Perseverance; The Familiar Path of Achievement (Thailand winter 2016 part 3)
I last wrote about the desire to focus my training. About how the motivation to reach previous levels was fueled by my poor performance versus another fighter in a sparring session. I wrote about the hard training leading up to the fight. But I skipped a lot. The truth is it was more than just hard training that accompanied me into the ring February 6th. It is never quite so easy with me. And so here I share with you a small segment that is the mainstay of my life. The awkward and unnecessarily difficult path that always seems to lie before me.
When I first landed in Phuket, the first thing I did was check my Blood Glucose levels. For type 2 diabetics, this is just a thing. We must always monitor our sugar levels. They were the lowest they have ever been since the beginning of the monitoring stage. I felt good. One obstacle removed. There was still the question of how I was going to fuel my muscles with limited carbohydrate intake. I will just have to wing it at this point. That was my mentality.
But there was another physical issue. On the flight, a familiar problem resurfaced. You see, I use to have a cyst right on my ass, very close to my anus. Fortunately I had a biopsy done and the Doctors had told me it was benign. I still had it removed about 6 or 7 years ago, but as warned, the cyst returned.
Now, because I knew it was going to return, I let it go. Why bother with another annoying surgery when it was destined to come back. But every now and then it would get infected and be a literal pain in my ass. Now was one of those times.
It had swollen to what felt like a golf ball. I am not sure what triggered it. Perhaps so many hours of sitting on it on the plane. Perhaps the diabetes. Whatever the reason, it had gotten infected, and it hurt.
Training was a bit awkward. My runs were painful, as I felt that golf ball bounce around while I ran, slowing me down a bit. Robert Thanawat was the head coach of the advanced group, and he would use me a lot to demonstrate techniques. Sweeps sucked. I would land right on my ass and it would hurt like nothing else could. I was so annoyed. Every once in a while, that awkward kick meant for the thigh would catch me in the backside and I would freeze, hoping it wouldn't hit me in the ass. Every training day was a painful training day. I decided to do something about it.
The first attempt was to try and drain it. I got some needle, some alcohol, some disinfectant brown shit, gauze and tape that I had brought with me from home. I was ready to Doctor myself. Man was that hard.
I am not your typical guy when it comes to pain. I deal with it rather well which is why I have always made for a decent fighter. I can brawl because I don't feel much, and I can clash shins, get slammed accidentally while holding pads, whatever, and I am usually ok. I don't react to getting poked by needles by a nurse either. I am totally good on that front.
Not this time....
I stuck myself the first time. It was fire and brimstone and all things hell. And not much was coming out either. Some pink puss (infection byproduct mixed with blood I imagine). But it wasn't going down. I poked myself repeatedly, trying to get at the totality of the swell. Nothing. Blood and puss and no end in site. I cleaned it up and bandaged myself. The bandage actually felt good. Time for another plan. Time for antibiotics.
I did my research on the kind of cyst I have and what happens when they get infected (I love the interwebz), and found out the most common forms of antibiotics used for the problem I had. When you are broke and poor and have no international insurance, that's what you do, and truthfully, I personally believe that humans in general have become way too dependent on medical systems. If your shit looks funny you go to the doctor, if you get a tooth ache you visit the dentist. I haven't been to the dentist since I got out of the Marine Corpse in 1997. I have all my teeth. I have had the occasional tooth ache. You know what? It goes away... I take care of myself first, then proceed with caution to the alternatives.
It turns out that the type of antibiotics used are the same for staph infection, and as anyone who has ever spent significant amount of time in Thailand knows, because staph is a bit of a problem, antibiotics are available everywhere. So I started myself on treatment. It would be a while before the antibiotics kick in though, and the swell would get worse before it got better.
The poking around triggered an even bigger inflammation, but the bandage actually alleviated the pain a lot. However, because it continued to swell due to fussing around with it, the skin burst open.
At this point, there were only a few reasonable options. One was to go to the hospital and take some time off. The other was to pack my shit and go home. Fortunately, I am not a reasonable person in the common sense of the word. Although it burst and was now an open wound, the bandaging kept the pain at bay, and I had confidence I had chosen the right antibiotics. It was only a matter of time. My third option then, being a bit less reasonable, was to take some time off and let it heal. I did what only could be done then. I chose option D...
