The long and the short story is that from the Sunday 15th January I develop an upset stomach and muscle pain. I tried to avoid any type of medicine and go about my final week of prep for the Xterra Full race as per normal. Unfortunately by Wednesday, 18th January afternoon I started feeling worse and experienced muscle pain and cramps while training. Thus I made the decision to consult with my Uncle (who is a Doctor) and he prescribed to me normal probiotics and Ciprobray XR 500 (Antibiotic medicine). Plus he said I should go and get a electrolyte drip to get my hydration levels back to normal.
I took my first of the three Ciprobray pills that Wednesday evening.
Thursday morning I took my second pill with the thought process to take my last pill the Friday morning – to enable me to compete with most of the antibiotics being worked out of my system as it takes more or less 24 hours to do so…I started feeling better during the course of that Thursday morning the 19th January. Thus I believed that the medicine worked and it did a good job of helping me to recover from the stomach bug.
11h30 am that same morning I went to Irene Intercare clinic. As my doctor recommended a possible hydration drip for me to get my electrolyte count back to normal and make sure I am well hydrated. The Doctor at Irene Intercare felt that I was well on the road to full recovery. He therefore said I did not have to receive any electrolyte drip based on my symptom improvement and his physical assessment. He also said that I should keep on using the Ciprobray antibiotic medicine as it was clearly working for me.
At the same time unfortunately my left lower leg started to get stiff and sore. But I did not feel it had any relevance to my stomach bug or symptoms and therefore I did not discuss it with the Doctor. The stiffness and pain increased during the course of the day especially around my ankle area. I casually shrugged it off, thinking that I must have sprained my ankle somehow while running on Wednesday or the Thursday morning. Unfortunately during the afternoon the stiffness got worse and the pain got more severe. It got to such a point that in the evening I didn’t want to walk and tried to move as little as possible.
Friday morning and both legs felt the same – stiff and sore around my ankles. As if I managed to sprain my ankles in all directions hurting each and every tendon and ligament in that area. That morning I did my usual final equipment preparation and admin. Hoped that during the day the pain will go away or at least subside, as the pain was by now 8/10 while sitting (after I took my third pill).
(At the time I thought it might be pre-race anxiety, as I could not explain the symptoms that I experienced).
Trying to keep this story short – by 5pm the Friday before the race I decided to call the Doctor at Irene Intercare and asked his opinion concerning my ankle pain and stiffness in both legs. Once I got hold of him, he told me that I should stop from all types physical activity immediately and should not race the following day as I can possibly rupture my Achilles tendon. That was it, now real explanation or reason as he was busy consulting with other patients. I then opened the contra indication leaflet for the Ciprobray medicine and could clearly see that one of the side effects from using this medicine is a weakening of your joints, tendons and ligaments.
I started contacting other medical experts. In total 6 (including a surgeon and anesthesiologist) who all to some level off degree told me that Ciprobray is highly dangerous for athletes (and elderly people, diabetics and people with kidney problems). I spoke to athletes and non – medical experts who all was not aware of the danger using this type of medicine. Clearly indicating to me that most of us have never really understood the danger involved when using this type of antibiotics. Most non – medical experts told me that there is no way the medicine can be harmful to me to such an extent that I might rupture my Achilles tendon. Little did they actually now – like myself – how dangerous it may be and probably thousands of athletes have experienced Tendon and Ligament injuries due to this type of medication without realizing it.
Ciprobray XR 500 mg.
“…Fluoroquinolones, including Cipro XR, have been associated with an increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture in all ages [see Warnings and Precautions and Adverse Reactions. This adverse reaction most frequently involves the Achilles tendon, and also been reported in the rotator cuff (the shoulder), the hand, the biceps, the thumb, and other tendons. Tendinitis and tendon rupture can occur within hours or days of starting Cipro XR, or as long as several months after completion of fluoroquinolone therapy. Tendinitis and tendon…” rupture can occur bilaterally…”
The Fluoroquinolones infiltrate your soft tissue – especially around your ankle area. Your body then develops antibodies to get rid of the Fluoroquinolones, which increases the inflammation in your soft tissue which ultimately leads to weakening and tendonitis in affected areas. Thus it is an allergic reaction and can take hours, days or months to be worked out of your body…
So the morning of the race I did the responsible thing and did not take part in Xterra Buffelspoort Full….what a huge disappointment for me;
The past 5 years I have solely been training and preparing for this race – explaining to people this race is more important than World Champs for me. Mainly due to it being a high profile event locally and a race that have seen in the past some of the greatest Xterra athletes in the world compete in and win this race. Plus a personal goal I wanted to reach before moving on to other types of events I would want to race.
