Tuesday, 20 September 2016

My news

Hola! Back in Girona, Spain now and so good to be back. As much as it was great to be home in New Zealand recovering around family, it was certainly a good feeling touching down here, catching up with my boyfriend Michael and our Girona friends. It's been a long road to recovery and seeing friends and loved ones was always a highlight along the way.

Very happy to admit I'm physically feeling almost 100% again. After a lot of physio back in NZ I now just about have full range of movement in my elbow and don't even notice my back these days, unless I sneeze!

I arrived back here mid August around the same time that Michael returned from the Olympics where he earned a hard fought silver medal with the Aussie teams pursuit squad - very nice to be back to celebrate with friends and his family who had come over from Aus for some exploring across Spain!

Since then, I've been able to regularly ride up to a few hours and just get the enjoyment back of being out on the bike and feeling the wind in my face. It's definitely taken me a while but being on the Girona roads in the sunshine has certainly helped ease the process. I'm also dabbling in a bit of running which I've really been enjoying. I used to run a lot growing up and forgot how good it feels to run fast...a bit like the freedom of riding but different! Must say, it took me a while to get some reasonable running momentum, as I'm sure all cyclists understand and I'm certainly not running too fast, just yet!

As I've had a bit of time on my hands here this past month, I've also been mind battling a lot about the future and where to from here. It's hard to comprehend, but I've come to the realization that I'm simply not ready to even think about racing my bike at this point and it's left me doing a lot of thinking about what else I'd like to do with my life! So, as much as I love this sport and the people I've met in it, I've very recently decided to take next season out from competitive racing and try something new. This isn't a retirement blog or statement by any means as I'm still uncertain about the future and my exit from the sport. This wasn't the way I wanted to bow out and up until May this year I definitely had bigger plans as an athlete. But as they say, things don't always go to plan. The accident I had wasn't the worst, and there's certainly been a lot worse off, this season in particular but it did hit me harder than expected and as said, I'm simply not ready to commit to 2017. In saying that, the more time I spend away from the sport, the more enthused I get to explore new opportunities and a different lifestyle. It's frightening to think about the transition into the 'real world' but also exciting. 

Who know's where to for the immediate future but as of a few weeks ago I'm really starting to look at options for the next phase. I'm now very glad I stuck with my Business, Marketing degree and got that in the bag last year so hopefully an opportunity will arise, ideally in the sporting industry where my passion remains and probably always will. 

For now, I would just like to say a massive thank you to a few special people for supporting me over the years and also throughout this difficult process. 

Firstly to my Team, Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley bank for having me over these past two seasons. We raced hard but also had a blast with one another. I have many great memories with the team and ones I know I will keep for a long time. The girls are an absolute hoot and staff showed nothing but support while racing and also since I've been injured. Special thanks to the team owner, Linda Jackson and director Ed Beamon. I will miss you all lot's and will continue to root for you big time next season! 

To Jeff Pierce and Jo Kiesanowski for your coaching support over the years and being so understanding with this decision. If Jeff has it his way, sure he will have me back at it by 2017 - we shall see!

To our amazing team sponsors who have also been so supportive throughout the process and seasons of racing and to New World Remuera who's support has been invaluable over the years.

A special shout out to my family who haven't peeped a word of help in making this decision which I love them for. My parents have never put a spot of pressure on me growing up in the sport which has helped me continue to love it for so long. To Michael who's been my rock looking after me in the earlier stages and keeping me calm throughout the thought process (also no help in the decision)!, Pam & Robert Lerner, Lindsay, Cindy & John Myers, Paul Leitch, Steve Haddock & Tony Smith for helping me out through my recovery back home in NZ, and of course my lovely mates & family friends in NZ and abroad, especially here in Girona. There is definitely more people to thank here but the list could go on. It really has been so great having so much support from the cycling community and beyond - so THANKS and love to you all. 

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Touch down!

Literally came crashing down almost two months ago now on May 22nd. I still don't know exactly how the crash happened or what caused it but it certainly doesn't interest me in finding out as what's done is  done and yes, sh*t happens, especially in the sometimes vicious sport of cycling. As they say, it's part of the sport.

To those of you who aren't aware, I had a nasty fall in the stage four criterium of the Women's Tour of California in Sacramento. According to my computer I hit the ground hard at 47kmph! I was knocked out and don't recall or remember anything until the ambulance ride on route to UC Davis hospital but even that's a bit of a hectic blur.

After xrays and scans I was diagnosed with a fractured T6 vertebrae in my spine, a displaced olecranon fracture in my elbow which required surgery and a mild concussion.

