Wednesday, 14 August 2013

When your luck runs out - dig in by Rachel Carr

I’ve been climbing for a little over 5 years and until now I’d never sustained an injury. I’ve had a few tweaks and split tips, but nothing that has actually prevented me climbing before. This is my first physical hurdle and I am determined not to let it stop me.

GB Youth Team at L'Argentiere
On the 28th of July I woke up and got ready for what I thought would be a really good opportunity for my training. It was the end to an amazing 10 days which had started with the trip to L’Argentiere in France for the second EYBC round where the whole team improved on their performances and team captain Nathan Philips gained Team GB’s first youth bouldering medal.  Tom Greenall (GB Youth Bouldering Team manager) had arranged for the Youth A and Junior members of the team to train with GB Senior Bouldering Team as they prepared for the final rounds of the World Cup. We showed up at Nottingham Depot and saw the blocs, they looked sick. We were warming up and I felt strong. I was doing well and climbing hard. I had 5 minutes till the training started so I got on one last hard problem, moved through it easy enough and got to the last move where I lost my balance, fell and went over on my ankle.

"Are you sure you want to go to hospital?"
 Pain rushed through my leg and I couldn’t move. All I could think was “this is it; I’m done; no more comps this year; I can’t train; I’ll be too weak when I get back” and just as I was feeling my strongest. I was distraught and the look on Tom’s face when he saw the size of my ankle did not help. Carol Hayes (team mate Tara’s mum and a physio to trade) had a look and got me to move a bit. After they’d hopped me to the nearest sofa and strapped an ice pack to my cankle, Carol told me it wasn’t broken but could be chipped so I should probably go to A&E. The ambulance was called and I was bombarded by injury forms. When the ambulance arrived they asked if I actually wanted to go to hospital - I didn’t call them for a chat - then attempted to make me put weight on my jumbo-sized foot and sighed as I slumped back onto the sofa with shooting pains in my ankle. They strapped me to a chair - as if I would/could try to run away - and shipped me off. Carol accompanied me and I am so grateful to her for that

After waiting for only an hour and a half my ankle was x-rayed, strapped up and I was sent off with crutches to go and see what I was missing at the training session.  It was hard walking back through the Depot doors knowing all I could do was watch. I was asked to return to the hospital the next day, but I had a train back to Scotland that night and frankly, I missed Irn Bru. Instead I went to my local hospital where they re-strapped my ankle and arranged for physio. At this point I wasn’t told how long the recovery period would be so wasn’t sure how this was going to affect my training, my strength or my competition season.  

Spectating at the BJBC was tough
I have already missed the final round of the British Junior Bouldering Championships (and lost out on a podium place as a result), but at my second physio session last week I was given an estimate of 6 weeks recovery. It wasn’t really what I was hoping for, but I have to make do. 

Taking inspiration from other injured climbers I went to my local wall a couple days after my accident happened because I wanted to keep up my strength. I realised that I couldn’t do boulders but I could do routes on the hanger wall at EICA:Ratho without any fear of swinging into the wall if I came off. I haven’t climbed routes since January, but I knew that if I didn’t do something I would lose strength and stamina. I got on and one-footed-it up a 6B+ lead route.  Near the top my functioning leg got boxed. My stamina was better than I thought but my leg was completely knackered. Thanks to the massive roof I was able to hang from my arms and try to shake out my leg at one point. It was tough. By the end of the night I had also managed to top a 6c which I was quite proud of as it involved me doing a one arm lock off on a move that required a left heel hook which obviously I couldn’t do. I finished off with a fingerboard session, some core and then a hobble out the disabled exit. 

I am extremely motivated and know that this injury isn’t going to stop me. It may affect my confidence when I can boulder again; it may mean that even though I can now walk on it, I’m not even close to landing on it; and it may mean that I miss a few comps, but it certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to come back any weaker. I’ll be stronger. 

I’ve had another 3 sessions since the accident, managed a 7a+ lead (which means I only have 1 route left to tackle – the others all need two good legs).  I’ve done more campus board sessions, fingerboard sessions, and core sessions. I’ve already improved on all my recovery exercises and my physio is happy with my progress. I’ve gone from not being able to put any weight on my foot to using a balance board with only my bad foot. My aim now is to improve my pinch, shoulder and campus strength. Hopefully in 3 weeks’ time I’ll be back on the boulder wall in time for the final European Youth Cup and I’ll be able to do better than before. Wish me luck…

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