In June 2012, while Fiona Ford was out in the Surrey Hills on a regular training ride, a car pulled out of a junction in front of her as she was descending at around 25mph. The resulting crash caused life changing injuries – a shattered pelvis and clavicle – along with massive bruising and road rash. Later in hospital, a doctor said she’d probably never run again and she feared she may never walk as she had no control over her legs.
A few years previously, Fiona had given up her well-paid job as an educational consultant to build a triathlon coaching business, which was now at risk of crumbling. She was 17,000km from home, in agony, unable to move or do anything for herself and facing financial ruin.
Fiona’s book, Back on Track, describes how she painstakingly rebuilt her fitness and business following this devastating accident.
On one level, this book could be read as a recovery guide for someone who’s suffered a severe injury, but it’s much more than that. Fiona’s positive attitude (focus on what you can do, not what you can’t), her attention to detail and total dedication to a systematic, progressive recovery plan are lessons anyone can apply. You quickly realise that the commitment with which she worked on her rehabilitation exercises and hydrotherapy sessions is the same commitment that had previously made her a prize winning professional triathlete and successful triathlon coach. She ensured she diarised specific blocks of time each day for rehabilitation and supported her progress by insisting on plenty of rest and recovery backed up by a healthy diet.
It wasn’t always a smooth journey. She was given a powerful cocktail of pain relieving drugs including the opioid Tramadol, which she relied on for months. Not only does it help control pain, it’s also a mood enhancer. Reducing her dependence on the drug was a major, and challenging, step in her recovery process. She approached it in the same methodical way she dealt with her rehabilitation – define the end goal, draw up a gradual, incremental plan to get there and stick to it.
As she weaned herself off the drugs her mood crashed; she became increasingly anxious and suffered frightening flashbacks – both symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Rather than return to the drugs she sought professional help through cognitive behavioural therapy.
Her financial worries became increasingly acute as she burnt through her savings on essentials such as taxis, high quality food and additional physiotherapy and massage beyond what was provided through the National Health Service. While she’d kept the coaching business intact it was running at a much reduced level to previously. To make ends meet, she first sold her old bikes and other triathlon kit and then, eventually and reluctantly, her much loved sports car.
Remarkably, three years after the accident, Fiona is back competing. In June 2015 she tackled the Windsor triathlon and won her age group by a convincing margin.
Full disclosure: Fiona is a regular contributor to H2Open Magazine, I also swim in one of her Swim Smooth training sessions each week and we have trained together for about eight years.
Meyer & Meyer Sport