Injuries suck, but I’m starting to think they are the universe’s way of telling you it’s time to take a break. Since starting bike racing almost 4 years ago, it has felt like I have had one injury after another. This may be a result of learning a lot of technical skills in a short amount of time and not being fully aware of my abilities, but a lot of my injuries were also totally random. I’m beginning to realize that my body may have been trying to get me to deal with a health issue I had been ignoring for quite some time, that issue being relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). This is something that started when I was still ski racing and I’ve always ignored it as I felt normal and if it weren’t for a lack of my period, I would have had no idea.
I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time but I was at an all-time low this fall. I didn’t have the motivation or energy to train and I felt abnormally weak while riding. I was at a very unhealthy body weight and had zero strength in my legs. It took a crash at a cyclocross race to shake me up before realizing the dangerous state I was in. The crash knocked me out, leaving me with another concussion and a very, very sore body. I was barely able to walk which made me feel completely broken. For the first time I felt genuinely scared for my health.
Why did I keep crashing? What would the next crash bring? I started to question whether this whole bike racing thing was for me. Lying in bed a couple days after the crash with an awful headache and no energy to do anything, I decided it was time to change something. Looking myself in the mirror, the reflection looking back at me was nothing but skin and bones with some fresh bruises added to the mix.
Thankfully Keith and Catharine already had a plan to get me back to health. They decided it would be best for me to take a month of complete rest. Not something I was overly excited about but something I knew needed to happen. During this time, I focused on gaining some weight and allowing my body to fully heal.
Taking a break from training is really hard for me and something I rarely do. I had to constantly remind myself that it will only make me stronger. I knew that if I were to continue training I would be digging myself into a deeper hole and my performance would suffer. There were a lot of days of frustration, sadness and worry that I would lose the desire to push myself. I knew I did it to myself but it still felt unfair and I often questioned why this was happening to me. I feel awful admitting this because I know that to many people this is a ridiculous problem to have and I realize that there are way worse problems to have. Living with other athletes and being surrounded by an active community only made my break from training more agonizing.
That month was probably the least active I have been in my entire life and I really missed my time outside. Being outside and being active is part of who I am and taking a break from that almost made me feel like a totally different person.
Now, it wasn’t all bad. I became content (sort of) with the slower pace of life and found joy in doing other things. I was motivated to gain some weight and enjoyed finding new recipes to cook. It was also my busiest semester of school yet which kept me busy and having a bit more time to focus on my classes took a lot of stress off.
The month honestly flew by and soon enough I was able to ride my bike again. I was itching to get back to being active as my energy levels felt more than restored. Getting back to riding was a bit of a shock. I would get so out of breath and my legs would get sore from a 1-hour ride but I felt great. The initial shock of getting back in shape didn’t last too long and soon enough I started to feel a more “normal,” but even better than I had before I took time off. I knew I was out of shape but I still felt way better riding than I can remember feeling in a long time. I was fueling my rides properly and finally actually had the energy and mental clarity to ride and focus on school work.
I’m feeling amazing now. Despite taking all that time off, I feel stronger than I have in a long time and I have more energy than ever. I thought my energy was fine before but I didn’t know I could feel this good!
The process back to total “health” may still take some time and I’m not quite sure how long but I’m confident I’m moving in the right direction.
This whole experience has really helped see how important it is to fuel my training properly and allow my body to rest. The motivation and energy that follows a big rest period is something special and I think big gains can be made from that.
I’m not totally sure what this means for my performance this year but I do know that I am on the right track to improving my overall health which is far more important.
For more on red S visit https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/7/491
Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) is the result of insufficient caloric intake and/or excessive energy expenditure. Consequences of this low-energy condition can alter many physiological systems, including metabolism, menstrual function, bone health, immunity, protein synthesis, and cardiovascular and psychological health.
Emilly Johnston claims the Jr women's win and the Canada Cup Leader's jersey at round one. Emilly attacked from the gun and held onto a pace no one else was able to match. Emilly will not defend her jersey at round 2, deciding to head to Europe to test herself at the UCI Jr Series in May.
Housemates and teammates Emily Unterberger and Elyse Nieuwold, after going 1,3 at an Island Cup two weeks ago, again found each other to be their main rival at Bear Mountain. They raced together until a last lap attack by Elyse saw her gain the edge over Emily for 10th and 11th in elite women's field. This duo will line up beside each other again at the Vedder Mountain Classic in Chilliwack as well as rounds 2,3 and 4 of the Canada Cup series in Quebec.
