Ben & Rhian Martin’s Top Tips On Racing After Injury
Let’s face it – as we get older, with more training miles clocked up, the threat of injury becomes an ever more realistic prospect.
For us, 2018 didn’t start well as Rhian was diagnosed with a serious tendon injury in her right ankle and Ben contracted pneumonia.
Both these set-backs caused a substantial rejig to our 2018 training and racing agenda. We had finished the 2017 OtillO racing calendar on a high; with automatic qualification to the 2018 OtillO swimrun World Championships and also being ranked as World Number One (mixed team) in the OtillO swimrun world ranking.
Here are our tips on how we overcame our challenges.
Our first priority was to get Rhian running again. Working very closely with Alex @ The Drummond Clinic we created a recovery and rehab plan, utilising all of Alex’s physio skills, new stronger insoles (to help correct Rhian’s tendon problem) as well as investing in a whole new collection of trainers. We’d like to thank Apex Sports for allowing Rhian to trial shoes that not only complimented her new insoles, but also provided the right amount of support for a wide array of running conditions (roads, trails, swimruns and walking around the house **yes readers, new “indoor house” trainers were purchased!**
This would turn out to be a 7 month recovery process.
Reassessment of our races. We had to sit down and reprioritise our racing aims. If Rhian wouldn’t be able to run this year – what other (non-running) team endurance races could we enter? We looked at The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race as well as Open Water swimming championships. Whilst painful to find out, we realised that swimrun was the most perfect sport for us – not only utilising our best skills but that it also perfectly suited our life style and family requirements.
Update calls with our sponsors. By failing to race we worried that we’d be letting our sponsors down. But all of them were fantastic in their support, stressing that we should only race when we fully fit and not to rush it. Thanks Alex! This was simply amazing to hear and we can’t thank them enough. The message here is that one shouldn’t commit to racing too early. Most things in life are flexible and good communication goes a long way.
Select shorter race distances. We then received some good news. Rhian’s recovery was on track and she was given the green light by Alex to run again. Taking this on board we looked to enter some shorter, Sprint swimruns. These are becoming more common place in the swimrun calendar – with events like The Great North Swimrun offering a sprint, middle distance and a full endurance event and all OtillO and Breca events hosting both sprint and full distance races. These are great if you’re new to swimrun and want a taster event.
Approach our races with a new mind set. The news kept getting better – Rhian was given the go ahead to race the full distance June 2018 OtillO Isle of Scilly swimrun (8km of sea swimming and 29km of trail running.) We only had three weeks to prepare so we knew our fitness levels would not be as high as last year. This had a positive impact on our race mentality. In the race build up we were more relaxed, looking forward to being on the start line and then enjoying the race. We recalled that seven months ago (December 2017) it was a possibility that we’d never race again. That is serious motivation to enjoy the whole event! Then during the race, we knew that if we pushed too hard, we’d run the risk of blowing up. Therefore our plan was to swim hard and then keep a constant pace for the runs. With ultra quick transitions and energy stops.
It all worked out well. Half way through the Isle of Scilly race we were 3rd mixed team, with the 2nd place team in our sights. We still didn’t push it, agreeing to stick to our race plan, recognising that anything can and does happen in swimrun. At the end of the final long swim (2.5km of brutal, cold sea swimming) we came out of the water in joint 2nd place. All our swim training had paid off, as we weren’t as exhausted as the other mixed team, allowing us to push on and eventually secure 2nd place by a heathy 10 minutes. We were ecstatic. Not only to start, compete and finish, but obtain our best ever OtillO swimrun result.
The below picture shows Rhian’s elation at finishing the race.
What did we learn? Getting injured absolutely sucks, so it always pays to do everything possible to strengthen your body, improve your technique as well as invest in monthly physio sessions and massage. You MOT and service your car – so why not do the same for your body?
If injury does strike get physio assistance quickly. Having (and sticking to) a recovery plan will always get you back racing quicker and you need to engage with your physio regularly to monitor and adjust.
Be realistic on what races you can do and don’t rush back. But above all, take the down time to realise if you are missing your chosen sport. We found out that we really do truly love swimrun and working, training and racing as part of a team. It’s what makes us tick.
Ben and Rhian Martin are now ranked as World Number One in the OtillO World Series ranking. Follow them at @BenRhianSwimrun, racing for Team Precision Hydration UK and on Instagram at benrhian_swimrun. We are proud to be sports ambassadors for The Drummond Clinic. As well as The Drummond Clinic, we’d like to thank Zone3 wetsuits, The Sweat Experts at Precision Hydration and Clif Bar UK for their ongoing support.
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