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Uh-oh - that's torn it

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Tom Fordyce | 12:53 UK time, Thursday, 18 June 2009

It was all ticking along so well. Six weeks into the one-hour decathlon challenge, I'd survived Daley, done two training sessions in each of the 10 disciplines and started to feel a deep affection for the whole event.

To say I was looking forward to this week's workout with Dean Macey is an understatement. I couldn't wait. If there's one athlete you'd want to hang about with for a day, it's the Macinator. Laughs guaranteed, proper training rumble a certainty.

I had no idea how wrong things were about to go. I wish I'd known.

During the first hour there is little indication of what might follow, just the usual heady Macey mix of wisecracking and wallop.

It's hard to choose my favourite anecdote - it's a dead heat between the time he pushed so hard in training the grass on the infield looked white ("I scared meself that day") and when he made his Dutch training partner collapse with asthma ("I cut the rest periods in half cos he wouldn't run the 200m at the speed I wanted") - but it's nowhere near as hard as the medicine-ball drills that follow.

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We are standing in a battered squash court, big chunks of plaster missing from the walls and ceiling tiles displaced and dented everywhere you look.

"If you want to get better, you've got to take your medicine!" yells Dean happily, flinging the 5kg ball at the wall. There is a noise like grapeshot and an explosion of paint dust.

By his own admission, this is one of Macey's all-time favourite sessions. The premise is simple - hurl the ball at different walls from different directions, as hard as you can, again and again.

"What's the key to the technique?" I ask. "Smash it!" Dean bellows, and dashes the ball into the floorboards with a primeval roar. He looks over and winks. "When in doubt, always smash."

We stand on the T of the court, facing the back wall, and hurl the ball backwards over our heads. The aim is to get the ball over the top red line. My throws hit halfway up. Dean's demolish more ceiling.

Ten throws in, we turn 180 degrees and go again - powering upwards with the legs, leaping forward, firing the core muscles. Forget about taking a breather. When that's done, it's 10 more, this time flinging the ball from the chest like an angry Charles Barkley, straight into 10 hurls to the floor, 10 whipped across the body to the right, 10 to the left.

Dean jogs over to a mat placed on the floor and gets me to sit down, legs bent up. "Smash!" he shouts, an enormous smile on his face, and throws the medicine ball at the spot above my head.

I catch it and tumble backwards with the momentum. "Stay up!" he yells, as I throw it back. The next throw comes in. It's like trying to decelerate a cannonball. My stomach muscles, still bruised after the thrashing from Daley, sigh resignedly.

Ten of those, ten more into the chest, then up into a kneeling position. The ball is lobbed at my ankles. I have to twist to the side, pick it up, throw it Delap-style across the court to Dean and then do it again. Oh - with a press-up between each one.

I think that lasts about half an hour. I can't be sure. We do all the above at least three times. All I know is that my stomach, hamstrings and glutes are moaning like the Daily Mail letters page by the time we stagger out onto the desolate running track outside.

Dean pauses for a moment to reminisce. "I love this place," he says, looking around the windswept curves. "See that bend over there? I call that Mushroom Corner, cos that's where I used to chuck up what looked like mushrooms after a session." He rubs his shaved head. "Thing is, I don't even eat mushrooms."

We walk past a battered hammer cage. The metal bars holding the netting up are bent and twisted. "Used to do my pull-ups there," says Dean, misty-eyed. I follow his gaze. The bars are at least 15 feet off the ground. "You weren't worried you might fall off?" He looks at me. "Nah. You ain't gonna fall off if the drop's that big, are you?"

Dean Macey in typically relaxed form

He lays out a series of cones on the home straight and explains the sprint set to follow - 100 metres hard, 30 seconds rest, 90m, 20 seconds rest, 80m, 10 seconds rest, 70m. Two minutes rest and the same again, and again, and again. I can feel a dry retch coming on at the mere prospect.

The first set goes well. My right hamstring feels tight, but so does my left one. It's nothing I haven't run through before, certainly not in the same league as the patella tendonitis that has dogged me since the leaping and jumping part of the decathlon training began.

I stretch during the two minutes breather, wait for Dean's count down and crouch low to begin the next sprint. "Go!" he shouts, and I push off hard, shoulders low, driving with the legs.

It's like someone has suddenly grabbed the back of my leg and started to squeeze it. In the second it takes me to realise what is happening, the grip tightens up up up, and suddenly I am hopping down the track, clutching my leg, wincing and coming to a dead halt, one word clanging like a siren in my head.


I look at Dean. He looks at me. Hamstring.

I try to bend my leg. The pain is immediate and unmistakeable. I look at Dean again. "Oh mate," he says, and puts a massive arm around my shoulder.

