Eighteen months ago on a crisp December morning, I was on a solo ride back from Stratford Upon Avon and was just ten miles from home when a car pulled out directly in front of me. I was descending a hill at around 25 mph, so the impact of the crash meant I incurred multiple serious injuries and I now know I am very lucky to be alive.
Before the crash I was representing GB for my age-group in Aquathlon, Triathlon and Aquabike, however what followed was the hard realisation that this was going to be something that I’d have to work extremely hard to achieve once more.
The initial 4-6 weeks of allowing my bones to heal, getting some mobility back and taking countless painkillers and nerve-blocking drugs were frustrating after being so active, but I was determined to make progress. I’ll never forget the look of pure joy on my daughter’s face when I was finally able to complete the 15-minute walk to meet her out of primary school. This gave me the confidence to attempt the walk to my local pool and soon I was tentatively back in the water, in the slow lane going up and down the pool using only my kickboard. Seeing the swimmers flying up and down in the fast lane spurred me on further to keep up my shoulder exercises and earn my place back in that lane.
Whilst I made physical progress, the psychological impact of the crash was far more difficult to confront. I experienced flashbacks, nightmares in which I’d feel the impact of the crash, and extreme anxiety when around cars and bikes. Loud noises would terrify me, and I had very little inclination to socialise or be in large groups. I had to be driven around and could never predict when the panic would set in. With the help of my trauma therapist, I was able to identify my triggers and devise coping strategies to deal with what was diagnosed as PTSD. The trauma came not only from the crash itself but also from the week I spent in hospital alone (no visitors were allowed due to Covid), in terrible pain and longing to be home with my daughter enjoying the lead up to Christmas.
Although I was feeling much stronger physically, I was still taking strong medication just in a lesser dose meaning fewer of the horrible side-affects. This was the month that I was determined to at least sit on a bike (turbo) and that I did for a whole 15 minutes! However, from this moment onwards I went from strength to strength; I embraced my Zwift avatar and built up my time spent in Watopia. Eventually, (now 8 months post -crash) and with support and encouragement from my therapist and the company of one of my cycling buddies I was able take my bike out on to the road. There were tears and moments of sheer terror, but these were overcome through the pure elation of being back on the road and being out in the fresh air once again. With this boost in confidence that I could cycle for a couple of hours and not be in unmanageable pain or experience a total melt-down, I decided that I would travel to Bilbao for the European Championships and complete as opposed to compete, in the Aquabike event that I had qualified for in the previous season. In hindsight, this was a step too far in terms of my recovery and I had an extremely traumatic time on the bike section of the event resulting in lots of tears and some very high levels of anxiety and panic, however I made it to the finish line and claimed my medal. Following this ‘re-traumatisation’, I needed to step back from the outdoor cycling once more, it took me a further four months before I made it out onto the road again but when I did, I was ready to compete not just complete.
In April I took part in a local sprint triathlon and surprised myself very much by finishing 3rd female and I carried on this momentum into my next event, an open-water sprint distance race in Worcester, where I finished 1st female and 7th overall. For both races, I’d entered with very few expectations of myself other than just to enjoy competing again and being able to once more call myself a triathlete. I intend to do another sprint event in July and then start properly planning my race goals for the following season with the priority being to earn my place in the GB Age-Group Team once again.
I was down but by no means am I out!
Tenola founder and CEO Ian Nolan has a lifelong love of all things active and has competed in a variety of sports over the years involving mud, sweat and tears – the latter following various serious sporting injuries! But it was the challenge of the dual or tri-disciplines of Triathlon, testing not only fitness but endurance and skill that truly captivated him and led to an ongoing passion for the sport. Read More >
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