The Deep End

Monday, August 28, 2006


As you can see, I have been working very hard at the Olympic challenge since we went swimming four weeks ago…

Unfortunately, the “working very hard” bit is true, but sadly I’ve not been working on anything as interesting or fun as all of this. I was also away for a few days playing golf in Holland. Two things of Olympic note occurred while I was there.

The first I’m hoping might not be as much of a problem as it felt like at the time. As I walked onto a tee box, my left knee (the “good” one) made a popping sound and suddenly I couldn’t straighten it (stop me if this is starting to sound familiar). I wiggled it about a bit, there was another pop and everything seemed back to normal. I strapped it up for the rest of the trip and favoured the other leg (”There's a lot of it about, probably a virus, keep warm, plenty of rest, and if you're playing football or anything try and favour the other leg.”).

Then, the morning after I got home, I climbed out of bed only to have it pop out of place again (the knee, not the bed). This time it took me half an hour (and rather more wiggling than I really like to start the day with) to get it back into place; by the time I did, the joint had filled with fluid and it hurt like hell.

Three days working from the sofa with my leg elevated, covered in ice and an assortment of frozen vegetables, seemed to do the trick. The swelling went down, the pain it was causing subsided, and the limp became less Douglas Badder and more Huggy Bear. Now, the limp is gone, the knee feels fine, and last night I even ran about 50 yards at a fair lick to catch a bus.

All of which sounds great, but I’m still feeling a bit like I'm walking around on a time bomb that could have me back in the hospital again at any minute. At least I’d know the drill I suppose.

The other thing of note that occurred in Holland was more of a realisation than an injury (for a change). As I mentioned, I was playing golf, a game I’ve played since I was old enough to draw breath. At one stage in my life I even got reasonably good at it.

These days I’m diabolically bad. There is the occasional flash of something encouraging, but really, when you’re stumbling about in the dark, an occasional flash tends to be more disorientating than helpful.

The thing is, I used to care. I used to get really quite upset on the golf course about how bad I had become. I would break clubs and unleash vitriolic streams of very unsavoury language in the aftermath of a really bad shot (of which there were many). I made a decision a couple of years ago after a particularly embarrassing outburst that I was not only ruining the game for myself, but also making the people I was playing with rather uncomfortable. It had to stop.

I’m delighted to say that it has stopped, and while I was away in Holland my golf was so bad (and I was so far out of contention) that I had plenty of time to think about why it has stopped, and why I’m now wandering about the course like the Dalai Lama ("Big hitter, the Lama") instead of Happy Gilmore.

In the space of a month I had played incredibly badly (even for me) in a tournament in Northern Ireland in front of a bunch of people I used to consider my peers, and then there I was walking around a course in Holland with half my old university team, all of whom had left me for dead by the end of the first nine on the first day. I should have been spitting with rage.

Finally I realised what has made the difference, what has stopped me getting cross, and consequently let me enjoy playing again (or at least enjoy it more than I have done for a while). It’s failure. It’s being rubbish at things. Perhaps most importantly, it’s failing and being rubbish on a regular basis. In short, it’s this challenge.

By forcing myself to try things that I think I can’t do (but sometimes surprise myself with – the BBC’s coverage of this year’s London Triathlon was on TV last week and I watched it with a renewed sense of disbelief that I made it round last year), by constantly putting myself out of my comfort zone, and by having to rely on a lot of help from a lot of people, I’ve come to enjoy trying things, even if I don’t succeed.

As I’ve mentioned previously, that’s what the Olympics are supposed to be all about – trying your best (no matter what Sean Connery had to say in The Rock about "losers" who say that) and not worrying too much about the outcome.

It would seem that the deep end is my new comfort zone, which should make this little lot a piece of cake, right, Ben?


(with belated thanks to my synchronised diving partner for the photos)

P.S. Also thanks to Ben, here's some video footage. Ben, you're either a bad typist or a comic genius - "Ultimate Olumpian"? I might run with that from now on.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

John,

We need scores to comprehend your crapness. I know how crap I am but just how crap are you ?

John said...

In Holland, I was crap in all three rounds, to the tune of 81, 85, 78.

In Northern Ireland in the summer, I was crap to the tune of 92, 76.

You can give the crap a number, but it's still just crap.