Panicked thoughts flood my brain. If I've torn my hamstring, that could be six weeks on the sidelines. I've only got 11 to the big day. Six weeks! What about the hurdles - I've only just started - the long jump, the high jump, the shot, the 100m, the 4....

I haven't even finished the session. I haven't even dry-retched. I've let Dean down.

I grimace and try to make a joke out of it. "I've been Maceyed," I say, and immediately regret it.

Dean looks mortified - "Mate - don't say that!" - and I realise too late what I've done. It is an incredibly selfish, self-obsessed comment to make. Macey has missed Olympic Games and world championships to injury, trained like a demon his entire life and had to cope with having all that work go to waste. I'm doing this for fun. I've been doing it for less than two months. What right do I have to complain?

"I'm sorry," I say, truthfully. "I'm just disappointed."

Dean smiles ruefully. "I know how you feel. The higher the tree, the bigger the fall." I nod. "Still," he says, brightening. "At least you're a real decathlete now, eh?"

Ice, ice and more ice. The drive back from Canvey is a slow one, the hop from car to front door even slower.

Now, the wait for news from the physio. All training is on hold - no running, no jumping, no explosive throws; no more sessions with Daley or Dean. All I can do is aqua-jog in the local council pool, which is not only the most soul-destroying form of exercise ever invented but also irritates the large ladies who are drifting by on the currents, trying to keep their hair dry despite having chosen to immerse themselves up to the neck in a large body of water.

Don't get me started.


  • Comment number 1.

    Tom what have you done!!

    Sorry to hear it mate I've been rooting from you since the start. I only hope it isn't going to mean 6 weeks on the sidelines or else Daley and Dean will be pushing you even harder when you come back!!

    Great blog I'm just sorry for you it ended when it did. As for the swimming and the older ladies, do you also have the ones at your pool who insist on spraying half a bottle of perfume on before they get in like they do at my pool? Seriously why?! It reeks and besides they're immersing themselves in the pool for the next hour, who are they planning on meeting there that they need to smell like that!? Sorry rant over!

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done on fitting in a Charles Barkley reference, although given the shape he's in now, I doubt he'd be flinging a chest pass with too much force.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ah yes, but Tom, you seem to have overlooked one vital fact:

    Dean Macey is utterly insane!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Tom, don't worry. You can now approach this as an added challenge to your sporting abilities. A reduction in training time gives the thrill of seeing how far and hard you can push yourself on the day.

    And get out of the pool and away from those ladies. Do any of them wear those rubber swimming hats with large flowers stuck on?

  • Comment number 5.

    Aqua-jogging is the most soul-destroying form of exercise ever invented and I used to sink which made it even worse!

    I tore my hamstring mid flight in the long jump after a pb 100m and what felt like a massive take off! At least you have the time to recover. Mine took 4 weeks to get back to 90% 100m reps. Turned out it was my back that caused the hamstings to be tight, and once I knew that it never happened again.

    Good luck with the recovery.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Mate - gutted for you. As a rugby player who has done more hamstrings than I can count I can recommend something for when you get going again. I bought a pair of compression shorts (or by any other name, cycling shorts...) to wear as my first layer. Used to pull / tear my hamstring at least twice a season but since I bought them 5 years ago the only time I've had a problem was the day I decided it was so warm I wouldn't need them.
    Bit of stable door & horse bolting but it might help you when you start training again!

  • Comment number 8.

    Comments 5 and 7 are worth looking into whilst you recover. Give your back regular tlc in the future (many people dont think the two affect each other but they do) and get a pair of 'tights'. Both worked for me.

  • Comment number 9.

    so sorry for you. it could be worse though, i broke my leg and blew out my knee 2 weeks into last ski season due to equipment failure. Totally ruined my season as an instructor (obviously), put my research job back 2 months and made sure I wouldn't be playing my summer sport this year either. 6 weeks is nothing, I still can't walk!

    Seriously though, compression shorts are an excellent idea, or if you can, compression legins. Don't worry about them being too hot. Mine are cooler than not wearing them. I didn't believe how effective it could be until i tried it myself.

  • Comment number 10.

    Just playing Devil's advocate here but is it not possible that Dean's 'Conan The Barbarian' approach to training may have contributed somewhat towards his string of missed competitions rather than prepared him properly for them?

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tell him that to his face Perry.

    Sportsnut - I was thinking that myself while reading the thing.

    Really gutted for you Tom, I actually really had a tear in my eye reading this, berk.
    I have been looking forward to these articles regular as Decathlon is by far my fave track n field event in the olympics, I would never even attempt it though as I wouldn't know where to start, extreme respect to you for doing it.
    Good luck with your recovery though matey, I look forward to reading some more stuff.
    By the way, is this event going to be on the tele?

  • Comment number 13.

