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Rachel Skeleton Blog

Posted: 10th Jul 2018 by Lewis Smith

Blog 7- And so the Olympic Cycle for Beijing Begins
By Rachel Hanagan

I wasn't intending to do another blog for a good few weeks yet, but as I am flat-bound for the next few days I thought I’d make the most of the spare time and update you all on what’s been going on this past month or so. As I write this blog I am currently in bed with my leg propped up on a stack of cushions, with 60’s music blaring out of my laptop in an attempt to drown out the pain and discomfort I am currently experiencing. For those of you who saw my social media post will know I travelled to Oxford for an ultrasound scan and potential injection. Well it turns out that I needed that said injection! Allow me to explain (as briefly as possible)...

So basically since the 2nd week of summer training I have not been able to sprint maximally due to pain felt on the side/back of my right knee. It initially started out as feeling tight, but by the 4th sprint session I was in unbearable agony and unable to run. Now I must admit, I’ve got a reputation in the squad as being a bit of an enigma when it comes to injuries. I mean I rarely require medical attention, but when I do I don’t present with typical symptoms and I often baffle the coaches, physios and medical staff. Yet despite the jokes about it being another “Rachelism” they do understand and know that if I say I’m in pain, then I really am!

I was originally diagnosed with tendonopathy but the prescribed hamstring isometric exercises weren’t helping and nothing showed up in the first ultrasound scan. I had another evaluation with both the Skeleton and head EIS physio, who despite some uncertainty (as discussed above) diagnosed me with bursitis. This is inflammation of a bursa which is a sac filled with lubricating fluid located between bones, muscles and tendons. There was no timeframe of how long it would take to heal, I just had to take ibuprofen and do a lot of Game Ready (Ice Compress machine) to get rid of the inflammation. The nutritionist also got me taking fish oil capsules, as well as drinking and eating jelly to help reduce inflammation (yes Hartley sugar free jelly sachets are very much an important part of my diet now). Over the next few weeks the pain was decreasing and I was able to increase intensity into my sprints and was actually up to about 90% maximal running at the end of block 1. During the transition week where the training volume is decreased slightly, I was to start weaning myself off the ibuprofen, so by the 2nd sprint session of that week I had no anti-inflammatories in my system. Unfortunately that was when the pain returned and it returned bad, suggesting the inflammation wasn’t completely gone.

That was when it was unanimously decided that I needed to go to the ultrasound specialists in Oxford to a) confirm it was bursitis and b) receive an ultrasound guided injection if no tendonopathy is present. Both of which proved to be the case hence why I had a terrible night’s sleep and am now unable to walk or do anything comfortably. The best way I can describe the pain is like the feeling you get when you hit your funny bone, but that feeling being 100 times worse, much deeper and is constant. Plus there is the constant feeling of cramp in your foot and deadness in your entire leg (not pleasant one bit). However, this pain should subside in a couple of days, and the coaches and physio reckon I will be back running soon. I can’t wait to get back to doing what I love (running) and do it maximally without pain!

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Fortunately this injury hasn’t affected other aspects of my training; in fact I have made huge progress and gains in the gym and on the push track. The first major success this summer has been the return of squatting into my programme. Thanks to my coach for fighting my corner, the physios finally realised that squats weren’t the issue with my back, and so I’ve enjoyed being able to do them again and making tremendous gains. I honestly believe too that this has then led to seeing massive improvements in other lifts like the Bulgarian split squat where I am now lifting almost double than what I was at the end of last season (and am up with the boys). Not forgetting to mention my nemesis lift the hip thrust which has gone through the roof this block. Gone are the days of struggling at 180kg, as this week I was lifting 230kg with ease!

My new bodyweight and composition is also contributing to improvements in my power output and leg turnover on the push track. I’m feeling a lot more settled now being lighter (stable at 75kg) and am no longer feeling tired and hungry all the time. Instead I am moving quicker and more forcefully, so much so that I actually broke the Keiser Squat on Wednesday (well the coach shouldn’t have said go for it and smash it then should he?!). This is then starting to transfer into my push where my drive phase is more forceful and I have been able to run further and faster over the brow on the push track. Granted, this has also been down to being better at performing a secret aspect of our training, but I’m afraid if I told you anymore about that I would have to kill you (ssshhh!).

But all in all this summer has started off much better than I anticipated and am looking forward to building on this progress in the coming months. As I mentioned in my previous blog, we’ve got to achieve a push benchmark before being released onto the ice this winter. So I can’t wait until I’m back fully sprinting, because with how well everything else is going, I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to do on the push track! One final positive- this is my shortest blog to date!

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