My first 10km since Australia Day and I was NERVOUS as before hand. And when I reflect on it now, the nerves completely crushed any pre-event excitement I may have felt.
It was a memorable day. Melbourne put on one of those winter days that make you fall in love with this city all over again. 18 degrees. Not a cloud in sight. Low wind. Perfect running weather.
So why the nerves?
It's hard to actually nail down your own thoughts and emotions, especially when you're still living them. But with a few days of reflection, I think it's a total, all-consuming fear of injury. Which then leads me to think that I still haven't deal fully with the feelings around my knee reco 10 years ago.
Before THAT day I was relatively fit, playing basketball a few times a week and my weight must have been okay-ish according to the size 14 label I wore.
I can still pull up the exact moment that my ACL ruptured. It was the first basketball game I'd ever played with my daughter - and as it turned out - the last. She had just turned 15 so was 'legal' for a senior team. I'd waited for this moment for the longest time. We were pretty seriously into the sport. I worked in it, coached at elite and domestic level and pretty much everything about my life revolved around one stadium or another.
I remember it being cold on court 3 at Knox, so I'm going to assume it was around this time of year. It was a social game with my friends. I was tired, which was pretty much the default for me. And my head was not in the most positive of places on the domestic front. I was seriously considering leaving my husband. If not in the actual planning stage, it was certainly front of mind. I didn't start the game. I didn't warm up, but then, no one did. It was a social game after all.
I subbed in deep into the first half. Meg was on the bench at this point. A cross-court pass from the opposition was too good an opportunity not to show off in front of my girl. I snatched it and took off down the centre of the court at top speed (for me at the time). And I can remember the thought process - do I lay this up on my right or left side. Choosing the show off route I decided left. I had an open court. No one chased me down because it was a social game. I'd done this literally hundreds of times. I'd taught kids as young as four to do a left handed lay-up. And as my left foot hit the court, my knee, taking the weight of my size 14 frame, buckled underneath me. I heard a bang, like I'd been shot. I crashed to the ground. The pain was excruciating.
At first I had no idea of what I had done. I lay on the court trying to process it. Should I get up? Have I torn a hamstring? Raelene, get up. But I couldn't. My body went into shock.
I remember Meg taking immediate action - as you don when you're 15. She tried to call her Dad, but he was playing at another stadium at the time. So the game played out and I waited. For what I didn't know, but I remember laying on my back on the court-side bench, freezing cold in a bit of a panic.
We went to emergency that night. They did an MRI, which unsurprisingly revealed a rupture of the ACL, Grade 2 lateral tear and Grade 3 medial tear. I've always said there's no point doing something unless you do it well!
Due to internal bleeding and bone bruising, surgery was delayed by around 8 weeks. I couldn't weight bear, but as those who know me will understand, I still went to work on crutches.
Rehab sucked. My head wasn't in the game. I felt sorry for myself. At 36, I was advised to not play again. Really? Never? My graft was from the patella. They don't do it this way anymore, preferring a hamstring graft. Patella means long-term stability rather than flexibility, and at my 'age' that was a better long-term choice. Stability also means reduced range of movement, which still troubles me today. Even after following the 12 month rehab plan; hydrotherapy, walking, strength work to the letter. I can't even stretch my left quad properly. And my version of childs pose at pilates is just plain embarrassing.
Still - 10 years later I'm stuck in the what-if's.
If my mind was on what I was doing - if I was fully present at that game - would this have happened?
Truly I am a fatalist. Everything does happen for a reason. But this one gets me. I can't see a single thing that is better in my life as a result of doing my knee. I'm still pissed about it. Pissed at me about it. Of course, I low that what has gone before me has shaped the me that I now am. But can't I just have a normal knee?
So this brings me full circle to my fear of injury.
Much of this year has been spent with at least a niggle in either my knee or back or both. Is running agitating or assisting? Does each run shorten my bodies functionality?
Each and every time I run, be it 1km or 10km, I feel the fear. Some days I'm able to move it aside as a passing thought. Some days I carry it on my shoulders. You can see it on my face. Feel it in my emotions.