Meet Postis

So I have been wanting to write about this for some time now, however have held back just to ensure I don’t ‘speak too soon’. Life as a skier without a car isn’t the easiest, however when you aren’t part of a club team and need to do a lot of domestic racing in Sweden, it becomes a whole lot harder if you are car-less. So here is my solution to the problem! A 2000 model Volvo V40 that has been affectionately named ‘Postis’ (after the yellow Swedish Post cars) by my girlfriend Teresa.

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As you can see, the appearance with the old chalk board yellow duco spiced up with the odd pocket of rust isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing to say the least. But, horrendous looks comes with a mighty good depreciation rate! So here is a top of the line model with a 2.0L Turbo charged engine, leather surround heated seats, cruise control, traction control, studded winter tyres along with summer tyres on Alloy Rims. All for a stupidly low price of 5500SEK (or just a dab under $895 AUD). Unexpectedly, everything works including the air conditioning with the only exception being the driver’s heat seater button which is a little temperamental but I’ll get around to fixing it. It is the cheapest car I have ever owned but is also the newest, and has the least amount of km’s on the clock out of any other car I have previously owned.

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So, why is it so cheap? Firstly, used cars here in Sweden are worth nothing. Volvo’s usually hold their value slightly better due to Swedes being proud of anything Swedish and also due to Volvo’s reputation for reliability. Unfortunately, for all those that thought it was good idea at the time to buy an odd coloured new car just so they could spot it in a busy car park lost out big time! Other models with mechanical issues and no registration in a normal colour were on the market for 8000SEK and here was one that had just passed rego and was reduced from 9,999SEK to 6000SEK. Of course I bargained him down a little by finding the odd imperfection here and there that hadn’t been included in the advertisement.

Note: The cargo print on the dash is not there by choice! A lot of work must have gone into by a previous owner because it's taking a while to peel it all off! An odd taste to say the least...

Note: The camo print on the dash surrounds is not there by choice! A lot of work must have gone into by a previous owner because it’s taking a while to peel it all off! An odd taste to say the least…

Here’s a little word of warning though. Buying a dirt cheap car is a risk. Like I said in the Momo post, you need to know what to look for and even still you have to factor in things going wrong. You just have to hope that they are small issues that can be either cheaply fixed, or fixed by yourself with a little know-how. When a car is worth so little however,  the level of risk curve takes a bit turn as it doesn’t have to take you that far before it has already paid for itself! This car took me 2500km without any form of issues what so ever. Doesn’t use any oil or coolant and still has a fair old punch when the turbo starts spooling up. Nothing like the WRX, but has a fair crack! Not only that, but it will do 6.8L/100km on the open road, all given by yet another feature – the on dash display which gives fuel efficiency, outside temperature, range left and how many km’s since the last service. All pretty good for an older car.

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For those of you who read my earlier ski blog, whilst driving the 380km to Ostersund last week, Postis was really put to the test with temperatures getting down to -30 degrees C. This brought on the first issue, which resulted from the Intercooler outlet freezing.

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To try and keep things simple terms, the turbo charger uses the exhaust gasses to run a turbine which creates pressure. This pressure then forces air through the intercooler (to be cooled) and then into the induction system, creating forced induction. When the air is already so cold at -30, contains moisture, and is then sent through the intercooler it can be too much. As you can see in the photo above, the thick hose at the front of the engine bay is was takes the air out of the intercooler after it has been cooled. That entire outlet had frozen up and was causing the engine to starve with no enough air flow. Thankfully that was an easy fix after the car was placed in a warm garage overnight.

After a cold snowy road-trip

After a cold snowy road-trip

The second issue resulted when driving home when the car started ‘hunting’ on idle. This means that the car was revving at idle without any accelerator. After some research I decided to pull apart the Idle Air Control Valve (IAC) to see if that could be the problem. As you can see, there was a significant amount of build up potentially causing the valve to malfunction. After a good clean, the issue is now resolved. It’s a cheap man’s fix though so may only be a temporary fix meaning I could be up for a new IAC entirely, however luckily these can be bought at a relatively low price.

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The car has now taken me over 3000km and as a result, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that it’s a fair win.

