Illness hits - Mar 2012

The waiting game continues as we arrive back at training the morning after the final of trials. We are back on the water immediately to keep the body moving and to keep the muscles loose and lactic acid free after the tough racing, but it is the last place I really want to be. I suffer from exercise-induced asthma that in day-to-day training is well controlled and has no effect on my body. However, after racing I get a very tight rasping cough that carries on for days, sometimes weeks. There seems to be nothing I can do about this cough, it is a lottery if it disappears quickly and generally seems to depend on the training we have after a race. With complete rest it will disappear much quicker, but in this game and under Jürgen’s watch, total rest is not an option. Along with the cough, I also start to feel the onset of a cold. This tells me that my body is really starting to get run down and I should stop training, but it is so difficult. You never want to appear frail especially at this time when your seat is up for selection and so, stupidly, I carry on training just with slightly less intensity.

As the days go on and we are still waiting to hear word of our selection, my cough is getting worse and my cold is really starting to affect me. I can no longer hold a conversation with anyone without coughing uncontrollably and I certainly struggle with rowing, where my lungs are stressed even more. There comes a point where you have to be sensible – that point for me was about five days previously, so I was well overdue being honest and telling someone I needed a break to give my lungs a chance to settle. It is the biggest frustration for me, as an athlete, when my body gives up. There is nothing I can do about it and only stopping training will help the situation. So I leave with a huge feeling of irritation having consulted with the team doctor and discussed the situation fully with the coaches.

At home, the situation worsens rather than improves and an illness takes hold of my body with full force. The following days are the worst I have had in a long time. With fever, chronic irrepressible coughing, wheezing and a full blown head cold, my body is riddled with illness. So I sit indoors, waiting, lying, missing the best weather and best water we have had for months and months in England through illness. I worry – I sit at home wondering about my place, my selection, has this affected the decision about my Olympic place? Of course it shouldn’t, I have done everything possible this year to put myself in the best position for an Olympic seat. Illness at some point is inevitable – better now than in a few months’ time, but nevertheless the mind games do their worst!

It has taken eight days of sitting at home for me to feel even the slightest bit ready to head back to training. I will test myself out on the ergo this afternoon and take things steady for a few days. It is essential that I don’t overdo the training to begin with. But with the best doctors and physiologists at hand, they will ensure I have the correct programme to get back on track as soon as possible. As Jürgen says, “your health is your business” – this has certainly been a reminder as to how important my health is to me, and never more so in the coming months.

Alex GregoryComment