If you play any kind of sport, you take your chances with injury and cycling is no exception. The stuff that I do, I almost expect that at some point I’m going to hurt myself – it’s just kind of inevitable that at some point I’ll crash. Despite appearances, I’m actually not a reckless person at all –  in fact sometimes I wish I was less cautious – so I’m careful to balance pushing myself with staying safe. But sometimes stuff happens, eh?!

I try not to think about it too much, but I’m always aware of the possible outcomes of what I’m doing, whether I’m riding or racing road, track or mountain bikes. What I’ve chosen not to do is make calculations based on what might or might not happen.

Take this example: I decided to enter a mountain bike race fairly close to the date of the Red Hook Crit fixed gear race in Brooklyn, one of a series that I’ve been gearing my training towards over the last 8 months or so. In the very depths of my mind was an awareness of the fact that a crash at that particular race would mean no Red Hook Crit, but I chose to race regardless because there’s always something important or exciting coming up. The way I see it, if I always skip events because of what might happen, I’ll miss out on more stuff than I would through injury.

 

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Unfortunately, a crash at that very mountain bike race did put me out of action, and that was around four weeks ago. Despite a medic at the event telling me that I hadn’t broken any bones in my hand (clearly his X-Ray specs were broken!), I cracked a bone in my thumb into three pieces. I was out for six weeks and naturally, rather unhappy about it.

What followed was a rollercoaster of emotions, one I’m still riding for the next couple of weeks!

It began with panic. I’d been focused on training for months (with a few breaks for various reasons) and the thought of not doing it was pretty alarming for two reasons – firstly, as a freelancer, I’d come to enjoy the structure the training gives me through the week and I kind of planned the rest of the schedule around it so without the training, I felt unanchored and aimless. But the bulk of my panic came from the thought of losing all the gains I’d made through training – I’d been working hard to get stronger and faster and didn’t want to go back to square one.

 

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My panic was accompanied by refusal; a refusal to be stopped by this injury. The first few days, I went to the gym with a cast on up to my elbow, hopped on the turbo trainer and created rivers of sweat that poured into it (ew!) and dug out my dusty running shoes. No way was I going to let some broken bones stop me from training, even if I couldn’t ride my bike. I was grumpy as hell, missing the good endorphins that come from cycling – I didn’t seem to get the same ‘fix’ from the gym and the turbo.

The furious workouts (and temper!) lasted about ten days, and then came acceptance, the next step. I realised that in some ways, rather than helping myself I was kind of beating myself up. What I actually needed, way more than to stay on top of my training was to be nice to myself, to show myself a little kindness and compassion. Being injured sucks and turbo training in a cast and doing one-handed gym work isn’t exactly fun and doesn’t make you feel any better about the situation. What I really needed was to treat myself like a good friend who needs a hug, rather than some kind of army cadet. I needed cake, wine, movie marathons, books, bubble baths, family, seaside strolls, pubs, friends, a hair cut, BBQs, cats, picnics, lie-ins and a bit of a break. I gave myself all of those and before long, relaxed into the whole idea of relaxing.

 

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After a couple of enjoyable weeks, now I’m at the next stage. The end of my injury is in sight so I’m trying to motivate myself to get back into my former routine. The doctor told me not to use my thumb for six weeks, which I’m sticking to, so I still can’t ride properly. Whilst I was in New York for Red Hook Crit, I did cycle a little bit – possible because the city is flat, I rode incredible slowly and carefully and I didn’t use my thumb to hold the handlebars – but now I’m back in hilly Devon I’m not cycling again.

So here’s where am I now. This week, I went back to the gym after my short break and despite being worried that I’d find everything really difficult, I actually think the break has done me some good. Well rested and recovered, rather than feeling unfit I actually feel just about the same as I did before and I’m able to do the same number of reps with same number of weights as before the crash. There are a few exercises I can’t do because of my injury, but other than that, all good.