Momo – A well deserved first ‘Life’ post

This is the first of the ‘Life’ posts and I hope it gives a good indication of what type of content to expect in the future. Skiing is good to write about particularly when things are going well, however it becomes quite dull especially when things aren’t really going the way they should. Besides, I can understand how reading about just the training and competition side of athlete blogs can be bland. It gives a false impression as to what (most of) our lives really are like! So here is a category completely unrelated and as you will soon learn, I have a few other interests, some perhaps stronger than others.

This first post, as many of you who know me well may have been expecting, is about cars. One particular car in fact, which earned the name Momo. Of course, I’m a car lover and this is a car I loved. An original edition Subaru WRX and in my eyes, still the best one produced.

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The reason for writing about Momo is that is a perfect display of what a small sum of money can buy if you take the time to snoop out a bargain. I am completely against buying new cars for the simple reason of it being too consuming. A lot of energy, time and workmanship is put into making a car so to be renewing one every year or two with amazingly terrible depreciation rates is just something that doesn’t make sense to me. So here is a mission of mine to show people there are very cheap and still very good cars on the used car market with lots of life left in them!

I sold my old Subaru Liberty in early 2015. The main reason was because I was studying full time and mixing it with training and doing coaching work to earn money. Essentially I found very little time to do things that I enjoyed, so why not buy a car that would make me happy every time I had to drive somewhere. The liberty was sold for $3800 and Momo was bought for $4100. Not a big deal of difference!

When you go to buy a used car you have to either know enough about them to look for potential flaws (and reasons why the seller is potentially wanting to get rid of the car). It’s either that, or have a friend who does have the knowledge come with you or book the car in for a pre-purchase inspection. Luckily, my Dad taught me a lot about cars and I like to think that I know what to look for. Main point is, don’t buy a car without it being checked thoroughly.

15 years ago my Dad bought me these Olympic Edition number plates. To me they are very special gift.

15 years ago my Dad bought me these Olympic Edition number plates. To me they are very special gift.

Momo had a lot of work done to the engine before I purchased the car and this is something else to look for. Often people don’t appreciate the money that goes into this type of work, hence why the prices are still low in some cases. This was a great example of that, with having a complete head refurbishment to both heads along with all engine seals being replaced. Surely, that gives some peace of mind that the engine aspect of the car should be pretty sound for some time to come. Momo also had some tasteful modifications which included fully adjustable (height, camber and dampening) suspension, short shift gear box, pioneer sound system and a Hi-tec Exhuast (nothing too loud or menacing). All of which together cost more than the car was bought for!

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In the snow with a boot full of skis is the kind of conditions this car found itself in and it handled every moment beautifully. On a mountain road,  this car was in it’s element. For an 18 year old car, You really need to drive one to understand how well developed these cars were for their time! And for those who are by this point growling with frustration over how bad this car is for the environment, it may not be exactly what you’d expect! Achieving 7.4L/100km on the motorway is not so bad at all even by today’s standards and was even better efficiency than my stock liberty….

After enjoying the car for almost 9months, the car was then sold for $5250 to fund this year’s international competition season. A fair win to say the least. I hope you enjoyed this alternative style of post and that it gives some insight on the bargains available in the used car market.

Another handy hint: If you are in need of new tyres but don’t want to spend the money on brand new ones, search for your car’s model of wheels on ebay and gumtree. People are always upgrading wheels and don’t know what to do with their stock ones which often have really good tyres on them. I sold my old rims for $180 with bald tyres and bought another set with almost new tyres for $250.

Death by Treadmill

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Yesterday was a session that had me scared for quite some time. ‘Death by Treadmill’ for me this week was a 5*6min interval set working in very high heart rates. Mattias is in his element here, he seems to love making you hurt and it becomes one of the aims in the session to show that your hard enough to handle it! But realistically it’s exactly what is needed particularly for me at this point in time. In his very own words ‘time to stop being a little bi*ch and make some GAINS!’

It may not seem that tough by looking at it, but right here I am about 7 beats per minute off my max heart rate. That’s the key, working close to your max but try and make it as smooth and efficient as possible. It’s quite an incentive to hold technique actually, as soon as you lose it, you go straight to the back of the treadmill! Falling off and hanging by the hoist is not something you want to do in front of the rest of the academy athletes using the indoor track and hall. Maybe shows why I haven’t quite skied as fast as I probably should have in the past!

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For the last two, Mattias turns it up even harder, particularly on the last one. By going to within a couple of beats of max, you can see it was just time to hang on – hence the expression on my face….

