Full of good intentions, the idea was for me to ’start’ blogging consistently during 2018. However, l’ve been somewhat preoccupied with my recovery. This has given me time to reflect on 2017, refocus my ambitions for 2018, and consider what I actually want to achieve in cycling while working on improving my work / life balance.
To recap, 2017 was a come-back year, after my head-on cycling crash in in 2016. The early part of the year was dominated by getting fit and training for JoBerg2c, the goal Jenn and me had set ourselves while I was in hospital. Apparently, after coming out of my maxillofacial surgery I was ebullient about future adventures.
JoBerg2c was an amazing adventure, made even more special by sharing it with Jenn and riding together as a team. Jenn has written about it eloquently, and has a unique perspective on the journey back to racing fitness (see April 2017 entries).
My abiding memories from JoBerg2c are of:
I loved racing it on a hard-tail too; my 1x Rocky Mountain Vertex 29er was very efficient, but if pushed I would probably recommend a short-travel FS bike for maximum fun and managing fatigue over the 9 days.
The early season training and racing in South Africa, combined with the advice from my Coach, Szymon, meant that I started the 2017 Qatar cycling season in great form. Given the climate here, racing starts late September and generally concludes in April before it gets too unbearably hot and sticky. For 2017, the Qatar Cycling Federation has really stepped up, organizing Road / TT and MTB races, with national and team league points up for grabs across all disciplines.
The Road Races are currently sponsored by Royal Air Maroc and the first road race of the season was the Dukhan North and South Circuit on 17 November 2017.
This 66.2km course with a few punchy hills is my favourite place to road ride here. What I don’t enjoy as much after my accident, is large group riding, particularly with people I don’t normally ride with. With 45 starters, the ‘B’ grade race felt pretty busy and a bit dangerous, which meant the first lap was a challenge for me mentally.
Despite a few testing attacks on the rolling hills, the peloton stayed resolutely together until the long stretch into the wind that leads back to the finish line and start of the last lap. I was towards the end of the pack when the hammer went down, and I had to fight extremely hard to get back to the leading group, meaning that my HR was really on the limit as we entered Dukhan for the final time.
Fortunately, I survived as this proved to be the decisive move in the race whittling down the contenders to about 20 riders with a healthy 30-sec gap, which was to remain until the end. Up the ‘long’ climb from the Woqod, and into the last 5km I worked hard to concentrate on my positioning so that I could respond to any attacks and the inevitable sprint for the line. As expected, the pace really picked up after the last roundabout but I managed to avoid my normal poor positioning and the bungee effect.
At what must of been about 1km out, the group neatly split either side of the road. Everyone was pushing the biggest gear possible, and it seemed like there was a total synchronicity to our cadence and sound as we headed for the line.
I chose the left side of the road with some of the Pinoy Roadies and another Tawaf rider. I was feeling strong, so after a few moments decided to make the jump and see what damage I could do on the way to line. Never have I worked so hard on a bike. My heart was pounding in my chest and I was gasping for air, but I could hear the frenzied sound of riders racing to catch me.
During what must have been a moment of clarity, I decided that I was going to force my body to make another kick, up the small incline, and take this all the way to the line. A few moments later, having not died of a heart attack, I looked up and noticed that there was no-one in front of me. I looked around and my closest competitors were all just behind, free-wheeling after crossing the line. At that point there was a dawning realisation that I had actually won my first ever road race at the age of 47 years and 11 months - there’s life in the old body yet!
However, my faith in my immortality and ability to cheat the ageing process was to be firmly disavowed little more than a month later! (To be continued...)
We had a lovely Valentine's Day yesterday - complete with heart-shaped red velvet chocolate cake whoopie pie and chocolate banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery (don't try it - it's crack for desert lovers). I wanted to do something special for John since he has really been struggling in the past few weeks with Bikingman looming closer.
The training is going really well, and after getting sick in early January, I am finally feeling strong and healthy again! And not a minute too soon since the race is just two weeks away!
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. But for the most part, I've been a bit relaxed about the whole thing. Almost too relaxed. Almost in denial that the time has come. And certainly disappointed that I will be on that start line alone and without John.
I have to admit that mornings have become a challenge since we got back from Christmas holidays. This is due to a number of factors, beginning with the fact that we were sleeping late during the holidays and got into a routine of waking up whenever we felt like it. It was glorious!
Coming back to the regular working schedule and having to use an alarm clock again feels like torture. I am completely out of my routine, and the cats are waking me up earlier and earlier each day - this morning it was 5:20AM. This was normal pre-holiday, but is a real struggle at the moment.
Update on JHH
So, John's injury is healing away and in the meantime, he is trying his best to be the model patient. He's sleeping a bit better now at night and in yesterday's check-up, the doctor seemed happy with how the giant incision is healing.
John is now on his third day in hospital and well fed up with being (a) patient. According to the doctors, the surgery went well with a slight complication due to a lot of bleeding, apparently. Instead of lasting one hour, it was nearly five hours later when he was brought to the recovery room.
It was scary to see him immediately post-op, and of course a relief just to see him. He was still under the effects of the pain medication and the first words he managed in between exclamations of pain and long exhalations were, “I’m retiring!” He couldn’t seem to get his leg in a comfortable position, and his face was a bit swollen, especially around the eyes. But the surgery was over, and I thought that meant the worst was behind us. He proceeded to crack jokes about how his dancing career was over, and was exceedingly complimentary to me about what a wonderful wife I am and how lucky he is to have me - I’m documenting this well ;)
Little did I know at the time how big this surgery really is. I think compared to the last accident where we were looking at scary life-altering possibilities from the brain injury and initial memory loss, etcetera, we both underestimated this surgery to repair the calcaneum (heel bone).
There is a lot to catch up on from our activities since my last post. There's good news and bad news. We both raced in the annual "3Hrs of DuHell" MTB race at Duhail on 15 December - just two days before our departure for the Christmas holiday. I was chuffed with a third place finish, while John crashed around lap five on a sharp corner, taking him out of the race altogether.
With just 11 weeks to go, training is going great and we are feeling strong if somewhat fatigued (still making time for naps and cuddles with Annie and Pip in between all the training!). I don't remember ever being so disciplined with my training plans. I've surpassed my previous annual mileage and hit my target of 6,000km for 2017! Last year, I remember us cycling at Lusail on 31 December to try to eke out the final 50kms to reach my 5,000km goal. So, as we approach the Christmas holiday, it's time to celebrate a bit and reflect on the past year. And keep hitting those training targets, of course!!
Last week was a big week for us! John took first place in the second leg of the Air Maroc League Race Series on Friday morning! He went on his own to out-sprint a large pack of riders at the end of the 66km race at Dukhan. He has definitely turned a corner from recovery mode to being back in the game!
Last week was an exciting week! My article about how we got from the accident to the joBerg2c finish line was featured in Total Women's Cycling magazine! It was satisfying to put our story out there, and the support we have received from friends and strangers has been heart warming. I am so happy our story could touch and inspire others.