It’s 4 weeks now since I dislocated my shoulder (for the third time) and had what I now see as an epiphany. I was unceremoniously dispatched to the tarmac at the Colne Grand Prix about a week after hearing that I needed surgery on the shoulder. It was inevitable in hindsight that it was going to pop out when my next crash came. Anyway… that’s the physical. It’s the mental stuff that’s been preoccupying me since then. That’s come as some sort of a surprise to me, in a way. It’s hit me a bit harder than I thought.
Let’s get this straight. The decision not to race until this is sorted is unequivocally made and not in question. The pain that happens with my dislocation when it happens is as near to all-consuming as I have experienced. To race – either a bike or fell running, would elevate the risk of a fall and I’m in no doubt at all that I do not want that.
I’ve yet to get a date for the surgery but am happy for now to sit it out. (It looks like October, if you’re interested)
There’s a few things that have caught me by surprise since ‘the decision’.
The first thing is, life is about routine more than I realise. Bringing up children, I became aware of that. Routine is your best friend with children with so many things. It helps them immensely – and you – especially when they are very little. But I’m only just coming to realise how strong an influence the routine of my cycling life has had upon me over the years. This time of year is deeply engrained in me. The scene is familiar but the stage has been taken away. It’s the end of family holidays and about 6 weeks until the 3 peaks cyclocross. In my normal routine that means lots of things; coping with a minor weight loss burdon, running with the bike, hill reps, longer rides with the harder last hour, fine-tuning the bike, obsessing over minor frills, there’s a long long list (and each worthy of its own blog post over the years!).
But that’s all gone. I’m not riding the 3 peaks, and on the surface, that’s making things simple. Except it isn’t. It makes it strange, unfamiliar, partly exciting, mildly depressing, but very, very out of routine.
Any speed you like as long as it hurts.
Another thing I have come to realise is that I ride bikes and run because I am competitive in nature. I have ‘tried’ riding my bike a couple of times now in the last four weeks, and also ‘tried’ a couple of runs. (These are – by my own strict rules – away from competition. There is a clear self-preservation thing in me keeping me from situations where I might fall until the surgery and recovery has taken its course). I actually enjoyed both riding and running. But only because I went fast. I hurt. My legs hurt. My feet hurt when I ran. My chest was straining on climbs on the bike. I got in that zone as soon as I could. And that’s why I enjoyed it. I did try, when I set off, to go easy. I’d love to think that I could just go out for a spin… or for a jog… just an amble. That’s not going to happen for me. Not easily, anyway. I do try not to go hard, but it’s hard.
So, for now, I’ve decided to carry on not racing as fast and aggressively as I can.
The beaten track
I thought I’d miss off-roading on the bike, but I don’t. I’m really unsure as to why, but have an incling that this really won’t nag me too much over the next six months or so. I can – for the time being – get my fix of the rural by running, when I want (I’m permitting myself to run off road – just not go silly downhill*). There is a bit more faff in off-road biking and I’m not missing that at all. I can pedal on the roads, and I can run off. So that’s fine. Surprisingly fine. For now.
It may be a break from sport, but my subconscious has never been so rushed off its feet. All my holiday, I read tales of people’s cycling adventures. Those of my team mate Alan off in the Pyrenees were particularly, disturbingly envy-inducing. But even everywhere we went on our holidays, driving to chunky altitudes in the Picos de Europa up swooping smooth roads, driving through the dramatic tree-smothered hills of the Basque country, the swirling Mediterranean Carreteras of the Costa Brava… all of it was basically one huge monologue-to-self about how the Planet X N2A would feel swooping around on roads like that. An itch that will have to remain unscratched, for now.
It bled into my dreams and my sleep was disturbed by a combination of bike pining and worrying about my arm popping out. An comfortable mix of a mind not at rest.
On the up
I’m starting to resolve some excitement about this rare opportunity to do a few different things this Autumn (aside from keyhole surgery and six weeks in a sling). There are a few things I can put to my advantage. I’m ‘watching’ my first 3 Peaks since 1994, for a start. I plan to do a bit of filming and make a short piece about a support team for the day. I can do things like ‘drink alcohol’ in September. That will be novel. I may even get to take Lily to some cross country races, or take Elsie to do a cyclocross without it all being a rushed compromise of a day. I can go on my friend Alan’s stag do without feeling guilty… and even attend his wedding in January without going straight there “filthy from the nationals” , as was the original plan.
It’s not all bad. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s different. I must make a point of keeping a half-full glass. Unless it’s someone else’s round.
* Just on climbs – see here