Recovered

One of the luxuries of staying at home for longer is enjoying the longer days and warmer weather. Waiting for my visa to be approved is torturous! I need to get myself back to Sweden as quickly as I can as I know that is where I can improve the most. Sweden however is terribly cold and dark this time of year… That makes being stuck here a little easier to handle. I do have to start being careful with all the snakes about now, yesterday while running after my gym session I saw two Brown Snakes, the second looking as though it has just eaten a small rabbit or something of similar size – its been quite some time that I have had to be concerned about them. Here is a much friendlier visitor that was in the backyard earlier last week that a lot of people (primarily members of the Mens British Ski Team) were mistaking for a snake on Instagram – a big Blue Tongue Lizard of course! Come on fellas, I wouldn’t voluntarily get that close to a massive snake, my last name isn’t Irwin! Nor Kovacs for that matter – check out what that crazy man has been up to: http://pkovacsxc.wordpress.com/

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After almost exactly 2 months since my accident and after being given the all clear medically, last Thursday was time to see how my body reacted to a maximum effort in the form of a VO2 max test. This is the kind of test that no-one ever wins, your body will always fail, its just a matter of how long you can last – Go till you drop!! This ordinarily gets me nervous, primarily for the pain you are about to put yourself through but also due to the amazing desire to improve on last time. This I hope gives you an idea of how much I was stressing about returning to that treadmill. Performing well in previous tests has been a continual mental boost for me throughout my career – on paper I could match it with the best in terms of raw Aerobic output however now, after this particular accident, it’s all an uncertainty. With Silvana’s (my surgeon’s) expertise, thankfully every measure was taken to try and preserve as much lung capacity as possible, however the actual damage done takes a lot more to determine.

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It’s that fear again – the fear of my lungs having problems dealing with the most aerobically straining tests of all but also the fear of potentially seeing results that one of my greatest assets had disappeared. I was about as nervous as making my Olympic debut – quite simply ‘packing it!’ I made it through to the higher stages feeling very comfortable which put me in a much better head space. At 36 minutes is where I hit my record breaking result last time so I knew if I could just get onto the same stage as that (32-36min bracket) the result can’t be that bad! I made it through to 32min feeling like my system was still coping, after that though the speed at which I fell apart was dramatic! Usually I can feel my system struggling but I can manage it for a while – this time I just fell into a world of pain from the lactic acid. I forced it out to 35min which despite the discomfort was worth every bit back in satisfaction.

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Above are my results and by looking at them closely, there are definitely some unusual things going on. At least however my biggest fear hasn’t quite eventuated. If no injury had ever occurred and I had just been restricted to the training program that I have completed over the past 2 months, the lactate curves and level reached would be as expected if not surprisingly much better than expected. I need to keep reminding myself that I have only completed a handful of sub-threshold and only 1 above threshold workouts. There is good reason for falling apart at a faster rate at those higher intensities – my body has lacked the training in those areas entirely. So with all things considering, I am amazed at how fast my fitness has bounced back.

The confusion comes when looking at the VO2 readings. As you can see on the graph, this test (blue line) shows lower VO2 levels at the same level of work. My best back in September 2013 was 89.7ml/kg and this test shows a bit of a drop to 80.75ml/kg. At first I was a little worried to see this, however the initial responses from the various physiologists I have spoken to have said its not an issue at all. If you are the same weight, and the test is running exactly the same protocol in terms of speed and gradients at each level, the only way you can reach the same level of work with lower VO2 readings is from an increase in efficiency. As I do more intensity training, these values will rise again (hopefully to what they were before) and I will be able to handle even higher levels of work. So to gain efficiency in movement by laying horizontal for 12 days is not very likely, however it’s almost certainly due to the training that I did before the accident. With my coach Mattias at DSA, my strength, endurance and intensity programs have completely changed and hopefully we are seeing some of these gains now even with this set back. To last another minute at the same intensity on the treadmill is completely achievable and I have faith now that I can reach this level of fitness and even go beyond before my key World Cup and World Championship events this season. It’s not in my interest and never has been to achieve the same results – I just can’t think about it that way and this time around is no different. I understand and appreciate the challenge of getting back to where I was last season and that should be enough, but that’s not the way I operate.

I now know that my body can handle the hardest of workloads, and mentally this is a huge relief. Intensity is going to be the primary focus in the coming weeks and as rough as that’s going to be, I’m ready for it!

