A lot has changed since the high of finishing my first solo LEJOG recce ride and the low of the Deep Vein Thrombosis verdict. I may feel sorry for myself being stuck indoor on the turbo while summer has finally started in earnest, BUT … I refuse to give up on my dreams. I am adamant to turn this adversity into opportunity …. So, what to do when I cannot defend my Nat 12 Hr TT title or compete in the Nat 24 Hr TT…Go one bigger… World 24 Hour Time Trial Championships here I come! Keep reading for an update on my training in the aftermath of the DVT diagnosis and building up to my new goal for 2016.
Week 1 (w/c 11 June) – Feeling depressed
11 June. My birthday. Not in a party mood at all. Feeling depressed and sorry for myself, but on the plus side the pain in my left leg has gone only hours after I started taking my first Rivaroxaban tablet today.
13 June. Show must go on. Long work meeting. I love the work I do, but this DVT episode is definitely a clear wake-up call that I cannot go on much longer with these mad long working hours and time spent sitting behind my desk.
14 June. Focus Bikes are just awesome. I feared that once they learned about my DVT problems, they may no longer want to give me that amazing Focus Izalco Chrono for my 2016 challenges (and hopefully LEJOG record attempt in 2017)… but I shouldn’t have worried. They are fully supportive and wishing me a speedy recovery and best of my luck for my #FocusChallenge. How cool is that?!
16 June. Visit to Dr Noel Pollock, consultant in sports and exercise medicine who also works for Team GB (athletics). Contrary to the NHS doctor’s advice at West Middlesex University Hospital (who said it was fine to commute to work but to avoid any strenuous exercise), Dr Pollock’s opinion was that I should avoid all risk of cycling outdoors but can train as hard as like indoors (after c. 4 weeks of medication, as the risk of the blood clot breaking off and forming a PE is most present in the first few days up to 4 weeks). Not the answer I wanted to hear…But I guess I should listen.
17 June. Re-started my training. On the turbo only and at very low intensity levels for now (sub 200w). My heart rate is quite high, possibly because I was training outdoor in the garden in the sun without a fan (at least I could feel the wind in my face and if I closed my eyes I could pretend all was normal), possibly because I lost fitness after 2 weeks of inactivity or perhaps it is the effect of ditching my anti-conception pill and no longer having hormones racing around my body.
Week 2 (w/c 18 June) – Acceptance
18 June. I know I need to accept the doctor’s verdict, but am still searching for other cyclists’ experiences with DVT, Rivaroxaban and the risks of competing… I am also trying to get a referral for genetic testing to see if there may be any other explanation for this DVT. Dr Pollock also recommended me to see a vascular specialist to check for iliac vein compression syndrome, but the scans alone and the initial consultation are nearly £1,500 (!), I may explore if that is something I could get done on the NHS instead…
20 June. Varidesk arrived at work. This is really cool. I wish I could afford to buy one for at home too. Still worrying about my work/life balance, but at least this should make the hours at work a bit better.
21 June. Starting to add some gym work now I cannot train as much or as hard as I would like on the turbo. Adding in core and circuit sessions, yoga, light weights. All stuff that is good to do anyway and forces me to take a break from my desk at lunch time and to keep moving.
22 June. After some deliberation and more reading up, I have decided to scrap all goals for this summer. No defending of Nat 12 hr TT title on 26th June. No competing in Nat 24Hr TT at the end of July and no cycling outdoors at all until I have completed my medication in early September. Everyone has their own views on risk. Although the risk of falling/crashing while competing in a TT (even over 24 hours) may be relatively small, I just don’t want to take the risk of unstoppable/prolonged bleeding and potential long-term damage to muscles and joints. Providing the ambulance arrives quickly and I can be given a blood transfusion for as long as the Rivaroxaban is still active (up to 24 hours) I may not bleed out, but I just don’t want any negative thoughts or fear on the back of my mind. I thrive on positive thinking. I know I won’t be able to perform at my best unless I feel 100% positive. It is only 3 months. It just isn’t worth the risk (to me).