The race was at a time the biggest Xterra in the world and part of the World Series. Thus the race has a huge reputation!
Another sore point for me was that the race being so early in the year meant that year after year I trained the whole December time and did very little in terms of relaxing and holidaying. Not mentioning the amount of training hours, time and hard earned money in order to try and win this event.
Strangely this year the Full event saw a very low number in top level professional athletes competing….something I would have never bargained on. At least 12 top performing athletes over the past 2 years did not compete/finish – who you normally would expect to be at the race, racing for podium positions…
Thus when I stood at the swim exit area the morning of the race – like a normal spectator – watching the other athletes taking part. The emotion and feeling of disappointment overwhelmed me so much that I had to leave the venue and get myself together again. I ended up supporting all the athletes at various points on the bike and run legs of the race. Luckily Adriaan Myburgh (One of Sterkspan up and coming athletes) had such a good race, he took away my attention from my own self-pity to his success and happiness and it rubbed off. Adriaan finished in an outstanding and surprisingly 3rd overall position. He is a person with an exceptional high work rate and always willing to learn. His humbleness will take him far in the Sport!
After all the formalities and prize giving ended I left the venue to our small cabin in the Magalies Berg mountains where we planned on to stay over for the weekend. I then started feeling down and disappointed all over again. I had such a strong urge to race and have fun while doing so. I told myself that regardless of the Doctors opinions I want to race the Xterra Lite the next day.
Xterra Lite, 400 m swim, 18 km Mtb and 6 km trail run – Only called the Lite event of Xterra due to it being more or less half the distance/effort as the full Xterra event. Believe me there is nothing easy about the event. The intensity and speed racing at the sharp end of the field in these type of events is nothing but frantic. (Something I personally am not very familiar with)
I also knew the amount of disappointment some of my sponsors and supporters will experience with the news that I could not take part in the event. It all then became very obvious to me; that somehow I had to try and make the best out of the current situation.
By late Saturday afternoon (now more than 24 hours after my last pill of Ciprobray) my legs started to feel better again and by the evening the pain was almost gone.
The next morning I woke up and I felt much better, fresh and positive in general terms. I then told myself I will give it until 8:00 am to make the final decision, whether or not to race.
I arrived at the Buffelspoort Venue the Sunday morning (we stayed 10 min drive away from the venue so it was no real effort to go and either race/support the morning) at around 8:10 am. The moment I saw all the athletes getting ready for the race….I started to feel the same as the day before – I wish I can race and take part in the fun. I then knew I should race and give it a go!
I rushed to get all my equipment ready to take part in the event. I was not really kitted out or prepared as an athlete should be an hour before the race. Most who know me will tell you it was a remarkable achievement for me to get race ready in less than 45 min!
Once I stood on the start line with 1600 other athletes I realized why I love racing so much. I am addicted to the rush and feeling of excitement while not knowing what will happen next!
The rest is history – I comfortably won the race and enjoyed every second off it. Not once did I push harder than 85% effort on the bike or on the run leg. Only on the 400 m swim leg did I go more or less as hard as I could….
Reflecting back now at the whole weekend. I would have been down and depressed until now if I did not race. So big was my initial disappointment and self-pity. I would have also not known whether my current fitness and form was strong or needed more work leading up to the upcoming Xterra events I will take part in. Thus in a nutshell I am very pleased that I had a second change to race and that I managed to win the event. Even though it wasn’t the race I planned on to take part in.
The race completely changed my mood and general feeling, no drug or counselling would have been so effective or successful. As the amount of effort and time I had to endure for this weekend was so big that I would have regretted not racing for a very long time.
The person who finished in an outstanding 2nd position at the Xterra Lite is no other than our very own – Xander van der Merwe. One of the most promising and talented junior male athletes in the country and a person who I proudly call my athlete. He is known for a ferocious tendency to be competitive and loves to win. Seldom have I seen an athlete who set such high standards with his training and racing. He is the ultimate race horse as he is lean, extremely fast and will push himself beyond his own physical limits. One day he will surely win major Xterra titles and other triathlon events.