Saturday, 23 August 2014

Chipping away

Hello to you all,

I have a few thoughts I wanted to share with you. In June 2013 I set myself the goal of competing at the World Championships this year. Unsinkable Episode one shows me speaking about this. I am currently at this event in Amsterdam, just not in the capacity I had hoped for. Today I have a race, it is the 'spares' race, it is a race for all the reserves at the event. I have high expectations for this race. Not in regards to where I finish, but in that I want to execute the best race my year so far, and produce a performance I am happy with. This is important to show that the training I have been doing over the last few months is working and that for each month i move further away from surgery, I move one month closer to returning to full health and my full capabilities as an athlete. A strong performance today for me in the single is also important for myself moving forward to next season and my goal of being on the right side of the fence post selection trials next year. I have made some good progress with my training over the last 5 weeks since returning from our short trip to Holland Beker, Henley and Lucerne 2 months ago where I produced some solid performances. However over the last 4 weeks the most promising aspect has been the reintroduction of long ergo sessions 2-3 times per week of 3x30 minutes which is something i haven't completed since 2011, and also the reintroduction of strength weights in the gym. I have not been in the squat rack since 2011 either, but over the last month under the watchful eye of John and Harry in the VIS gym I have made some good progress with my strength which has really helped my boat movement and specifically given me some more leg speed in the drive which is helping me with the rhythm of the boat. I am excited for my race today and I will be fired up on the start line. I am also excited to be a part of the team and support them in any way I can, it really is great to be a part of the international experience again. 

Cheers, John 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

one year on...

One year ago i was here.... having these removed....

Exactly one year ago Dr. Bill Campbell removed both of my Plantaris muscles from my calves. Today I arrived in Amsterdam ready to race in the single scull at the Holland Beker regatta this weekend. For me it seems like an eternity ago that I was under the knife having surgery, so much has happened since that day, lots of which you have been privy to as a result of this blog and the web series.

Today I am where I want to be, with the aussie team in Europe, it is what i have wanted and already it has been fun. Being here has allowed me to reflect in a big way as I am now able to look back from a different perspective on the events that have transpired in the last few years.

It is a great feeling being back in Europe with the national team, it is something I have craved for, something I would say I ‘obsessed’ over since having such a great time with the M8+ in 2011. I have come a long way physically since 12 months ago when I was crawling around on the floor for a few weeks. To say it has been easy, or that it has been enjoyable though would be bending the truth. Every single day has been a challenge for me in some way.  It is this comment which now finds me reflecting on everything I have learnt in the last 12 months and even more dating back to surgery in march 2012. I have come to understand that it is so important to find other areas of your life to be happy with when something you are passionate about is not going as planned. On reflection, I put so much emotional and physical energy into my rowing that at times I neglected some other important areas of my life and became somewhat wayward with my life balance and management of behaviour. At times I had the mindset 'everything will be fine once my rowing is where I want it to be', this turned out to be a dangerous mindset on occasions. And if only it was that simple... 

 As a result some mistakes were made,  I have had the experience of learning from these. Experience can be brutal, but you learn, my god do you learn. My one regret from my experience over the last few years dealing with various setbacks inhibiting my rowing is that I never truly took a step back and took it for what it was, and really got stuck into other areas of my life. This would be the one thing I would change if I was to have my time again. Don’t get me wrong, I would still give the exact same commitment, but I would find a better balance to ensure other areas of my life still flourished which would have made today even more enjoyable than it already is. Take that as my words of wisdom if that is of any help to any of you. Be happy with the things that are working for you even if something isn't where you want it to be. 

