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.

Cheers,
Emily


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!


PhotoGraphi



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.














Saturday, 7 November 2015

Season round up and upcoming plans

So, each time I write a blog the time between grows. Since arriving back to NZ last week I've had a few people mention they've missed the odd update on here and decided anyway that it's about time!

Guess time flies when you're having fun...and since June it's flown by pretty quick. Can't believe it's already November and the 2015 season and off season is already behind us! (well almost)

After a rocky start to my US season in March battling a few issues after overdoing it a bit throughout the NZ summer, I managed to bounce back around June after making some changes and getting right. Things started to turn round during a 2 week training period at altitude in Colorado, following some rest. I had great company staying with one of my favourite ex team mates, Jenn Reither in Denver and the Donohue family in Boulder (so much fun with this crew)! All up a good few weeks were spent rebuilding for the remainder of the season and enjoying the lovely Colorado.


Following Colorado, I had a series of  races to get back into the swing of things; Gatineau in Canada (a one day UCI race), Philly World cup and the Airforce Cycling classic to finish off a nice set in Washington. I was pretty happy to be back to it, feeling fit, healthy and motivated for our European block and with that managed to jump on the podium along the way! Great fun getting back into the US crit scene to finish things up; always crowds and tough racing.





Next up I was jetsetting back to Europe to the lovely Spain! Safe to say I missed it there a lot early season, not just the Euro racing but my friends and Girona family.

I had a few weeks to train and get back into the Spanish, late night, sleep in culture before the next block and oh so good to be back to siestas!

First stop was the beach to catch up with Michael after a long few months spent apart.




 Following a neat few weeks training and catching up it was off for a 3 week block racing in Czech at The Tour de Feminin a 3 day 2.2 tour, Thüringen Rhundfahrt a 7 day 2.1 tour and lastly Sparkassen World Cup, also in Germany.

To sum things up, all went pretty well for myself and the team. We hit the ground running in Czech with plenty of podiums and Lauren Stephens coming home with 2nd in the general classification. I was reasonably pleased to snag a few podiums in sprint finishes as last lead out for Kendall.
The best thing here was being back to Euro racing and (about time) having some good fighting race legs!







Following Czech we were on the road to Germany to prepare for 7 days of hurt in the very pretty, but bumpy East, Thüringen region. Lucky for good fitness at this time as there was no stuffing around, from day 1 it was on! I managed to get set up well on the opening stage by the team to have a nice crack at the finish, a technical final 1km with a few turns, a bit of road furniture, some rail tracks, oh and cobbles! I rolled in for 3rd behind Lisa Brennauer and Lotta Lepisto and wasn't too disappointed with the result. Following the time trial on day 2 we had Lauren sitting in a comfortable 2nd after her great ride there. This meant for a pretty tough week of aggressive racing trying to break down the Velocio team who were doing a stellar job of protecting their leader, Lisa in the jersey. Come the final day, all hell broke loose and Emma Johansson ended up climbing the ladder to take the overall win with Lauren holding on to the podium after some gutsy riding!

All up, a very tough but satisfying week. Safe to say some there were some tired bodies for a few days following!






Following Thüringen we had a bit of breathing space until the next one, Sparkassen world cup. I darted back to Spain to spend a few relaxing days up in the mountains of Andorra, then some chill time and easy training days in Girona. Unfortunately one rare wet day, I slid out when I set off with my front brake completely loose. Rookie error! Rain started to come down midway through the ride and boom - smack down on the slippery Spanish roads. The day could've been worse but I did happen to have zero credit on my phone and a sore bod! Lucky for me, a friendly ambulance happened to roll by. He dropped me at the local town clinic where I got patched up and was on my way on the local bus an hour or so later, feeling grateful for kind people. Not too bad but a broken bike and a bruised body made for a less than perfect lead up to the world cup!

I battled through the race and managed to find some legs somewhere throughout. In a very messy, hectic finale with a near miss mass spill on the final corner I rolled in for 13th. Disappointing, considering I made it to the finish with good legs and put myself in a crappy position. Still, could have been worse following the week prior!

After Sparkassen, my American team mates were on their way back to mighty Merica to catch up with family and take some rest following a busy block. I was back to Spain for 3 enjoyable weeks catching up with friends and training for our next and final set.

With a last minute change to our calendar we were off to Sweden with very minimal TTT (team time trial) practice to compete in the TTT world cup and road race. It was a weekend of learning competing in our first event together and trying to overcome some frustrating mechanical issues in the road race. Some days are good, some not so and this was one of the not so. Nonetheless, certainly a weekend to learn from and couldn't complain spending time in Sweden. Beautiful place, beautiful people!



Finally we were off to our last Euro destination to finish off our block before heading back Stateside. Plouay World Cup and Tour de L'Ardeche were up in France.

Plouay was a battle from the gun and being the final world cup of the season was a very fast, aggressive race eventually coming down to only the best of the best! A suffer fest from the start and not my day or the team's but a nice way to get some fire in the belly to take to the mountains of Ardeche in the South of France! I have done this race a number of times and we have a bit of a hate-love relationship. For one, it's a pretty amazing place to see; hills for days and a bit of a paradise really but when it comes to racing in those hills, well mountains, day in day out it get's old and I get grumpy! It's brutal but when you're riding ok it's not so bad. I had some good and some bad days but was pretty pleased to come away with two podiums on stages and some legs to help Lauren once again fight it out in the GC battle. Unfortunately again it was 2nd home but a great effort and kudos to an impressive ride by Tayler Wiles and team. All up I was pleased and had a few laughs through the hurt along the way! At this race, I ride by the never say die approach and whip out the claw - it's surprising how many times you can come back over terrain like this as with a mountain comes a sweet descent! We had fun.




At last it was back to the USA to prep for TTT worlds in Richmond and initially I'd also hoped the road race for New Zealand. Unfortunately I was hit with pretty gutting news while there that I would not be competing in the road race as I hadn't made the team. I was very disappointed with the non-selection as had been on the right track, had good form, some reasonable results and was highly motivated. A strong NZ team was selected, however and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger so only more motivation now for 2016!

The TTT worlds was very drama filled as I fell ill with a stomach bug the night prior battling all evening. Average timing huh! I started completely empty as after all it was the worlds and I had to do what I could for the team. I did what I was capable of  (although not much) and was pretty out of it for a few days following. Was sorry to let the team down at such an important race but something that couldn't be controlled.

We will be back stronger and more prepared next year as a lot of our team are continuing on together for next season. So, back to Tibco-SVB for me and very pleased about it! A really great group of girls; top personalities and a lot of talent. To add to that, very supportive staff and management that I'm happy to be a part of.

Thanks to all for the support in 2015...already getting fired up for next season!

Larry Rosa photo


 
 





 

I've had a great offie in Spain, mixing things up with a few road trips, some hikes and other activities without 2 wheels, plus plenty of fun. A good time to have a breather before heading back to NZ to enjoy regearing for next season. This off period I'm doing it a bit differently with less jetting about and constant racing to more time at home and structured training plus a bit of time in the gym. Hope it works out! May even head into next season with some guns ;)
For now, just nice to be home.

My first race back will be the elite road nats in January.

Cheers,
Emily



Thanks again to the support from team sponsors and New World Remuera.