It’s been a few weeks since I was in hospital with myocarditis, and I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself again. Up until a couple of days ago, I was still feeling very fatigued and was lacking energy. I needed to sleep constantly, and was suffering a general malaise that seemed to hang over me like a grey cloud. But since Friday, I’ve perked up. The cloud has lifted.
But something has changed.
I’m not a gifted athlete, but I have found that I can suffer and hurt enough to make up for a lack of talent. That’s what has helped me to achieve some of my triathlon goals this past 18 months. And that’s what I thought I could rely on to keep pushing myself to achieve bigger and better things.
But I’m frightened that I will no longer be able to push myself. I’m frightened that I’ve done permanent damage. I’m frightened that I will not be able to moderate myself, and do even more damage.
I’m overcome with rage when I see people out riding and running. I want to be able to feel that rush of exertion, and I’m sick with envy when I see other people out thriving at the outer extremes of their physical potential.
I tortured myself by watching the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Their joy at going beyond their limits. Their frail condition after stumbling over the finish line. Their physical emptiness having left every shred of themselves out there on the tarmac. I miss that feeling. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Rush’, I watched Kona with the same tortured expression as Niki Lauda watched James Hunt win race after race on TV, while he was confined to his hospital bed. I was desperate to be back in the hurt locker.
I should be allowed to start some moderate training over the next couple of weeks, and I’m excited, but worried at the same time. How will I know when I’m pushing too much? Or worse, what if I let my anxiety rule my ability to push myself? Deep down, I’m scared that from now on I will have to “take things easy” – to go for a gentle jog, to spin my legs over on the bike, to go through the motions of being an athlete without ever crossing the boundaries that you reach after sustained suffering.
I’m frightened that I will not be allowed to try.
I’m frightened that I will be allowed to try, but that I will be too frightened to.
(Wasn’t sure what image to add to this post, but this was taken at the start of IM Melbourne. Never posted it before. It’s a nice reminder of stronger times.)
*If anyone out there has experience of endurance training after suffering any kind of heart trauma, it would be great to hear your experience or feedback in the comments below – thanks!)