Continued difficulties with my visa last week has delayed my travel progress. I am hoping to finally get the all clear in the next few days. Hopefully they realise that I’m not such a bad bloke and start becoming a little more welcoming!!! No, I understand the procedures that need to be followed but I do hope it’s all smooth sailing from here.

That was Intense!

One of the nice things about still being at home instead of already being in Sweden is that I don’t miss out on the Aussie Spring! This last week has been amazing weather and that always makes a big training week even nicer!

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Fortunately, this last week I have found the progression in my health and training to continue at the same amazingly fast rate. Already I am back to hitting higher hours again – It was just over a 20hr week! With skiing at lower levels feeling completely comfortable once again, and beginning to return to similar energy levels to what I am use to, it was time to progress one step further. Last week was my re-introduction to interval training, and I was pumped for it!!

The first two sessions were limited to Level 2 which for me corresponds to heart rates of less than 150. The first session of 3*10min L2 classic was pretty easy session but a sensible, tentative approach is certainly necessary given my situation. 4*10min skate was the second session later in the week which was also shouldn’t be that demanding, however I had some trouble keeping it tame! Finally moving at speed again and feeling like I had some power to burn was just such a good feeling and admittedly I may have gone into L3 a few times…. on each interval… However, in my defence it was very difficult given that I am still unable to wear a heart rate monitor strap. Internally, apart from the stiffness and random shoots of nerve pain, I feel relatively pain-free, however on the surface I am dealing with a lot more sensitivity. The skin is still completely numb, however underneath that layer and around the surgical sites is still amazingly painful to push on. I am pretty well known my my ability to over-react on the odd occasion and whilst getting out of the car the other day, the wind blew the door onto my ribs – it felt like I had been shot!! This was definitely one of those occasions… The unfortunate situation is that one of these sore sites lies directly where my strap goes. So after a couple more weeks and a few spoonfuls of concrete I’ll hopefully be fine again, in the mean time we are talking about strapless options. And now it sounds like I am talking about a new bra….

Photo Cred: Carla Zijlstra

Photo Cred: Carla Zijlstra

I do most of my training close to home on the quiet country roads. There usually is close to no traffic, however was quite surprised to be stopped by Ant Evans and his wife Carla, both legends in what they achieved in their sporting careers but great friends. They too were surprised to see me, half naked in the middle of no-where but you have to make the most of the warm weather while you have it! Aussie spring has already been just as warm as some of the nice days of the Swedish Summer we experienced – the roads are already melting slightly!

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Anyway, yesterday I completed my first L3 (heart rates up to 167) session! 4*8min classic climbing intervals was certainly a great opportunity to start opening things up just a little more and to my relief, it felt great!! This has been one of my major concerns, many people continue to get large amounts of pain with heavy breathing after such procedures and this worried me truck loads! Power was not anywhere near as bad as I was expecting, and stayed pretty consistent until the last 3 mins of the last interval. My muscles simply just gave out, they were cooked! But breathing felt comfortable and painless right the way through, which was a hugely satisfying result. Its all just about being patient and waiting for my system back up to speed again!

This week we have a National Team Testing / Training Camp at the AIS in Canberra. I won’t be doing the VO2 Max testing, that will come later! But the plan is to use the treadmill with poles to work into higher intensities in a controlled, safe environment. If successful with no issues, I will then slowly be able to start training closer to the highest intensities.

To boost the positivity of this last week, with thanks to the recent generous additions towards my fundraiser, the goal has been reached and exceeded!! As I have outlined many times before, this has helped me more than most would imagine. The financial issues created by this accident are ongoing and keep popping up as I continue – travel insurance is the latest problem I didn’t consider. With a pre-existing medical condition now required it has added another blow, but with these latest donations pushing the fundraiser over the line, I am confident I will get through it all irrespective!

Once again, its all becoming a novel already, but I really need to say a special shout out to a few people. To the Sim family – Ben, Sami, John and Sonja. To Rod Peile and the Southern Alps Ski Club – As a corporation you show just how much local support there is for us Athletes. And finally to my Ski Club, Cooma Ski Club! What an amazing group of people you all are. Year after year you have supported me, dug even deeper this time and still are one of the most enjoyable group of people to be around.

