Postcard from Sid – Greetings from… lockdown

Hello! Greetings from… well lock down in the UK.

Who would have thought, when I sent the last postcard from Wanaka in February, that the World would have changed in such a way in the space of a few weeks, to where we find ourselves now.

As I left on a flight from Queenstown, New Zealand, just the day after Challenge Wanaka, heading to the USA for a five week training camp with my coach Julie Dibens and the JD Crew, I certainly didn’t expect to find myself several weeks later, cancelling my return flight back to New Zealand, and instead finding myself on the way to the UK. Whilst from the UK originally, I haven’t lived there for any length of time, for 13 years. I was now heading back to the UK, for pretty much the unforeseeable future, not really sure how long I was going to be there for.

Very kindly, my sister offered for me to live with her. I’d normally stay with my parents when I’m back in the UK, but they are both over 70s and whilst fit and healthy, we all would prefer to keep it that way, and with the lock down and restrictions, we felt it best that I base myself with my sister and her family.

So how did I end up back in the UK? Well as with all these things, there’s a bit of a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….

Hiking in Vegas was pretty spectacular!

As said I was in the USA for a five week training camp. Just prior to leaving NZ, I’d refractured my collar bone (don’t ask, but believe me if it was a good story I’d be telling you, as it wasn’t even whilst on the bike). But I’d still headed to the USA to spend time with Dibs and the crew. I was advised to let my collar bone heal naturally this time, so this is what we did. On arriving in Boulder, after a two week camp in Vegas, I went to see a Specialist to get an update on the healing.

The JD Crew!! Good times and can’t wait to be back with these guys again! 

Sadly, the news wasn’t what we were wanting, as the scans showed that the bone in fact hadn’t knitted together and was 13mm misaligned, and still with a 4mm gap. I was pretty gutted, I just felt like I’d wasted the past five weeks, as it looked like I was going to have to have it plated again. So being practical we set about working out the best place to get it operated on again. Stay in the USA, v. head to Spain and my original surgeon, v. head back to NZ, v. or go to the UK. There were pros and cons for all of them, but it was narrowed down between the USA, if we could get surgery within the coming days, and Spain and back to the original surgeon who knew me. It was just as I started looking at flights to Spain, talking to the surgeon there and sorting options, that the world really went topsy-turvy, and the next day Spain went into lock down. So that left really the one option of the USA, which I’d likely been verging towards anyway, as it then meant I could stay and rehab in Boulder with Dibs, and also my strength and conditioning coach Kate Ligler. However now it started to become a rush against the time to find a surgeon and get the operation done, before non-critical surgeries were stopped. I managed to get a slot, and had my collar bone re-plated on Monday 16th March. On Tuesday, all non-critical operations were halted.

Looking forward to my third surgery in less than twelve months! Re-plating my collar bone!

The plan as said was then to rehab in Boulder. Dave and Esra Kellermans, who I’d been staying with had been amazing and offered for me to stay as long as I needed and wanted. However, the world was changing daily, almost hourly. New Zealand had closed its borders to non residents. Whilst I had a Residents Visa, I needed a Permanent Residents visa to get back in, so that was now not an option. In the USA I was on an ESTA, and whilst at the time of surgery I had another 60days left, who knew what was going to happen and if I’d be able to leave the USA before that visa expired (and you don’t really want to go annoying US Immigration). It seemed that no country was allowing leniency on visa’s in the circumstances.

With everything going on as well, we decided actually the best place was to be with family and back in the UK. So, I booked flights, checked with the surgeon I was ok to fly, had the flights cancelled the day before I was due to leave, had them rebooked, and so eight days after surgery and after having a post-surgery check up in the morning, I was on a flight back to the UK. Armed with facemask, gloves and hand sanitizer. I’m a frequent traveller, but to say I was apprehensive about the flight was an understatement.

Embracing travel and flying! How do you eat with these things on?

However, I made it, and made it to my sisters, where I’ve now been for the past 5 weeks or so?! Is it? I can’t remember!

As mentioned, I’ve not lived in the UK, for any length of time, for thirteen years. I’ve, of course, been back here for short visits normally a couple of weeks at the most, but now I’m here and for how long… who knows?

However, I know I’m very lucky and happy with the decision. I have a great set up, which I know even in New Zealand I’d likely struggle to match. I have my indoor bike trainer, and am now getting sucked into Zwift, and I panic bought a treadmill, which arrived the same day I landed back in the UK. I also have a pretty good home gym set up with weights and equipment. Some items I bought in advance but most I’m lucky that my sister and her husband already had. We are also very rural just in a small village with a garden and space.

