A tale of woe not row.

I’m never sure whether anyone reads this. Actually, that’s a lie. I know some people read what I post. Be it on the johntherower.com website or on Twitter. But what I don’t know is whether anyone pays more than the usual passing interest that you’d show a funny cat photo on Facebook (don’t worry, I don’t have any pretentious thoughts of being as entertaining as a funny cat photo!)

My reason for pondering this isn’t a desperate need for people to validate me – it’s that if anyone does have a passing interest in my rowing, you may have noticed I ain’t been around much on here!

And this is where my tale of woe is laid out. The last set of posts I put on here were my disappointment at not being able to attend the World Champs at the end of February due to being smited by the nasty cold bug that was going around.

But by the end of February, it had gone and I was starting to build again. Distance increased, strength increased and more importantly, the short paced stuff was getting a lot faster.

I put part of that down to patient hard work on the machine. Another huge part was the new toy I bought. The “Dyno”. An I’ll-fated machine from Concept 2 which breaks the stroke down into a leg press, seated pull and seated press. Using this, I was surging forward with power both in my legs and upper body. A scattering of free weights too and I had hit a great training routine. I even had a few days off work to really get some dirty sweaty metres and training in.

You will, however, notice that the tail end of that was written in the past tense.

All was going well until Thursday 8th March when I was setting up to cook sausage pasta. First things first – slice open the sausages to get the meat out.

The knife wasn’t sharp enough.

So I sharpened the knife.

And thought I’d have one last swipe of the sharpening tool.

At which point, the knife slipped and smacked into my knuckle. No horizontal slicing action, just straight in – like I’d punched the blade of a knife. A meat knife which was already razor sharp.

Needless to say, the meat knife did its job. Cutting through skin, tendon and into the joint capsule as though it were butter.

So an evening in hospital, the next day in surgery to re attach the two halves of my middle finger tendon – and my hand in a cast.

That was five weeks ago.

After two weeks, the cast came off and the stitches came out. But I couldn’t close my hand, or bend my middle finger. So rehab begun. Slowly, patiently I exercised my fingers to get them moving again. I massaged the knuckle to break up the scar tissue, and I rubbed as much Arnica cream on there as I could.

The cut itself was only 1cm wide. Made longer to go round the side of my knuckle for surgery – but that has healed nicely. Should just be a boring scar after a few more weeks.

My fingers still seize up overnight – but in the main, the three that weren’t damaged (and my thumb) move well. And the middle finger is getting there. Very stiff, and feels odd – but I’m hopeful that in time it’ll recover fully.

This Friday I’ve got a physio appointment that will hopefully set me on my way to recover in time.

Obviously it’s been killing me not being able to row for the past few weeks. How have I kept going? zWift. If you don’t know what that is, it’s software which connects to your bike when used on a turbo trainer to let you race others around the world, and train in a more realistic way than just spinning in a turbo.

Obviously this is ideal for me as I can’t ride outside – so having hills and sprints to attack as though I were outside is exceptionally motivating and has been how alive (hopefully) not let my fitness drop too low.

I’ve been using my Dyno too – not much, but gentle pulling on it seems to actually help stretch and ease the tendon slightly. So after every session on the bike, I do a simple 30 pulls on the lowest setting.

It’s all slowly/gently right now! I don’t want to risk snapping my tendon…

And last night, I finally climbed on board the C2 and investigated what a real row would feel like. Slow. A bit painful. But not out of the question.

A very slow 500 with the drag set to its lowest and oversized grips attached to the handle. The underside of my cut finger still feels bruised so I’m not going to push the rowing yet – but even if I can hit a 500m Row after the zWift training sessions, hopefully it’ll go some way to breaking up the bruised scar tissue and help me come back.

I have no delusions about being back soon. I figure I can keep the cycling and short rowing going at least until the end of May. Maybe start to increase the distance but not the pace when it comes to rowing. Not because I don’t have the fitness, but just because I know what damage I have done to my hand and also know that pushing it too hard will put me back to where I was, and likely worse.

So not the best start to the year. I’m beginning to think it’s the curse of the World Indoor Virtual Sprints. Between illness one year, injury last year and then this hand nonsense this year – I haven’t been able to properly compete at for one of them yet.

And of course, needless to say there will be no competitions this side I autumn. Just Row is happening in two weeks – which is registered for – but I’m not longer going.

Sad, but there are worse things to miss out on in life! Though I would have liked the chance to win a bike-erg…

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