The Fuel of Progress

It is now 1 month since my surgery and today was my first 4 hour day! As I look back at those weary, uncomfortable and uncertain times, I never would have thought I’d already be back to the current state that I have found myself in now! First things first – the fund-raiser. As I outlined in my previous post, it makes me quite emotional to even think about how much generosity has been show towards me. The target of $20,000 was not just dreamt up, it was a figure that was calculated according to what would be needed to give my sporting career another chance. This may sound extreme but its the simple truth. With a massive expense accumulated, my insurer finally deciding they were not going to cover a single dollar. This combined with missing out on more than half my income for the winter along with other factors to consider, it would have been financially impossible to continue without any support. As an endurance athlete, your body is your greatest asset and mine was a complete mess to say the least. For the past few years now, I have decided to throw all my eggs into the one basket – not to juggle too much and really pursue my goals as an athlete, but all of a sudden that basket was broken. You can start to imagine just how low these early days were but thankfully now these are well and truly passed! With $18,826 raised, my health finally back on track and training progressing much better than ever expected, I feel as though I have in fact found some amazing luck in one of the most unfortunate of situations. To everyone who has donated, you have given me the opportunity to continue. This unfortunately is something that I will most likely never be able to completely repay to you all. The only way I can deal with it mentally is the hope that one day I will be able to donate the same money to someone in need – given them another chance.

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Night terrors, fevers and chest pain during the night have continued since the operation but gladly have began to ease. The medications leave you feeling pretty toxic, cloudy minded and lethargic so I have really just focused on eating healthy. To be honest, one of the most frustrating consequences of this injury has been the inability to sneeze! Spring for me is definitely the least opportunate period for this issue also, being a bit of a struggler with ‘hay fever’. Have you ever tried to hold in a sneeze because you didn’t want to make a noise or be rude?? Its incredibly unrewarding and 4.5 weeks of it has well and truly been enough. 2 days ago I had my first sneeze, and what a satisfying milestone to reach!!

Sushi night!

Sushi night!

As you can see from the above photo, Sushi was one of these healthy dinners where I managed to cook way too much rice! Making quite a lot extra just meant we had plenty for the next day too – quite a good mistake I’d say! One of the other ways to help get back to feeling human again was a day down at Mornington Peninsula. A light run on the beach and sand dunes was a great feeling, and a fresh day became even fresher when a ridiculously big wave decided to come in…

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This was then followed by a relaxing afternoon at the hot springs and this had such a relaxing-ly positive effect on my sure muscles that seemed quite upset by the re-commencement of training!

‘Eat more, train more’ is a strategy I have been working with for about a year and a half now. Primarily because I have always struggled to gain or even maintain decent weight during heavy training periods. This year with a new strength program, I had managed to finally increase my weight to 71.5kg. After the 12 days of lying in hospital, I re-weighed myself to see a depressing 66.3kg. This was definitely one of the lows, I had done a lot to build up my strength and muscle mass and to lose it all so quickly was tough to see. With a change of strategy to ‘eat more, gain more’ plus a pretty solid re-entry into a modified strength program I was shocked to see the scales now read this!

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As said earlier, because strength training is not aerobically tiring I have been able to work into a solid strength program in an attempt to regain what has been lost. This was a pretty low point too at first. When you try and squat a quarter of the weight you previously could manage and have your legs give out on the third set, it almost seems like a lost-cause! Just like normal however, my coach Mattias said something ridiculously optimistic which later became reality. Squats are already back up to 90% of what I was at my best!

Running feels great now and is right back to normal. The only thing is that as a result of the nerve damage, my upper right side of my chest is completely numb and when I run, my right pec feels like it is made of rubber. Rollerskiing is coming along so much better than expected too. I managed 1hr 45 classic today with the desire at the end to continue! Still I am taking the conservative approach though, this is the first time in my life I’m going to be smart about injury rehab! With general chest tightness after exercise and soreness when I sleep it reminds me to stick directly to the plan. This tightness has meant that my mobility has gone from horrendous to comical! For any Yoga enthusiasts, warning! You may find the following image offensive….

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Just like any athlete, progression is what fuels me and right now I’m feeling great!

Forward Steps!