I was very grateful to have team director, Ed Beamon there keeping me calm and reassured. Looking back now, I can laugh at how unaware I was on that first night asking to please leave the hospital and return when necessary for surgery and nagging the doctors about when I could get back on my bike, all while on some decent pain meds! What I didn't know then was that I would be making a home of UC Davis hospital for the next ten days.

Following my first evening in hospital (ever) I was moved into the ICU (intensive care) where I spent the next days having almost every scan and test possible to ensure my head was right and there was nothing they'd missed. Although stressful and tiring I'm so glad I was in good hands being given the best treatment possible. Always better to be safe than sorry when you hit your head.

I was set up in a back brace to help support and keep me as still as possible and was then eventually moved into the regular wards where I awaited surgery.

                          Post surgery metal wear in!
Surgery was also another first for me, guess I've been pretty lucky to date! At this point Ed had set off to the US nationals and my lovely host mom Pam Lerner had stepped in to be by my side, plus supportive and friendly surgeon Dr Jonathan Eastman.  I was so lucky to have her holding my hand as following that surgery the pain was real! Don't think I've ever been in so much pain, without sounding like a whimp...I guess It just came as a bit of a surprise. A) I'd never had surgery so had no idea B) I'd began to feel ok and a bit more like myself prior to.

Safe to say me and my pain button became pretty tight for the next 4 days and during that time managed to catch up on a month's sleep!

Lived in gowns and these beauties during my stay, thanks to Pam!

When I wasn't sleeping I was on my phone in touch with family back home, Michael and friends and must say I was pretty overwhelmed by the stream of well wishes and support messages coming through from friends, family, cycling community and supporters. Although it may not seem like much, each one put a smile on my face and helped me hang tough throughout my time in the hospital. Big thanks to all and a special thanks to Pam, Sabrina, Tim, Emily, Callum and Terry for visiting!

Eventually, my lovely nurses managed to ween me off the pain meds and get me prepared for leaving the hospital. After ten days there, I'd become quite comfortable with my surroundings and was almost reluctant to leave the security of the hospital bed but when my team mate Lindsay Myers came to collect me to drive me back to her family home in Paradise it was certainly a good feeling stepping outside.

My next week was spent with Lindsay and her very welcoming parents recovering. Lindsay is a physiotherapist and was so good to me helping me with rehab and being my personal nurse. Such a gem she is and was very lucky to have her through that time!

Funny (or not) story several days after arriving at Lindsays I was sitting on the couch chilling. When Lindsay arrived home I got up to help her and managed to trip myself up and gash my knee open...so more stitches for the wounded soldier! This was a good time for 'note to self', be careful. Guess I was lucky to avoid hurting my current injuries.

Daily exercise in Paradise, a slow walk around the block!

After a bit of time recovering there, I was back to the hospital for my first follow up with Dr Eastman re my elbow. Much to my surprise I had the cast and stitches removed and it had only been two weeks since surgery. I now know why that cast was removed so early as I am still having serious elbow joint stiffness two months later. Basically, if they keep you in a cast for too long in that bent position, the harder it is to regain elbow mobility.

Pretty gross, yes!

Next on the cards, was a trip back to the Bay area to continue the healing process in Menlo Park at our team base. Thankful to the team and Linda Jackson for supporting me during my time there. As a big added bonus my boyfriend Michael joined me several days later which gave us ten days together before he set off on his pre Olympic training camp in Arizona. It was just what I needed, having him there to help with recovery and keep me company and by that point I was feeling a lot more like myself and pretty independent, able to do most things on my own. We had a neat time enjoying some Cali sunshine, good restaurants and also a few days in the city. While he did his training, I'd be off power walking and eventually set up the trainer so I could start pedalling sitting up right. It was a good feeling that first ride back!

Definite favourite, Terun! Thank you for looking after us!

After a good few weeks there making some gains in my recovery (thanks to Revolutions in Fitness) and enjoying my last bit of vitamin D for a while I was off back to New Zealand. I made the decision and was supported by my team to head home so I could continue recovery with family. My mum, Lou was probably the biggest influence on this decision, assuring me that some TLC from home was what I needed, and mum's are usually right! I've now been home a few weeks and so happy I did decide to head back here. I've been working hard at the physio trying to loosen up my very stiff elbow and last week was given the clear to remove my charming back brace after xray's showed it's healing up well. Certainly a relief to be done with that thing, although it definitely gave me that extra security necessary for protecting my back.

