It’s not over until it’s over.

I feel like I’ve reached a crossroads in my life of triathlon, and at this precise moment I have no idea if I’ll turn left or right. My heart wants me to continue, my body feels like it can’t and my head is struggling to cope with the battle between the two.

I recovered fully from my chest infection and started training again, things were going well, I felt strong, my running pace was constant and not bad at between 8-8.30 mins a mile, my riding felt good, and even my coach commented on how much my swimming had improved. BUT there was one constant that was there, like the elephant in the room that I was choosing to ignore in the hope that it would go away. That elephant was pain, that old familiar friend that has been with me now for over 30 years, my left knee was reminding me of my limitations.

Now I can usually ignore the pain, I can deal with it, over the years I’ve developed a strategy, even raising my pain threshold I guess to run through it. I know it’s there and I can cope with it, compensate for it and deal with it. Unfortunately though in the last month it’s got worse, a lot worse.

I can run, I can keep a good pace but I can no longer deal with the pain that comes with it. I can longer deal with the pain that follows. For instance I ran two miles last night to get home at 8.20 a mile. Whilst running I felt great. I spent the rest of the night in agony, struggling to get off the sofa, wincing with each step going to bed, losing half a nights sleep and it’s not got better today. And it’s not just my left knee, my right has started to aggravate me now as well, probably as a result of overcompensation for my left knee? Remember this was after only 2 miles, how the hell would I deal with a marathon? I can even feel the pain when I’m swimming if I’ve ran the day before which can’t be right?

What is so frustrating is that it’s not an acute injury that can be solved but life time damage that I just have to grimace and cope with ( according to several orthopedic surgeons I’ve seen ). The problem is I can no longer cope with the pain. It’s reached the stage where I am actually scared to go for a run because I know I am going to suffer. I’m 40 years old FFS, not 80, this shouldn’t be happening to me.

So I’ve made the decision to seek further medical advice, and not run at all for at least a month. I’ll continue to cycle and swim, and hit the gym, maybe substituting running with a crosstrainer/air walker session or a rowing session ( although the knee bending would probably hurt ). I’ll continue to use a foam roller, stretch and work on strengthening my glutes which should help. I’ve always said that if a doctor told me to stop running that I’d ignore them, I reached a stage where I no longer think I could. It’s become a matter of life quality I guess. BUT I’ve got to stay positive, this has happened before, and rest has helped, I’ll keep my fitness in other ways.

At this stage I still hope to be at the Outlaw in July, I may have to review what I can achieve but for now I’ll keep working towards that sub 12, I just need a different approach. I’m scheduled to do a half ironman in May, I’ll make a hard decision after that.

The game isn’t over yet, but the pain is 2 sets to 1 up and has just broken my serve in the 4th game. I’m still in it, I’m still fighting, it’s not over until it’s over.


22 responses to “It’s not over until it’s over.

  1. Gutted for you mate but like you said it’s not over yet. Healing and recovery vibes being sent to you.

  2. Lindsey collinson

    My heart sunk when I read this. But after reading again I believe what will be will. U have been my inspiration when I felt like giving up ! And no matter what path u take u will achieve greatness as u always do !!! Chin up we all send u strength and positive vibes that u have always given out !!!

  3. Chin up and stay strong. There’s no injury that’s insurmountable. If you still need proof and inspiration think of Dick and Rick.

  4. Hi Andy,

    Sorry to hear of your situation, here is some food for thought. Maybe grandmother and eggs but, from man even older than you who was inspired by your first book to get back on his bike (miles cycle 2011 = ~50, miles cycled 2012 = 3500):-

    Perhaps frame it this way; You are a competitor that chooses to compete as a triathlete.

    Sounds like maybe competition including running may be something that you have to accept isn’t possible going forwards so it means you may have to consider a different route for you competitive nature. By the sounds of the swimming and biking continuing, you already have at least two disciplines to think of.

    So you can continue competing but maybe as a competitor that choses to compete as a xxxxx?

    Hope it helps in some way


    PS: As a film character once said “a man’s gotta know his limitations”!

  5. I am so sorry it’s not working out for you Andy, it must be horribly frustrating. The tone of this blog reads like someone who is in mental as well as physical pain so I really hope you can find a way through or if not a compromise!

    I agree with the guy who said maybe give something else ago and try and concentrate on what you still have not what is lost.

    Best of luck.

  6. My heart sank on reading this. Now I understand your tweet a couple of weeks ago. I wish it wasn’t like that. But I know you will put what you have learned from your challenges in triathlon and beyond into practice. Stay positive, do what you can, take care of yourself and the path will open up in front of you.

  7. i had the same problem last year, that plagued me from March until December, i tried 3 different physios and at it’s worse i struggled to walk properly for days after only running 1 mile, i have found that by icing my knee every night and taking cod liver oil i am able to run with little discomfort and have no after effects. hopefully you recover, best of luck

  8. Caveat – I’m not a doc, a physio, but have suffered from a number of knee/leg problems through 25 years of judo

    Don’t underestimate the time needed to fully recover from knee/leg problems. This may be months, not weeks. Whilst it is sensible to get checked out by a good doc (which should include an MRI), sometimes you just need to extend the recuperation period and give your body time to heal. Final point – have your trainers recently changed? I changed from NB to Asics and found myself out for weeks with the knee problems it caused. Now on Brooks and no problems. Presumably you have met Brett Fletcher from Lancaster to (re)check gait etc. Get strong soon.