Since last week lots has happened and thankfully it has mostly all been in the right direction! On Wednesday I went for my out-patient appointment which hopefully will be my last major visit to the hospital. During this appointment I met with my surgeon who carried out various checks, analysed new x-ray images and removed the stitched from the multiple incisions that had been made. The news was all great! Everything had held up really well post-surgery and everything was healing at a very good rate. The lung had sealed completely against the chest cavity where the hole had been and the staple line in the lung was very fine and looking as though it had healed strongly in place. For those with a medical background, here are the x-rays. The first is the pre-surgery – you can see the tube in place, however the x-ray was taken whilst off suction with the lung beginning to collapse. The second is post surgery – no tube and the lung  Through a lot of assessment, I was then given the amazing news that I would be able to start training just two weeks after surgery. All very cautiously at an extremely low intensity to begin with, however being able to work into around a 50% workload by the end of that week!!

Pre-surgery

Pre-surgery

Post-surgery

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This news put me in a great frame of mind – the only concern was that my system was still obviously feeling the strain from the trauma all last week. Every night I wouldn’t be able to maintain control of my body temperature at all causing quite extreme fevers which was obviously causing a lot of concern. I unfortunately had another evening in Emergency as the fever was so bad that I was concerned it must have been something more severe. With the medications I was on being very toxic and the inflammatory response being quite major from the accident and operation, the doctors have said that these can cause the fevers. I have therefore just been trying to eat really healthy and take some slow steady walks to help the system re-cooperate and fortunately by Sunday night the fevers had seemed to finally pass!

A particularly nice walk during the late evening

A particularly nice walk during the late evening

This meant that today was a pretty special day for me – It was my first day back into training since the accident. I think as athletes we become addicted to training. It becomes part of life and pushes us to become obsessively goal orientated, right down to every workout. If you have a bad session or fall short of the time, distance or number of intervals it kills you mentally as you feel like you aren’t progressing. This has been one of the harder challenges for me to face during this period, but now finally I am able to return to a schedule and begin progressing once again. I managed 30mins of running at the slowest pace I have ever managed in my life but damn it felt good. Early on my chest felt stiff, however as I went into it, I really felt everything begin to relax and work properly once again. I then visited an old friend from school, Kolby Rook who has managed to build up a very successful massage business in Bundoora (MK Massage). Like so many others, he has gone out of his way to support me while I am here in Melbourne and as part of the support has organised with the Gym that is attached to his business to allow me free entry to begin my rehab.  So a huge thanks to MK Massage and Gensis Fitness!! (http://www.genesisfitness.com.au/)

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Believe me, I will be safe about my return to training as I know just how detrimental over-doing things early on can be to a successful return to strength and health. This afternoons session was based around simple mobility and working through the motions to get the muscles moving again. As you can see, weights were all extremely minimal, but it was nice to just get the muscles working again. Tomorrow is a new day with new aims and goals – back to the life of an athlete!!

Now to the most important part of the post, a message of thanks to the hundreds who have so generously pulled me out of this amazingly unfortunate hole I have found myself in. From more than 200 donors all over the world, over $16,000 has been raised! I am lost for words and completely warmed by just how many people have shown their support. Yes, of course the money is important as it enables me to financially continue as an athlete, however its equally as important to me as the mental boost this has given me. There are some amazingly kind and generous people that are right behind me, wanting to see me come out of this and succeed. For this I can’t thank you all enough. I wish I could write a list of everyone who has contributed, however that really would turn this already wordy blog post into a Novel. But I must really mention a few:

To NSWXC and now to NSW Freestyle also – Our state community based teams are stronger than ever, but have put together some amazingly supportive fundraising schemes to help. Really even shows a different discipline will come to the aid of another in tough times and this really means a lot.  To Rottefella, a binding company who doesn’t even directly support me, their generosity was simply unexpected but shows how much they are focused on supporting athletes! To my old Geography teacher, Mr Ryrie who was always supportive at school, but has shown a kind man never changes over time. To the Weinert family who have helped so many skiers during their involvement in the sport and have helped me so much over the years achieve my own dreams. To James Bennet and the ABC for presenting a segment on my accident and situation and really raising a lot of exposure (link to the segment is: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-06/olympic-skiers-insurance-fight/5725064).  And finally to Cliff from the Sundeck Hotel – To hold a fundraising race and donate amazing amounts to our National XC Ski Team each year should be enough for most, but here is another amazingly kind man. I thank you all so much.

