Road to recovery Part 2
3 months I reckon; it took me a whole 3 months to get to the point where I could do most things normally. At this point the Irish road race champs were on and I went up for a look. This really gave me a boot on the backside. I really missed it, seeing the guys getting stuck into racing made me want to be there. Hats off to Matt Brammeier by the way. Luckily I was at the point where I could train but I was at square one. My numbers were saying all the wrong things, heart rate up, power down, body weight up, every sort of number was wrong, proper baby steps.
I got about 2 weeks into my training plan when the team asked if I could do the tour of Portugal, this was the rocket up my ass that I needed. I was back training already but when I got that news I spat the Jaffa cake out straight away and got serious. Let’s be honest now, I've never been that skinny in my life but I had to set a new KG PB to even consider racing, especially in Portugal. My next few weeks flew past, I went to Mallorca with Grace for a training camp/study camp/honeymoon!! The weather was great and just what I needed, I went training and Grace went studying and there were no other distractions.
The next month of training and avoiding my usual feast of food flew past and before I knew it I was in Lisbon. Back with the team felt great and meeting the people I'd last seen months ago. It felt great but at the same time I would chuckle at myself and think "what the hell am I doing here!". It was what it was and I did the best I could, I tried my best to help the guys and survive and surviving is exactly what it was. I hammered myself but it all came to an abrupt end halfway through the race. Let’s just say I decided to let the bunch go ahead of me on a climb and I'd catch them on the way down, my usual involuntary climbing technique. This time though on the way down while playing with the team cars my front tyre rolled off. Picture this, 50-60kph on a slight downhill, going round a corner at a 45 degree angle and boom, it felt like someone had pushed an ejector button. I'm happy to say I bounced up straight away, my recently fractured hip took a good thump, helmet was a write-off and a good chunk of my skin is still in Portugal. After getting back on my bike I soon realised I was in pain. My hip/back were in agony and every bump I hit hurt even more. I had a banging head ache as well as my heart rate being close to my max. I had no other choice, I had to pack the race. Something I hate doing and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. With my race over I just got home as fast as I could and paid another visit to SINI! I'm sure they're thinking "what’s this fool up to now!". With a forced week of R&R I had time to get my head together. There was no other racing for me with UHC so track was my focus. Once fit, I got familiar with the free weights and carried on some of my rehab moves. On top of this I focused on shorter harder efforts for the Irish criterium and track championships coming up, I had a whole week of specific prep.
I turned up at the Crit champs in Cork city in average form. I was hoping for the win but at the same time was motivated to make it a hard race. Fair play to Blarney CC who put on a good, safe race and hopefully there will be more of the same in the coming years. There was 40 plus guys on the start line and there was drizzling rain in the air. I was in no mood for a crash so I went to the front from the start and stayed there for most of the race. With the odd bit of drama which I managed to avoid, there were soon only 3 of us left. Paidi O’Brien, Mark Dowling and myself. We rode consistently until the last few laps then tried to sort out the winner. It came down to the last few hundred metres and Paidi got me pretty comfortably. I hadn't my usual sprint and Paidi was the fastest man on the day, second for me and Mark was 3rd.
The Irish track championships are something I always like to do. Honestly, if the Sundrive track had a roof on it and training could be guaranteed I'd be there year round. I hate being this one off face but that's the way it is. I'm busy enough racing abroad doing the best I can elsewhere. Anyway, back to the races. I entered the Scratch and pursuit which are the races I like best. I was tempted to do the kilo but I just hadn't done any training tailor towards it and it would probably hurt me more than help me. First on the program was the 4K pursuit, I qualified fastest by a comfortable enough margin which set me up nicely for the final. It took place and couple of hours later and I won it. I should scrap that word comfortable because it was far from it. Anyone who says they like pursuiting and enjoy it is lying! They might enjoy the outcome but there is nothing enjoyable about the process.
Next morning was the scratch race, a straight final and a chance to show off my rainbow bands. It felt weird and slightly uncomfortable but the people at the track seemed to enjoy seeing them. It’s definitely a rare sight in Ireland. I thought the race was pretty good, there was some aggressive racing and I just raced the race instead of trying to show off. There was only half a lap to go when I knew I was going to win and it felt nice. It was nice to know that I was back in decent shape and I was looking forward to building on it.
Next stop was Belgium and the international Belgian open which was taking place in Ghent. I haven't been on the Eddy Merckx track since I had first ridden on the velodrome. If my memory serves me right it's been 6 years! It felt funny because there were things everywhere that I started to remember, things that I had total forgotten or else choose to banish to the back of my brain. I got one day on the track before the racing started and it felt good/weird. It was nice to feel the speed again but there were parts of my legs screaming at me, bits that have been sleeping since February!
The racing started at 1pm the next day and my race started at 3pm. It was cool to be back in a lower stress environment but with a lot of the same faces you'd see at a World Cup. The Belgians are always friendly and the Dutch would always have a chat. There was also a big group from British cycling and they are........they are the same as always; professional and business like. With a solid warm-up and a bit of track time before the race I was ready to go.
First up was the scratch race and another chance to show of the rainbow bands. Unfortunately I didn't show them of the way I wanted too, I raced aggressively and got out of the bunch but my recovery wasn't what it was 6 months ago. I got away with a group of 5 lads but was on the redline, I cracked and went back to the bunch. Those guys got a lap and would end up racing for the win. It’s a good lesson to learn for heading into the rest of the track season - don't be soft!!! I finished the race at the pointy end though and was 5th or 6th in the sprint for the line, 10th place when the dust had settled.
The next day I had the pursuit and it was a slightly different format, fastest man wins, no heats just one race. In hind sight I was kidding myself, I had a schedule of 4mins 24-28 secs in my head and even though I watched nearly everyone struggle to break 4.30 I still though I could do better. Wrong, very wrong! Halfway through my pursuit I was looking to see how long was left and that's never a good sign. My cadence was dropping and I was giving it everything just to keep moving, painful! Once I broke the beam I'd clock 4.31, disaster! Once I cooled down and took stock it wasn't that bad. Far from what I wanted but only 2 riders went under 4.30 and they were solid, Huizenga and Cornu. I ended up finishing 5th.
With my racing done I watched the Madison while packing my bikes, reflecting on my weekend. It wasn't the outcome I've been used to but it's definitely motivated me to get my finger out and train even harder.
Next stop........I've no idea!