Monday, September 17, 2012

In Pursuit

Peehi Manini, what the hell is that? Sounds like peepee mankini, or Piri Weepu... No, stop thinking about peepee or mankinis you dirty, dirty Kiwi, it's actually a street name in Waitahanui near Taupo. Hutt local girl Bex Houston pointed this out to me on the way to the Day Night Thriller, you'll never hear the end of it now girl! 

Well, it's been nearly 6 months since I last put pen to paper about mountain biking. So here we go, I'm back on the bike and racing again. The mystery illness that screwed me up for a solid 6 months disappeared almost as sudden as at arrived. Bastard thing. 

Fortunately for me, this subsiding illness coincided with Tony "Tiger" Keith asking "What are you doing with your riding?" to which I admitted "Nothing..." and he swiftly suggested "Right, lets get you training again". Although I was hesitant and very rusty at first, Tiger persisted at keeping me on the bike, prescribing drinking time on Fridays, 'easy cunnie' spinning days, 'ghey roadie' Mondays and smash it out Wednesdays. This is the training I absolutely love. Tigs, I can't thank you enough for getting me back on track and making racing fun again. I don't think 100 Lamason coffees could even repay you, but it might be a good start.

I have done two races since I started training properly again in May. The first was PNP #1 at Wainuioumata. My approach to this race was completely different to the past - I stayed out til midnight the night before catching up with an old Dunedin mate, rocked up to Wainui and did a 5 minute warm up, and hung out at the start line. I didn't feel nervous at all, had no plan of attack, no expectations and no worries. My only goal was to be smooth the whole race and enjoy it. 

And that I did. It was the best race I have ever had. It wasn't the placing that made it the best - it was a combination of my frame of mind and physical performance that did. When I was hurting, I told myself to push it harder. When I was quick downhill, I pushed it even faster. I was railing, pumping, jumping and hucking all with a big smile on my face. In the past I have often shied away from hurt, and dug myself into a hole because of it, so embracing the hurt is a real success for me.

My second race was the 12hr team Day Night Thriller. This race our aim was just to have fun and enjoy catching up with everyone - because at the end of the day, that's how we all started - sifting around with mates, having a few laughs and just riding bikes. I did 7 laps  and I felt incredibly smooth and strong. I stormed the short climbs and pushed it to the absolute limit, with the same frame of mind I had in Wainui except I was absolutely fizzing to ride more laps!

In the past four months I've found my racing mojo again - I can't begin to describe how happy I am. I'm not aiming to be fast, make the worlds team or win races. I just want to race, and that's fine by me. It's the love that counts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

18th April, 2011

Today a year ago, I was lying unconscious in a Mercy Hospital operating theatre at the hands of Dr John Dunbar, about to undergo a knee osteotomy to realign my left patella. It's not often I remember what I do on certain dates, but this day I will never forget.

At the time it was the most painful, uncomfortable and horrible experience I had ever had. I spent every minute of that time wishing so hard to be able to walk, ride my bike, or even write an exam.  I hated everything about the situation.  What I hated the most was the transformation from racing around the country at Nationals to not even being able to walk - it was really difficult for me to accept the fall from grace.

Today I reflected on everything that has happened since that day last year. What I didn't know at the time, was how that one experience would set me on a path I had never even thought was possible.

Sometime after the surgery, I decided to turn my thinking around. I decided not to hate the situation, and instead treat it as an opportunity, to see what I could learn from it. I began learning about the procedure, studying surgical text books and asking John endless questions about what he actually did. I was trying to figure out how I could get back on my bike as fast as possible, but in doing so I become really interested in the Medicine itself.

Fast forward six months since the surgery and I had fractured my clavicle in a road crash, sustained a concussion and attended to various friends in mountain bike accidents. Hospitals, ambulances and injuries were popping up everywhere; I was no longer afraid of needles and spent more of my time learning Physiology instead of Macroeconomics...

