As alluded to in my previous blog, things have not exactly been smooth sailing since about the end of April for me. Still afloat but a bit battered by the storms. However I will try not to be too much of a misery-guts, this is just to let you all know what’s been going on these past 6 months really – don’t worry there is a happy ending so stick with me!
Three big fat obstacles this season. I won’t beat around the bush:
- Kidney infection and subsequent abscess last Winter, which kept me off-bike for 3 months.
- In the Spring being diagnosed with IBS and learning to adapt to that (which is very much an ongoing process!)
- And of course Covid followed by his right-hand man Long Covid, who always likes to throw a spanner in the works too.
It’s hard to keep spirits high when things are not going well, especially when it’s your job to be fit and healthy and that’s the one thing that is completely out of your control sometimes. And it always seems to me that everything bad always comes at once… but life works in mysterious ways I guess, and some day everything will go well again! What I’ve learned is that the qualities of a professional athlete are not just about being physically strong, motivated and competitive – it’s also about being resilient and having the mental strength to come back time and time again from these setbacks.
Covid is different for everyone, but for me the overriding feeling has been that I’m missing my extra gear as it were. It’s hard to explain – I’m sure many of you will have had similar – it’s kind of the sense that I’m back to a ‘good’ level on the bike, but not ‘exceptional’. My resting Heart Rate is also still 10bpm higher than it was, of which I am told is common, and around 1 in 8 athletes suffer from long covid effects, so I’m not an abnormality (in that respect. Very possibly in other respects.)
Throughout the Spanish races in May, Women’s Tour and Nationals, this was how I felt; I was able to function on the bike but didn’t feel like I was ever involved in the pointy end of the race. I was really excited to be selected for the Giro in July and was really looking forward to it. I knew that I wasn’t going to be at my best, but thought I could certainly help the team in a domestique role. However… 10 days in disgustingly hot temperatures only accentuated the effects of my health issues, and it was a bit of a surprise that I managed to complete it. But I am glad I did, and I’m proud of myself for doing so. On-the-job heat adaptation from 150 UK to 450 Sardinia is not recommended…
Ok, some good news now Abi if you please.
Yes! Things started to take an upwards turn in August. I went to the Commonwealth Games which was the experience of a lifetime. Again, really privileged to have been selected for such a prestigious event. Things didn’t go so well on a tactical or preparational level, but I was starting to get some good sensations back in the legs, lungs and heart which felt like a step in the right direction.
Following on from this was my last race of the season, Ryedale GP. After a couple of weeks of solid training I went into this with the most confidence I’ve had since March, and, coincidence or not, I rode my best race of the year and won solo at a very special home event. I definitely felt more like myself, and I’m pleased to say in the weeks following on from that I’ve felt like things really are improving and life is a little more sunshine-y!
It’s not been an easy first season as a pro to say the least. But I’ve had some opportunities and experiences that most people could only DREAM of having, and a truckload of support from my wonderful team all throughout. I can learn from this year, but will now put behind me and move on from. Things can only go upwards hey! Despite maybe not enjoying the racing as much as hoped, I’ve been to lots of amazing places and amazing races this year. And of course it was really nice to finish the season on a high, and feeling more like myself again.
I’m still not quite back to full health yet, and so to air on the side of caution we have decided to stop my season now let my body recover properly and have some time off the bike to reset. As I keep being told, I’m ‘only young after all and have many years of racing ahead to look forward to!’
My focus has now shifted towards 2023, so I will have a good Winter to train and be ready for the racing next year when it returns. I now know a bit more what to expect, and can plan what races I might be suited to, to target and set goals for. I am really excited and motivated for another year with the team to see what we can do. For now I wish them the best of luck in the rest of the races this year.
Thanks for reading. Check out my Instagram to see what I’m getting up to in my off season and my return to training (after a holiday!)