But it’s not all good; here’s the thing. What’s really worrying me, weirdly, is getting back on my bike. I felt like I was in a really good place with my training and now I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up with the rides/groups/races that I was only just able to keep up with before – I’d worked hard to build my power and speed up over many months and I’m scared that it will all be gone and then I’ll get super bummed out. So rather than looking forward to riding again, it’s the opposite. Which is stupid, because I love cycling.

I guess what I need to do is take some of my own advice and just treat myself kindly – get back on the bike, enjoy and do my best. Fingers crossed I’ll be back to racing in no time. I’m wondering whether to just throw myself in at the deep end, climb straight back on and enter some races or whether I should give myself a few weeks training before I potentially demoralise myself. What do you think?

 

 

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Comments (6)
  1. sandy May 12, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Hey Juliet, I totally feel your pain and frustration. Whilst I am nowhere near your level of riding, I had been training hard for most of last year for some big events this year including the Maratona Dolomiti and various other events in the UK. Beginning of the year I was told I had early stages of breast cancer which necessitated surgery and 7 weeks of zero exercise!! I did exactly what you did at first, went to the gym and sat on the recumbent bike, tried power walking on treadmill etc but wasn’t helping so ended up on sofa watching endless box sets. Got back into cycling fitness reasonably quickly and after 3 weeks felt I was almost back to where I’d left off and ….. nasty fall out on bike, hit the tarmac hard, sprained thumb and bruised knee bone and cartilage very badly, 7 weeks laster and am just starting to get over it. First ride this week and actually, its not that bad. Probably need another 2 or 3 weeks to get back to where I was. You are younger and fitter and will be back to normal in no time, but be gentle and ease yourself back in gradually; your body will thank you for it! Good luck!

    • Juliet_Elliott May 16, 2016 at 9:59 am

      oh god, sounds like you’ve had a really rough time, poor you! JEEZ! Glad to hear you are back on the bike, I bet it feels like such a relief? I went out on Sunday morning and it gave me such a boost, I feel a million times better and a lot of the worry has disappeared. Take care and have lots of fun getting going again. We’re lucky at least, in that it’s a lovely time of year to cycle and at least we don’t have to freeze!

  2. Eri c G May 12, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    It is a hard call, I would take it easy to start, your body will remember and will kick in and build back quickly. Our mtn bike trails are all dirt and when it rains, it takes a couple days to get them back to ride able. Last year and now this year we are having an abnormally large amount of rain, my training has gone from every other day with about every 3rd ride a 3 hour endurance builder to having 4 – 5 days off in between. I do some road when I can, but for me, when I get back on the mtn. bike, it takes a couple days of 2 hour riding to get back. I am just a hobby rider/racer, but I found an easy day back on and then hit it the second day, gets me back faster. My next race is 3 weeks away, a 4 hour mtb ride, hope this weather breaks. Good luck and like you said, down feelings don’t help at all, just keep looking forward.

    • Juliet_Elliott May 16, 2016 at 9:55 am

      I rode over the weekend and found my base fitness is not too bad actually, but I think my race fitness has gone. Hopefully I can get it back quickly though!

      Sounds tricky what you’re experiencing. We had some terrible weather here this winter so I was on the turbo a fair bit, which is fine for training the top end but no good for endurance, unless you’re a nutter – I would never be able to do long sessions on it. I’d always prefer to get wet!

      Good luck in your race!

  3. Carlos May 12, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    First of all, I wish you a fast recovery.
    Second, don’t let fear guide you. Fear of failure or not being as good as before? C’mon!
    What do you have to lose!

    You’ve been training and in no time, you can be at your best.
    Enjoy the comeback time, train hard and be better than before!

    • Juliet_Elliott May 16, 2016 at 9:51 am

      definitely fear of not being as good as before, which is a hard blow to take when you’ve put so many hours in over the winter including horrid turbo sessions!

      Thanks for the encouragement, I’ll do my best!

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