Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back early

If the point of training camp is to experience pain in places you didn't know you had places, then this one was a cracking great success. On every other level, it must be said, it was a pathetic and agonizing failure.

It started out well enough. On Sunday I took my single out in the morning and racked up 16k before either the double or the coxless 4 managed the same distance. I felt good. In the afternoon I went out with the quad scull. God it felt great to go fast again! My back was pretty stiff, but I still managed a good outing with some race starts. By the end of it, though, my back had gone into complete spasm and I couldn't move. Coach O had to carry the boat for me.

That night it was announced that the top crew boat the club would be racing would be a coxed 4. That would be the Henley crew. This is fine, except I can't row in a coxed 4. A coxed 4 ("4+") is a sweep-rowed boat, not a scull. And because of my back problems, I will probably never sweep again. I am now, and for the rest of my life, a sculler. So what it boiled down to is I had just been thrown out of the Henley crew in my final year at Bristol and my last ever year to row competitively at Henley. "Heartbroken" doesn't begin to describe it. I was devastated. I sat in my room alone all night and cried.

Monday morning I was still crying, and had a chat with O. He understood how felt, but had to make decisions that were best for the team, and he thought the team stood the best chance of winning in a 4+ (never mind the fact that we don't actually have a coxwain, that's just an insignificant detail!), and it was a shame that a, I had been left out of it and b, that I train the hardest out of anyone on the crew. He promised me that if I could find a doubling partner from another club that he would do everything he could to help us with training and drive us and our boat to practice regattas. I personally am of the opinion that it's absolutely SHIT that

a, I have been with Bristol for 3 years and now, at the end of my career, i have been effectively abandoned by my squad. There is no more racing for me with Bristol.

b, participation is not a factor in selecting crews. When I was an undergrad it would have been inconceivable that someone who spent 3 years on the squad and did all the training would be denied even a chance in competition.

c, apparently all the hard work and painful physical therapy I've put myself through since I ruptured my disk back in November of 2006 has been for JACK. SHIT. All that effort, and here at the end I get NOT. A. FUCKING. THING. The only thing I got was screwed.

After having this out with O (who is, goddamnit, a really nice guy and yelling at him is like kicking a puppy; i just can't do it), I was still a bit stiff, but took my single out again. I could only do short distances and had to come back to the pontoon frequently to stretch. I tried to do some short pieces to burn off the aggression, but only succeeded in pulling my left hip flexor. By Monday evening I was not only discouraged, I was in serious pain. Sitting in a chair, I was unable to raise my left knee off the floor. I could not walk up stairs. Another night passed crying alone in my room.

Tuesday morning I was somewhat better for a bit of rest, but I was still stiff and sore. I tried going out in the single, and actually went in circles. I had lost at least 30% power in my left leg, maybe more. The strength just wasn't there.

(Now, you have to understand my relationship with my legs. They are huge. They are like tree trunks. They are not attractive, but damnit, they work. They work hard, and they have never, ever let me down. They take everything I throw at them, and they give as good as they get. They are the one bit of my body that I can absolutely, unequivocally depend upon. To be betrayed by one's own body in the pursuit of one's dream is traumatic at best. To be betrayed by my legs is like, well, imagine if Pirate left me and married my sister. That kind of betrayal. I have never been so angry at my own body. It's difficult to know what to do with that kind of anger.)

After 2k of trying to compensate by sculling primarily with my right leg, I had a massive knot in my right lumbar spine, at the top of my glut. I came back in and rang my chiropractor, Miracle Mike. He said he could fit me in Thursday morning.

I announced to the rest of the crew that I was leaving camp early, quitting the Bristol boat club, and they could all please go fuck themselves. With a pineapple. Sideways.

The End.


FirstNations said...

That is FUCKED UP.

Anonymous said...

You'll never get far in life by wallowing in self pity

Geosomin said...

That is indeed fucked up...and too bad. I keep trying to think of something to say but it seems lame and cheap...and the whole pinapple sideways mental image is distracting.

mary said...

Much sympathy! There is not much more I can say.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

FN: yea, verily.

Anon: consider yourself invited to the pineapple orgy.

geo: fruit salad will never be the same again, eh?

mary: ta.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

oh, almost forgot to mention:

--> On monday morning my mate (very accidently slammed the car boot (trunk) on my head while i was getting my bag out, giving me a nice big goose egg on top that throbbed for 2 days...

...AND I got a sore throat which progressed into laryngitis and by the time i got home yesterday i could barely croak. Yay!

Homer said...


There are some advantages to being congenitally unsporty, it seems.

I do feel sorry for you - it sounds mightily unfair. Is one person specifically responsible for the decision?

