Surgery gets Barclay's career back on its feet
New Zealand triathlete Aaron Barclay celebrated his 21st birthday in Riversdale on Saturday night, but tackling a yard glass was far from the toughest thing he's had to deal with this year.
The 2010 Youth Olympic champion underwent an uncommon form of shin surgery earlier this year after finally giving in to the pain which had plagued him for much of his young career.
Barclay had membrane chipped away from the length of the shin bone in both legs and spent several months off his feet, but is now back biking and swimming, and slowly rebuilding his running.
"It's really slow going. It's taking ages, but it's on track with where I want it. All the specialists are pretty happy with where I am, so it's going pretty good," he said.
"It's always been up and down for me. The way my career has gone, it's been pretty messy. I know this time I'm starting from scratch, with surgery I get to start fresh rather than doing a half decent job of it like I have before."
Barclay's reintroduction to running has focused on technique to try and avoid the issues which led to him eventually needing surgery, but the lay-off has had other benefits.
"My body has changed so much. Because I haven't really done a lot of running miles over the years and I'd normally do 25 hours of swim-biking a week, I was really big in my shoulders and my quads. My body had turned into a shape where I was no good at all for running. Having the surgery I lost a lot of muscle, a lot of weight, and basically now I'm a skinny wee runt again, like I used to be, so I'm in a lot better condition to start running. My fitness would be just as good as it's been in my life, so the running won't take long to pick up."
But Barclay, who has put his chiropractic studies in Auckland on hold after moving to Triathlon New Zealand's new high performance base in Cambridge, is determined not to rush things.
"Probably the biggest mistake I've made in past years with my rehabbing is I've tried to get ready in time for a race. I always rush it and get selected and then my body turns to shit, I race average and my body goes backwards. I've decided on not having any goals at the moment, apart from getting to 100 percent, because I know if my body is 100 percent then the results will take care of themselves. I'm pretty confident with what I can do if I get given the opportunity to train properly," he said.
"I won't race until March probably, so it's still a long way off yet. Swimming and biking is fine, I can do heaps of that, but I'm only about a month into running drills and just starting to do some jogging now. It's going alright, but it's just a long process, especially now that I'm doing the jogging part of it, it's probably the hardest part of the rehab programme."
Barclay remains an outside chance of qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.
It's expected to be a hard race, with predictions British brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee will force the pace from the off and an emphasis on the other teams to get someone into the front bunch on the bike.
"Selection for Commonwealth Games is in April. Hopefully by then I've done a couple of races. It's definitely not off the cards, especially with the guys situation in New Zealand triathlon at the moment, it's not particularly strong. Obviously the top two spots will be Ryan [Sissons] and Tony [Dodds], but that third spot has opened up. For myself being a swim-biker, and just coming back to running, that's probably what they are looking for, for the third spot," he said.
"By March I'll probably only be running 100-150 minutes a week, it's not a hell of a lot of running. If you want to go racing with the big boys you have to be doing the miles. I'm not too sure, we'll just see how it goes."