www.Hypersmash.com yeee haa I'm racing bikes again!

zaterdag 23 maart 2013

yeee haa I'm racing bikes again!

My first love affair with cycling...

I first fell in love with bicycle racing almost 25 years ago. I had a couple of friends who were mad cyclists and eventually I decided to give it a go. Right from the first minute I loved it! I loved that it was a individual sport. I loved the training, the camaraderie between the cyclists and above all I loved the racing; the tactics, the pain, the sprint for the line. I very quickly became obsessed.

Two years later I was progressing fast through the cycling ranks in New Zealand when I badly injured my back. This was before the days of MRI scans and I was never able to get a diagnosis; the most likely explanation was a herniated disc caused by a bad neck and head trauma I'd suffered the previous year in a cycling accident.

It was 1991 and I just turned 17 and through my back injury I was forced to stop cycling. On one hand I was gutted. But as I had progressed through the ranks the pressure to perform and the seriousness of the sport had also increased. I missed the care-free days that were the norm when I first began cycling so, subconsciously at least, I was relieved to have a break.

Rekindling the love..

4 years went by without racing. I got right into swimming as therapy for my back and later, as my back healed, I began to dabble in running and triathlons. I always struggled in the swim and run leg of a triathlon and always blitzed the cycling. One day I made a decision to get back into cycling and give it my all. I missed it. From then on it was clear to me what my direction was and I thrived on the training.

For the next few months I trained hard (largely by myself) and loved it. I was rediscovering cycling all over again. There was no pressure, no expectation, just the joys of riding and getting fitter. When you cycle everything is amplified; the surface of the road, the different smells, the birdsong, the way the setting sun lights up a nearby paddock. Each of these things that pass by unnoticed in a car are sources of joy for the cyclist. I began to rediscover and love the simple pleasures of cycling.

After training hard by myself for a few months I entered my first cycling race, the Palmerston North to Wellington classic in New Zealand. The field contained many of my cycling heroes. I had never seen these guys before in the flesh and now I was lining up to race with them!

The first hour of the race went well and, just before arriving into my home town, I managed to get into a breakaway with two of my cycling heroes; one of them was an olympic medalist, the other a professional cyclist who'd ridden in the Tour de France. I had a grin from ear to ear!

Just before beginning the big climb of the day (see photo) I suffered a puncture which put an end to my chances of getting a top result. I still chased hard and ended up getting 8th which I was super pleased with.

That race was an awesome experience and after that I decided to get right into cycling. It became my life for the next two years and I enjoyed some good results. However I was impatient to win big races and become a professional cyclist.

I put far too much pressure on myself. Physically I was able to compete with the best guys in the races I entered but mentally I was really missing those 4 years out of competition. I didn't have the race 'smarts' and I used to get far too nervous and worked up before races, even ones that were fairly insignificant.

Eventually this pressure, coupled with having no money and no life outside of cycling, got too much and I gave the sport away for a 2nd time. I moved to the big smoke of Auckland, New Zealand and stopped cycling altogether.

the big smoke of Auckand, New Zealand

The next 15 years went by fast. There were a lot of great times: I travelled a lot, lived in 4 different countries, returned to university, carved out a career, bought a house, got married and had two kids. There were also negatives: I put on 25kg (55 lbs), my back injury returned (this time it was confirmed as a herniated disc), and I became very sick with late stage Lyme disease.

Eventually I was able to overcome both the Lyme disease and my bad back. This involved a lot of changes to my diet and lifestyle to ensure that my body had the best chance possible to recover. A positive side effect of these lifestyle and dietary changes was that I began to have much more energy and began to have the mental space to think about doing fun, exciting and physically demanding adventures again!

And so in September 2012 I decided to do a race again. I decided to enter Lelystad-Enkhuizen-Lelystad which is a 51km time trial in the Netherlands for recumbent cyclists. It was a super hard experience but I loved it and ended up getting 5th.

It's been 5 months since then and I've been training hard and lost 10kg (22lbs) and am much fitter than I was.

I'm really loving my cycling and am planning on doing some more races this year. I've learn't my lesson from my previous two love affairs with cycling so am approaching things differently this time around.

This time I'm cycling pure for the love and joy of the sport and for health and fitness. I have no desire to be a professional cyclist. Each time I line up on the start line of a race I'm going to try and remember to reflect on where I've come from and what I've overcome to be there. I'm going to focus on cycling purely for the joy of cycling, for the joy of being in that moment.

I'm just super happy to be healthy and fit again and to have energy for cycling and other fun adventures!

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