Corinne Abraham was knocked out of last year's Kona pursuit with a broken sacrum and she is finally back on track to build up her fitness. She joined Team Uplace-BMC for 2014 and is focused on staying healthy while logging the miles.
Slowtwitch: Corinne, it is good to see you on the road back and I would think that you are glad that you are again on the path of training and racing.
Corinne Abraham: Hi Herbert, I am indeed very happy to working my way back into training. For those who don’t know, and I did not really advertise too much what was going on, I was diagnosed with a broken sacrum last August and that took me out of Kona. It has been pretty much 4 months of no training at all, then it was a gentle reintroduction to mobility work, followed by swimming and cycling. Running was on hold for a good 5 months - August through to January and I’m still on a graded return to full training now. [beginning of February]
ST: How common of an injury is a sacrum fracture in the field of running or triathlon as far as you know?
Corinne: From what I’ve read, and of course I’ve had great support from my the Uplace-BMC team and the Doctor since, I understand that it is not too uncommon in endurance runners, but it is less documented in triathletes because there is less impact loading than there is with pure runners. It is likely that I had limited mobility in my sacro-iliac joints and soft tissue structures of the pelvis and this forced torsional stress caused by swim, bike and running, through my sacrum and caused the fracture. Because the pelvis the lynch pin between the lower body and the torso, pretty much any movement requires you to stabilize through your pelvis. Even shoulder movements or exercises require stability through the torso, and in turn the pelvis, so even sitting down to do upper body training was out of the question. Since the injury I’ve started working again with Alex Drummond – a physiotherapist in Maidenhead UK and he is doing a great job of educating and reeducating my muscles, joints and helping develop effective and efficient movement patterns to aid my return to training and help prevent further injury and setback in the future. Since athletes do tend to keep fairly quiet on the details of their setbacks and recovery, there has been little in the way of experiential information to work from. Having said this, I’m happy to share my own, and from Alex’s perspective, I’m sure he would welcome the exchange of thoughts and experience with other clinicians.
ST: When you first were confronted with that reality what went through your mind?
Corinne: I’m no MRI expert, but even to me it was immediately very evident from the MRI that the bone was broken. Very, very broken. It was not a fuzzy line or haze of inflammation, it was clearly broken, so the decision to stop training and scratch my entry for Kona was not a difficult one. Of course I was disappointed but the reality was that I needed to let my sponsors know, and I needed to now direct my energies towards recovery.
ST: What is the diagnosis now in terms of your health and recovery?
Corinne: At the moment the fracture is showing really, really good signs of healing and the last MRI at the beginning of December only showed a bit of inflammation but we can expect that to stay for some time. My return to training is really about progressing, and progressing carefully, but always trying to listen to my body. I work very closely with Alex to make sure that I am constantly on top of all the responses my body is having not only in terms of the injury but also the return to training. I think quite often athletes get injured when coming back from another injury and then get a chain of reaction events. So I am working very closely with physios at the moment to make sure my return to training is smooth and I don’t pick up other things as a result of the initial injury.
ST: If I remember correctly, it seemed to be rather quiet around you before August.
Corinne: The injury was diagnosed at the end of August so literally just before the Kona cutoff. I was able to let the guys at Ironman know that I couldn’t race and thus my place could roll down. So it was really nice that someone else could take that place. The onset of the injury was very quick, but really in the build up I just had my head down, getting on with my training and doing my own thing. Up to that point, everything was looking really, really good.
ST: So when will we see you return to racing? But I am not talking about wishful thinking along those lines.
Corinne: Of course I would love to qualify for Kona this year and one of the goals of the team is to have athletes at the WTC world championships. Being out of the race last year means that I am obviously one of those people chasing points, and for being in the situation I am currently, I really am not in any kind of fitness shape and really have no physical strength to be racing. Getting to the Championship race in Melbourne for full points is going to be out of the question, and I have had to accept that. So I am really looking at later this season to start collecting points, so I know that I have a big task ahead. But at the moment all I can and should be doing is focusing on my return to training. So I am not thinking I have to be strong, have to be fit or have to be ready for this race, or those points. I just try and concentrate on what is this session like, how is my body responding and what do I need to do to not pick up any secondary injuries and that return to racing is just going to have to wait until my body is back to fitness. I know there are races I need to be targeting if I can still qualify for Kona this year, but they will have to be my secondary priority.
ST: What kind of training volume are you actually able to handle right now?
Corinne: At the moment I am swimming every day, because with the broken sacrum I had to back off swimming because I couldn’t utilize the pelvic stability muscles. And now with swimming every day I am nearly back to full swim volume. Biking I am up to 2 ½ to 3 hours but all low intensity, no strength work and I’ve just started short-sharp high intensity efforts this week. Running is kind of comical or it feels comical, because I am running maybe for a kilometer and then I am doing run drills. Then maybe run another kilometer but a slower pace I had ever done before, but to be honest it is just nice to be back running. And that is assisted with aqua jogging and assorted other drills in the water.
ST: Are you a patient person?
Corinne: Ummm. Generally I like to think so, but I do have to remind myself of this sometimes!
ST: What about Rob?
Corinne: Let me ask him….. he says yes. Yes he is a patient person.
ST: Talk about the new team you joined. How did you connect to team?
Corinne: I actually contacted the team when it was still a Belgian team, maybe back in 2012 - I then spoke to Bob to let him know that they might like to have me on the team. They said very nicely ‘we are a Belgian team and you are not Belgian.’ So I had basically contacted the team a long time ago but wasn’t aware that it was going to be a major International team until they contacted me. From that time we had some good open conversations and the setup they were striving for sounded to me like a very professional one. Something I could benefit from as an individual athlete, but I also felt that I got to work with some really key sponsors such as BMC, Pearl Izumi and fi’zi:k, to benefit their product as well. It is really nice to work with these brands and I feel that I have a lot to offer them and the team as an athlete and as a person.
ST: I believe you were connected with BMC just before you were injured
Corinne: Yes, that is correct. I had just partnered with BMC to ride their bike in Kona last year and they were very understanding about my situation. When it happened they pretty much said: ‘It is sport, these things happen, we really want you to race in top form, so do everything you can as a professional athlete to get yourself fit and well and back to where you can be a top racer.’ Their experience at top-level sport is certainly a huge asset to the team - as of course are their bike frames!
ST: We also want you to return back to full strength and great form and wish you the best.
Corinne: Thank you, it is great to be back on the scene - of sorts, and I’m looking forward to racing again!