This was my eighth Flight Centre Epic and it ended in a dirty great big DNF at the 50km turn-around, not exactly what i had in mind when I started out this morning but in hindsight I should have seen it coming!
My race started out swell, it was a beautiful sunny day at Spicers Hidden Vale and for 35km, give or take, I was hanging with the lead ladies (Willett and King) and pretty stoked to be there. Then, for no apparent reason, a switch in my head flicked and I could do nothing but watched them ride out of sight, powerless to chase and reluctant to care. My brain said “enough”, it was tired and looking for a comfy pillow to lie on, something that usually happens in the closing kilometers of the race not the first quarter. It was not like a normal hunger flat and my legs seemed as I would have expected while racing, but my brain shut down or switched off. I could do nothing but tap it out to the 50km check point and withdraw. The brain is a very powerful organ and funnily enough, rules the body.
This year I have raced the ABSA Cape Epic (April) and TransAlp (July), both big 8-day mountain bike stage races in their own right, with a few one day races squeezed in between. I am a veterinarian (veterinary director) and work full time hours. I am a girlfriend and mother to two demanding sausage-dogs, a cat, three snakes and two lizards, fortunately no human children as I honestly do not know how I would manage human children. I train, I work, I race and never once have I consider a break from training. I take a lot of ‘holidays’ from work but all are for racing, except our annual camping holiday in Byron Bay for 1 week in December. I rarely switch off completely from work or training, especially with the advent of technology that says I can be contacted anywhere and anytime. The majority of athletes I know are in a similar situation, life is a squeeze and we do what we can to balance it and keep everybody happy.
When I say I should have seen it coming, well my training days in the last month, actually since returning from TransAlp, were getting shorter and lacking in enthusiasm. I was getting up religiously at 0500 to train before work and then riding home after 10-12 hour shifts, arriving home at 2000. I was training because I thought I should rather than because I wanted to while simultaneously slotting in extra shifts at work to make up for time away. I was tired, sure, but never once did I think I needed a break from training. I missed all the classic signs like preferring to stay in bed than ride, until now training was never a task or a chore, I love riding but of late the staying in bed option seemed more appealing. Summer has finally arrived and I couldn’t understand why Ididn’t want to be out in the sun riding, or I just didn’t take the time to think! Now my body has said enough and I know I need a break! Very few of us have the luxury of being a professional athlete so we train when we can and we work to pay the bills and race expenses. Trying to balance personal life, work life and training life is like walking a thread and if there is upset in any of the above the fall becomes a spiral into a chasm. Once your body starts to fatigue the relentless nature of training and work and life ensure that the chink in the armor becomes a crevasse.
The catalyst in my life last week involved a very special patient of mine, Sam-I-Am (12.5 year old springer spaniel) and a nasty splenic tumor (2kg worth) that I was tasked with removing Thursday. Splenic tumors can be malignant (bad) or benign (not so bad) and it isn’t until we take a look that we know which way the coin might fall. Fortunately for Sam his splenic mass was benign but as, much as I try to divorce myself from my work, the 48 hours of angst following his surgery zapped my adrenal glands and left me feeling fatigued. The compounding effect of which I experienced today when my brain said “ENOUGH”.
I am not really sure what the moral to this story is but I will be locking my bike up for 2 weeks to rest before preparing, with more enthusiasm, for the Highland Fling 100 mile in November.
I probably should have done this a few weeks ago to prevent my current demise but stubborn as I am I refused to see the signs. I am reluctant to play the ‘age-card’ but admit to feeling my 39 years of late and with age comes wisdom, or so they say, so with all this newly acquired wisdom I will definitely make an effort to be more sensible in future.
Resting is equally, if not more, important than training because your body cannot improve if you do not allow it time to rest.