This final article in the series of three was always meant to be written after round four of the UK Gravity Enduro (UKGE) series in August 2014 so you may wonder why it’s now November and I am only just getting around to it? The answer is, I was thrown a curveball in my recovery in the shape of a broken bone in my hand.

After breaking my collarbone at the Tweedlove Enduro World Series round I set myself some goals to help me recover, in the fashion and at the speed at which I wanted. Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal outcome and future, it provides you with a vision and helps you turn this vision into reality. Goal setting always works for me, it provides me with timescales, reference points for specific achievements and gives me motivation to continue when times get tough. My goals for my recovery from my collarbone break varied from something like making use of my time off work, giving myself a list of jobs or emails to get done and making sure I did them. Another goal was more time specific such as – getting back on the mountain bike at week four.

Happy, smiley enduro faces at Dyfi UKGE
Happy, smiley enduro faces at Dyfi UKGE

My final goal (and the big one!) was to be ready to take part in round four of the UKGE in August 2014. With hard work and a lot of training I got there! The ten weeks between pinning my collar bone back together and this race were some of the most physically and mentally demanding periods of my life so far. I spent a fair amount of time on my turbo trainer in the back garden pushing my body to its sweaty limits, whilst around me my riding buddies were out enjoying the dusty dry trails of one of the best summers the UK has seen in a long time, difficult to bear and something I am not in a hurry to repeat!

Anyway, I made it and I was stoked to be in the mix again amongst my enduro race family! The weekend was fun with some really testing tracks, I knew I was riding reservedly and some things were worrying me that normally I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at. The seeding run went well, it was mainly over a grassy field and I wondered if I would be brave enough to keep the speed of the other girls. I seeded second, quite a way back from first place so I knew there was work to do. My head wasn’t quite as “in the game” as I thought it would be. I was excited to be back racing but I realised that I obviously still had some reservations about crashing. All I could see in my minds eye on the wilder parts of the seeding run was me crashing onto my shoulder and crushing the plate in there, not the most comforting thought! I knew then that I still had some demons to tackle until I could say I was properly back on form. I planned to ride in my comfort zone and make sure I had fun on my bike that weekend.

Dyfi UKGE - A fast, open and nerve wracking seeding run
Dyfi UKGE – A fast, open and nerve wracking seeding run

If there is one thing that being injured has taught me it’s that a positive attitude does wonders for both the mind, body and soul. Keeping my metaphorical chin up throughout my recovery helped me see the silver lining of every cloud, making difficult times more bearable. Riding slower than I expected was a hard pill to swallow but at least I was out here on my bike with my buddies! It worked, having fun and looking for the positives make you faster! I pulled a second place out of the bag even after all that worry. I was also pleased to see that some of my times on the more pedally sections of the course were faster than my number one competitor, the time spent on the turbo trainer and enduring sprint sessions had obviously helped me out. Being injured had encouraged me to reevaluate my training regime and now I was reaping the benefits, that silver lining is there again!

Eleven weeks post injury and I travelled over to Val D’Isere, France to take part in the Trans Savoie. The Trans Savoie has six days packed full multiple timed stages, with an incredible 24,302m of descending and a total of 302km of riding over the week. It is organised and run by Ali Jamison, owner of sister company trailAddiction, a guiding company based in Les Arcs. Ali is innovative in the way that this race uses the ski lifts available in the Alps to assist riders in the liaisons between stages. There is an average of 4000m descending a day for 6 whole days, unimaginable prior to taking part! I had an awesome week, but I did fear that I was running before I could walk. Even though I took confidence from my podium the previous weekend I knew this blind racing was a completely different kettle of fish.

Running before I could walk - Racing the Trans Savoie
Running before I could walk – Racing the Trans Savoie

I set myself a goal to help dispel my fears of further injury, this was based on the same theory as had worked for me whilst racing just to concentrate about having a blast and feeling good on the bike! The Trans Savoie helped me work on some key riding skills, most importantly looking up and reading the trail, things I would be able to take home and apply to everyday riding. I came second out of the three ladies racing which was great but for me the feeling of improving my riding and having a fantastic time with some great new friends made the week complete for me.

The curveball
The curveball

Another week later and it was time for round five of the UKGE (curveball alert). The organisers had created five of the most fun enduro stages that I could have wished for, absolutely mint from top to bottom. There was everything – roots, rocks, steep woods, bike park jumps, pedalling, loam in the bucket load and that signature UKGE fast, open finish into the arena. Practice on Friday and Saturday was the most fun I have had on my bike in a long time. I felt confident just back from a week in the Alps and feeling totally at home on my bike again, I felt my racing self was unquestionably back! Unfortunately the elation of practice was soon came to an end. With the thought of winning in my head I absolutely mashed the cranks on an uphill fire road sprint, I had my race face on and apparently it has no peripheral vision whatsoever, I clipped my bars on the metal barrier to my left, stopping my bike instantly and catapulting me over the bars. As I fell I thought of my lost time, thinking nothing more than about how winded I was, I got up and carried on. As I braked and dropped in off the fire road back into a fresh cut, steep wooded section I felt a clicking sensation in my left hand, something felt ‘unattached’. I crashed once more as my ability to brake was now limited and I came down in fourth place.

Post curveball race and win!
Post curveball race and win!

Later at hospital my worst fears were confirmed and the dreaded cast went on my left hand. I was indescribably upset, I once again due to my own clumsiness missed out on a rad weekend, I missed out on a possible win and on a series podium place, not to mention upcoming events I had planned. But less about that, I am unfortunately very used to those feelings. I think this injury was possibly one of the hardest for my mind to come to terms with. I felt incredibly unlucky but if truth be told it was all my own fault! People close to me say that it’s a positive thing that I was riding so well up until the point I crashed, I struggled with this fact for a while and it took me a good couple of weeks to re-engage my positive mental attitude. This tried and tested method worked wonders again though. Setting goals and looking for the positive outcomes of each situation facing you at a low time your life really does make it easier to recover. I am back on the bike and have taken another race win at a local enduro! Don’t get consumed by the injury demons out there – focus on a task, commit and make the best of it!

Words: Rachael Gurney

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