Finding some training partners at home (it didn’t last long)!

It’s weird though, as it’s easy to feel very detached from the world and what’s going on, and just cocoon yourself in your bubble. Whilst we put the news on a little, I’m not really watching it, so you sort of enter this odd world of daily life around the home, easily forgetting the true reason as why I’m here and not in New Zealand or USA. It’s almost business as usual from a training perspective, and it’s easy to slip into that. Then you catch a glimpse of the news, or you remember you’ve not been to a supermarket for 4 weeks, and you realise you haven’t been out to a café for a good coffee or seen your friends in person, or even now I’m in the UK and only a couple of kilometres from my parents, really seen them.

My WFH office! Embracing the world of Zwift and learning to run on a treadmill

In terms of the current state in the UK, at the time of writing this is the situation, or perhaps how I interpret the situation. We have all been requested and advised to work from home where we can. Schools are closed, (unless parents are in critical jobs or can’t work from home), and most pubs, restaurants, cafes are closed, and where I live or in the nearest town, not giving take away, (I’ve heard this is different in some areas of London). We have been advised to stay home, and only go out for necessities, for example, food and medical supplies. We have been allowed or recommend that we can go out for one form of exercise a day. I’m not sure if there are any specifics around this (as I’ve seen various interpretations), but my take is one form of exercise, that keeps you pretty close to home (e.g. no driving to get there), and is of reasonable duration, so really up to and around the 60min mark, I feel.

What does this mean for me? Well we have perhaps all interpreted this in different ways, but for me and how I feel I should set an example, I’ve decided that all my riding will be done on the indoor trainer. I may, as the weeks go on, venture out locally on a 60mins easy spin, but for now it doesn’t feel right. Mainly because I don’t want to put extra strain on the NHS, if anything happens. So, at the moment, as it stands all my riding is indoors, or in the virtual world of Watopia on Zwift, but lets be honest depending on the day of the week I get to ride in London, Yorkshire, New York, Innsbruck, and Richmond, and even get to climb Alpe de Zwift whenever I feel like it! I then use my running to get outside, although I have been doing a mix of treadmill sessions and outside sessions, depending on the workout prescribes and sometimes the British weather!

I’m still training about 20hours or so a week, and very much in the rehab phase post surgery, so I guess have a different perspective on things at the moment. For me every day is one more step forward on the road back to fitness. Every day is a chance for me to be better than the day before. I’m working closely of course with my coach, Julie Dibens, but also with my awesome physio Kat Stene (@forca13) and fab strength coach Kate Ligler. Between them they are well and truly keeping the reins on me and my collar bone!

Relocated the “office” to the living room to join and help lead Louise Minchin’s #thebigbikein, cycling 100miles on Zwift raising money for BBC Children in Need and Sport Relief.

So what else have I learnt. Well firstly I’m still alive and so is my sister and all her family. We can actually survive living together, or me infiltrating their family life, and get on. I’m sure it’s actually harder for them, suddenly having me in their home and in their family space, and again… with no end date to work towards. I say getting on, at least on the surface. I’m sure behind closed doors they are constantly checking when flights are operating again and borders re opening.

I did think, or have all these visions that I’d be helping with the home learning, and the best aunty ever and teacher extraordinaire, which in reality is not how it’s turned out. Let’s face it what nine year old boy and eleven year old girl want to hang out with their uncool, slightly odd Aunty, who’s come to stay for what probably feels like to them… FOR EVER…(said in that same tone as how kids these days say “whatever”), especially around school work when there’s much more exciting things like Fortnite to play or Tik Toks to make. I think I was even sacked of Tik Tok duties after the first effort too! I also only got 17/20 in my spelling test!

I decided to learn a skill, yes we all got sucked into that one “use this time to do something new with your life”, ha ha, so I decided on a really useful skill of trying to do Ten Keep Ups with a football. So far, five weeks later I’m managed eight, sporadically and through pure luck and chance, rather than developing my skill and control of the ball.

No, I’ve not turned to baking as the rest of the world has, well I say that, because, with the additional kitchen facilities, (e.g. I now have access to an oven), I have been able to explore my culinary skills (and confirm they are lacking) and I have, I admit done some baking, which I guess could technically be counted as a new skill, as I didn’t do this before. Damn it! Before, if I wanted to ‘bake’ anything it would have to be a non cook, non really mix anything, as I only had a microwave and hob and fridge! Now I have a proper kitchen, with an oven (two actually), cooking equipment (more than one pan) and a lot more selection of ingredients (and food) when I open the cupboard and fridge! Oh the excitement!

