Monday, 18 April 2016

Peloton Brief - Metal Sticks

When you were at school, crutches would be captivating, if anyone came into school with a set of crutches there would be an immediate line formed all waiting to have a go. Yes, I was amongst the ones allured by the strange looking metal sticks. However, after 5 months having to use the retched things, even the sight of them give’s me a abhorrent feeling. So when I was told that I was able to swap the crutches for my bike I was more than happy. From getting the new’s that I was finally fixed to pedaling was maybe….a couple of minutes. It was only for a slender 10 minutes but that was all I needed to feel content. 

I should probably give you an explanation to why I got to enjoy the fun of crutches. Back in August, 2015 during the USA Pro Challenge I crashed and broke the Talus bone in my ankle. It’s a complicated bone and includes far to many important elements in order for the ankle to work so it wasn't an injury I was willing to rush.

I have now been training for three months and they have flown by, if only they had gone this fast when I was ‘with’ cast. I rode inside for the first three weeks before venturing out onto the road. I saw a lot of progress very quickly over the first six weeks which was encouraging. Of course there are still improvements but they are not as pronounced as they were at the beginning. 

I am now able to train like I was prior to the injury and include effort's and climb's that a month ago wouldn't have been possible. The most challenging part has been the many hours of physiotherapy and swimming sessions, educating the right side of my body and right ankle to work again. Turn’s out that when the ankle joint has been stuck in one position for 21 weeks it can be pretty stubborn when it has to start working again.

People might see it as strange but I am happy that I have been able to go through something so significant. The adventure and freedom that cycling give’s you is something I will never take for granted again. I knew coming back from injury was going to be difficult but I haven't wavered with motivation, it has given me a bigger fire in my belly. 

I get to join my Canyon-SRAM team mates for the first time this weekend (16th April). Lining up on the start line having been away from racing for over 8 months is making me a little anxious but I am super excited. Here’s hoping it goes well and I don't get to much of a shock!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Pro Cycling Dairy - April

As a Cyclist the ‘season’, roughly February through to late September, involves a great deal of time on the road. Jumping from hotel to hotel, it is very easy to start longing for your own bed. However in complete contrast to this lifestyle, I have spent the previous two months entirely in one place. Having travelled near non stop to races for almost as long as I can remember, I started to get itchy feet simply being at home.

Luckily I had a good excuse this week to get on the move again: Tao, my boyfriend, was celebrating his 21st whilst at a race in the Treviso region of Italy. So Anna (Tao’s Mum) and I booked up to head to the land of pizza and pasta for 5 days, catching two races and the all important birthday! 

I had been in Italy for a whole 10 minutes and already greeted the lady at the Airport cafe with a very English ‘Hola’, immediately apologising and correcting myself to ‘Ciao’. Cleverly I then followed this up with a ‘Gracias’ as she handed over my lunch. I walked away red faced and chuckling to myself. It not being the first time I had forgotten to shift my brain post flight. Like most people, my vocabulary for most countries stretches from Hello to thank you and then concludes with good-bye. The struggle comes when trying to remember what country I am in at the time.

As I sat in the Cafe, I listened to all the different languages being spoken around the airport. I enjoy the many confused looks whilst peering up at the departure board, the taxi drivers flapping signs with hastily scrawled names in the air and the families greeting each other at the arrivals gate. Having a job where you are constantly around different languages and cultures, I think you grow an appreciation for the nuances of these places, how they operate and what to expect.

This year my team has six different ways of saying hello, thank you and goodbye. It is truly an international dinner table which means the conversations are always interesting. One example would be a sponsor asking me if I was married, due to us Brits wearing wedding rings on the opposite hands to them.

So with our racing calendar taking us all over the world, and my brilliant team mates to enjoy it with, I don't think I’ll be getting itchy feet again anytime soon!

Pro Cycling Dairy - March

Easy days are always welcomed with open arms in my training schedule. Last week my boyfriend Tao’s easy day coincided with mine so we rolled out together.  Like most ‘recovery days’, we stopped at a cafe in a small Catalan village for breakfast. It’s one we ride through often, but had never ventured in to any further than the main road. Coming in to a beautiful small square, we were spoilt for choice. Which cafe would we like to spend our lazy Friday morning at? In the end we decided both! First being for the savoury choice of a Bocadillo El Camino. As we walked in, there were two old men having a coffee along side a bottle of red wine (it was 10am), the perfect metaphor for the relaxed village scene perhaps? The second cafe was for the sugar hit before we slowly pedalled our way home. Total ride time 2 hours, Elapsed time? 4 hours.

Once home we spend the afternoon wondering around the cobbled streets of Girona, steadily making our way through the ‘things to do’ list that had accumulated over the past few days. We have our own names for a number of the shops here. Mainly due to my inability to remember the real, sometimes confusing, Catalan names. 

The ‘Coconut shop’, more commonly known as A la Menuda is one of our most visited shops. They sell delicious desiccated Coconut (hence the name), nuts, dried fruit and oats. You name it, they have it. Then there is our favourite shop, known to most as Colmado L’estuca. We joke that the owners have almost taken the roles of our Girona parents we see them so much. Conversation is limited due to the language barrier but we always feel very welcomed each time we walk in. And they have the best produce in town.

Once home I normally have plenty of extravagant ideas for ride food to make for the upcoming days, or a crazy recipe I want to make for dinner. Unfortunately I take the term ‘easy day’ to the extreme, so it can be dangerous when my bum hits the sofa. My legs seemingly losing the ability to lift me from it’s comfy depths. More often than not, no baking has happened and dinner isn’t quite as extravagant as I had earlier planned.

Before heading to bed I have a quick look over my training diary, seeing what my coach has in store for the next week’s training. And seemingly just like that, the day is over - recovery done, time to train again!

Pro Cycling Diary - February

I didn't really want my first ProCycling diary to be about my ankle, but then I had the realisation I could get all the explaining out the way, focusing on future adventures in my upcoming entries. 

So for the those of you that haven't already read about it: back in August during the inaugural Women’s USA Pro Challenge I broke my ankle. As I later learnt, after my first consultation with the specialist’s, the Talus is a tricky bone to break.

It was a silly and utterly avoidable crash, but one that would leave it’s mark definitively on my season. In the aftermath, it took a while to get used to my lack of independence and mobility. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to accepting help, especially when it’s teammates having to run around for me.

My Mum and Dad had also already booked a two week road-trip culminating at the World Championships in Richmond. It is rare I get to spend quality time with my parents. So after hearing I wouldn't require surgery, I decided instead of flying back to England, that I would hang out for three weeks in America awaiting their arrival. We managed to take in five states during a day and the entire ‘Blue Ridge Parkway’!

Fastforward a few months and my new team for 2016, Team Canyon-SRAM, were holding their training camp in early December. By this point I was more than ready to become a bike rider again. I had set my heart on joining an easy cafe ride or Zwift session with my teammates, but ultimately that wasn't to be. I see myself as a glass half full kind of person, positive and optimistic. So going in to each CT scan in the months prior, I would always have some hope and excitement, keeping the belief that I would walk crutch free out of the hospital that day. Unfortunately in the end it took five months and five scans for that to become a reality, but eventually, I got there.

I have gained a whole new appreciation of what bike racing really means to me over this period. In the past I would sometimes question whether I truly loved Cycling or simply the glamour of it all. That doubt has now been firmly removed from my mind. Putting my leg over my bike for the first time a few days ago was a very special moment and one I will never forget.