A Different Kind of Summer

January 25 — 2019

Navigating injury and recovery as an athlete

Words by: Anka Martin
Photos by: Sven Martin

 

Injuries suck. Period. It’s how you deal with them that either makes it bearable or not, but the choice is yours. Obviously, it depends on the severity and location of the injury, but your frame of mind, your attitude on how you’re going to tackle this temporary discomfort or inconvenience as we tend to look at it, is totally in your hands.

This has been the longest period off the bike that I’ve ever had. Five months to be exact. A long time yes, but in the grand scheme of things, was it really that long, or that traumatic, no. I was actually totally ok with it all. Of course, you’d rather be riding, but it was not the end of the world and things can always be worse, so when you can walk away from any bike accident, just embrace that and all the amazing other things that we are able to do. The bike will always be there waiting for you, so take your time to heal up properly before rushing back to swing your leg over the trusty old steed again. O, so tempting for most of us.

This was the bike I crashed on, the pump track in Lesotho and the kid that I couldn’t say no to. 

Let’s go way back to March, where it all started when I folded into peer pressure from a six year old. I had just finished up racing the three day Lesotho enduro race, had a great weekend of gnarly racing, managed to take the win, but felt pretty relieved to make it through the weekend in one piece. With my bike all packed up, ready to head back home, I wondered over to the pump track to watch the little kiddies shred. Velo-solutions built an amazing pump track out there to encourage the kids to ride. The communal pump track bike was doing the rounds, while the kids kept nagging me to have a go. There’s only so many times you can turn down an overexcited kid on a bike, so I grabbed the bike and off I went. Pump, pump, pump, pick up a hell of a lot of speed, hit a double, get really scared in the air, reach for the brakes and BAM hit the concrete. In my haste to jump on the bike, I never checked the brakes and well, they were backwards to mine. Never too old or experienced to learn your lesson ey! Lesson bloody learnt.

At least someone figured out what was wrong with the old wrist, so I was just pleased to get it fixed up and start my recovery.

Fast forward a few weeks on, and I had to get my Scapholunate ligament reattached in France. Brilliant. At least someone figured out what was wrong with the old wrist, so I was just pleased to get it fixed up and start my recovery. If you’re going to need surgery people, try and have the accident in a country where you speak the language! I never seem to get this part right. The last time I had surgery was in Chile in 2016, and we could not communicate at all. Nada. This time I had to deal with everything in French. Great. My French anatomy knowledge and hospital terminology is not so hot, but thank goodness for Google Translate. It was a lifesaver.

A few small details were still very much lost in translation though. A few moments where my sense of humour pulled me through was trying to argue with the radiologist that it was my wrist and not my shoulder that was injured, even though the paperwork stated that it was my shoulder or the fact that you’re just supposed to know to bring all the dye and supplies needed for the ink injections and MRI tests with to your appointment, or that you know to shower with a bottle of bright orange chemical disinfectant that stains your skin and hair forever before surgery. I got in trouble a lot. I could tell from the body language and rolling eyes I kept getting.

It felt like an eternity, but finally it was done. I was fixed up and was discharged...

The biggest surprise was right before surgery when I realised that I was going to be awake for this whole procedure, a minor detail I must have missed somehow. Not ideal. I’m not a huge fan of going to the dentist due to scary-sounding mini tools, never mind hearing what sounds like proper power tools being used on my wrist. French pop songs playing from someone’s iPhone in the background was how I was trying to keep track of how long the surgery was going on for, while trying to decipher what the nurses were chattering and giggling about, while trying to block out the tugging and flickering ceiling lights. It felt like an eternity, but finally it was done. I was fixed up and was discharged a few hours later, but not before I vomited all over the room. A reflux to this whole experience I think. Excusez - moi.

All in all, it was seven weeks before I got surgery, six weeks in a hard full arm cast, then another six weeks before I could jump back on the bike. That made for a lot of weeks during my summer in Europe and commitments I had for work. All part of the job though, and I had to just improvise.

Hiking to the tops while my friends hike-a-bike - this was in Morzine with Sven, Jamie and Elena.

Coming back to the mindset of an injury, I chose to embrace this whole business and to get through this by hiking, walking and running. The more I did this, the more I fell in love with it. I started setting mini goals, running longer, further, faster and hiking higher and further every time I went out. I became a stat nerd, trying to clock as many vertical meters as I could. It was fun, it was hard and I managed to stay fit and get that endorphin high that we all crave. I went all out and got all the gear to make this summer on foot as pleasant as possible. Yep, short shorts with a funny inner short, a running waistcoat thingy armed with two water bottles on either side, hiking boots, wireless headphones, THE works. You know what, it worked. Even now that I’m back on the bike, I miss my hikes, my daily runs and I find myself opting out of a ride to head to the hills. It’s so simple, and I want to keep exploring by foot. I’ve got the itch and it excites me.

Even now that I’m back on the bike, I miss my hikes, my daily runs and I find myself opting out of a ride to head to the hills

So the next time you get hurt, think of all the possibilities, the new experiences, the new places and adventures that it opens up. I saw too many new, stunning peaks and places to list here, I gained more altitude over these 5 months than I did on my bike the few months before my injury. I got to know the city of Montpellier, which is now one of my all-time favourite cities to visit. My French improved and motivated me to really make an effort to become better at French. Be open-minded to a change of pace for a few months, hell, you may even fall in love with all sorts of new things like I did.

Back on the bike again after 5 months - happy girl!

Even though the crisp winter weather is very present here in Europe right now, it feels like my summer on the bike has just started...lucky for me I live in New Zealand, so I have a summer of bike riding ahead of me. A small part of me is very excited about tackling some of the Great Walks this summer...I’ve got to do something with all this new gear I bought right?

Peace out, Anka x

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