“I needed to test myself”

Member Story by Andrew Prowse

In late August, at the end of three months of aggressive and debilitating Hospital in the Home treatment for a highly damaging bacterial lung infection, I had a moment of clarity. This was a state of mind that had evaded me during the haze of treatment and for some time before. I thought to myself around the time I had my well-worn PICC line removed, “I need to test myself, to see what I am capable of”.

The idea of competing in the Australian Transplant Games had not occurred to me until a friend living with CF, himself having competed previous games, suggested this option. He informed me I did not need to have had a transplant to compete – CF on its own was sufficient. This was a boon!

Athletics, in particular running, was always a preferred sporting pursuit for me, having participated in Little Athletics and competed at school representative level in sprinting. The early October date for the Games in Melbourne did not deter my ambitions, nor the fact I had not done any sprinting in 10 years. I justified in my mind competing in the 100m, 200m and long jump events, well knowing I may not get a podium finish, but proving to myself I could still do it.

I immediately linked back up with my personal trainer Michael at the gym and set about preparing for this exciting target. In five short weeks there was no time to work on the guns. Training had to be optimised, and so the focus was to build strength in the legs. This leg strength was built through weights, body resistance and sprinting sessions. I could feel and see tangible progress in my strength and recovery times, improving with each training session.

Come Games day and it was just to say I was apprehensive. The 100m was up and we were set like horses ready to jump out of the barriers. I exploded out at the start – only 4 steps in to slip and lose my footing. My recovery felt in vein as I attempted to charge down the front runners. My 14.31sec time felt underwhelming.  I was upset and furious with myself, and failed to place any importance on the fact I’d achieved well under my goal of 15sec. My greatest supporter acknowledged and comforted my frustration, but helped me put my emotions into context. I needed to remind myself how far I’d come, how sick I was only weeks before, and that I made it.

The long jump was quite the spectacle. Having missed the marshalling call I ran over half way through the event and lost the opportunity to use my practice jumps. This is how it panned out:

  • Jump one a spectacular footage slip, ending up with a glorified commando roll and a head full of sand;
  • Jump two hit the sweet spot, leaping forward with gusto to record a 4.17m jump;
  • Jump three was an even bigger jump. My amazement was short-lived by a loud foul call.

Just like that it was all over. Having dusted the remaining sand off myself and unlacing the sprinting shoes I prepared to head back to the stands. To my complete shock the announced the results – 3rd – a bronze medal. I thought this was ludicrous! In spite of this I felt a warm sense of pride.

The last event, the 200m, was in no uncertain terms a struggle. On the sound of the gun I launched out and held place with the other competitors for the first 80m. Suddenly I started to breathe heavily and felt like I was sucking air in through a straw. I could see my competitors rapidly fading into the distance and my own body fading too. Those last 120m were a momentous struggle. Doubt seeded into my mind amid whether I should pull up. Hearing my fiancée Heidi scream in encouragement on the sideline was the only thing willing me across the line. Falling across the line and into the tarmac my body had blown a gasket. You know that feeling where all your energy has been sapped from your body and in a state of delirium? That was me. As I wobbled off the track supporters came to my aid and soon paramedics could be soon through an oxygen mask. I was over-exherted and dehydrated, sending my vital signs spiking. Finishing my Games day at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne was not in the pre-Games plan, but was certainly symbolic of how much I tried on that day. Within 2 hours of observation, my vital signs were back to normal, and off I was back to the hotel for a needed sleep.

CF’ers and resilience often find themselves in the same sentence. Looking back I feel the bronze medal was not so much for the long jump result, but the reward for my perseverance over the course of the previous few months. We fall and we stand. There is no other way, so we may as well grab onto the times we stand and run with it.

This story is not mine to tell alone. There are a few key people I must acknowledge and express my deep gratitude to:

  • My gorgeous fiancée Heidi, who weathered the storm and kept pushing me through each step and over that white line;
  • Professor Ashley Watson and the Hospital in The Home team at The Canberra Hospital for their excellent patient focused care and ability to put up with me for three months;
  • Michael Ramm as my personal trainer worked miracles in physically preparing me for the Games in only five weeks. I not only regained my fitness, but my confidence to exercise again;
  • Fitness First Deakin for their ongoing in-kind support in allowing me to work with Michael at the gym and keep being the best physical version of myself I can be;
  • Vicky Bellingham (ACT Games Team Manager) and the ACT competitors for their loud support,

And above and beyond Cystic Fibrosis ACT for their financial support over the last 12 months, including regular Personal Training sessions and sponsoring my attendance at the Games. This provided me with not only the practical resources to meet the goals I had set, but also mental strength to fight to achieve them knowing I am not in this alone. Without that support the Games would have remained only a moment of clarity.

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