You may wonder why I am choosing to write this way and why I am saying the following, it will make sense by the end of this (I hope).
From where I stand today there are so many people who have helped me get here and I would like to thank them. Firstly my parents and family for always being there for me. I couldn’t have done it without my Mum and Dad by my side. I know it was hard on those close to me seeing me so frustrated and they were very much at the center of this small core group of people. My emotions were spilled onto them, and they were amazing. Everyone at the VIS, the staff, support staff, fellow athletes and special mention to Harry for helping me find my feet again (multiple times). To those who have been particularly close to me and witnessed the (potentially untold) ups and downs you deserve special mention as you have seen the true challenge that I have faced and you know better than most how challenging it has been for me. I am sorry to those who I hurt at times. 

The rowing scholarship group within the VIS deserves a mention, you made me determined to get back, just so I could train alongside such a great group of guys. It was hard seeing you doing what I wanted to do, but it drove me to return in some ways simply to be there to have breakfast on southbank post session, even if all we did was share stories of who kept their heart rate the highest for the longest. Thanks to my friends for all the support and encouragement and thanks to all the supporters of ‘Unsinkable’, each comment of support has made a difference. Big thanks to Lachy for helping me share my story so well, I never envisioned it to be of such quality and I know I speak for a lot of you that you have enjoyed the web series and the insight provided.

I am extremely excited to get stuck into the next 3 weeks. I race here at Holland Beker this weekend, at Henley Royal Regatta next week and lastly World Cup 3 in Lucerne, Switzerland (All of these in the single barring injury/illness in the quad). As much as I am excited to spend a few weeks away I am also looking forward to my return back home. The last few years have been challenging to say the least, I have endured 3 major procedures on each calf plus hip surgery since I last travelled in 2011 and with that came some horrible lows of which I never want to think about again. In regards to returning home, I want to get home and relax, reflect on what I have experienced and the learning which has taken place and make sure I learn from my experiences.  However after touching down in Melbourne on the 15th July I want to close the book on that chapter of my life. Of course I will share the story and my experience to those who I speak to with my role at the VIS and I hope that through my experiences I can help others manage challenging circumstances, however it is time to leave the injuries and that part of my rowing career behind. I recently turned 26 and fortunately have finally woken up to myself and decided that whatever happens with my rowing from here on in. Nothing will ever hurt me as much as my experiences over the last few years. It is time to stop looking backwards and being annoyed about lost opportunities and the struggles, but time now to live for the now, and plan for the future.

I will try post a few updates over the next 3 weeks while I am away, And I will try and share this experience with as many of you as possible, in some way each and every one of you reading this has helped me on my journey so I hope the ongoing insight offers something to each of you. 

For now its time to get stuck into it!!! 

Cheers, John 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Frustrating times trying to be an elite athlete...

Hi there,

Been a while since I have written an update so I thought I should share with you where things are currently up to. Since the selection trials one month ago I haven't actually been able to hit the water and get stuck into training the way i had envisaged after being named the reserve for the M4X. For the last month I have only been completing lots of hours each week on my road bike and in the gym on the wattbike. Check out the strava link on the right of the blog to see what riding I have been doing if you are interested.

Unfortunately for me what was suspected to be a rib injury which first arose 8 weeks ago has now been diagnosed as a shoulder injury which was referring pain into my pectoral muscle and across my ribs. The good news is it can be easily resolved after an MRI scan assessed the shoulder and found it to be simply heavily inflamed. This is suspected to be as a result of a combination of factors including previous surgery and injury, lack of adequate recovery over the first few months of this year but mostly as a result of the ongoing leg injuries over the last few years and lack of time in the boat, which meant that when i went to put my foot down this year and attempt to achieve a high training load on the back of a very limited rehabilitation period a weak spot in my body developed and over time my shoulder became more and more problematic. What is interesting with this is that I never suspected my shoulder was problematic, however analysis of the scans showing an inflamed and irritated joint. I was injected with cortisone last Thursday and tomorrow morning I will row for 30-40 minutes in the single scull in what will hopefully be a gradual return to rowing over the next 14 days before I complete two 'moderate' weeks of training before heading to europe on the 24th June to race.

