Guest blog by Emma Grant,
Over the past 6 weeks I have been living high in Colorado (altitude as opposed to state legal marijuana!)
I am now in Seattle having a little R&R and a training vaycay after 4 days of intense racing in Missouri with team Colavita. It was a treat to race at sea level, and the time training at altitude paid off as I managed to make the break and nab a podium spot on the third day.
This season has continued to test my resilience.
For the most part I kept it low key as I was still not back to full health after a long struggle with chronic fatigue. I also had the small matter of finishing up my degree, which admittedly took a bit of knuckling down to!
Nonetheless I hadn’t felt like myself on the bike all year and started experiencing weird sensations or lack of them in my legs. Extreme numbness and weakness forced me to seek out a vascular specialist. After testing on and off the bike I was diagnosed with early stages of the dreaded artery constriction problem that plagues so many pro cyclists (iliac artery endofibrosis). The only cure is big deal surgery and I was due to fly to the USA the following week for the rest of the season.
I felt like this was the final straw; I was certain that I’d exhausted the remainder of my bounce back ability. However, I opted for a conservative approach with managing the symptoms. I’d go to the US decide whether to race the season out or have a holiday, then weigh up having surgery on my return.
Deep down though I was pretty sure I was done with cycling. I sobbed through security and boarded hoping a change of scene would be good, at least enable me to think more rationally about my future.
Immediately I fell in love with Boulder, Colorado. For outdoorsy, granola, yogi types it should be high up the bucket list! At a mile high elevation, the decreased oxygen levels make you stronger and improves your blood profile even just sleeping. It is a mecca for athletes, everyone you meet out riding is somebody worth googling and the local’s joke that your typical ‘yummy mummy’ in Boulder is a professional triathlete.
Whilst my legs were still horrendously numb on the bike, the vitamin D was doing a lot of good; true to the cycling adage that a happy head makes for fast legs.
I was able to stop focussing on the problem and start figuring out some solutions. I raced the Tour of Utah and the Pro Challenge, both amazing opportunities and run in conjunction with the well-established men’s tours. The latter was really exciting to be part of being the first women’s addition. Turns out racing with some of the world’s best climbers at 10,000ft when you were raised at 237ft is fairly brutal! I was content to finish 11th on the final stage definitely inspired by the epic crowds in Golden to dig deeper.
Although it was a confidence boost the reality was the numbness was still a real limiting factor.
I returned to Boulder and sought out another opinion.
The past 10 days have been a complete turn up for the books. It has transpired that 2 stress fractures I suffered to my spine from my running days are affecting my spinal cord and nerves leading to my lower limbs.
The resulting dodgy biomechanics on the bike are impinging my iliac artery and constricting the blood flow to my legs. I am feeling really optimistic about getting to the bottom of it and hopeful that the symptoms are predominately neural as opposed to vascular given the progress I have made in such a short space of time. Cross your fingers please!
Whilst I’m in no hurry to get back to the British winter I am looking forward to checking out the new Lucy Bee cookbook and sampling some recipes!
Thanks for reading, stay healthy!
Emma has some other great articles:
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