What doesn’t kill you… makes you better, change sport and yeah just better!

So after an MRI and CT scan, today I was informed by my doc (yes I’m on texting terms with him 😉 ) that there is definitely no stress fracture in the old foot, which is one heck of a relief. I totally knew this already, as having looked at all my CT images… i figured they looked ok. Unlike the MRI which to me looked like i had a gazillion stress fractures! 

I hate injuries, but that’s not really news to anyone. I hate the term ‘injured’, i hate sympathy, I hate having to explain a stress response to everyone, and I hate not being able to pole vault. I also despise those people who whine that they have a little tiny weeny pain… that means they can still train properly…. HELLO…. I have no sympathy for you. (Needed to get that off my chest sorry!)

BUT that’s fine because at the end of the day, I can use that to fuel my fire. By now I should be an expert at this, but the reality is I still cry, I still feel like someone is maybe trying to tell me I shouldn’t be doing this, and like I really want to kick and scream and punch things. And that makes us human hey! At the track, I get into my little zone, I annihilate my bike session and make sure I’m hitting as many PBs as possible in all my upper body weights and rope climbs, and of course no reduced  reps in my circuits because of the weight of my boot… Just have to get on with it. I can see that there are quite a lot of positives I can get out of this injury. Lots of time for glute and adductor rehab as well as giving me lots of time working on my heel toe take off. Ultimately, I know that as soon as I get back to vaulting, I will be in better shape (and I thought I was in the shape of my life right before I hurt my foot) but also that getting through these injuries gives us a mental edge.

I’ve always taken a liking to that phrase “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. Getting through setbacks forces you to believe, forces you to dig down deep and you chose not to give up, you chose to make it a positive. Looking back, from every injury, I have always come back stronger. If i hadn’t needed a tendon repaired and could only spend 6 months on bars, I never would have got to Commonwealths in 2010 as my bars were so bad. If i hadn’t of torn my cartilage, I never would have found pole vault and if I hadn’t of suffered a stress response… who knows! Just don’t write me off just yet! 

I was thinking earlier, I’ve spent the last year of my pole vault career worrying about whether I fit in, do I belong in the world of athletics, what do people think of me? Do they think I am wasting my time? I’m getting good at seeing the positives now and I’ve gone from the very bottom of a sport to a decent level, scraping a bronze medal at nationals, in 2 years. I walked with a pole for a year as my knee surgeries meant I wasn’t allowed to run. So if you think I’m rubbish – screw you, you try it!

Who knows what the future may bring but it’s time I stopped worrying about what other people think and just enjoy this journey 🙂

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Wind… What wind?

So I’ve wanted to write a lot recently but with competitions resulting in poor performances, I felt I had no proof of how valuable the experience I was gaining was. I’ve had to wait till now to write.

So I finished indoor season on a massive high at Vault Manchester with a PB of 3.81m and a Commonwealth standard. Naïve me thought that with outdoors, I’d pick up exactly where I left off, however a niggley knee pain, the death of my coach’s father and my trip back home to the Isle of Man spent in hospital all summed up to a month away from vaulting. Remembering I’ve not been vaulting that long… of course it felt like I’d forgotten everything. We worked on changing quite a lot of my technique and I spent a long time on very short run ups…. Even at BUCS where I jumped 3.50m from just 8 strides. Positive, yet not the heights I was seeking for this season. So this was my first ever outdoor season (due to breaking my ankle last Easter) and so at first I was oblivious to the effect of the wind and then I competed at Bedford a few times in THE MOST HORRIFIC cross wind conditions. So imagine …  second time you’ve ever vaulted outside and you pick up your pole start running and your pole is literally blown out of your hands. I panicked. And then I got myself together and soldiered on to become Bedford International Champion with a measly height of 3.30m. But I didn’t pull out like many others, I didn’t no height. It’s easy to say there’s no point competing … but what if the weather is like that next year in Glasgow!

So we’re mid exams. I keep vaulting in competitions with horrible wind. I’m training circuits and weights with my coach who if you know her, trains like an animal. It’s hard, I love it, but it takes its toll when you’re stressed, tired and panicking about your future in the sport. So I cried a lot. But not once did I miss a session or give up. I soldiered on.

Now training is going really well. I’m making progress and becoming more consistent technically, I’m 6kg lighter and a hell of a lot fitter. But I still can’t pull it together in competition. As a gymnast I used to thrive off competition, I loved it and don’t get me wrong I love competing now… but when you feel like you look like an idiot, and know you vault so much better in training, it’s hard to feel worthy of that 3.81 PB I posted indoors.

