Back on track in Aegerie
By Mahe Drysdale: July 2012
The past few weeks have been a mixture of sun, sweat, hard work, pain, medical appointments, and a fair bit of Frustration.
Last time I wrote I was in Munich and had just been knocked off my bike. I was pretty positive and my shoulder injury progressed very quickly initially. Although it did mean I was forced to be a spectator at the final World Cup.
While I certainly prefer being on the water, I did enjoy getting a different perspective of a World Cup. I got to see all the racing (which I usually miss as I am preparing to race myself). I saw a number of races from the commentary car, which was a good learning experience. I learnt a lot watching crews in different events do their thing.
The Kiwis had a very good final World Cup with most crews showing improvements from Lucerne and building nicely toward the Olympics. We came away with 6 medals 3 gold and 3 silver, it was especially pleasing seeing the lightweight women stepping up again showing they are a real medal chance at London as well as seeing much improved performances from the Men’s double (from 12th to 2nd) and Emma Twigg back in the medal hunt.
We went into the English Gardens in Munich the evening of the regatta to relax and enjoy the obligatory pork knuckle and stein of beer, while getting involved with the German’s playing soccer at Euro2012. After a rest day it was back to training and reality started to hit, that I was going to have to get used to working hard on the bike sitting in one spot, dripping with sweat. My shoulder wouldn’t allow me back on the road or the water for awhile.
We soon were packing up and shifting to our base for the following month, Aegerie in Switzerland. This was a last minute change as our original base in Lenggries, Germany was not possible as they were doing works on the dam and unexpectedly had to lower the water level 7 metres.
Aegerie hadn’t changed much since we were last here in 2009, except the food has improved out of sight! It is a beautiful place, a lake surrounded by mountains with snow capped mountains off in the distance. Initially I had been very excited about the prospects of training in Aegerie, especially the mountains I was going to ride over on my bike. I even had a few routes already mapped out. Unfortunately reality was different, I was sitting still on the trainer looking at the mountains surrounded in a pool of sweat, wishing I was out on the road.
News of our arrival and my injury had travelled fast and the evening we arrived I had a call from a local bike shop, Tempo Sport saying they had a bike in my size ready for me to pick up and borrow until I could import a frame big enough for me. That was followed by Amstrong Sports in New Zealand contacting me to say they were sending me a Le Mond Revolution trainer to help me with my stationery bike sessions. Its amazing how generous and thoughtful people can be when you need them.
A week after my accident, I was gaining a lot of movement back but Rowing was still looking like it was a few days away. The stationery bike was going to be my friend for longer and there would be plenty more pools of sweat as it was stinking hot. I sit outside my room looking at the lake and the snow capped mountains in the background, while I love riding my bike, I am not a great fan of sitting still, and never really liked the trainer or the erg much. As my shoulder continued to keep me out of the boat I was getting more and more frustrated.
During week two of my recovery I tried to row a couple of times pretty unsuccessfully. One day it all got too much, so I headed out for a blast in the mountains on my bike. My shoulder actually handled most of the ride well, except the descents, where my weight was forward on the handle bars. It was great to be out on the road again and get some sanity back.
I was slowly improving but still couldn’t manage much in the boat. After two weeks out of the boat and still no certain prospects of a return we called in a favour from one of the kiwi sports doctors and he got us into the FIFA doctor at the Schulthess Klinik in Zurich. It was an impressive hospital fully focused on muscle skeletal problems, in fact the largest of its kind in Europe. We were in very good hands with a team of doctors, FIFA doctor (Prof. Jiri Dvorak), lead sports doctor (Dr. Gery Penitent) and the shoulder surgeon (Dr. Hans-Kaspar Schwyzer) popping out of surgery to examine me and discuss how best to get me back in the boat. After an examination and discussion, I had a cortisone injection in my AC joints and headed back to base.
I needed a few days rest, so spent them on foot in the mountains doing 3 days of 3+ hour walks up the steepest mountains I could find. Was a nice change and spectacular views. I think with the amount of sweat I produced it was a good workout too. I was back in the boat 3 days later but didn’t get as far as I had hoped. The following day was the height of frustration as I got out on the lake rowed 500M but the water was too rough and I had to turn around. I did the only thing I could do in that situation, jumped on my bike, headed for the snow capped mountains and took my frustration out on the road. I was soon met by rain and had visibility of about 20M as soon as I claimed over 700M. Eight hours, two passes and 3250 vertical metres later I crawled home in the pouring rain, totally spent, but slightly more sane and in a much better frame of mind. Unfortunately due to limited visibility I cant tell you what the views were like although I did see some snow.
Thankfully the following day I woke with my arm feeling much better. I went back on the water and managed a full row with much less pain than two days earlier. Surprisingly I felt like I was rowing quite well and my speeds were good so I had a smile on my face and headed for the ice to try and take some of the inflammation and pain away from my shoulder. Thankfully that trend has continued and as I pass 3 weeks since the accident I am back rowing full sessions including a full out 2K race. It went Ok and I just need to improve the higher rate work. We are now just over 3 weeks out from the Olympics and while it took me longer than I hoped to get back in the boat, all the signs are positive that I can start where I left off before the accident. I know I’ve done enough work in the last three weeks that my fitness hasn’t fallen off at all.
It is great to be back in the boat! The bike crash wasn’t in my ideal plan but the positives are my back has had a good break and it has certainly made me even more hungry and ready to make the most of every minute I have between now and the Olympics.
Overall the squad is in pretty good heart and the workload is still high, the weather has cooled down a bit in the last few days which has made training a lot easier. Time is flying by and in no time at all we will be on our way to London and racing at the games. Touch wood my injury issues are now behind me and Ill get a good run into the Olympics, I never thought I would be so excited by the prospect of another rowing training session tomorrow. This four year cycle, if I have learnt one thing, its make the most of every training session, as you never know what’s around the corner.