Becoming a beginner again

3.33 avg. rating (66% score) - 18 votes

2013 was fantastic year for me, over 4000km run and I finished every race I entered. I had been injury free for six months leading up to my big run of the year, the 240km Coast to Kosciuszko race in early December, but 180km into the run, my left knee stared to hurt. I felt a pain right behind the knee, and the further I went, the worse it got.

Before the race I had told myself I was willing to forego a year of running if it meant finishing this mammoth event, in other words if I got injured, I was happy to persevere and continue, even if it meant worsening the injury. This thought came back to me as the pain from the knee became ever worse.

I managed to limp home to the finish, and the three days following the race weren’t good as I was hardly able to walk. Miraculously, two days later I was reasonably pain free and decided I would run a 46km trail race that weekend to finish the year off. A few kilometers into the trail race the knee started to protest again, but I again pushed through and got to the finish line.

Ever since that last race in mid December, the knee hasn’t been happy, and while I managed to get some 10km runs done, the knee has not been in good shape.

Come early January and I decided to see my GP and the verdict was I has a baker’s cyst behind the knee which was draining into my lower leg, and possibly a meniscus tear; X-ray and ultrasound required, and then an appointment with orthopedic specialist. And no running until I have seen said specialist.

My next race isn’t until early March, so while some weeks off running would not be a total disaster, I want to maintain my level of fitness as much as possible. The doctor said I could cycle or swim, so the first thought was to get the bike out. The road bike hadn’t seen daylight for a few years so needed a service at the bike shop before I could use it, and when I dropped it off I was told there was a two week wait for bookings. So no running and no cycling…that left swimming.

I haven’t swum laps for four or five years, so I felt like a total beginner when I arrived poolside for my first swim. There was a fast, medium and slow lane to choose from, and optimistically I did my first 50 meter lap in the medium lane. When I arrived at the other side of the pool after being passed by numerous other swimmers, I quickly moved to the slow lane.

The slow lane was better, but other “slow” swimmers still managed to pass me. As I swam I thought about my first weeks of the Couch to 5k program, and how everyone would overtake me, and of my first race where before the start I spotted a lady well into her 60’s and thought how there would be at least one person behind me at the finish, only to see her run past at the 2km mark.

Because of my running my aerobic capacity is pretty strong, and I found this transferred pretty well across to swimming. I could keep swimming for a long time, just not very fast. That first day I managed 30 laps or 1500 metres in an hour and backed it up the second day with another hour’s effort, this time with 32 laps.

Because I am not swimming that well at the moment, I find it quite hard work, and the motivation to get out there and do it is difficult to find. I know that with running the main reasons I run are because of the race goals I have set, the training programs I am following and the ability to meet up and run with friends. With swimming I have none of those, so can empathize with those starting to run for the first time.

Hopefully the swimming will only be needed for two or three weeks, so I think I can push myself to keep going on a daily basis for that time. I know however that if it was any longer, I would need to find a swimming group to join, and find some swimming goals to set.

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