Searching “broken ribs” wasn’t in my plans for 2019.
But that’s where I’m at. So much for hitting 2019 right between the eyes!
Rewind a few days and I’m splattered on the floor after an unsuccessful attempt at jumping a tabletop on my BMX. I'm focusing all my efforts on not crying and slowly assessing the damage. My right side feels shredded. But hopefully all superficial. Phew!
Once back in the car, the adrenaline rush was inevitably dialling itself down and things started to take a sinister turn. With my gloves off, I noticed my wedding ring finger. My knuckle was like a purple marble. Oh, that’s not good. Flashbacks to 2017, when a broken finger took 17 weeks to heal. You don’t easily forget a 17-week block of 1-armed swimming! The lyrics of “Fuckety Fuck” started to play on repeat in my head.
Then Anthony made me laugh and my ribs burnt with pain. Oh jeez. I turned to Anthony: “I think my finger and ribs are broken.”
It was a very quiet journey home!
Once at A&E I was in “the care” of a nurse who could have been a baddy character in a David Walliams’ book. A tincy wincy bit of empathy would’ve been nice!
Once my elbow was patched up, the focus was my finger. “You need to get your rings off.” “I don’t think I can.” “Well then we’ll have to cut them off!” I looked at my three rings. I don’t know exactly what they are worth. In sentimental value they are priceless. In real money terms they'd be worth a very nice bike. “Fuckety Fuck” started playing again.
I don’t wish to recall what the next 10 minutes were like. Let’s leave it at you will never ever find me wearing rings again whilst running or biking. On a lighter note, it did open my eyes to what is possible when using lube!
My finger was x-rayed. Not broken! Euphoria. The ribs…they don’t x-ray. So, it’s now a waiting game to see how quickly (or slowly) they heal.
In the meantime, I’ll just be pissy about all the social media…New Year…New you…Shout your goals out loud and proud. There's never a good time to be injured but at New Year it really does suck!
*“Fuckety Fuck” is from the book Downhill From Here, written by Gavin Boyter who ran from John O'Groats to Land's End. The lyrics comprise just two words!!
My 2018 goals were to peak for the Worlds and Europeans (and medal) and become a better mountain biker with more flow. So, here’s how it went…
2018 has been FAB-U-LUS! Mainly because of two game-changing decisions I made.
The first was to work with Jenny Copnall to help me with my biking. She’s a former pro mountain biker and her results CV is enviable; as are her coaching qualifications. I have got a ridiculous amount from her - too much to list. Alongside a great training programme, the thing that has helped me the most was to introduce regular timed flat out rides at Cyclopark and Bedgebury. Initial times at Cyclopark were 28 mins; that’s now down to 24:30. Bedgebury was a 42 mins; now a 36:22 (and an all-important Strava QOM!). Seeing ‘data doesn’t lie’ improvements are incredibly motivating and definitely shut my chimp up.
No single thing made me faster, rather it's been a combination of lots of things: I got fitter and stronger, more confident, tried riding with my Bootylicious not glued to the saddle, rode with better riders (and tried to copy things), changed my definition of a long ride from 2 hours to 3-5 hours and rode my MTB a lot more. Then later in the year, there was the 'Harry met Claire' effect. Which leads nicely to the second game-changing decision.
I decided to contact Harry Molloy to help with my riding technique. Jenny and I thought working regularly with a local coach on local trails might help. And boy, has it! Harry’s been brilliant. I’ve nicknamed him 'the miracle-worker.' He instantly sorted my suspect cornering technique - I can finally die happy!! We’ve also done a lot on line-choices, staying tall on the bars, pumping and most recently getting up and over obstacles with techniques slightly more sophisticated than my 'hit it and hope for the best.' I’m loving the progress we are making. It's definitely a Harry Ever After!
So, I did peak for the Worlds in Denmark. I came second - to someone better than me. I also peaked for the Europeans in Ibiza, but more on that later... And I am definitely a better mountain biker with more flow.
Bizarrely, running concurrently with finding myself in the form on my life, has been my desire to end my passionate love affair with triathlon. A real moment for me was when I got an apologetic email from the Hadleigh off-road triathlon organisers to say the swim part was cancelled due to blue-green algae, making it just a bike-run. I was over the moon! It hit me that after 10 years of trying, the reality is I just don’t find the swim part of triathlon enjoyable. I much prefer racing off-road duathlons and mountain bike races.
After much ‘dilemma-ring’ I’ve decided triathlon and I need ‘a break’. And similar to Friends’ Ross and Rachel's "We were on a break!" I haven’t hung around in seeing what else is out there. I've got lots of exciting non-triathlon races pencilled in for 2019. Also, for ages I’ve wanted to take up BMXing - so I have; with Jamie. I’m the oldest in my group by about 40 years but I don’t care. In fact, it’s now my favourite night of the week and I actually found myself counting how many sleeps until the next session!
That darn DNF!
For the Europeans in Ibiza I was really excited to race the off-road duathlon as I was in the form of my life. I came off the first run with a 2 min 9 sec lead on the next girl in my age group. This was up to 2 min 26 after a fast T1. Time to have some fun on the bike. What could possibly go wrong?
As soon as I got on the bike, I knew my rear tyre was soft. I road a bit and stopped to check it. It was soft but not flat so I carried on to see if I could get away with it. I got up the first big 10-minute climb but it was really sketchy, so I pulled over to re-inflate the tyre and the valve just flew off. There was nothing I could do - my race was over! Time for a long, lonely walk back to transition.
It wasn't really the way I wanted to end a pretty perfect season. But DNFs are part and parcel of racing. Sometimes it's your turn to be unlucky.
There’s plenty more races, so roll on 2019!
If We Were Riding is a weekly podcast I Iisten to. It’s hosted by Kelly O'Mara and Sara Gross and the premise is: if we were out riding this is what we’d be chewing each other’s ears off about. It covers the latest triathlon gossip and the hosts are both informed and opiniated (a good combination), there’s a fair bit of swearing and they do a good job at highlighting the sexism that’s unfortunately still rife in triathlon.
So if I was out riding I’d be yarning about why does the following happen…
Today I rode my mountain bike at Bedgebury and I pretty much had the place to myself. Until you pass a guy! Now when you pass someone you’ve normally been clocking them for a while and you know the pace they’re riding. So when you pass, all things remaining the same, you know you will soon drop them.
Not with guys that don’t like being chicked!
They clock the pony-tail or something that shouts out “Girl!” and within a minute you can hear huffing and puffing like a steam-train and they’re right back on your back wheel. And so it is for about 5 minutes until I’m guessing they can’t hold the pace.
Today this happened not once, but twice. Guy number one nearly killed himself to catch me up to tell me it was the fact that he was on a cyclocross bike that I was quicker than him in the single-track sections. What??
Guy number two; credit to him, he really put a massive long effort into being my shadow. A proper limpet.
I must admit I found today weird. If I was a guy I don’t think either of them would have reacted like they did. This was all about their attitudes to Getting Chicked.
The concept that a ‘chick’ who loves training and racing shouldn’t be able to ride faster than some guys is pretty offensive. Unless you’re a man at the absolute pointy end of biking, there’s a woman out there who is faster than you. And similarly I’m under no illusions of how many blokes (and girls) out there are much much faster them me. I'm well down the food chain.
It would be nice to stop bringing gender into riding! Stop making things unnecessarily weird!