Tuesday, 10 January 2017

"Injury makes you wise" : A new year of rebuilding a stronger me

Friday the 13th is upon us again and is considered by many of us as one of the unluckiest days of the year
Overall I am not a superstitious person, or at least that is what I think! When I do something bad like little white lies, or when I have been mean to someone, I feel like it is bad luck. I worry that something horrible will happen to me, which is probably not a bad way to be as it makes me quite an honest person! Bad luck is thought to be associated with certain anecdotes like walking under a ladder, the number 13, Friday the 13th and often have Biblical origins. Generally I do not let those affect me in my general behaviour or plans nor do I blame them for bad races or broken body parts. The fact that I am injured at the moment is not linked to any superstitious believes or bad luck. Although I do think a negative attitude towards it all has spiralled me down even further. But no avoiding Friday the 13ths, black crows, black cats, walking under ladders, breaking mirrors could have kept me healthy last year.
When it comes to race routine  though there is one thing which I insist on for good luck on race day.  I wear my favourite perfume, a scent which I have been using since I was 16. One time my perfume bottle got confiscated at the airport on the way to a race in the Philippines, I was irrationally upset about it and had to buy a new bottle when we got there. So may be I am a little superstitious after all.

Background :

In my day to day life I work as a veterinarian with high level performance horses.  One of the most frustrating things for a veterinarian is to get owners to rest their horses when it is really needed. There is always a race to be won on the horizon. As an elite mountain biker and multisport athlete, I learned over the last couple of years that I am not different to my clients who I have had to convince that more often than not, less is better than more.

Since 2013 I have been pushing my body into a downward spiral. I was struggling with overtraining and chronic lower back pain  which in 2016 ended up as  severe sciatic pain down the back of my legs.  The net of this was serious reduction of power in my left leg
With support from ashmei and Big Bobble Hats its easier to face Scottish conditions!

                                                                     On the side lines:
I have been really struggling with not being able to train the amount of hours I am used to at the intensity I know I am capable of. I know it is the best thing for my body and I am already starting to notice that I am beating the overtraining syndrome - with my heart-rate finally returning to normal zones. But as an endurance and outdoor athlete I miss the time spent in nature, running and riding in the beautiful Scottish hills. It gives me a feeling of freedom and satisfaction which is now lacking from my life. It is a true feeling of happiness which is hard to replace. On top of this  I love setting myself challenges in the form of races - pushing myself to the absolute max and doing this, often with like minded people in the most amazing places. It is difficult to watch it all pass by without being part of it.

 love challenging myself over extreme remote courses
                                                                                                       Own it:
I have teamed up with a great physiotherapist, David Ryan, who understands the frustrations involved with injury. And also knows how to handle my obsessive personality! Under his guidance, I am working hard on getting the flexibility back in my spine through physio, specific exercises and a lot of core and skill work. Over the last six months I have had to really change my attitude and instead of seeing this as time off the bike and  not doing any training, I had to start seeing it as the most important part of my training program as it would ultimately be the best path
to my recovery.

                 with 2017 being bike focussed I am sure there will be more bikes adding to the ever growing collection!
 In order to be able  do this it has been very important for me personally to surround myself with people who fundamentally understand what I want to achieve and help me get there. Something which I should have done years ago. I have now got a few people  around me with whom I am working closely. They have a broad knowledge on the type of injury I have got, what I can and cannot do and how to help me reach my goals. And these people are all on the same page when it comes to what is the best for me. That would be my biggest tip to any athlete. Choose your support group carefully, trust them wholly and take their advice as gospel. I have been too stubborn in the past and it has lead me nowhere.
                                                              Signing up with a new bike coach, Rab Wardell from Dirtschool

So aside from working with a physio, I have also signed up with a new coach, Rab Wardell from Dirtschool, https://www.dirtschool.co.uk/ now my year will be bike focussed with minimal running I thought Rab would be the perfect person to ask advise from. A day spent on a skill course with Rab has already showed a huge improvement in my technical riding and I simply like the way his brain works. Together with Dave and Rab  I am working on a training program  which will guide me into recovery. Training smarter, not harder. I refuse to give up. Don't die wondering.

Training in Scottish type of conditions requires good kit
Training in extreme Scottish conditions has definitely taken its toll on my body so this year I have also decided to invest in some really good gear. Thanks to the help of  Nicholson Cycles, I will be riding a Specialized Full Suspension bike which will be much easier on my back. Through my involvement with team ashmei I have access to some amazing kit and I can honestly say the brands winter kit is second to none. It has kept me warm and dry during some extreme conditions where other products failed me in the past. On long rides I wear ashmei cycling bibs of which the compressive nature of the fabric gives good lower back support and make my legs feel less fatigued. 2017 will be all about recovery!

 What it means for 2017

It will be a long process before I am back to my old self, because of the time required I have decided not to do any endurance triathlons or trail run races this year. It is almost like I have to re-build myself as a brand new athlete. But when one door closes another one opens and part of me has always wanted to see how much I would improve on the bike with a solely bike focus, therefiore I will be concentrating on the bike as much as my back (and physio) will let me. My main goal for 2017 is racing an 8 day MTB stage race in the Himalayas. 650km and 17.000m of climbing which will be a really cool challenge to have and I can’t wait to experience it! http://www.mtbhimalaya.com/ It is staged in September, which means that I will have no pressure on performing in the early season and plenty of time for recovery - as much as I possibly can for this race.

Although it has been hard letting go of some of my goals and plans for 2017, changing my attitude and building on new dreams. I am very excited and keen to work hard, turn my weaknesses into strengths this year whilst supported by some amazing people around me.
And at the end of the day there will always be ice cream!

"The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are stronger at the broken places"

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