I have decided to end my season early. It wasn’t an easy decision to come to, what with the chance of representing my country at African Champs in Nigeria and with a hope of qualifying for the Continental Cup later on this year in Ostrava, it could never have been easy but it was a decision that had to be made. Disappointment is obviously the first feeling that wells up in the heart but looking back on the season I’m surprised I even made it this far .
My season was long, I had started training in August 2017 after taking 2 weeks off of what was supposed to be a 6 week break. This was to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April 2018 and Athletics South Africa was to announce their team in December. I wanted to go , it was a great opportunity to get back into a championship and the motivation of not qualifying for the IAAF World Championships fueled me. My first race came in November 2017 where I ran a windy 20.11 in the 200m and qualified for the relay pool with a 10.16 in the 100m. I registered in a meet every month after that . Fast forward to February 2018 and I had become comfortable with sprinting again, my haunting injury problems seemed to be a thing of the past, I was ready to go. Whether I did too much will always be the question that lingers in my mind if ever I look back on this season. On the 24th of February I entered in the 100m at the Athletics Gauteng North Championship. On that day I registered 10.25, 10.12, 10.07 all windy. I followed that up with a solid 20.13 the next week, (March 1), a 15.08 in the 150(8 March), squeezed in 2 x 10.2 runs at South African Championships( March 14) and finally a 20.07 ( March 22). It didn’t seem like much right ? I certainly didn't think so but my body was saying something else. I was tired. I went back to Durban where I took week a off to rejuvenate and gear up for the Commonwealth Games, there is nothing a little break cannot fix. Or so I thought . The damage was done, indescribable fatigue was starting to set in. I didn’t want to believe it. Every time I took a week off, I came back sharper, motivated and even if there was no clock to run against I knew I was running fast. This time felt different . Don't get me wrong , I wasn’t moving slow but there was certainly something missing and it was replaced with this weird exhaustion.
My sudden deterioration of fitness stared at me glaringly at the Commonwealth Games in Australia .I didn't make it past the semi-finals in the 200m and my goal of an individual commonwealth medal was shattered. However, I was able to come back with a silver medal in the 4x100m relay which was amazing. I went back to Durban to reset, to lick my wounds and to restructure the plan that me and my team set. The fatigue went back with me , and it stayed with me .
On the other side of the world, in the hot, desert city of Phoenix, Arizona in the US, my wife had just given birth to our son, Zolani-Parker . It had been a month that he’d graced us with his presence and it was going on two and I still hadn't touched him, held him in my arms and that emotional stress added to the fire. I hadn’t hugged my pillar of strength , my wife, in almost six months and though FaceTime has made long distance more bearable , there are some things that technology will never replace ( well, I hope not). I was anxious to be with them and to share in the joys of parenthood. Elation gripped my heart when the US consulate finally gave me the green light to go and be with my family( my bag with my passport was stolen out of my car in 2016 and I was denied entry for almost 2 years after that) and with all the traveling arrangements and last minute packing, I found minimal time for some great training. I was with with my family though and the joy of bonding with my son and being reunited with my wife was second to none. It had been a long , tumultuous and unpredictable period for us and it felt like a weight had been lifted of our shoulders. My time at home with family was short-lived. I was only at home for 5 days and I was off to Jamaica to compete.By this point my strength levels had suffered and the second part of my season suffered as a result too. 20.70 in Jamaica , in the process getting whooped by a talented, hungry high school phenom. A sluggish 20.4 at the magical Prefontaine Classic for 4th place. 20.8 in a childishly cold( it was 11 degrees, really?) Turku in Finland and a last gap 20.4 in Ostrava. I was depleted.
Finally the question came… should I continue the season? The facts were all there , I was exhausted. The type of exhaustion where an extended break is recommended. Besides , I’d been living in an Airbnb for 6-7months out of a suitcase and finding a stable place to settle with my family and join a training group was burning on my mind. Moments of adversity will always have something positive to lighten the blow and I didn't think any differently this time . So after much consultation with those more knowledgeable than me, I made the hard decision to rest up, find me a coach and get ready for the 2019 season. This comes with a risk , I might not be the same person next year and track and field has an ever changing landscape with all the talent that springs up every year. But thinking too far into the future can cause unwanted anxiety , and once that anxiety sets loose, it can feel like rolling down a mountain. The present is the only certainty we have and spending most of our time in it can bring a greater peace . In the meantime I am learning so much about fatherhood and though I may not be in training ,my mind is still fixed firmly on track and field and the hopes and dreams that started me off on this journey 10 years ago.
Father, Husband, Athlete