On the men's side Holden Jones discovered that moving up to Elite/U23 combined with a full engineering course load makes racing hurt a bit more than in the jr ranks! Despite limited training hours over the winter and some good leg cramps during the race he was able to finish an impressive 24th. This team has some grit! After scoring a recent 3rd in Elite men at the Sunshine Coaster Holden will line up next at the Canada Cups in Quebec.
Image by Jay Wallace
We are pleased to share that all three athletes have been selected to Team Canada for the World Championships in Lenzerheide Switzerland September 4-8th. Congrats Holden, Emily and Elyse!
To find out more about the event visit the Lenzerheide World Championship website
Emily’s silver at nationals was not only a great performance on the day but a great reference for her skill progression from one year to the next. The course in Canmore is loaded with steep challenging descents which Emily easily conquered despite being bested by the course the previous year. After the race she said her RaceFace dropper seat post had changed her life! Always modest however, a big part of this improvement was definitely the hard work and training she put in over the last year to gain skill and confidence and the tenacity with which she raced.
Holden’s season long battle with Carter Woods for top spot in junior men was once again tested at Nationals. This day belonged to Carter, but Holden raced with focus and form to minimize the gap and secure silver by a large margin. He followed this silver medal winning ride with a gold for team BC in the relay the following day, the fastest junior lap and 3rd fastest lap of the day.
Balancing work, returning from Europe that week and back to back racing meant Elyse was racing on fumes by Nationals. Elyse is a fighter though and pushed through for 8th on the day.
Elyse claims silver in the GC after 6 days of back and forth racing against a competitive women's field.
The race began with 3 Epic days in Golden before moving to Revelstoke, Vernon and Silverstar for the final three stages.
Elyse Loved the mtb stage race format and all the amazing new trails she got to experience at race pace!
Photos by John Gibson
The End of June and July saw a lot of racing. While Emily was out for the Whistler Canada Cup with a compression fracture and slight shoulder dislocation, Elyse and Holden were going strong, claiming silver in both the Elite women's and Junior men's races.
From Whistler, Elyse was off to Europe with more of an adventure than bargained for! Her travel companion and feed/tech support got badly injured on Day 1 and Elyse truly found out the Privateer experience. In Val di sole, her first European World Cup she finished 53rd and with a quieter week afterwards she was able to climb up to 39th in Andorra, a track notorious for its difficulty being at 1900m.
There is nothing like that first trip to Europe to learn just what World Cup racing entails and how to prepare for it!
The racing season resumed for the Pendrel Racing Team after a month-long break in Eastern Canada with the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the Canada Cup.
The Junior men's field is very competitive right now with Holden Jones and his training partner Carter Woods racing each other to the line each weekend and trading off on Victories. With 2 wins in three Canada Cups Holden retained the leader's jersey.
Holden also claimed a Short track win in the elite men's field in Baie St Paul and is currently ranked 4th in the world.
In the Elite women's Category Elyse took home back to back 3rd place finishes behind Maghalie Rochette and Jenn Jackson while Emily, still a U23 finished 4th and 6th.
Emily stayed out east to compete at Canada Cups 4 & 5 while Elyse and Holden have returned to BC to finish school and participate in local events in advance of the Whistler Canada Cup.
Holden won a tight battle over fellow Canadian Carter Woods ar round 2 of the UCI Jr Series making it 2 for 2 so far this spring!
1. Holden Jones (Can) Pendrel Racing) 1:08:51
2. Kevin Vermaerke (USA) Whole Athlete p/b DNA 1:08:55
3. Paul Fabian (USA) Bear Development 1:09:52
4. Carter Woods (Can) Cycling BC 1:10:49
5. Sam Fox (TAS) Launcestion City 1:10:55
Holden Jones had an impressive start to his season claiming the win in the first round of the Canada Cup and UCI Junior Series. After a tight three way battle Holden was able to secure first wheel into the final single track and maintain it to the finish. He followed up this performance with an impressive 4th the the Elite men's short track the next day.
On the women's side Elyse and Emily claimed 11th and 13th in a stacked Elite women's field including Olympic and Commonwealth Games riders. After a strong start and first race in their legs we're excited to see them race next weekend at the US cup opener.