5 months ago today a 3.5tonne van went into the back of me whilst I was out training, taking me out of the ITU circuit for 2015.
3 months ago today I relocated to Bournemouth to kick start a new career
I like to think I'm a strong person, that I deal with the hand I'm dealt pretty well. 2015 however, is pushing the boundaries and just isn't going how I envisaged. I'm quickly learning that any plans I make are totally pointless, and actually, there's fairly little point planning much beyond the next 24 hours.
The crash has left me with a little more than a broken elbow and the after affects of severe concussion and short term memory loss. It has temporarily taken away a large piece of who I am - an athlete. Ironically, my dissertation at Bath University was all about identity crisis in elite athletes during times of injury...(I think now I would have made a rather fantastic case study). My dissertation spoke about how of an individuals 'self' is influenced by their investment in the athlete career, and how being an elite athlete is so much more than a 9-5 job. Everything I do (or did) was about being an athlete. I didn't start at 9 and finish at 5, it was all day, every day, 365 days of the year (minus 3 week break). No distinguishment between Monday-Friday and weekends, no distinguishment between 'term time' and 'holiday', no difference between Christmas Day and next Monday. It is a lifestyle, a regimented, disciplined life that requires little less than 100% drive, commitment and focus to be at the top of your game. Not just to the training and racing, but to the nutrition, recovery, sacrifices of 'normality' like various relationships, holidays and family occasions, ultimately, for self benefit. Being an athlete is, a selfish profession and hence, as a result, why not everyone 'gets' the way it works.
Being in Loughborough training full time gave me a huge support network of fellow athletes, some of which were (and remain!) incredibly close friends. It gave me confidence, confidence that I was good enough to train in a hub of some of the countries best triathletes. It gave me huge happiness, because I could 'live the dream' of my passion being my job. 26 flights taken in 2014 for training and racing around Europe, its a pretty awesome life to live. I love being an athlete, it has taught me qualities that no qualification would ever offer, and a discipline and focus you cannot teach. I'm not saying it was two years of sunshine, but it was a pretty awesome two years, that I wouldn't trade for the world. Most people know how positive I have been since the accident, able to see the good that has come of it, how quickly I got up, and how I can tell it with a smile on my face. However, without sounding really morbid, the crash essentially took all of the above factors away. It annnialated my confidence, took me away from my friends and support network and took a part of happiness away that my career in the short term, was over.
I am first and foremost an athlete, so when that got taken, I wasn't hugely overjoyed about the situation. However hard and long you try and be positive about a situation that's changed your life to such an extent (even in hopefully the short term), acting like it hasn't and won't break you - the cracks will eventually show, and its hard to keep the brave face. Onwards - and as most know I am now a Personal Trainer down in Bournemouth, where I relocated for original reasons that no longer seem to exist, therefore turning round what could have been an easy escape into standing strong, and building a life for myself. I am throwing myself at my business, friends and a new type of happiness...this thing called normality. I will return to the triathlon circuit, probably not until 2016, but I will be there.
My strength to overcome life's hurdle's comes from my support system. A group of highly trained individuals, individually picked and there every step of the way, meet...friends and family. Over the last fortnight I most definitely did reach that breaking point, where smiling was that little bit harder, and seeing the positives was that little bit more complicated. We are all after all, only human, and all need a little hand up every now and again. The support I have received has simply been overwhelming, and the shortest message often turned my day right around. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, who will stand strong with you when the going gets tough, and who know the good in you will still be there - when you come out the other side twice as strong, and fighting hard.
Life is great, but really weird. As soon as you think you have it sussed, something comes along to test you. Instead of saying 'why me', say 'try me'. Deep breathe, embrace the challenge, and remember nothing great will come from being in your comfort zone. Happiness is an inside job people. Don't assign anyone else that much power over your life. KJ x