My old man, Danny and I enjoying a sunny winter's day downtown in Auckland

Recovery is full of highs and lows. Each day I wake up with a different frame of mind. Some days I miss cycling so much. I always miss my team mates, as we're pretty tight and consider them more my mates but it's definitely been hard following them and their progress, as much as I'm proud! So some days, I really want to be out there fighting with them, but other days I couldn't think of anything worse than being in the peloton bumping elbows and taking risks...it's frightening to think about. Those days are the hardest ones and makes me happy to be at home around the people I love who support me as an athlete and also just as me.

Finally got my teeth repaired and feels amazing to smile!
The ultimate goal is getting back to 100% health and right now, realistically it's going to take time and commitment to rehab. My elbow is the biggest issue but with a great team of support here and some hard work I'm sure I can do it. My wrist is also proving to be a pain for me, just to add to the list! I injured it initially in the Tour of Gila several weeks prior to my crash in Cali. It is still giving me grief and looks like I have some ligament damage, just not sure yet the extent. Hopefully nothing a few weeks in a splint can't fix! Fingers crossed on that one.

For now, I'm enjoying long walks and recently got the ok to start jogging so I'm dabbling in some slow jogs around the park and some riding on the erg. With the women's Giro on last week and the TDF now, entertainment is on point for my trainer time. Ensures that my passion for cycling definitely hasn't gone! I've even managed to put in some 5 minute efforts to get the heart rate up and have never been so happy to have tired legs :)

Who knows what the future will bring but right now just happy to be healthy and on the mend with a very supportive team (staff, team mates & sponsors) plus family and friends encouraging me along the way.

This year there's been some heart breaking accidents in cycling and many a lot worse off than I am which has been difficult for the sport and wider cycling community to see. I'm definitely one of the lucky ones - love to them and their families.

Thanks again to all who have helped keep my chin up throughout the process. Lots of toothless smiling went down along the way! Onwards and upwards from here, I'm sure.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Kick off

So, we're now well underway into the 2016 season. I've just finished up a pretty hectic roller coaster spring block in Europe with my team, TIBCO-Silicon Valley bank. Here's a wee update on the season so far.

From November through to mid February I was between home and Australia, enjoying some time catching up with family and friends and working hard preparing for the season ahead. I did things a bit differently to the past off seasons and spent more time training as opposed to racing all the down under crits. Lots of miles clocked up and time spent in the gym trying to strengthen up! I even joined a local cross fit class after being motivated by team mate Jo Kiesanowski's cross fit Instagram uploads. This girl doesn't muck around in the gym!

After a solid few months I began racing again with the National road champs, closely followed by the women's Tour down Under in Adelaide. Nationals was my first race back since the 2015 season so I was lacking a little in race fitness but nonetheless it was great to be back and on a refreshing new course in Napier. I came In 5th with Jo up there for 3rd. A very dominant Rushlee Buchanan took both road and TT titles. The track girls were all flying so made for some tough competition!


The women's TDU in Adelaide was another solid start to the season, dominated by a crazy strong Orica Greenedge, also fresh off their National Champs. I raced for the New Zealand national team along with Jo, Linda Villumsen and three of our up and coming young riders; a neat opportunity for all. I came away with top ten in the general classification so wasn't too disappointed although we had really hoped to nab a stage win. Competition and the Aussie sun was tough! Special thanks to Garry Bell for coming on board as director and manager for the week.

PDitty Images By Pete Dunlop

Following the Tour I spent a few weeks in Adelaide cheering Michael on in the men's Tour and then settling in for a solid training block. Love the roads in Adelaide, offering a bit of everything from climbs to rolling hills and also flat beach rides!

Catch up time with these Aussie toppies

After not so patiently awaiting my delayed US visa I was finally off to kick start the season officially with TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank. Due to the delay I unfortunately missed team camp and although gutted meant I got an extra week with Michael and with family enjoying the last of down under summer. This year is a big one for him with the Australian teams pursuit team on the track. They recently won the Worlds in London and now the big goal is the Olympics. Not often I cheer for Aus but this is an exception!

So with just a few days in California to grab my fresh new gear and catch up on some sleep it was off to Europe to begin a busy Spring block of races. We arrived into Belgium to our new home for the following few months, The Chain Stay in Oudenaarde; a very cycling friendly setup perfect for the team with plenty of bedrooms and a large kitchen and hang out area. To add to that, Oudenaarde is a pretty ideal base to prepare for the classics right in the heart of the famous Vlaanderen bergs and cobbled sectors. Brought back good memories from 2013 when I was based there with some of the kiwi trackies.

