Injury is really tough to deal with as an athlete. It’s also really difficult to explain to someone who isn’t quite as OCD about bike riding as you are; there are so many factors in play. Yes, you want to be back out there racing and training. But you’re also glad for the rest. But you’re guilty because the rest was enforced. So you want to go all out, stop thinking about bikes, and eat chocolate cake and drink beer, but you know that will harm your recovery and make it harder to get fit again. And then you throw in the diabetes…
I hurt my back pretty badly in Tobago (see my last blog post about it here) and I’m waiting for the results of an MRI to diagnose it. It’s a suspected bulging disc trapping the nerve to my quads. But in a sense, it doesn’t matter what the injury is, as an athlete, at some point in your career you’re going to get hurt. Whether it’s American football, track and field, cycling, or even competitive darts (really!), if you push your body to its limits, it’s eventually going to show you what that limit is.
The most common reaction when you tell someone you’re laid up is, “Oh, it must be so frustrating,” and it is, it is hugely frustrating. You have a schedule, goals, plans and you can’t achieve them. You’re used to a very self-determined existence. I train, I eat, I sleep, and I race. I determine what I do and when and how well I do it. Now you’re reliant on someone else, be it a doctor or a physio, to give you the okay. You’re used to manipulating your body, testing it and improving it, but now it’s in control of you. And you have to just shut up and listen. That’s frustrating.
It’s also sad. I never knew I was a junkie (apart from all those syringes in my bin) until I stopped riding and started to feel MORE tired and more cranky. Truth is, I rely on endorphins and without them my body doesn’t know what to do. You get more tired without exercise; getting out for a walk helps, but somehow you lack the rush you get after a ride. The sense of purpose and hunger, it feels odd to go from breakfast to lunch without generating a monster appetite! With no reason to go to bed early, I still do, and I’m sleeping more than ever. Maybe my body needs it after a long season or maybe it doesn’t know what else to do.
It’s annoying to be off the bike but unable to do other things I enjoy – no disco dancing with a slipped disc sadly. I did need a little break and had one planned, but like with my body, it’s a different deal now that I’m not in control. And as a result I’m getting tetchy about being off the bike. Knowing you’ve finished your season on your terms and now you’re going to enjoy your break is seemingly different to finishing it on the terms of your lower back which stops you riding AND playing.
Filling your day can be hard, but I have books to read, friends to see, and cakes to bake, I can occupy the time but not the energy, not the need to get my “hit.” I’m lucky though, if I lived with other riders it would be worse. I’ve been avoiding watching races, reading about them, etc. I hate watching the races I wanted to race in; you feel like an accessory. I don’t want to be in the limelight unless I deserve to be, and without my bike I just feel like a spare part. I see the boys riding and I just want to be there, to help, to attack, when I can see them tiring, to gasp for breath with them and to share the pain you can see all over their faces.
Then there’s my special little issue – my insulin bolus amounts, basal rates, carb counts, etc. that are all set up for a ferociously-exercising individual. If I’m going to be pinned to the sofa I have to recalculate all that and in doing so, change my diet and routine to master those changes. There are times when I’m going to be high and that isn’t going to make me feel great. But I don’t want to over insulinise (that is really a word) and spend my time guzzling dextrose and gaining kilos.
There is a silver lining to (most) every cloud, and I’ve been trying to paint silver inside mine. I’ve been walking the dog, going to the pub, going to literature talks, and working on my much-neglected dissertation. It’s nice to have time but a bit scary to not have a limit to this expanse of “free” time. Still, could be worse, I could have to go to work in a cube!