Last night, for the first time in my life, i properly lost my sense of humour over being injured.
I’ve dealt with injury from an early age. A bully broke my femur when i was 13, i spent 2 months, the summer holiday, in a hospital bed, 3 months learning to walk again, never played team sports because of it and have spent the rest of my life expensively and painfully dealing with a 33mm leg length difference.
This early incident taught me a) that being broken is a part of life and b) to work through an injury positively and come back stronger – if I can cycle from Barcelona to London on a bike adapted to my legs, ski 55 degree terrain with specially adapted boots and bindings, carry heavy packs for days on end using bespoke orthotics and yoga stretches from my mum, then injuries can be surmounted and actually doing these things is even more rewarding.
In 2010 i broke my right leg (fibula) 6 weeks before a marathon. I was told by a physio that i probably couldn’t run it. So i trained in a pool, doing 2.5 hr pool runs in the deep end by myself and cycled 20kms a day through the pain. I had a special procedure 4 days before the race to pull my shin splinted muscles off the bones. I ran the new york marathon in 3h51mins.
In 2013 I gave up work to learn ski mountaineering in the alps. I spent 10 days ice climbing in La Grave, came to Chamonix to learn to ski & 2 days later I had broken my left fibula in a fall due to my bindings being fitted badly by the rental shop. I stayed in Chamonix, living in a camper van in winter (with the flu on top of a broken leg at 1 point) and 9 weeks later I lead a climb up an alpine north face, Les Courtes, skiing in and out of the glacier to access it.
It may sound like I am bragging here, that is not my intention. I need to exorcise the rage of negativity that overcame me last night.
Previous to my accident on Thursday, I dedicated this past year to training like never before. I have put myself through my own training for alpinism program. I started in Brazil alternating everyday for 11 weeks between a gym strength session and a running session. In my hotel room with 25% of my body weight on my back, I tested myself doing timed step ups equivalent to 300metres altitude gain (I measured this without a tape measure by googling the length of a piece of A4 paper and holding it up against the chair). On one occasion 2 large beer cans that i was using for weight exploded halfway through and covered most of me and the room in the process. Throughout the year I’ve run up hills, spent 25 days carrying packs up mountains in the uk, done ice axe pull ups, core work, changed my diet…. after all i’m 38 if im gonna climb with the youths i know, I’ve gotta train like a horse.
I arrived in Chamonix 2 weeks ago in the best shape i have been in in my life. Yesterday I was told this –
I can not weight bear on my right leg for 6 weeks, i can not use crutches as my left shouder is broken, so i am in a wheel chair. For 6 weeks, my left arm has been put into a ridiculous looking brace that looks like i am carrying a foam portable TV under my arm and that i am ready to run as a contestant on “It’s a Knockout”. Then, when the bone in my shoulder is fixed, they can operate on my delaminated bicep tendon. Post operation I will not be able to do ANY cardio – running, cycling etc or strength training in that arm for 6 months. Anything that stresses that arm including driving is out. So basically I am screwed for 8 months. The same exact 8 months that i had taken off work to consolidate my skills as an alpinist before moving on the expeditions to the greater ranges. Getting back to my previous level of fitness will obviously take even longer.
I can do this, its the most physically and possibly the most mentally frustrating thing that i will have achieved, especially as i feel that i have changed my life quite late to concentrate on what i enjoy most. Every year that passes is one less that i will get to spend climbing before i am too old. At least that’s how i feel.
I know this is an exorcism of a selfish thought process and very me, me, me, especially when others are fighting worse, but writing helps me and this blog has got me fired up to take this on and come back stronger.
BRING IT ON.