All those years ago when I met Ian in Portugal on a mountain biking holiday, he must have thought that week I was the best thing that ever happened to him....ok maybe I'm being biased....I'm sure he was thinking life can't get much better than this with his 'easy going' Aussie wife to be. Guiding everyday in the Algarve or Lefkada sunshine with his 'lovely' fiance by his side; Heading to Chamonix and teaching his 'wonderful' wife how to ride Alpine single track for the first time a week before the first guests arrived....ok perhaps I don't need to add sooooo many 'adjectives', but this is my story :)
I learnt quickly how to ride a bike and had the time of my life working in the mountains. I discovered how much I loved to challenge myself both physically up the climbs and on technical trails too. Plus I loved guiding, and meeting people from all walks or rather rides of life. Nothing stopped me from the moment the sun rose until I collapsed in a heap at night already planning the next day's adventures in my mind....my nick name used to be 'the Energiser Bunny'.
Ian and I decided that life was not busy enough for the two us to simply be mountain bike guides for another company for the rest of our mountain biking days....instead we dreamed of living in the mountains and running our own mountain bike holiday and skills coaching company....AND why not race full time too....heck the future is full of trails and tales that need exploring. Back then it was easy and we managed. The Potters moved to Luchon in the French Pyrenees to start the first chapter of 'A Quick Release Holidays', we built a home, worked from 9am until close to midnight 6 days a week, yet still found time to train every day and travel everywhere to race different events, from 24hr solo missions to XC all over the world. I loved the adventure of simply riding my bike and trying to be better at it every day, however that may be. The best part was being able to do this with my husband Ian Potter, who is also my best friend and who knows the real me and what I'm all about better than anyone ever will.
I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but something changed inside me at some point. I can't pin point a date or time. Suddenly everything I was and have been doing every day over the past 7 years that has brought a smile to my face has started to become hard work. Suddenly I stopped having fun and have been struggling to make sense of this new person who seems to think she can get rid of the 'Energiser Bunny'.
Since March and the start of the race season I have been having more battles inside my brain then you can imagine, leaving me completely worn out by the time I even roll up to start the next race. The first World Cup at Dalby was a disaster and so unlike me to pull out of a race.....I have ridden my bike with a dislocated knee for 14hrs and never quit, so why should I be quitting a two hour race now.
I kept my chin up and headed to Houffalize for the second round of the World Cup Series, hoping that a restful few days would be just what I needed.
Besides Mini Blue (AQR mini bus) breaking down en route, a missed ferry crossing and arriving at our base in Belgium at the early hour of 4:30am on Tuesday morning...it was quite a smooth journey for the Potters. I had 5 days to chill and prepare for the next World Cup race. The course was different from previous years and due to the amount of climbing I didn't spend too long on it because I still felt weak and wanted to save any ounce of energy I had left inside me for race day.
On race day I just hoped some racing adrenaline would be the answer to help me wake up and face the best mountain bike racers here in Belgium. But as I took off again there was nothing happening in the leg department. My reactions were flat and once I hit the descent again the dizziness returned and I crashed...lots of ouches!!! I managed to keep going, but thoughts of quitting circulated my mind again. Something just didn't feel right....I'm sure I keep saying that. Ian and I had discussed the race plan that morning and it was simply to FINISH, if I felt any better then I would do my darnest not to get lapped. But I couldn't handle the pressure of anything more than that and just wanted to try and have fun like I used to. Every climb was more effort than it should be, but although I didn't feel quick I started to overtake alot of people on the last two laps. It was bizarre because I was still chugging away trying to stay on my bike, and even though I was passing people it didn't help me speed up in anyway. I expected to be pulled out one lap down, then realised I made it through, but I had no extra buzz like I normally would experience at the end of any race like I used to. I finished 65th, but even though I was higher up in the results ladder than I expected to be, there was nothing Ian or anyone could say to make me feel any better because I didn't feel noticeably ill on the outside, but unbalanced and very wrong on the inside....as my Dad used to say...'It's all in your head!'
The plan was to stay in Germany for 3 weeks and in that time recover, train on what would be the next world cup course, and also hit two races close by in an attempt to earn some much needed UCI points. Ian and I decided to think of it as a holiday in an attempt to help my brain and body feel better. I managed a 4hr ride with Ian as we checked out a marked marathon loop. Mentally I focused on positivity, Ian was not allowed to grumble about anything....even the weather! I didn't even wear a heart rate monitor so I wouldn't feel like I was training. I enjoyed myself, and ignored the flat feeling inside my legs. But then the next morning I felt 100 times worse. So more recovery later in an attempt to feel better for the planned Swiss Racer's Cup we were heading to on the weekend. Then the shakiness and what felt like a racing heart beat started happening more frequently. Every night I was laying awake trying to control my breathing and at times freaking out because I couldn't understand why I felt so stressed. Every morning my heart rate would be 20 beats higher than it should be, and I just didn't want to get out of bed.
Ian decided on Friday morning that we should head back to the UK for the second round of the British Mountain Bike Series. He thought seeing friends and racing familiar faces would be less stressful then heading to the race in Switzerland. It was also a much cheaper trip as the airport was only 45 minutes from our base in Offenburg and just made more sense since I really enjoy racing in the UK....so the next morning we took off for London.