Cortisone Injection in to the left shoulder joint under imaging 

It has been frustrating for me over the last few weeks to have come to understand what has transpired recently. Particularly for me in the last 9 months to have spent so much time effort and energy rehabilitating my legs to the point where they were in reasonably good condition, only to be struck down with a shoulder injury which I last had surgery on in 2009 and had been 100% since. On reflection I became so 'obsessed' with the health of my legs that I potentially neglected the rest of my body in some way. Every physiotherapy and massage was targeted at improving my calf muscles. However it was the rest of my body that needed the attention also. To have worked so hard to get my legs in good condition only to have something else fail in some ways sums up my luck a little bit, and really does refer back to the aptly chosen title "Unsinkable- The race to recovery" which following this latest episode really does highlight to me just how much of a race against time it really was for me. For me this has served as a gentle reminder that when you are pursuing excellence in any field be it sporting, academic, professional or even personal there is no room for short cuts and no escaping hard work. Not implying I took short cuts by any means, however I was only rowing full time for 4 months prior to the selection trials and what ultimately occurred is that the training load was to much for my body to cope with at that particular point in time. I guess what I am saying in short is that perfect preperation prevents piss poor performance, and if you have not built solid foundations underneath you in whatever area it is you desire excellence, eventually the foundations may begin to crumble beneath you. You may be strong for a period of time, such as I was earlier in the season where i gained a seat in the M4X for the sydney world cup, however basically from that moment on the wheels came off and the results I achieved post this when reflecting are by no means surprising to me and it is evident where things went wrong and how the preparation can be improved (building stronger foundations).

Touch wood the shoulder will be fine from here and I can progress back in the boat over the next month and head overseas ready to support the M4X should they need me.

Cheers John

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Unsinkable: Episode Twelve (The Finish Line)

The final episode to the Unsinkable Series.

Unfortunately this episode does not have the ending I so desperately desired.

However, as I mentioned in my previous post things did not go as planned over the last few weeks.

Leading into a selection trials when you are on the cusp of being selected/missing selection you need things to be perfect and unfortunately for me as you will hear in this episode things did not run smoothly which is largely a result of my disrupted last 3 years and the effect that has had on my body. I am already back into training with my rib/back injury finally starting to settle and I am excited to race at the 3rd world cup in Lucerne.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions, as always this is an honest insight....

Cheers, John

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

National selection trials wash up. Speaking honestly..

Hi all,

This is not the post I envisaged I would be writing post trials...

No beating around the bush, unfortunately last week things did not pan out as I had hoped and I was not selected onto the Australian Rowing Team. Instead, I was nominated as the reserve for the men's quadruple scull. I understand that this is a good accomplishment, and just prior to sitting down to write this post I watched  Unsinkable: Episode Three and reflected on where I was during the middle of last year: being unable to walk, let alone contemplate rowing. However, I have always set high standards for myself and will continue to do so which means currently I am coming to terms with the fact I will not be racing at the 2014 World Championships later this year. I need to reset my goals going forward; which are now to get back into training and find some improved form prior to traveling to Europe to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta in the UK, and then World Rowing Cup 3 in Switzerland where I will race in the single scull. Following this I will return back to Australia for another training stint prior to heading over to Amsterdam to support the team in any way they need me. Essentially my role is to support the Australian men's quadruple scull and make sure they are always able to hit the water in training if one guy is sick or sore for a session or two. 

