Physiohealth in Hawaii for Iron Man World Champs

Iron Man World Championships – Physiohealth in Kona , Hawaii Words by Katie Flatters After months of hard work with some of the ETPA athletes to get their bodies in perfect condition prior to the world championships, the countdown was into the final week. We arrived in Honolulu and within hours, Jason was following his ETPA coach Mat Tippet’s advice and was down at the beach doing a post flight recovery swim and water run, followed by a thorough, much needed treatment session. It was important to bear in mind how much training he had done the 2 weeks prior to this date to understand what state his legs were in. To quote Jason, “my legs haven’t felt like legs for 2-3 weeks”, this was my best chance to really get into the muscles, still allowing him time to recover from treatment well before race day. The next day Jason thought it was a good idea to get his own back for the pain I had inflicted on him this year, by taking me running. It was good to hear that his ‘legs and hips felt much better after treatment so what was a ‘recovery run to loosen his legs,’ was certainly a challenge for me, especially for a Pommie in the 30 degree heat (I think Mat tippet needs to give me some training advice). We then flew to the big Island, to Kona, where most triathletes dream of going. It was early nights all round before a full day of treatment for the ETPA and Melbourne Tri guys. Monday morning – officially race week, and my treatment room by the ocean in Hawaii was not a bad place to be. A long day of treating the guys who were all relatively injury free and feeling great about the race. Walking around the town there was an immense atmosphere with all the athletes preparing for their dream race. Casually walking past the likes of Peter Jacobs, Chris McCormack and Chrissie Wellington – this was the place to be. Throughout the race week the days blended into each other with the early morning meets at the swim course with the ETPA guys. Coach and participant Darren told me to join them to see what the fuss was about – and I can safely say it was the most incredible view, not only was there a coffee shop 500 metres out but It was like swimming on the barrier reef, an experience not to be missed, even a turtle came to join. The streets were swarming with runners and cyclists, athletes and enthusiasts alike, and over the week I developed a keen eye for well-defined quads and impressive VMO’s. To the point where I was complimenting strangers on their VMO definition. As the week went on my physio treatments became a little less firm (but still enough to have the best benefit to the athletes). For the man who we can call the ‘Deer hunter’, it is safe to say, although there was a more gentle approach hit was still a painful experience. 5 months ago, a deer narrowly missed soon to be Prime Minister Mr Abott on a charity bike ride, unfortunately however hitting Wayne, resulting in a broken collar bone and a dislocated ankle requiring a full ankle re-co and pins to fix the collar bone. Around the town I started seeing some unwanted limps and hearing athletes chatting to one another about their injuries and issues they were having with a certain hint of worry in their voice- after all they were probably thousands of miles from their physiotherapists and now thinking ‘what am I going to do, who can I get to put me right before the race’ and even ‘will I be able to complete it’ This is when it hit me and I realized , not only was this an incredible opportunity for me and my career but for the ETPA guys to have their very own Physio with them, we were eliminating this problem and the worry that the athletes certainly do not need in race week. Thursday was the last day for treatments for the athletes who over the week had done a few gentle swims, rides and runs as per their ETPA program which took them right up to the race. Coach and athlete Darren had a recurrence of a long standing injury to his foot which was a temporary worry for us 2 days before the race, however we used our initiative and got the inflammation settled and loosened the surrounding tissues, then I used my DIY skills to make a foot support to offload the injured area and strapped the foot up too. The aim was just to settle the injury down again so he could run. A similar injury for Steven Guy from Melbourne Tri club could have stopped him running, however with treatment to the really little joints in his foot that had seized up over the months of training and some supportive strapping it felt much better. So Friday night before the race I did some final race preparations and went round the town strapping those who needed it, especially for the ‘deer hunter’ who responds very well to the Kinesio taping. This had various functions; to offload the muscles around his broken collar bone that tighten up, along his peroneal muscles of the reconstructed ankle to prevent them tightening up, and along his Glute med muscle for better glute activation. So 10pm Friday night before the race – I finished, I had done all I could to prepare the guys for the race and now I just needed to cheer them on and support them throughout the race. Athlete check in was bright and super early and the race start for the Pro’s was 0700 and the age groupers start closely followed.  The atmosphere was electric at the start line with 2000 competitors all in the water fighting for a good spot, waiting to hear the legendary cannon sound … After the race I made my way to the massage tent at 2 pm to meet the rest of the massage staff, where I was the only Physio among a number of local massage students and very experienced sports therapists. It wasn’t long until the Pro men came to the finish line and started coming through for their recovery rubdown. If the hype and buzz of the whole week hadn’t been enough, treating an athlete chaperoned by race officials before his drugs testing, made me realise just how prestigious this event was. I really felt proud to be involved in such a world class competition. From then on it was crazy, I had been tracking all of the ETPA guys to try to catch them crossing the line, however the massage tent was so busy with suffering iron men (and women) that I only managed to see a couple of them. It was flat out all day, treating the majority of the ETPA guys after the finish line, among some very appreciative athletes, a number of the athletes said that they had been “thinking about having this massage for the last 20km” As the night went on there was much less of a demand for the massages so I went down to the finish line to watch the final hour of the race, it was great to see all the ETPA guys down there cheering on the final member of the team, Shane as he came down the finish chute. The atmosphere in that final hour was incredible, and it was hard to believe that it had been 16 hours since the starting gun. The next day was the presentation night where it was great to get all the ETPA guys together to congratulate one another, hydrate with a beer not water and see all of the pro’s get their medals, a well-deserved celebration for athletes and supporters. Through this week at the iron man world champs I experienced and learnt things that are invaluable to my career and dream of being a physio in elite endurance sport, something I could only get from being involved and getting stuck in to such a major sporting event. The skills and experience from my time in Hawaii will be great to take back into clinic and to the cycling and triathlon events in and around Melbourne this summer and I look forward to seeing a few familiar faces in the massage tents of these events. Thank you to Physiohealth and ETPA for making this trip possible for me and to all of the ETPA guys in Hawaii who not only made me a very proud physio by the end of it but also looked after me over there too. See you next year?....
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