    Why oh why am I not surprised? Dean Macey sounds like an accident waiting to happen. You want to know why he got so many injuries? Was he unlucky? No it sounds like the training regime and his basic attitude. Training is not about being the tough guy and seeing how close to death you can get, what he did actually destroyed his body rather than prepare it for competition.

    This article illustrates perfectly why he got injured so much, he didn't really care about his body, he craved feeling on his last legs, it was like a drug. If only he had been more measured or had someone supervising him properly he could have got many more medals, instead he got injured. A lot.

    I guess you found out now right? Yeah if you want to get injured then follow the training regime of an injury prone athlete...

    Do the technical stuff, learn how to do the events and get basically fit, then you can do 10 different disciplines. Even Kelly S can't throw a javelin properly which is why she doesn't win too many golds, if she got the techniques hammered down at the expense of 0.1s in the sprints or 2s in the medium distance races she would get many more points.

    Armchair athletes ftw :-)

  • Comment number 14.

    Gutted for you Tom.

    Hope it's not as bad as it first felt.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hugely heartening chat from all quarters - that's lifted my mood massively.

    FastfanOFsport, Waldo - great tips. Compression not depression.

    awesomerushtybaby - nightmarish scenario. You've got my fullest sympathy. Hang in there son.

    Stukingping, SuperPaulyBoy - you've stiffened my resolve. If I have to do it at half-pace, with a technique that embarasses me, I'll still do it if I can. It ain't over yet...

  • Comment number 16.

    Great article great video. Tough luck with the injury. Hope it recovers quickly

  • Comment number 17.

    Tom, I'm a 40 something ex club runner, if you are ruled out of this event or not sure if you can do it I would be prepared to have a go at getting fit and doing a blog for it as your reserve. Bear in mind I am several years out of training and would have to give up my other hobbies (well, drinking, mostly) and my only real exercise programme at the mo is chasing loose women (occasionally I catch one). Also I look like someone who was kicked out of Guns n Roses in the 1990's, so a bit of an old rocker, but reasonably shaped for a decathlon. As for the hamstring and the training in general I would take lots of creatine, but don't mix creatine and beer as it will make you want to give up training and chase loose women (I must point out this is a bit of friendly advice and not an advert for creatine, nor for beer, or for loose women!)

  • Comment number 18.

    Hey Tom, sorry to hear about the tear mate... stick with it.... i found that a massage stick makes a big difference - and keep it mobile... i was recommended to do a few slow 100m stride-outs, at just below pain threshold, to keep it loose (obviously have to let the swelling go down first..)

    hope to see you back at the track sometime soon..

  • Comment number 19.

    Best of luck with the recovery Tom. Rooting for you to get up on your feet and back in more pain as soon as possible.

    It was great to hear from Deano. It brings back memories of when he was competing and the world's media loved him 'cos he was always good for a quote. Do us a favour, don't let him slip of the blog radar.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm an amteur athlete. After tearing my hamstring in a south of england championship race and feeling rather down about it, the physio who treated me that day said something that has always stuck in my mind: "Don't worry about it too much, there will always be someone in a far worse state than yourself". That did pick my spirits up significantly and subsequent injury setbacks havent been so dis-heartening since then.
    That said, you could argue that this approach is the complete opposite of Macey's where doing everything is everything!

  • Comment number 21.

    If you've done your hamstring then you're not going to make it.
    I don't know why your blaming yourself for this. Sounds pretty much like you were just trying to do what Dean Macey was telling you to do. To my mind he was pushing you far too hard, far too quick.
    People who are not used to interval training need time to adapt to the intensity, otherwise they go too hard and rip hamstrings or piriformis trying to keep up.

    Dean Macey is totally irresponsible.

  • Comment number 22.

  • Comment number 23.


    fearless or stupid...sorry to read of your injury..cant' help think you're first thought was right..i've been Macey'd.., clearly a'talented chap,,and good for a quote..but equally good for an injury..JMB and Harpy..sadly have it covered...The movement from indoors to outdoors,,just wasn't controlled enough..easy in retrospect...,

    As Jake said get some Physio/massage..bit of the old R.i.C.e, recovery...and a few perms in the pool..err lengths..,

    Injuries suck...

    get well mate


  • Comment number 24.

    It was really interesting to see the contrast between Daley Thompson's training and Dean Macey's. Daley obviously pushed you extremely hard, but his session had obvious goals, with each exercise focussed on building a specific skill. He didn't feel the need to destroy the body, just push it far.

    Macey has always been a bit of a nutter, and I respect his ability to push himself to the physical limit, but that attitude is surely not conducive to producing an athletically healthy body, one ready for top-level competition? I'm no expert, but it would seem that destroying your body in each session is just going to leave it worn out and tired.

    I don't find it surprising at all that Daley is a multiple gold medal winner,and Macey has a history of soul-destroying injuries. One was, and seemingly still is, obsessed with competing and winning, the other was obsessed with training.


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