Cat Morrison reflects

Cat Morrison offers a candid account of how pro athletes struggle to come to terms with injury

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By this point in the tri calendar, Scotland’s Cat Morrison has usually racked up a string of podium places at 70.3 and long-course events. Not this year. The 35-year-old has been off the radar since recording 11th at last year’s Ironman Hawaii. It turns out that Cat has been struggling with the bane of a pro sportsperson’s life – injury. Cat contacted us with her thoughts on overcoming this latest spell on the sidelines…

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“Over the past three years I’ve been subjected to varying doses of the following: biomechanical changes; orthotics; soft tissue treatment; high volume injections; cortisone injections, fascial treatment; collagen supplements; chicken soup (seriously!); exercises; more exercises; intra-muscular stimulation; bowen therapy; rest; dietary changes; acupuncture…. and probably more that I just can’t remember. All in the name of overcoming bilateral Achilles tendinopathy.

“In the middle of May I made the decision that I had to get totally on top of the situation. Seasons have come and gone. And I have to face up to the fact that I’m not getting any younger. I’ve been able to manage the discomfort, squeeze in enough quality training to get some great results and then break. Usually right in time for Kona. Obviously this is not physically or mentally optimal.

“The truth is that as time goes by the severity of the tendinopathy gets worse and the length of time between flare-ups decreases. And therein lies the nub – in recent history I’ve chosen to manage the pain. I want to train and race and I’ve been able to do so. I have let my heart rule my head and in doing so I have become slave to rather than master of my Achilles.

“I’ve paid lip service to those who’ve tried to point me down the road to long-term solutions over short-term gain. The clichés and metaphors are endless and I am by no means the first or the last athlete to plod along this well-worn but boggy path. I can wax lyrical about wanting to be the best athlete that I can be and about fulfilling my athletic potential and dreams. But when push comes to shove why am I finding it so hard to let go of being an athlete and embark on being in rehab?

“To an outsider it’s a no-brainer – of course I need to address the issues. However, to me and many others, training and racing define 100% who you are. I live to exercise. I’m the crazy woman on the bike, running through town and swimming endless laps of the pool. I love my daily dose of training fuelled endorphins. I love smashing myself. Races are my opportunity to express this love! Competition and success are positive affirmations that my dedication to pushing myself and my obsession to reach my athletic potential is vindicated.

“I don’t want to give this up. This is how I see myself and this is how I believe others see me. I want to be the super-fit crazy woman, I want to race and prove to myself and to others how good I can be. I want to do myself proud and in doing so make others proud: my friends, family, supporters and sponsors. I want to inspire and motivate others to set personal targets and reach goals. It’s a drug. The more I do it, the more I want.

“I love the hard work and the effort because I love the moment when I cross the finish line and I get payback in pride and personal satisfaction – you can’t put a price tag on that.

“By making the decision to rehab I have pulled the plug on all of this. I’ve taken away the things that make me tick and, in this initial phase I’m feeling kind of lost. My raison d’être is missing. It feels fraudulent to call myself an athlete. I feel guilty that I’m not racing and representing myself and my sponsors. I feel guilty that I’m emotional and grumpy with my friends and family. I feel guilty that I’m not contributing financially to my household. I’m constantly frustrated by my lack of ability to see the bigger picture and on having such a selfish myopic mindset. I mean, in all honesty, I’m only injured and it is only sport!!

“I’m a month into rehab and still trying to work out exactly the reasons for my persistent and chronic discomfort. I’m likening this process to untangling the ball of headphones that you find at the back of the drawer – a time consuming and frustrating task. You think that you are getting there but often end up in more of a mess than when you began.

“What I do know is that there is no silver bullet for this one. It’s going to be a long process of changing biomechanical patterns that have been active for many years. I’m sure that lots of small percentage gains will add up to form a stable biomechanical base from which to build pain-free exercise. Occasionally I find it motivational and exciting to ponder what results may be possible with far more consistent uninterrupted training. It’s quite the emotional roller-coaster: waking up pain free can initiate euphoria whilst the slightest twinge can put a real dampener on my day. I know that it is self-indulgent to feel like this, but sometimes navel gazing gives you perspective.

“Essentially it comes down to a bit of respect. Respect for those who love and care for me. Respect for those who guide and mentor me and most of all respect for myself. If I value my own abilities and potential and the advice imparted to me then I will spend as much time, effort and commitment on rehab as I do on training.

“What I realise now is that accepting that I have to rehab is not letting go of being an athlete – it’s part of embracing the challenges of being an athlete. That’s not to say that I have given up the hope of being hit by a stray silver bullet. So if you have a spare one going, please pop it in my direction.”

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Find out more about Cat at www.catmorrison.com