**Please do not  misunderstand the following - what is written may be interpreted as excuses but I call it reality and I understand why things occurred**
So, things are not all bad and it is important I focus on all the positives in my rowing. However I cannot help but touch on the last 6 weeks and talk on how things panned out for me. Following the NSW state championships and selection into the World Rowing Cup 1 team where I was able to perform well and win the men's quad (as shown in Unsinkable: Episode Eleven), unfortunately the wheels came off. During Nationals in late March I became unwell and as a result was withdrawn from the Australian men's double scull. Upon returning back to Melbourne for training and getting over the illness I was struck down with a chest injury, initially suspected to be a bone stress fracture. It turned out to be muscular/joint problems in my back referring pain to my chest and making it very uncomfortable to even simply take a deep breath. I missed 10 days out of the boat and unfortunately it was at a crucial time just prior to the national selection trials regatta. As a result of the injury I 'lightened' my rig in the boat and essentially geared it lighter to prevent any more injury. This changed the feel significantly in the single scull and unfortunately with just 6 rows with this new set up prior to racing I struggled in the race and didn't meet my performance standards. Then moving forward into the double scull rotation I struggled to find the rhythm and feel I was so desperately searching for that I had found just two months prior. Due to the illness and injury I had not spent any time in the double in the previous two months, so I was slightly off my game and as a result finished last in the rotation and subsequently find myself where I am today. In this sport at the highest level it's a small margin between success and failure.

Since 2011 I estimate I have rowed for less than 33% of the time until earlier this year. In 2012-13 I didn't row for more than 3 months of each year. Therefore my body simply was not able to cope with the training load that was placed on it upon my return to training. I felt earlier in the season I was able to perform at a reasonable level and feel good physically, but as the season progressed the lack of conditioning over the last few years caught up with me and bit me in the bum. This was especially the case when I went to put my foot down and train hard for trials, where my body just said no and essentially packed it in! In the end, the result is far from a disaster, and as I mentioned above I will continue to set high standards and perform to the best of my ability and give it all another go next year. 

Stay posted for the 12th and final Unsinkable: The Race To Recovery web series episode this Monday, giving you a first-hand account of the most recent period of my life. 

Thanks for all the support over the last 10 months as I have opened up and blogged about my journey so far. Every like on social media or comment of encouragement I have received really makes a difference and I appreciate your support.

Cheers, John 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

National selection trials start tomorrow

Hi all,
Tomorrow is an important day, every result this year counts for nothing and it's game on. We begin the selection trials for the world champs team.
We start the racing with a first and final in the single scull. This will begin the ranking for the 8 of us contesting for seats in the sculling team.
I am looking forward to the racing, although I would much prefer not having to wait around until 2pm for the race. Occupying the time waiting over the morning can be a challenging time and it is important not to waste any energy on unnecessary nerves. I am looking forward to finding out where I sit within the group and see what has changed since the national championships last month.

In sport you must make the most of your opportunities, however it can be frustrating when things in preparation do not go to plan. Unfortunately for me a week after nationals I managed to pull up sore from a 25km training row. I presented with a rib issue and medical staff gave me 5 days out of the boat to let it settle. But, 7 days later still no better and I was sent for a bone scan to assess if it was structural damage. Fortunately it was all clear, however I did miss 10 days out of the boat during an important training block leading in to trials. In the overall scheme of things though I cannot complain as I have not even made it to trials since 2011 and a few days out of the boat is fine if it means I can race now, and compared to the extended periods of time I have sat on the sidelines over the last few years, this is a small blip in the preparation.

Time to rest up and get the mind and the body prepped for tomorrow.

Cheers, John

Monday, 21 April 2014

Unsinkable: Episode Eleven (World Rowing Cup 1)

After a scratchy performance in my first two races at the National Championships, it was good to be a part of a successful result in the quad with sasha, cam and nick. The race was my first ever quad scull race, so i was rather pleased it all went according to plan. Unfortunately the footage of the race is copyrighted, so we couldn't include the race footage in this episode- but you can view the link to the race by following this link.

This particular race was a long time coming, it was an emotional day for me. I appreciate that adversity is very much an individual thing and what may seem frustrating to one is not to another. However I do know that my parents have lived every moment of it with me (barring the operation I underwent prior to informing them) and have witnessed first hand the frustration, so to have them watching me once again competing at a high level and sharing my enjoyment was a memorable moment for me.

Cheers, John