It was quite surreal turning up to practice the course and seeing people who weren't expecting to see the Potters do a double take as we appeared. But for me it was a huge relief to be surrounded by friends I have only known through racing and riding a bike, it's always great for me to have a laugh with Joolze, and see James and the AQR Race Team in full blue and red glory, and catch up with Yeti's Stu, my racing mate Mel Spath and partner Ryan, British Cycling soigneur Sarah and even Griff was there from TREK & Bontrager who I didn't expect to see, and I had such a nice chat with Matt from Torq, Ben from KTM/Totally Dynamic and the list goes on really.....so many friendly faces on a typical drizzly UK racing weekend. Although the fatigue still lingered I was really excited to see my mate Tracey Mosely who I didn't expect to see at an XC race, and who suggested we go out and practice the course. It was nice to not even think about tomorrow's race, but just find out what Tracey had been up to and to enjoy the time I had trying to follow her lines....that girl finds speed out of nowhere and if anyone tells me that course didn't flow, just ride with Tracey and her extra wide cross country bars :)
Race day was another 'de ja vu' experience, as once again legs had nothing in them. I had no adrenaline rushing through my veins and the mental fatigue hit me hard once more. I had no race plan I just tried to focus on racing as hard as I could and staying on my bike. Lilly Mathews took over the lead and looked strong. An unexpected crash left me filling dizzy on the first or second lap (I was seeing stars, so you can't expect me to know what lap it was) where I completely lost sight of Lilly and then another crash later on left me with the chain stuck behind my chain stay....I would like to say clumbsiness is part of my charm, but I'm not usually this clumbsy (grrrr). Maddie Horton was always right on my back wheel encouraging me to keep going as she passed me both times. Normally I would give myself a good telling off for being so clumbsy, but didn't even have the will to scream at my brain to wake up as I just wanted to finish the race unscathed.
I managed to finish the race in second place behind Lilly Mathews who took a well deserved win, and Maddie Horton in third, but even though I should be happy with a podium I was more concerned that either I was overtrained, unfit or still not well...but not really knowing what my plan should be to get back up to race speed worried me. The Devil doing star jumps on my shoulder told me it was time to train harder, longer and to learn to suffer ALOT more, but the Angel practising yoga on the other shoulder knew better and said it was time to stop! The problem is I don't enjoy stopping :(
LUCHON, FRANCE...A home holiday.
Ian and I returned to Germany and decided it was time to sort myself out, well Ian decided. I didn't want to leave and still hoped that I would be fit and ready for the next world cup, but I wasn't improving and I was still struggling with the panic attacks and shortness of breath. I was also over reacting to the silliest of things that I can laugh about now, but at the time I was deadly serious about...like Ian should not be teling me that Vampire bats might fly into our room if I leave the window open at night, that just set me off big time and caused Ian's ever expanding bold patch to grow wider as he put up with another wifely rantings.
Ian was contemplating taking me back to the UK for tests, but the thought of travelling again freaked me out. Ian got some advice from Cycling Australia's Coach Neil Ross (thankyou), and before I knew it I was banned from emailing or work of any kind...which caused a Potter feud, even though I knew it was for my own good (yes I admit that now). I was to rest completely and the next day we were off to see a sports doctor. Well we were trying to get there as I kept forgetting things I needed in order to visit the doctor, and what should have been a 10 minute walk, turned into a 40 minute telling off as Ian couldn't believe I remembered to bring the book I'm reading (third book in the Twilight Series....a must read :) ), but not my wallet with my E111 card and money. Finally I was sent to the lab in Luchon for blood tests...ouch! I hate needles. Would you believe I had the test in the morning and then I could collect the results that afternoon, talk about speedy.
So we decided to do some gardening whilst we waited. Potter gardening in the forests surrounding Luchon. We rode to the top of our new favourite trail that we discovered in the winter called 'Destination Unknown' (based on a song Ian likes) and started clearing trees that had fallen over from the snow in February. At the end of the trail we had 5 minutes before the lab closed, so to my relief we decided to continue trail clearing and head to the lab tomorrow, as I was in no rush to find out that my head was playing tricks on me and there was nothing wrong with me at all. Ian looked uncertain, but he has been tip toeing around me lately, so I gues he decided that possibly he needed another Luchon cross country loop to put a smile on his face and to help his brain cope with the Mrs :)
The next trail was in really good condition and Ian and I rode the descent steadily incase there were unexpected trees down on the switchbacks. Suddenly I was over the handle bars and trying to stop myself with my left leg, my damaged left knee that has been behaving itself recently popped out of place and left me in a world of pain. I would like to say I was calm and in control of the situation....BUT let's just say the frustration inside of me was too much for another added dysfunction and the flood gates burst open in full force. I just wanted Ian to give me a shovel and bury me there and then!!!!!
So now my nick name from yester-year 'Hop Along' has returned to haunt me again. I cannot run or walk properly as I type this, but on the plus I can pedal my bike so I'm not down and out just yet :) It was time to walk or rather hop to the lab and doctor's for test results. I was having a bad French day. Some days I speak french really well and then other days I forget the simplest of words. So there was alot of sign language and drawings and french/english dictionaries...but when the doctor made a gesture like he was going to slice my neck open I could feel another panic attack coming on and needed Ian to decipher what the heck the doctor was going on about.
As it turns out I'm not going crazy after all (if anyone refutes that I will show you crazy). The results of the blood tests indicate a parathormone imbalance and I have to have xrays tomorrow and then see a specialist who will determine the course of treatment. So it's a big 'PHEW' in the Potter health department, because I just want to get back up to speed again. But I'm also relieved that Ian has stuck around as I offer yet another challenge to our Potter adventures. So soon the 'Energiser Bunny' will be back with recharged batteries...but can't say for sure yet when that will be...but I must be on the mend as I look back and read another blogful of an essay (I was trying to keep this one short and to the point) where a week ago I couldn't finish a sentence.....YAY I'm back!!!!!
As always thankyou to COTIC BONTRAGER for your endless support, and those who have taken the time to help me through this thorny patch....hopefully the future trails will be less prickly.
And of course thankyou to Mr P....wouldn't life be dull without a crazy KP? :)
Cheerios for now
A Quick Release Holidays
Tel: 0845 1304824http://www.aquickrelease.com
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