PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES ARE HUMANS TOO
Nadine Rieder, Ghost Factory Racing
Like in everyone’s life, professional athletes also have a lot of ups and downs. For younger athlete or anyone who encounters struggles along the way, I’ve written this blog post to show you that you are not alone. We all have our own struggles;-)
Where to start?! I think first of all I want to say how much I love being an athlete and I’m very grateful for this opportunity to live my dream. Being outdoors and doing any kind of activity is just one of the most amazing things. I love to explore remote places in nature and spend my time there. I’ve become used to doing this on my own, but now as a team member of Ghost Factory Racing, I can share these moments with my team mates - and that’s super nice. I still like being on my own but riding and spending time together is something special!
As cyclists we do almost every training session outdoors and with the races all over the world, we visit a lot of places; learn new cultures and meet many people on our way. Without my sport I never would have had such an exciting and adventurous life. But what many may not see, is that all the traveling means also living out of the suitcase for most of the year. For me it’s not a problem and you really get use to all this packing, preparing, organising and being on the road. What I definitely appreciate a lot now, is being part of GFR, I have less stuff to organise. Maybe I appreciate it even more, knowing how much effort it is to do all this in addition to training and racing. My family always helped me with these things, but I had lots of things on my mind and now it’s like there’s less weight on my shoulders;-)
I am very structured and I know that not every athlete is like this. One thing for sure is that having structure in your day definitely makes life easier. Having daily routines also helps for not losing focus. If you are prepared it’s also easier to stay motivated. For me it would not work without a coach, because I think it’s way more efficient if there’s someone seeing the whole picture from the outside, who has all the knowledge.
In 2019 I started to work with Jeroen Swart and he not only helps me to get the best version of myself, but he also is always there for me with an open ear. He knows me well enough to know exactly how I’m feeling. We talk often - it’s important to you have someone not only telling you what to train but also when and how much to rest. Recovery is as important as training and over the past years I’ve learned not only the importance of it but also ways to improve it. Luckily we are supported by Cadence. Check the recipes section of the Cadence website to find some delicious ideas using that Cadence Revive and Cadence Protein Fuel: waffles, smoothies, brownies... who doesn’t love a yummy rewards after a hard workout;-)
LISTENING TO YOUR BODY
As I mentioned in the beginning of the blog there are also harder times as a pro athlete and right now, I’m in the middle of a “down" experience. Being injured sucks. There is never a good time to be injured and it's very hard to accept that I had such bad luck the beginning of the season. I had a "harmless“ crash on Easter Sunday and at first we didn’t know how bad it was. My ankle was swollen, but somehow I still managed to do the preparation races for the first UCI World Cups as well as a training camp with the team. After this, it still didn’t get any better so we did a medical check and the MRI showed that I have two torn ligaments, some micro-fractures and a talus fracture. I rested and only did some swimming to give the injured ankle the chance to heal (it was 10 days before the World Cup start.) My mental state was surprisingly good and I was optimistic to be ready for my home World Cup in Albstadt (GER). I told myself that the rest will be good and even if I’m not training on the bike, I will be super recovered. So I arrived at the World Cup and did my first off-road training session on the race course, it felt ok. My foot was still swollen but with tape and a special speed brace I was able to ride. When I wasn't riding, I still had to wear a special aircast shoe. It felt kind of strange wearing this shoe and then going on the bike riding normally! But all that counted for me was the riding. The race itself was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. After snowing in the build up to the event, the weather was almost 30 degrees on race day - and on on a very tough track with so much climbing, I really tried my best. But when you are not 100% it’s even harder. And so it was. I told myself that all I wanted to do was race and there I was...racing and at the same time asking myself what the hell am I doing there. I finished far behind my expectations on a 53rd place and my disappointment was high. I know that racing a World Cup with a fractured ankle is already tough, but in that moment I didn’t see that I was injured and just blamed myself for being that "bad“. I couldn’t be more grateful to have had such an amazing team around me to offer the much needed support.
There was not much time to think about that race because the journey continued to the second round of the UCI MTB World Cups, this time in Nove Mesto (CZE). We had a great week together; I had good sessions on track but my ankle still didn’t feel good and it was still swollen. I got treatments and rested as much as possible in between the training. The race day came closer and the weather got worse with lots of heavy rain. On the final training pre-race day, we had a muddy and slippery track, but I felt good, even though was very slippery I could ride it all and felt confident. On race day I somehow didn’t have a good feeling when I saw the track. It looked like there were many walking parts - and so it was. As early as the start loop, I had to run (or walk because running was definitely not possible!) As the race continued I decided without thinking that I have to quit the race because these circumstances with my injury was just not possible. I wasn't sad because I knew that this was not my “fault“. I really tried my best, but the situation was out of my control So instead of racing I went out on the trails and luckily I had fun out there without any other thoughts in my mind. It was just the forest, my bike and pure joy. When all my teamies who showed amazingly performances finished the race we definitely had a reason to celebrate because our team just got in the lead of the team ranking. This means that from now on we are racing with the yellow leader numbers! This just shows how great the team is and how hard and perfect everyone on the team works.
The next day was a long trip with the car and when I arrived back home I straight went to the doctor for another check.
I could feel that something was not ok with my ankle. An updated MRI showed a loose joint part which means that it needs to be removed with surgery.
To be honest I have the very very sad days behind me and there were lots of tears. Questions like Why now? Why me? What if....? were in my head. But they don’t help and what I learned in the past and in my time as an athlete is it that after every down there is an up waiting for you. And I not know the reason now but nothing happens without a reason and I’m sure one day, I will know the reason for this "ankle chapter“. While I’m writing this I’m only a few days before the surgery and all I know is that I need a good optimistic mood because rehab will take time (and this time I will take it until it’s healed completely!) 4-6 weeks crutches and then let’s see... I take it step by step now and one is for sure. I will be back racing and then hopefully be able to show my full potential;-)