area!

There are so many people who have helped me to where I am now, and thank you to everyone from the world over for their kind messages. In particular, I’d like to thank Monica and Madhu who looked after me and got me onto the plane home, and all the amazing doctors and nurses at the hospital(s), whether I spoke your language or not. In particular the surgeon who stuck me back together. Hopefully it stays that way. Annie and Mathieu for their help with rehab and helping me get to lift a cup of coffee again. It’s the small things you notice. The coach Jürgen, for believing in me but also understanding my rather fragile state and when to push, when to hold back. All my sponsors for sticking by me, despite the slight miss-hap: Jiakina Customised, Revv Energy and Project Artisan. And lastly my mother who, yet again, has dealt with me and looked after me, driven me, fed me and just generally put up with me without any complaint.

Let’s be clear, there is a bit more drama and pain to come. I’m yet to have the plate out, and I’m still trying to be able to swim with some sort of force in my left arm, and be able to hold my handle-bars comfortably. Plus it’s me.

But now it’s back to Phuket for a few weeks of solid training before I attempt to make it back to a triathlon start-line.

“When life gives you lemon, makes lemonade”

Ride safe everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

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