Amazing Support and Some Progress

I firstly need to send out a huge thanks to everyone who has so kindly assisted in helping me get back on my feet. When National Team Coach Finn Marsland helped set up the ‘Help Reubuild Callum Watson’ page, he showed a lot of confidence in the possibilities and so far he has been right! This is only possible due to the huge number of generous supporters from all over the world and to you all I am so thankful! Cross Country Skiing really is such a supportive community to be part of and its been quite overwhelming just how generous everyone has been so far already. With everyone’s help, just over $7500 has already been raised! The insurance company will not budge an inch, I will explain the whole story in a later post about the exact situation once I know the complete outcome, however with this amazing support I feel confident that the target can be reached and I can make it through in the long run. Here is the link again: http://www.gofundme.com/djob50 

Capture

I am very happy to be writing now from a very comfortable bed at a friends house in Melbourne. After just over 12 full days in hospital, I was finally given the all clear to leave which couldn’t have come soon enough, but actually came as a real shock!

The doctors actually came in straight after I posted my last blog update and had some really good news. The X-rays finally gave a good enough result which showed that I was able to go off suction to really test how the surgery went. as soon as the suction was taken away I became extremely nervous and feared to even move! I was so scared of that very familiar bubbling and cracking feeling across my sternum, along with the fierce pain as air would begin to enter my chest cavity. After 15 minutes, I felt nothing. 30 minutes later, I could still not feel anything and I finally dared to start moving around a bit more before standing up. I then got even more confident and went for the short walk to the bathroom and what an amazing feeling that was. For 12 whole days, I hadn’t been able to walk anywhere except for the small steps around my bed. Finally I was no longer attached to a machine and could walk!! Well I had honestly forgotten how to walk properly so progress was slow but to my drowsy eyes it felt SO fast!! I will never forget that feeling.

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4 hours later and I was still feeling great, meaning I had complete confidence it has worked! The X-rays taken confirmed my optimistic approach and a couple of hours later the doctors came in and said I could walk outside. That was another feeling which hit me really hard and will always stay with me. After 12 days under fluorescent hospital lights, everything seemed to bright, colourful and fresh. The other thing I noticed very quickly was just how much I could smell! Spring had seemed to decide to show itself in my time locked away and it smelt so sweet. As you can see, I definitely went a little crazy in there…

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When I finally went back inside it was around 6pm and the final X-ray for that day was done with results that made my spirits lift to a new high – I was allowed to be discharged from the hospital that night!! From being stuck to a machine to being discharged – what a day! Having that tube removed was quite a gut wrenching feeling as no additional drugs or anaesthetics were used. It felt like a part of me was being pulled out of from deep inside my chest and every time I reflect on it, it makes me shiver…

The past few days have been very slow however I try and do slightly more each day. Just to be able to cook good meals and have my own space is something that surely helps the recovery phase. The hospital ward I was in seemed slightly more crazy than I had ever anticipated and I think towards the end of it, I was growing very tired of it all. Looking back, there are a few funny experiences, particularly when one older lady confused Teresa as a Nurse. Teresa was being amazingly kind to that lady and was helping her if she dropped something, but she was never really that appreciative. I think that explained why she was so bitter all the time, here she was probably thinking I was just receiving special attention all the time from ‘nurse Teresa’!

Receiving some 'special treatment' from 'nurse Teresa'

Receiving some ‘special treatment’ from ‘nurse Teresa’

Another lady beside me was in a really bad way but would make matters worse for everyone by not using her nurse buzzer and instead just screaming to get their attention at any time of the day or night. This did become incredibly difficult to handle at times, however I soon learnt that she had a very sad story I felt particularly guilty to feel these frustrations. She received no visitors the entire time I was there and the reason was, her entire family had passed away including her two sons. Many times she would be just screaming at the nurses for a banana! The catering service never gave bananas and this was a regular disappointment to her. My Dad can be amazingly kind and generous and on my last day brought her up a big stack of bananas! It was incredibly rewarding to see her reaction, and even more generously he came back the next day even after I had left to give her a card. This made me realise just how much a small amount of thoughtfulness can go. The actual financial value of those gifts was very low, however to her, the level of thought was what really counted and was worth so much. That is just something small I have learnt from this experience.

Tomorrow I return to hospital for my main check up appointment with various scans and tests to monitor how I have progressed so far. After seeing the results, I will be able to discuss more clearly with the doctors the actual recovery time and when I will be able to return to light exercise. It is exciting, however I am just hoping the news is good, so fingers crossed! I will be sure to let you all know how it goes.