OK, I caved! Making banana flap jack (e.g. training fuel)!

I have to say my cooking skills are really pretty basic. I enjoy cooking, and would love to be able to have friends round for dinner, and again in my head put on this amazing feast. However, when you live on your own, and travel a lot, and again have a microwave and hob and that’s about it, maybe a toaster, kettle and my SodaStream, it’s not really the beginnings of whisking up a gourmet meal. That, with the fact that if I invite anyone round for dinner when I’m in New Zealand, they’d be sitting eating dinner and having a GnT, wine, beer or all of the above, whilst sitting on my bed. I live in a studio apartment and whilst it’s lovely, I feel it would be slightly awkward to have guests for dinner! Sorry, I digressed again, so cooking yes, well I have been very conscious of trying to pull my weight at my sisters and try to cook a little. Again, posing the stress that when I cook for myself, it doesn’t really matter what it tastes like. Looks like or what I put in, but now I’m cooking for my sister and her husband. Yes, note, not the kids, as there is no way they’d be eating what I cook, so then feel bad as having hoped to help my sister out by cooking dinner, she still has to cook, kid friendly food as well.

I’m also now stuck as I’ve already gone through my four meal repertoire that I make normally. I make a batch and it normally lasts for several days, and just rotate through these 4 options, pretty much. It was all good and exciting for those first four times, I served another salad variation for my sister and husband, but now I’m stuck and out of options, and heck I can’t cook anything normal or new! Ha ha!

Hiking in Boulder. Looking forward to getting back there and exploring properly

It’s now the beginning of May. I don’t know, but if you’re like me March seemed to last for about 3 years, and now April felt like it lasted about 5 days! Time flies when you’re having fun right! Ha Ha! However, we have all agreed that 2020 is just void, no birthdays count this year either right? But heck May! It would be about this time that I would be making my migration from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere and my Girona base. However, with everything like it is, I’m not really sure when I’ll be getting to Girona this year, if at all. Or if I’ll likely head back to Boulder for some more time with my coach and the JD Crew, now that I’m getting back to fitness, and have full use of both arms again. But at the moment we are still well and truly located in the UK. There are glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel in some places around the World. Spain, who was hit really hard and have been in a complete lock down (not even able to leave the house for exercise) are starting to phase in a lifting of restrictions. New Zealand moved to level 3 just a week ago. However, it’s still too early to tell as to when travel and flights may return, or borders open, or even then if visitors are going to be allowed into different countries.

What does it look like for racing. Well, again it’s really too early to tell, and definitely too early to plan. Sadly, we know that Challenge Roth has been cancelled for 2020, as well as many other Challenge events and other races. It is of course so sad, as part of these races is about connecting with our triathlon friends and family around the world. However, I can guarantee that the races will be bigger and better when they happen. It was exciting to read the announcement about the PTO Middle Distance World Championships at Challenge Daytona in December. A $1m prize purse playing 20 deep for the Professionals, but a 3 day festival of events for everyone. Age Group sprint and middle distance events, junior challenges, a Pro-Am Relay, and if last year was anything to go by, there will be a lot more and a whole host of interaction with the Pros and Age Group Athletes.

Daytona International Speedway, hosting the PTO World Middle Distance Champs 2020!

For now, however, it’s live by the day and stay in the moment. I know it’s a cliché, but I think it’s true. The future is too unknown at the moment to be concerned or worried about or even to try and make plans. All we can do is be the best version of ourselves each day. Look after yourself, be kind to yourself and to those around you. Support our health care heroes. Do what feeds you mentally and physically, what feeds your soul. It’s important over these weeks and months to look after our mental and physical self, and others. Keep active and exercise if you can, because that what we love and do, but you don’t need to be fully training and hitting high intensity sessions. Yes, jump into the odd virtual race to give you those competitive juices and start line fever, but be careful not to over do this and compromise your immune system. On the other hand though, if you’ve lost your motivation and mojo, that’s ok as well. It’s ok and you’re not alone. Many athletes Pros and Age Groupers will be going through the same ups and downs, with the lack of goals and races and a lot of other uncertainty and ‘stresses’ in life. It’s ok. Allow yourself and again be kind.

Deep breaths…. And cheers!

Remember we may be physically distancing, but we don’t need to socially disconnect. Reach out to friends and family. Keep the contact and dialogue. Pour that glass of wine and eat that bar of chocolate.

Stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy and look after your loved ones.

Hope to see you all on the race courses again soon.

Sid x

Don’t Die Wondering

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