Road to Steelman
By Thomas Brown
Those close to me know I had a pretty rough time of things in 2018 due to the injuries I suffered to my knee. I had been keeping a diary during my recovery so that after any set back, I could look back at how far I had come. This diary serves as the basis for this article. It starts with a bit of background before going into diary entries. You will notice very frequent entries initially, then as things started to improve, only the big breakthroughs made it into the diary.
I’m not trying to claim I’ve overcame the hardest obstacles in the world, nor am I expecting everyone to be interested in reading this. However it does highlight a few things. It shows that recovery is not always a steady progression and that there are set backs. It shows how far someone can progress in a year if they put their mind to it. It also shows that it is possible to come back stronger after an injury, even within a year.
We will pick the story up at the start of May 2018. I’d been injured most of 2017 (shock!) and was firmly on the comeback trail. Running wise I was in PB form. I had 3 main goals for the year which were the Slateman (mid May), the Monster Middle and Helvellyn.
It was 9th May and I had entered the Dinas Bran fell race. This would be my first fell race and would be useful preparation for the hilly off road runs of the Slateman and Helvellyn. I started near the back and was working my way through the field and feeling good. It was on the first significant decent that my knee gave way. I remember hearing a loud pop, I knew what had happened instantly. Marshalls carried me down the hill and bundled me into a car. I was then transferred to my own car and was driven to A&E by Sarah Ryder. Sarah stayed with me during the whole of the 12 hour wait to be seen. I’ll never forget that!
After a few weeks of physio and some very slow progress, I was referred to a consultant. An MRI scan revealed I had dislocated my patella and when it went back in, some debris was left in the join. An arthroscopy would speed up recovery and prolong the life of the knee joint.
4/7/18 – Knee scope to remove debris. Can fully weight bare following the op. Travelled to Sunderland for recovery.
7/7/18 – Knee is getting worse, not better. Pain is too bad to sleep. Absolutely zero movement in the joint. Cannot fully weight bare.
16/7/18 – Visited GP and referred straight to A&E. Knee is infected. Second operation carried out to wash it out.
18/7/18 – Discharged with oral antibiotics.
20/7/18 – Knee returned to the state it was in before the wash out, returned to hospital.
21/7/18 – Third operation / second wash out of the knee to fight infection.
24/7/18 – Discharged with oral antibiotics.
27/7/18 – Some improvement. Took first 3 steps without crutches for 20 days.
31/7/18 – Started physio.
6/8/18 – Stitches removed. Physio advised to ditch crutches in the house and to try light cycling or swimming for 10 minutes at a time.
7/8/19 – Unsuccessfully tried to cycle on a turbo. Still not enough movement in knee to cycle.
8/8/19 – 50 minutes walking outside with crutches.
9/8/19 – Managed 10 minutes easy spinning on a bike.
10/8/19 – 1km walk, no crutches.
12/8/19 – Able to walk down stairs.
16/8/18 to 20/8/18 – went on holiday to Budapest. Walking ramped up throughout the week. Walking far slower than normal pace but notable improvements through the week.
23/8/18 – Bike sessions increased to 15 minutes easy.
23/8/18 – First swim completed. (50 pull / 50 swim) x20
26/8/18 – First outdoor swim completed. 1.2km skins in Hatchmere.
27/8/18 – Swam 3km in Bala, wetsuit.
29/8/18 – First outdoor ride(s). 15 mins to work and 15 mins back.
7/9/18 – Spin bike sessions upped to 30 mins and 5 mins X trainer added.
9/9/18 – Buttermere 5km swim completed!
27/9/18 – First attempt at running on a treadmill. (1min on, 1 min off) x6
29/9/18 – Running (1 min on, 1 min off) x8
30/9/18 – Running (2 min on, 1 min off) x 4
4/10/18 – Running (on track) (400m on, 200 off) x3
10/10/18 – Running (on track) (400m on, 200 off) x4
12/10/18 – Running (on road) (600m on, 200 off) x4
13/10/18 – 20km bike ride
14/10/18 – Running (on road) 2 x 1km
16/10/18 – Road running. 3 x 1km. Feeling pain around the back of the knee.