  9. Please don’t give up. All to sad to bow out with a knee injury. Don’t believe what the orthopedist tell you. Seen to many people ignore their advice and continue perfectly fine. Not sure why you are running so fast anyway. I thought the plan was a 12 hour ironman. So a 4 hour marathon is ok? Please check out “born to run” book. Also Phil maffatones big training book. Basically slow things down so you can train more and longer. It worked for mark Allen. Knee pain always means the rest of the chassis needs work. 180 steps per minute stuff. If all this is old news to you then I wish you good luck in future challenges.

  10. I recently read an inspirational comment from a young man (some where in the Manchester area), it went something like this “You’re not quitting, you’ve come to far to quit, get to T2 and get some food and drink in you and you’ll be good” ;-). In all seriousness good luck, try some trail running, sorted my knees out due to the softer surface.

  11. Being in the middle of my own “knee hell” right now, my advice would be not to make any decisions right now. Take the “rest” month and then see how you feel in a month (physically and mentally).

    Now I’ve got the sensible advice out the way, let me make fun of you and paraphrase from your own 2nd book – “Iron Man” or “Tampax man”!!!?!

  12. Like you say, you’re only 40 ffs (sorry mum – he said it first!). Take a year out. Enjoy your family, keep a level of fitness with other disciplines and come back to it. My Dad now runs marathons, he’s 54 this time. When he was your age he was smoking 60 fags a day!

    You’ve got plenty of time yet.

    Just a thought.

  13. Sorry to read this. I had a knee problem that caused me to quit football then do nothing but put on weight before I started out in Tri. It’s very frustrating because you think that if you were a highly paid pro footballer, you’d be under the knife then back to full fitness in a few weeks.

    Hopefully things will sort themselves out. I’ve just finished your first book and it could have been written about me! That’s probably why it’s so popular. An ordinary bloke (no offence) enjoying a less than ordinary hobby. We need a 3rd!!

    You could always join the parkrun family, shorter distance but addictive just the same:

    I’ve just started a blog if you’re interested.

  14. Wish you luck. Just finished your book, and after trying my first sprint triathlon last year it inspired me to book into three sprint triathlons and a duathlon this summer as well as my kids wanting to join a junior triathlon club. Thanks for that.

  15. I’m one of your followers from over here in the US. I’m 40 and have dealt with knee issues that can be debilitating at times, too. Doc after doc wanted to do surgery or told me to just not run anymore, so I did some research and found someone who does active release therapy (ART). I could hear the fascia popping and it hurt like the dickens, but it’s been a life changer. Since you seem like a real fighter, too, I recommend you research it and see if it might work for you. It’s why I’m able to train for my first Iron distance this fall with legs that like running just fine now as long as go back every month or so. Best of luck!!

  16. Hate to hear this! Loved your first book; haven’t read the second. I’m sitting out right now too due to injury… I’ve had 3 knee surgeries (2 ACL replacements & then a full hardware removal), but it’s another injury that’s got me out now. Fact is, I’m a few years younger than you, but I began swimming & cycling, knowing my knee would likely limit my running career at some point, so I wanted to start learning other sports before I “had to”. I hope you don’t have to give up running, but if you do, there’s always aqua bike or cycling period. Agree with PP about ART therapy – helped me a great deal. I still think you’ll find something that will help. Hang in there!

  17. Hang in there; I had shoulder surgery in December 2012 and thought I’d never get my mojo back but I did and am now back training properly. Good luck

  18. A very good read, you make some great points. Most of the time you must do what you must do for you. And as you say if you do it for someone else it’s more than likely set for failure.

    Keep up the good work.


  19. Hope something can be done to relieve the situation. Don’t beat yourself up over it. I’m guessing you’ve tried knee braces etc to help.
    Take care and remember, things could be much worse,

  20. Morning Andy sounds like a change in focus maybe required. 2 years ago I busted my left knee during a fell run. All the doctors said give it 6 – 9 months and it will be fine. Thus my dream of running the Bob Graham in 2013 were “safe”. To stay fit, some mates bullied me into cycling and swimming. Nearly drowned on that first 50m swim! During this period I read a couple of books by James Cracknell and your own excellent book. Over a period of time and inspired by your own journey and the way James adapted his need for competition into different physical challenges I decided a different challenge that was lower impact on the knee was needed. Thus after Skipton and Buttermere triathlons last year I’m heading towards the Outlaw (logic being the run is 1/3 of the activity, relatively flat with no significant jarring). However, after running the 23 mile Rombolds Stride in Feb, I’ve also come to the conclusion that at 41 I have a decision on my quality of mobility when I’m / kids are older. Thus the outlaw will be my one and only iron distance race. However, the reason for this post is to say, focus on a different physical challenge. To help me through the post running days I’ve signed up to the Dart 10km swim in September. Next year, who knows, Lands End to John O’Groats on the bike, cycle the 2 legs of the TDF grand depart (I live near Leeds) back to back or some other physical challenge that doesn’t increase the wear and tear on the knee. Carpe diem, but also plan for longevity. I’ll still complete the Bob Graham, but probably accept I’ll walk rather than run it. Also got a couple of Munro’s to bag when I retire! Good luck in your recovery and muse over the other physical challenges out there that mean you can still walk when you retire! I’ll keep an eye out for the pirate zooming past me on the bike at the Outlaw.

  21. Have you tried forefoot running? I know several people with knee problems who have given up running, but who is suddenly able to run long distances pain free when they shift to forefoot running. This is the same Chris McDougall writes about in “Born to run”, and IMHO it is dead right.

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