It finally occurred to me that all of these situations and experiences were occurring at a remarkable rate, as if something was trying to direct me towards the Medical field. It was in November when I discovered an opportunity to join Wellington Free Ambulance as a Volunteer. It was something I knew nothing about; I didn’t think it was possible I’d get through.  Quite frankly it scared me, and that’s why I went for it.

Reflecting on this past year, I’m so glad to have finally discovered my passion. Without that experience in surgery, fracturing my collarbone, fracturing my wrist, sustaining 3 concussions in one year and attending two mountain bike crashes, I don’t know I would have gone down this path, but I’m so glad I did. 

Next week I’m catching up with John to discuss whether I should study Paramedicine or try for Medical School…. Who would have thought?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Change of Pace

It's that time of year... Smack bang in the middle of the Nationals season. In fact, just yesterday it was National Champs in Nelson - congratulations everyone on what I have heard was some pretty hard racing, great battles and even better weather! 

From a personal point of view, it feels very odd being in the middle of a season and having raced only once - In November, and in more recent times, I have only ridden my bike a handful of times over the past couple of months. Suffice to say, it has been very quiet in the biking department lately. Riding my bike everyday is like having a right hand, without it I don't feel like myself. While I'm still in touch with everyone, I miss being a fully functioning part of the extended family that seems to form around XC racing in NZ. 
Reason being for all this - I am injured yet again, but not in the traditional sense.

Periodically and sporadically, last season I had episodes of training where I could only ride 30 minutes then physically not be able to pedal. My heart rate would sky rocket riding slowly on flat terrain, I would sweat a lot more than usual, get strange chest pains and generally feel awful and severely fatigued. This happened one day training in Rotorua, I went back to the backpackers and fell asleep for 6 hours and didn't remember the morning! I never got to the bottom of it at that time, and it usually disappeared within a few days.

Lately however, this started happening more than once or twice. When it did happen, I'd take a few days off, try and ride, and feel terrible again. This had been going on for four weeks before our mountain biking holiday in Taupo at New Years, but it was here I realised something was truly wrong. We planned to ride the W2K, but I couldn't even pedal downhill let alone up - and my vision would blur every time I pedalled up hill. It was here that Harriet suggested I get a blood test. Finally I realised that this was not just fatigue - it was something a bit more deep-rooted. So I booked in with the Doc I met while out riding in Dunedin to see what was up.

After going through my symptoms, Dr. Medlicott was stumped and decided that indeed it would be a good idea to have a blood test. He ordered a full blood count as well as Electrolytes, Ferritin and the Eppstein-Barr Virus (to eliminate the idea of glange). My tests came back fine for everything - except Ferritin. 

I can see how this all happened now and I should have known better, I'm a bit pissed at myself I guess. Being a female endurance athlete, my iron is never really too shit hot. But what happened that tipped me over the edge was that I gave blood a couple of months back. Naturally, me giving blood would have reduced the level of red blood cells in my body and when these cells were slowly replaced, the new cells had reduced hemoglobin because I don't have enough iron to facilitate the process. As they were being replaced and trying to find iron, my iron stores went downhill and the process repeated. So at this point in time... My bods got shitty bloods with bad oxygen carrying capacity which explains all my symptoms. Dumbass me. Can't even walk very far without getting exhausted.

So what am I doing about it? I'm not anaemic, but iron deficient. So I'm taking some supplements, kicking back a bit more and eating a bit more red meat. I don't know how long this process will take to rectify itself but it could be a couple of months yet. I'm aiming to race the Crazyman in May with Sam as the runner, so will start training for that once this episode is over. 
So while this has written off my season, I'm focussing on my induction into being a Medic for Wellington Free Ambulance. This is something outside of biking that I'm super excited for and keen to learn as much about as I can and get good at it.

I'll be on the other side of MTB racing for once - patching up all you buggers who come a gutser!

Enjoy the ride..