21/10/18 – 44km bike ride
23/10/18 – Aborted run on the track due to pain around the back of the knee.
25/10/18 – Running. 3x1km with significant stretching between reps. Some improvement.
27/10/18 – Running. 4x1km with significant stretching between reps. Some improvement.
28/9/18 – 100km bike ride.
30/10/18 – Aborted run after less than 2km. Pain in the hip. Cannot pick up leg.
2/11/18 – Another aborted run, hip issues.
13/11/18 – Tried a run after 11 days of no running and stretching the hip 3 times per day. Still aborted the run.
18/11/18 – 4 hour hike in Lake District with swim in Stickle Tarn.
19/11/18 – 45 minutes cycling on a turbo with some genuine threshold efforts.
27/11/18 – Attempted running again. Aborted after 400m. Impact hurt the knee. Hip issue untested.
6/12/18 – First hard swim session with Wrecsam Tri
11/12/18 – Tried running in knee support recommended by physio. 2km covered. Some pain on impact but not major. No hip issue.
12/12/18 – Observation that my legs feel completely battered after running only 2km! Not just the knee but calves too.
16/12/18 – 2km run. Pain on impact ‘downgraded’ to discomfort.
24/12/18 – Running built up to 4km over the last 8 days.
26/12/18 – 5km run done on old Sun City route.
29/12/18 – Sunderland parkrun completed
1/1/19 – Keswick parkrun completed
3/1/19 – 6km run completed
5/1/19 – Chester parkrun completed
10/1/19 – 7km treadmill run completed
12/1/19 – Gateshead parkrun completed
15/1/19 – 8km run completed
27/1/19 – Tatenhall borders league completed (9.8km)
29/1/19 – 10km run completed
2/2/19 – Oswestry parkrun completed
5/2/19 – 12km run completed
9/2/19 – Delamere parkrun completed
12/2/19 – 14km run completed. Longest run in 3 years!
19/2/19 – 16km run completed
23/2/19 – Erddig parkrun completed
26/2/19 – 16km run completed
3/3/19 – Birkenhead borders league completed. Starting to gain speed (4:45/km)
5/3/19 – 18km run completed
23/3/19 – Duathlon. TNT Past v Present. 2 runs were very offroad. Tiptoed around these two legs. Felt strong on the bike.
26/3/19 -19km run completed
7/4/19 – Triathlon. Ulverston Sprint. Strong swim, tough bike with a headwind. Ran at 4:42/km for the run. Very happy to be racing again!
9/4/19 – 21km run. Half marathon distance!
12/4/19 to 19/4/19 – Chester Tri trip to Mallorca. 490 miles covered on the bike. Very little running, saving my legs for the bike.
24/4/19 – Borders league @ Prestatyn. Ran at 4:28/km.
29/4/19 – 16km run. Getting running legs back after Mallorca.
1/5/19 – Return to Wrecsam Tri track session. Around 11km total.
5/5/19 – Anglian Water standard distance tri. Shortened swim. Pushed 226W for the bike leg. Ran at 4:39/km.
12/5/19 – DIY middle distance triathlon. Swim – 34 min. Bike – 3hr 4min. Run – 2hr 2min
19/5/19 – Southport standard distance tri. Garmin boo boo on the swim, 225W on the bike. 4:38/km run.
9/6/19 – Big Bala Brick. 3 hr hilly ride. 10k run at 5:05/km.
23/6/19 – Denbigh Sprint tri. Age group win!
27/6/19 – Big Bala Brick. 40km at 194W. Run aborted at 7km. Defeated by heat.
7/7/19 – Big Brick. 2x laps DEVA loop, 189W. 15km run @5:28/km. Struggled in heat.
21/7/19 – Steelman Recon Weekend. 2.3km swim. 45km bike HARD. 11km run @ 5:22/km
22/7/19 – Steelman Recon Weekend. 90km @ 200W
3/8/19 – RACE DAY