23 June. Another easy turbo. Getting bored now and my heart rate is fully normalised again. I may have come to terms with accepting the current situation, but patience is still not one of my strengths… And I may need to find a more inspiring turbo environment…
Week 3 (w/c 25 June) – Identifying New Goals
25 June. Feeling defiant. I don’t want to give up on my dreams. I don’t want to just scrap my 2016 season. I need something to stay strong, something to keep me motivated to train indoors over summer, something to stay positive. A plan is starting to form…
A thought has entered my head and just won’t go away… If I cannot achieve my initial 2016 goals of the Nat 12hr and Nat 24hr TT…Why not go one bigger?… World 24 Hour Time Trial Championships… California baby!
My entry is in. Our flights are booked. There is no way back now. It will be an expensive holiday, but what better way to deal with adversity than to turn it into an opportunity?! Without the DVT episode I would never have done this. It was only when discussing DVT with Stuart Birnie – he got DVT when taking sleeping tablets on the plane back from the World 24 hr TT Champs in 2014 – that I realised…”hold on that race is in November”… a perfect way to salvage the 2016 season. I hope to be strong again by then and it will be nice to escape cold Blightly for Californian sunshine!
What is more… I won’t be alone. One of my Born to Bike team mates will be competing too. Thinking of her wiped out 2016 season after being hit by a car and having to go through multiple operations, puts thing into perspective. It is also good to be able to share frustration and having something big to look forward to together. I love how so many of my Born to Bike team mates are just as mad as I am. I definitely fit in.
Bad news may come in 3s (DVT, not being able to cycle for 3 months and EU referendum vote), but so does good news and big dreams: Not only can I collect a shiny new Focus Izalco Chrono in July and compete on it at the World 24 Hr TT Championships in November… I may be able to fulfil an even bigger dream in 2018… just four letters for now… more to follow hopefully…
26 June. Feeling stubborn. Today should have been the day I defended my Nat 12hr TT title. The organiser had even given me the honour of being the last person to start. The course looked fun and fast. Luckily my coach talked me out of my stupid plan to do a 12-hour turbo session instead this weekend. What do I want to proof and to whom?! Instead I did a very easy 4-hour turbo session. The only thing that gets me through these boring easy turbo sessions is the Tough Girl Podcast. Truly inspiring and motivating. So happy I found this.
27 June. Another busy day at work. Initially my boss said ‘oh Jas take it easy’ and clients were very understanding. But deadlines don’t move. Work is just as manic as before. But what has changed is my attitude. I am trying to take it all a bit less serious. Making sure I pause for exercise breaks every day and no longer accepting one-day weekends as normal.
29 June. Picked up my repeat prescription of Rivaroxaban from the doctor and was told that my referral request for genetic testing has been refused. Apparently the risk of testing whilst on anticoagulants is too high. I can reapply again in September when I have completed my medication. Fingers crossed. I suspect I don’t score too favourable on cost/risk assessment, as it was ‘only’ my first DVT and there were risk factors that could explain it.
Tonight I assisted with a Kingston Wheelers club 10. Nice to give back for a change. When I got home I had a long phone call and an unexpected but fantastic offer of support for my LEJOG record attempt next year from the amazing Shu Pillinger, Britain’s first ever female solo RAAM finisher. Wow. Just wow.
Week 4 (w/c 2 July) – Pursuing My Dreams
2 July. Now that I have set new goals for myself it is time to pursue my dreams even if, for now, that is by taking small steps. So time to put on my positive thinking cap again and get my arse on the turbo for finally (!) some sessions above 200W, hooray! Still relatively easy stuff, but at least a step towards being strong and competitive again. My last day of medication will be the 2nd of September. My first race back will be a 12-hour TT on the 4th of September. I doubt I will be fast, but at least I can enjoy cycling outdoors again. The next weekend I will be competing at Revolve24, both great ‘warm up’ races for the BIG one in November.
3 July. As I wrote in my last blog post, DVT also gives me the opportunity to be a bit more social again and catch up with friends and family. Nice to catch up today with one of my Born to Bike team mates (albeit too short). Again… someone who has faced far greater struggles than me this year. Outwardly we celebrate sporting success (of course, we are a cycling team after all), but when it comes to mental strength and dealing with adversity I quietly celebrate some of the unsung heroes on the team.
I am slowly starting to feel in control of my life again. Training is going well, slowly stepping things up. Exciting plans for the future are taking shape. If anything, the biggest lesson I have learned recently is how to turn adversity into opportunity and not be afraid of change, whether that is in cycling or other areas of my life. Now the next step is to turn opportunity into success. Bring it on!