Last week I sat out my second (consecutive) major race of the year. Earlier in July I had to pull out of Oravaman, my primary goals for the first half of the year, and it was Alpe d’Huez long course triathlon which I had to watch from the side lines on Thursday.
An ankle problem which has been bothering me since early April and a back issue which reared it’s head in May have failed to resolve themselves despite extensive treatment, rehab and yes, even rest. While the ankle hurt first the problem stems from my back surgery. The pinning and plating on my left hand side is just inhibiting movement enough to put extra strain where it shouldn’t and the return to a full training load at the start of 2016 found out the weakness. The metal work will probably have to come out otherwise it will just be a recurring problem and I guess I have to be grateful that it is an option. It wasn’t initially expected that I’d ever be able to have it removed as the vertebrae that were bridged were it such bad shape, however they have repaired well enough that it is back on table.
The injuries hit my swimming & running the worst and aside from a couple of tentative ‘test’ sessions I haven’t been able to do either for over a month. My ankle has felt strained either during or after every attempt to use it and a 45 minute swim left me totally out of commission for 2 days due to spasms in my back. The bike has been hit and miss, I’ve never been stopped from riding but it has been far from comfortable at times.
I came out to the Alps at the end of June to do my final preparation hoping that I’d make some progress and kept my options open until as late as possible. I made the call on Oravaman a week before hand so didn’t travel to Slovakia but I left my options open on Alpe d’Huez until a few days before as I was based at the race location for training anyway. I'd describe myself as moderately crushed about how badly things have gone but that I said I don't feel there is a lot I could have done about it. Triathlon training is going to expose weaknesses in even the most robust of bodies with or without my history of injury. All I can do is try and deal with what comes up and look to move on from there.
I’ve been riding my bike a fair amount, a return to my roots, up lots of long climbs. I probably know the Alpe d'Huez bike leg (slightly change for this year due to a road closure on the normal route) better than anyone who did the race having ridden it so often. You could call it training, I’d call it therapy. It has mainly my road bike as holding my position on the TT bike hasn’t been possible most days. I threw in a few bike races to test out pacing and I’m performing better over long duration efforts than I ever have which is something to take positives from. For those who are interested the chief changes I've seen with specific tri training for the bike are reduction in heart rate drift over time and an ability to hold a higher percentage of my FTP for long periods. Both these have been achieve with no real change in my 'max' results across various tests.
I’m back to the UK now to pursue treatment options so time to rest, recover and reset my future goals. After a better than expect start to the year it wasn't the July I was hoping for and it certainly isn't going to be the August I'd planned but such is the reality of competitive sport.
Hope everyone is having a great year. Stay safe & have fun.
Hi, I'm Ali. I like riding bikes and coaching people to achieve their athletic goals. I've been coaching for more than 10 years now and have never failed to make an athlete faster (I can't quite believe this myself either). I used to race bikes, triathlon and in 2014 I broke 9 vertebrae and my skull. Follow my journey here and on Twitter.