So, onto the racing...safe to say I'd forgotten how intense the Spring one dayers are. They're the first races in Europe of the season, the peloton is BIG sometimes over 200 girls are lining up to start, each rider a bundle of nerves, narrow roads, cobbles, wind, cold and challenging conditions. What more could you want?! After missing last Spring the first few definitely came as a bit of a shock to the system! For me, and also my team it was remembering how important that constant fight for position to be at the front was. There really is no rest, physically or mentally; a battle from start to finish and some serious aggression within the peloton. Each race was ended in complete exhaustion and either disappointment, encouragement or relief to be done!

Kristel Van Gilst

We had our ups and downs but certainly had our fair share of sh*t luck. We initially came over with 6 riders and from the first race had issues with sickness and injury and later had our race bikes stolen the night prior to the Drenthe World Cup. It just seemed to come in a stream and never really did stop! Following that I seemed to have my personal share with a few tumbles and mishaps. Fairly frustrating as I know I'm fit and training my best but haven't yet been able to show it - well maybe in the convoy where I spent a fair bit of time chasing back on! My best result of Spring was at the Drenthe World Cup in Holland where I came in 15th. I was happy with this but was and am certainly hungry for much more. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, as they say and I'm confident that although we didn't get what we'd hoped for in results, we certainly grew as a team, toughened up and got some pretty intense race fitness under the belt.

Sweet shot of my team mate Brie Walle getting mixed up in the dirt at Drenthe!

Wasn't all cold days - here signing on for the Trofeo Binda World Cup in Italy

My Flanders black eye.

Following our last Euro race I was on the plane to Girona for a few days to briefly catch Michael as he ventured back over from track camp in Aus. Although only a couple of days it was definitely worth it, great to see him, our friends and clear the head. Will never get sick of this place and pretty excited to be back here in the summertime.

After a 'typical' Emily travel adventure from Barcelona to the US, including a missed connection and time spent sprinting across silly big American airports I finally made it to Fayetville, Arkansas for the Joe Martin Stage race the day before stage one. No time for jet lag! Lucky for me I'm a pretty decent sleeper and figure with one solid nights sleep I'm fresh as new, good to go ;) Not quite, but could've felt worse come day one's 5km uphill time trial, coming in top 20 with two team mates up there in the top ten and fellow kiwi and world champ Linda Villumsen smashing it to give herself a solid lead.

Dean Warren Photography

Being on the back foot from day one certainly didn't make life easy for us. We had to go with an aggressive approach each day following to try and crack the United Health Care team or at least initially wear them down. With a super strong squad, they did a stellar job of holding that jersey and taking stage wins along the way with speedster Coryn Rivera. After many attempts, we were worn out and feeling beaten leading into the final day. I was also incredibly frustrated with myself for messing up two finishing sprints to come in a lousy 4th and 5th. All in the positioning! A lot of us are still getting to know each other as riders with several new girls on board this season, so hopefully this will come with time and practice and for myself, think a slab of confidence could do the trick.

Anyway, come the final day; a very challenging 1 hour criterium awaited offering plenty of turns, humps and bumps with a gnarly uphill kick to the finish. We knew this was our last shot so it was do or die. Anything can happen on this course; it's tough and there's always going to be tired legs on the last day. Following our solid attempts the prior few days we were hoping we had worn UHC down a little but couldn't be sure! So, we went on the attack from the first sprint 5 laps in and didn't look back. Brie and Lauren both took bonus seconds moving into 3rd and 4th in the general classification. Goal one was ticked off as at this point UHC was too far ahead to realistically be beaten in the overall. Goal 2 was to nab the stage and on the final lap Lauren took the perfect opportunity countering an attack while Linda in the leaders jersey was on the front under pressure. She rode away to take an impressive stage win and finally get us the result we'd tried so hard for over the past days. Relief! - and a happy team! I ended up finishing up in 9th in the general too after a solid few days so wasn't too disappointed with the legs after jumping straight off the plane.

Ethan Glading (Stoked)
Biff Stephens

Dean Warren Photography
Ethan Glading

I'm now in Boulder, Colorado getting some time in at altitude and staying with one of my favourite American fams, the Donohues who kindly also took me in last year for a training block. Love it here but unfortunately the winter has returned. I can't really complain as never have a true winter but really, snow in April?! Madness. I'm here with my team mate Cheryl and we've had some challenging days attempting to ride in the snow. Today I've taken a rest day and thankful for the rollers. Cheryl has meanwhile just finished up three hours on the turbo trainer - that's commitment right there or maybe she's just crazy?!

Next up we head to Silver City, New Mexico for the Tour of Gila. This one's a first for me. It's at altitude and there's plenty of climbing so preparing for some challenging race days ahead! As Lauren Hall would say, 'Bread and butter'.

Thanks again to our great team sponsors, Jeff Pierce and New World Remuera for the support.