There’s nowhere lonelier than your own mind. That being said, for the most part it’s up to you what you do with this alone time. Over the past month I’ve faced something that’s been as mentally challenging as it has been physically. In fact, I would go as far to say that this is the hardest battle I’ve ever had to face; and unfortunately it’s one that nobody else can fight for you. People can sympathise and they can provide you with a shoulder to cry on, but at the end of the day it’s yours to win or lose.
I’ve learnt a lot in these past few weeks. It’s okay not to be okay, but you realise pretty quickly that positivity is the best form of defence we possess. Using this to push against all the thoughts of loss, frustration, self-doubt and heartbreak is all we have when we’re unable to do the things we love. The things we’ve worked towards.
A month ago I was out for an easy ride the day before I was due to travel to training camp with my teammates. I was in a good place. The strongest I’d ever been coming into the season, and riding with the best team I’ve ever been a part of. I was excited to start racing, and had worked harder this winter than ever before to make 2017 a good one!
In a single moment you can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Luckily for me I have no memory of this moment, but unfortunately that doesn’t change what happened. It was a head on collision with the car. A terrible accident, and that’s the only way I’ll ever see it. For me there’s no anger or blame, only sadness.
I woke up a few hours later in the hospital in Girona and from this moment on I’ve learnt the true greatness of the cycling community here. And possibly the only good thing to have come out of this is that it’s helped me to see how good people truly are in a time when it’s so easy to lose sight of this. From my family, to my teammates and friends, I couldn’t have faced any of this without them.
For the first week I had no sense of loss. Your body goes into survival mode. I had broken my back across five vertebrae, my neck, shoulder, four ribs and my sternum, as well as puncturing my lung and bruising my kidney. But I was alive and I could walk, and at this point these are the only things that matter to you.
The mind quickly forgets this though, and once I was able to stand, and then to leave the hospital a couple of days later I was brought back to my reality. My body would repair itself as long as I did what the doctors told me, wore a back and neck brace, and gave myself the time to recover, but this is when it hurt me the most. This is not how I wanted to spend my time. I was in pain and uncomfortable, but more than this I felt as though I’d lost so much.
As an athlete a lot of this comes down to the fitness you can almost see disappearing before your eyes, but it’s also everything that comes with this. Not being able to do what you love and race your bike, missing out on moments you would have shared with teammates, but above all else I had lost my freedom. The freedom that riding your bike gives you. The freedom to simply live life independently and function to the level you become accustomed to. Frustration begins to replace sadness as time moves on.
Nobody can truly feel what you’re feeling, and for the most part you can put on a smile and focus your energy on life after this. The future. A time when you’ll look back and this will be a distant memory, a blot on the horizon. A part of the story. But there’s no fast-forward button to get to this point, and actually I’m happy that there’s not. These are the times that shape us and when we get to make the ultimate choice about how we move forward.
This is the fight you must win: stop dwelling on the past and instead focus on everything that still lies before you. Choose to use the experience to make you stronger as a person. I can’t change what’s happened now, so why waste more precious time thinking about it.
It’s true what they say, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I always thought I loved riding my bike and being able to do this with my life, but it’s only now that I truly appreciate it. My love for it has grown each day I’ve been unable to do it. This only motivates me more to get back to where I was, and ultimately surpass it.
This is not the end of the story. It will be a long hard road back to fitness, and I’m sure there are still as many downs to come as there are ups during the recovery process. I’ll just have to make sure the positive thoughts shout a little louder.
Words: Molly Weaver