The last few weeks have been the biggest training weeks in my career, both in intensity and volume. It’s quite a way to start training for the season, let alone a way to recover from an almost career-ending injury. But it has been exciting times, ever since starting to get back on my feet in early January. To put into perspective, at the first weeks of the year, getting two bike riding days in a row was a big task. It wasn’t so much my body being unable to handle the training load, as it was mentally draining to stay motivated, and positive. Staying positive has taken it’s toll for some time now, and although I appear to be just fine on the surface, I’m still fighting a war inside.
People have been very supportive in my journey back from the injury, regularly asking me how I’m doing and checking up on me to see how everything is holding up. I think I have a different perspective on things today, I didn’t pay close attention to people around me when they were suffering from injuries, sickness or big changes in their life. It was difficult to relate, to connect and feel how support was needed, even simple things like just talking about life.
Some people have asked me recently if I feel okay with talking about what happened, and how I’m recovering. I get the sense that while I maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated to reach my goals, I appear not to need to talk about it. But I like talking about it. It’s something that happened, and there is no way to change that, so why hide it, or ignore it? Go ahead and ask me about it, it makes me feel better to unwind and get everything out in the open.
My training took a big leap forward when I arrived here on Tenerife in late January, 3 weeks ago. It marked a point where I was going to put myself through unusual amounts of training hours, and see how the body, and mind, reacted. I’ll admit that even though I’m known for being very confident in my abilities, I was feeling nervous about starting my training. I had very low expectations, and felt that if I would believe too much, I would have a hard time accepting failure.
It turns out that I underestimated myself. The first 2 weeks of training amounted to approximately 55 hours on the bike, and just 10 days after starting my coach Thomas put me through a 20 minute test to measure my fitness. The test blew me away, and shocked me to the point where I thought it was wrong, because the results showed better form than I had in February 2015, only a few percent off my best ever test. I guess things are going well.
My arm however is still a question mark. As I’ve talked about before, both bones in my forearm broke in half, requiring 2 titanium plates and multiple titanium screws to hold everything together. Recovery has been very promising and the bones appear to heal very well. But there is no denying the amount of force and pressure caused by a mountain bike race. I have put it through some suffering here on the island, but how it handles a race remains to be seen.
My club Tindur arrived here on Tenerife 2 weeks after me, and spent 1 week of training here. I was very excited to see everyone again, including new faces that were taking cycling seriously. Riding with the group felt good, especially since I’ve not spent much time riding with people from Iceland after moving to the Netherlands last year. I wouldn’t say I’m feeling homesick or lonely, but there is something special about spending time with people of the same nationality.
I had the opportunity to guide one of the groups of people through the longest days of their training camp, and it was an amazing experience. Recently I have tried to adopt a passive approach to giving advice about racing, training and cycling in general, equipment choices, my own racing stories and who should win the Tour this summer, instead of putting everyone through hours of cycling related monologues. The response has been quite surprising, as people in the Tindur group were happy to ask about my opinion of their own plans and how I would do things. They asked about my own plans, and wanted to know what the future has to hold for me, but what I liked most of all was being able to point in the right direction, to use my experience to guide people and get them excited about their racing plans and training.
In only a few weeks my racing season will start. It’s a bit later than originally planned, but things have changed and I’m extremely lucky to be able to stick to my summer plans, which are ambitious to say the least. Starting with local races in the Netherlands to test my racing form and see how my arm and head can handle things, I’ll put it in the high gear when I do races in Italy, Belgium and the USA before competing at the European Cross Country Championships in May.