Since I last wrote I have had my collarbone pinned back together, I have watched my enduro buddies have the most fun in dry dusty conditions at round 3 of the UK Gravity Enduro and I have cheered my boyfriend on at one of the gnarliest races in the calendar – the Megavalanche. Two of these three have been done very much from the side-lines, the first well, I really wish I was on the side-lines rather than full on, centre of attention on the operating theatre table!

20140710-Completing the AlpeDHuez climb

Breaking my collarbone in the middle of race season at the Enduro World Series last month was pretty gutting. I put myself out of a round of the UK Gravity Enduro series as well as firmly closing the door on racing the Megavalanche, a race I really wanted to complete this year after a stupid crash in qualifying last year saw me break my leg. I’m not that bothered about the injury itself. I know it’s ridiculously common amongst mountain bikers and it’s a relatively simple fix. I am bothered about the stuff I miss out on and the feeling of life passing me by whilst ‘recovering’. I’ve done my utmost to avoid any pits of despair and apart from the odd comment on social media of “I really want to ride my bike!” I have tried to keep things as upbeat as possible, I don’t crave attention or need the sympathy of others over the internet to get thought this. I am far better concentrating on the positive factors and telling the world about these things. It works, you know, in return you get banter, upbeat replies and smiles – definitely beneficial for recovery.


Last time I wrote I spoke about goals, I put a few together to help me through the coming weeks. Here’s a selection, some bike related and some personal;

  • Stay positive
  • Turbo trainer 1 week post op gradually increasing time and intensity
  • Simple MTB ride 4 weeks post op
  • XC riding at 5 weeks
  • Back to work at week 6
  • Begin strength and conditioning training at week 6
  • Make good use of the time off work!
  • Be ready for Round 4 of the UK Gravity Enduro, 16th/17th August

So the first positive thing post break comes in the form of my operation. In and out of my local hospital in a day, returning home with yet more metalwork and feeling one hell of a lot better! I took it easy for the first week, keeping my sling on and doing very little but boredom soon got the better of me. This coupled with the fact that my arm and shoulder felt great meant I was soon testing my movement and trying to get mobile as quick as possible. I have followed doctors’ orders and kept away from heavy lifting but I found the more I used my arm to do simple things like chop vegetables the better it got, visibly so! Next up was getting on the turbo trainer, one week post op and I set the pain cave up on the decking in the garden and away I went. The first couple of sessions made me feel like death; headaches, nausea, dizzyiness. I quickly realised the not so healthy dose of painkillers I had been taking were the cause of this so immediately cut them out. I would put up with the irritating ache from my shoulder in order to get my legs spinning again.

20140713-When the sun comes out

As my goals say, I needed to make use of my time off work. To do this I put myself to work making new contacts within the bike industry and along the way picking up a couple of new sponsors. One of which is a female clothing brand – Flare Clothing Company. The creator, Hannah has designed the sweetest looking clothing for female riders and I am so stoked to be able to race in this kit from now on! It’s definitely stand out from the crowd material! The others are suspension tuning company TF Tuned, helping to keep my suspension working best for me. This is a great opportunity for me to get to grips with exactly how my shock works and learn from the best! Lastly Decade and Nrg4Cyling have helped me immensely, these are both distribution companies who have sorted me out with better protection and eyewear. As any racer will understand, any help is greatly appreciated and I owe it to these guys for their support halfway through race season!

Soon it was time for round 3 of the UK Gravity Enduro in Afan. A weekend I would find to put me through feelings completely disparate from each other. My boyfriend was racing and there was never any question as to whether I would go or not. I was slightly confused when a few people at the race said that in my position they would never be able to just come and watch, they’d rather stay at home! I couldn’t think of anything worse than staying away. Why stay at home, thinking about racing and moping when you can be at the event, drink in the atmosphere and shout like a woman possessed at your enduro buddies?! The whole weekend was awesome, from the stunning weather to great company to watching my fellow lady racers on the podium at the end. I wrote myself a little list to put everything in perspective, this brought me back to reality, kept my chin up and I felt as good as I could about not being on my bike!

20140621-taking the snaps at afan 20140621-nice camping sopt afan

A couple of weekends later, after being back to work and back on my bike (sticking to the game plan!) it was time to set off for the Megavalanche 2014. I won’t fill you in on all the gory details of the utter carnage of this race – for that you can read ‘Jim’s Diaries’ right here in this mag. It would be simple enough to say it rained, a lot, and I have never seen such a ruined race track! A lot of people decided not to race, those that did described it as the most demanding race they have taken part in. As the conditions worsened throughout the week I realised I was secretly glad not to be racing. This feeling took me by surprise and made me think about the future. Was I going to lose my confidence? Would I assess biking situations differently now? Would this make me slower?

I desperately didn’t want anything to change and as the title suggests, I’m supposed to ‘bounce straight back’ to racing. This feeling coupled with feeling a bit sketchy when I rode some XC tracks in and around Alpe D’Huez left me feeling quite despondent and more than a little scared of my state of mind. I felt the need to test myself, probably a bit stupid and it had a high likelihood of going wrong, but I headed out on the last day of the trip to take on a slightly more technical enduro track. The track led from Alpe D’Huez to Vaujany, I changed my tyres to something a little less XC and took my boyfriend Adam for company and support. I’m not going to say I flew down like nothing has ever happened, I took it steady and had a good look at technical sections. I wasn’t completely senseless, there were a couple of parts of the track which I am not embarrassed to say I walked down where I normally would have had no problems riding.

There are some things that don’t need to be pushed at 6 weeks post collar bone op! I did notice that a part of the track with two rollable drops in it, very similar to where I crashed in Scotland, made my stomach flip flop at bit, butterflies were present as I rode down! Towards the end of the track I found some flow and as I relaxed I felt more like my old self, riding naturally, getting my head up and looking where I’m going, eager for the next technical section. It felt great, I deemed it to be a very positive part of my recovery! This exercise has also served as a bench mark for me to move forward from in terms of technical riding. There’s an enduro race next weekend on Bodmin (Enduro1/X Fusion event) I’m not entered (“not yet you’re not” says the devil on one shoulder!) My plan is to go along for a ride on Saturday and sus the area out. I won’t be able to look at the exact stages used as this is a one day, ride it blind race but I’ll get an idea of the general riding and see if I can improve from where I left off in the Alps.

20140707-Whoop singletrack 20140717-good weather for 1 day

This month I have experienced the ups and downs of recovery. I have found out that the hardest thing to conquer in terms of recovery may very well be the state of mind. I have come to realise that listening to your body, pushing the training as hard as feels good and devising ways to help overcome any mental vulnerabilities is the best way to recover. Lastly, always finish on a positive note! There is always one there if even if it may not feel like it at the time, you have just got to search for it and reward yourself for the progress however big or small. I’m now setting my sights on my long term goal – getting to Round 4 of the UK Gravity Enduro. I’ll let you know how it goes next time!

Words and Photos: Rachael Gurney

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