Training continued. I refused to give in. I was making too many sacrifices to let this slow me down. I bandaged the shit out of my ass and continued to train. Continued to get swept by Robert (though to be honest, I would kind of look away and walk behind the nearest big guy and not make eye contact and hope I didn't here the familiar "old man come here!").
I had let the coaches know I was there to fight. Within two weeks they approached me for a fight for Feb. 6th at Rawai stadium. Initially, the fight was brought to a giant German guy who was like 215lbs of rock solid muscle. I had sparred with him and he had decent technique and was super athletic. He turned the fight down because he said he was leaving before the fight and wouldn't be around. I had hit my goal weight of 170lbs by this time. I was quickly regaining my sense of timing and prowess and was growing a reputation as a hard worker. All this told me that the opponent must be big and probably of decent caliber, but not great, so I of course took the fight. Fighting big guys had become my thing anyway. Let's add another to the list.
The swelling was going down, the wound healing. I was putting in 5 hours a day. Adding extra run time, adding western style skipping (I just don't like the slower, weighted thai style jump rope. I like speed). I was flowing. Skills were returning quickly, but I still had many holes in my game that I needed to close. This would be a good fight.
But of course things are never that easy.
One afternoon on the way to the gym, I was riding my scooter in as usual, when all of a sudden, life decided to be the asshole it always is to me. I was riding about ten feet behind another scooter. As we neared a hotel called Floraville, the rider pulled in to that hotels parking area on the left of the road. Now, in Thailand, driving sides are reversed, more like the UK than the states, so we are in the left lane, not the right.
So he pulls off to the left into the parking area and I continue forward when the dumbass decides to make a U-turn without even looking to see if anyone was behind him. He pulls back out right into the road in front of me and I hit my breaks. Bad move on my part, I should have swerved but honestly, scooters do not have the best handling and my immediate reflex was the breaks instead. I fished tailed and was going to hit him anyway so I dumped the scooter to my right side and hit the ground. Ugh... That hurt.
In a typical deuschy, western way he was apologetic, and helped me pick up the change that I spilled all over the street that I kept in my scooter for extra stuff like midnight snacks or what not. I scraped the side of my right leg and knee, and banged my hip pretty hard. I just held in my New York temper and got back on the bike and went to train. That was even more fun.
A few minutes into my run the pains started increasing. I was so pissed. I have three days to fight night. Three! And this has to happen. I'm training and I am sore and beat up and it's sparring day. I am going to get my ass handed. I'm sparring, not showing any signs of pain, but not able to do certain moves quickly enough. I am getting my ass beat. Doesn't help that the Russian crew, a bunch of pro and amateur MMA fighters that love to go hard, always seek me out for sparring because they know I can go hard too with no complaints or personal feelings involved. We understand each other and we don't give a fuck and we love to bang, and we are all good, so there is a mutual respect among us.
That is not a good thing right now.
I make it through the session. I got two more session to go and I am done until fight night. I get home, lick my wounds, take an ADVIL PM that I brought with me, and crash. The next day, two more sessions in the books. To painful sessions, but, my life is pain. Nothing new.
So I make it to fight night somehow. Beat up, bruised up, open wound is still there but healing slowly, life at home and it's problems lurking in the shadows. Fight night turned out to be surprisingly difficult on an emotional level.
I was 40 years old at that point. About to turn 41 in March. I was out for two and a half years on injuries stemming from a motorcycle accident. I had only three and a half weeks of preparation. I did my best to work my boxing for a month before arriving but with my job and coaching, getting in shape was not easy or ideal. I was nervous.
The guy I was fighting I heard was about 185lbs. That means that he was probably more. Who knows who he was. He was coming out of Sinbi Muay Thai. One of the better know gyms in Phuket, where the legendary Saenchai was coaching out of for a long time. The opponent was french, and the french love Muay Thai and have strong fighters. All the doubts surfaced. I was in my room alone. Letting the time go by slowly. Thinking about how foolish I was to do this. I found myself in a very uncomfortable state. I am not an overconfident guy, but I am not typically insecure or worried about much. So this was a new experience for me. I had to suppress the self doubt most of the day. A hard thing to do with so many obstacles to overcome.
And so before I new it, it was fight night....