Dave said...

So, so sorry.

Perhaps you'd better take up cricket.

Oddly, I have some vacancies in my squad this season...

Timorous Beastie said...

Sorry to hear about all this shit you've been through. But to be honest, rowing can never match hamster racing as sporting career.

S. Vincent said...

Hey it sucks, but your coach is right. No one would argue you put the time in, but what is he and the boat supposed to do with a broken rower albeit, a very good one. If you can't train due to your 4 injuries, the boat can't practice, so what good would it do anyone to have you in there, besides for your single satisfaction. You yourself said you could never sweep again, so is it really wrong that you aren't in the boat? Unfourtunatly it is the cruel nature of sport that wins come before people most of the time. Otherwise there are no goals to strive for in a competitive sport. Don't give up though, you have a good thing going in your 1x and should train/race on your own once you are out of college. It's a much more rewarding scenario anyway.

jd said...

If you need anyone set fire to, just send me a picture and an address...

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ziggi said...


ziggi said...

hope the pain is easing!

Miss Melville said...

Well, look at it this way-- it frees up some time, and you could use this either to talk to me OR take a weekender up in the land of kilts, whiskey and sea kayaking!


Much love, and I really am sorry to hear all of this, mate.

Sidenote: Much like the pineapple, I've occasionally heard mention the idea of a brick on a cold day with no lube. sideways.

Mudlark said...

Oh Darlin. Hugs, chocolate, tissues and whisky in bucketloads (pity about the blog exchange rate).

However. Right now you have to focus on the most important thing - the thing that will pale this bitter torment into total insignificance if you're not careful. Your next gig is FAR more important than not making the Henley team.

Your back, darlin. You want to pick up your babies? You want to be able to bend, lift, run, have a happy, pain-free life? Please, take this opportunity to look after your back and stop pushing it beyond its limits.

I heard one of the world leading orthopaedic surgeons say after a big official inquiry:

"This is totally off the record. My professional colleagues would disown me for telling you this, but if you ever get a back injury, STAY AWAY FROM US. We know (but we don't tell anyone) that the only thing that works for injured backs is swimming."

I live with someone with a back injury who's been told by his physio that the worst thing that you can do is overdo back strain in youth.

So, darlin. Start your training now for the rest of your life, which is going to be wonderful. Relax, swim if you can, and give your back a sporting chance.


Chaucer's Bitch said...

Homer: yep. a 19-year old Eton boy with no coaching experience or qualifications of any sort.

Dave: i should warn you, i throw like a girl.

Beastie: hamster race is, indeed, a noble and honorable sport. It's just this little hang-up I have about the inferior past time of rowing.

S. Vincent: see clarification in recent post.

jd: i'll email you a photo of the Bristol boat house. Make it look like an accident.

zig: yep, i'm fine.

MM: i'll definately try to get up to Sconny Botland this summer. Or you could always come here and watch Pirate play cricket with me!

Mudlark: thank you for that informed opinion about my medical condition.

Homer said...

19? Eton? Cunt, obviously.

Mudlark, I'd hate to doubt you, but what would any orthopaedic surgeon hope to gain have to gain by misleading their patients as to the best treatment for their backs?

(Biased: medical secretary to spinal surgeon for 4 years.)

Mudlark said...

Homer: I'm sure I don't know. I was simply passing on something an internationally recognised professor of orthopaedics told a small group of politicians several years ago, so I was inclined to believe him. Perhaps the same reason any medical specialty offers the treatment for which they've been trained.

CB: I apologise for offending you. In a lifetime considerably longer than yours I've seen such utter misery from back injuries and even worse from surgery that I got carried away. As for 'informed', well, you've been informing us for a couple of years now about your boxing and rowing injuries so I guess I did think I knew what was going on for you. And, inappropriately it seems, gave a shit.

Declines offer of pineapple. I know where it's been.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

"In a lifetime considerably longer than yours..."

Ah yes, now I understand where you get your authority. Being older always makes one right. Thank you for clearing that up.

The thing is, Mudlark, I wasn't pissed off until you left your second comment. I'm just getting a bit bored with all the unsolicited advice, which is flung at me from every corner of the universe every damn day. It wears on one.

Homer said...

CB, sorry to commandeer your comments box but Mudlark, I repeat the question - what would they have to gain from deliberately misleading patients? Surely what you are suggesting (which seems to be, do correct me if I'm wrong, that doctors deliberately keep back pain patients crippled so they can afford the repayments on the Jag) is a direct violation of the Hippocratic oath.

I don't doubt what you heard, but I strongly refute that this one person is indicative of the attitude of most orthopaedic surgeons.