I travelled across to the IOM to compete. I knew I’d be by myself with no coach and when the weather forecast showed wind and more wind, I questioned whether I could cope with another disaster of a competition. But the competitor in me got the better of me and I went for it. It was nice to have some familiar faces from the gymnastics and athletics world cheering me on and although I only technically cleared 55. After a couple of vaults on a seriously soft pole, I skied 65 only for my stupid pole to knock it off. This weekend was a stepping-stone. Yes I wasn’t that technically great but I’d gone out there in the wind (again!), no coach (except for Grant who could tell me if I was too close or too tense), with the pressure of the people around me I know, and I’d cleared my first two bars on third attempts (hello pressure!). I then went on to jump 3.70 the next weekend and pulled myself together just in time to clear 3.80 very easily at the British Championships which landed me a bronze medal!!!!! And of course another Commonwealth Games standard. What a relief.Image

My problem is I worry too much about what other people think and to add to that I’m my own worst enemy just heaping the pressure on, but if there is one gift I do have, it’s perseverance. Yep I’m that kid who keeps coming to gym, to swimming , whatever, and I’m not bad but I’m not great, but boy I just cant help but stick at it till I’m… good. I’ve come to realise it’s not about gaining all the glory overnight, it’s about the baby steps you take every day that will eventually add up to your success, your story and one day you look back over the last few months remembering the tears, the pain and the moments of dishearten and you’re proud. You’re so flaming proud to come out the other side and prove you can do it.

This is me.

So this is me. Former gymnast turned pole vaulter.

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So I don’t really know why i chose pole vault. The question I get asked most is – “how did you get into pole vaulting?”And the answer is I don’t know why it came about. At Youth Commonwealth Games 2004, i think someone mentioned that gymnasts make good pole vaulters, but I literally didn’t give it another thought until 7 years later. I guess I always knew I wanted to do another sport after gymnastics and what better than flinging yourself up into the air on a really bend pole to land on a massive mat. Sounds perfect right for the adrenaline junkie that I am!

So in 2010 i qualified for the Commonwealth Games for gymnastics and travelled as part of the Isle of Man team. It had been such a struggle to qualify having had ankle surgery just a year before but i’d made it and I was over the moon… little did I know that I would be effected by jet lag so much! 4 days went past and I was having a lot of trouble sleeping – and consequently a lot of trouble training, my coach was angry, I was angry and starting to panic but I was coping until the last piece of my last session of that one day when after completing a full routine I decided to go back over one skill. A skill that was relatively new but safe. Then BAM everything i’d worked for, everything i’d dreamed of had gone. They suspected i had torn my ACL, cartilage and fractured the head of my fibia, which meant a full leg cast and no way i could even compete bars! So i spent the next 10 days crutching around the athlete village… my team mate Joe had snapped his achilles the day before so  with one wheel chair between the two of us… you can imagine the palava!

It was funny at the opening ceremony… I was forced to go in the wheel chair and i was hating life being so confined and when my coach who was pushing me wouldn’t keep up with my friends I got incredibly frustrated! The tunnel we had to wait in was so hot and everyone was downing bottle of water after bottle of water. My room mate Clem couldn’t handle it and fainted! This was my opportunity – i shot out of my chair and demanded Clem sat in it as there was no way she would cope walking round – which meant i had the freedom of crutching round the arena. All the gymnasts had to return to the village and weren’t allowed to stay for the whole thing. I managed to get to stay with the badminton girls and soaked up all the atmosphere. It was a great experience!

Little did I know that after returning to the UK (business class of course because i couldn’t bend my knee to sit in a normal chair HAHAHA) and meet one of my biggest inspirations, my coach Hen, who had been in Delhi herself, injured her knee and couldn’t compete. We met in the October and both had surgery in the December. At this point i wasn’t able to actually do any pole vault but had registered my interest. Another surgery in May 2011 followed by very strict rehab meant i wasn’t allowed to start swimming never mind walking till the october. By the december i had picked up the pole and was learning how to take off. Jan 2012 saw my first few competitions where to be honest, i really didn’t know how to pole vault! Just as i began vaulting outdoors for the outdoor season I broke my ankle. Another 4 months spent rehabbing and not vaulting! I started to question my future in any sport!!

Through these times my coach was also struggling with injury but she trained so hard and showed so much determination. She made me believe that it was possible to come back – even though at this time i was the most pathetic pole vaulter and probably didn’t show much hope!

So here I am after two knee surgeries, a broken ankle and a change in sport- after 18 months since beginning to pole vault properly, I’ve jumped 3.81 and qualified for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It’s been tough and confusing but with perseverance I’m getting there!  (At this point i should probably thank my best friends and now Boyfriend who had to cope with at least a year of me going crazy!) I’ve learnt so much along the way – anything really is possible!