Got some excellent news yesterday from my Belgian gastro doctor: my recent blood sample shows no signs of inflammation. This means that I’m on my way to full recovery from this recent ulcerative colitis flare. The other piece of good news is that my body is responding well to the Imuran. Definitely the news I’ve been waiting to hear!

I had four days of excellent riding in a row and ended up taking a much needed rest day yesterday. It is so easy to forget during my recovery process that I don’t have nearly the same fitness, strength or reserves that I had in the past. It is amazing to me how much I’ve lost in such a short time.

I think what did me in yesterday was the three hour ride on Tuesday. In retrospect, this was probably a much too ambitious ride to do considering that four weeks ago I was in the hospital hooked up to an intravenous line and eating only chicken broth and dry toast… But it is this ambition that has got me where I am…

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of my recovery process for me has been my mental state. If you’re a regular reader of this web site, you’ll be familiar with my mental battles. All too frequently I would battle my “crazy brain” and lack self-confidence. Well, I’m proud to say that mentally, I’m feeling 100 per cent. It would be easy to get frustrated about my current lack of fitness and strength – but I know this will come back. How I’m riding and recovery right now will not be permanent. If anything this rotten 2010-2011 season has reinforced my mental resolve and strength – I know I didn’t ride and race like I can – so I’m super stoked to get out there and really race the way I know I can.

This period of recovery has also emphasized to me how important it is to get back to the basics.  Basics of cyclo-cross like: smooth transitions and pedaling and focus and aggression on the bike. You might find the word “aggression” a strange on my website. But it is going to be a keyword for my 2011-2012 season. Last night over dinner, Marc pointed out that I’m not aggressive on my bike during cyclo-cross races – instead of fighting for positions at the start, I slip into a complacent mode of being “at the back” – the opposite of how I used to approach my cyclo-cross racing. This we determined is because “I got used to being in the back”. Well this is changing for the new season. I don’t want to be at the back nor am I going to be at the back.

One of the best parts of my recovery process has been the freedom to let my legs and mind wander. While out on the bike I can ride as hard and for as long as I want. My mind is free to simply relax and enjoy the moment. I’m not focusing on wattage numbers, cadence, the next interval, etc. If I am thinking it is typically about the drills and skills I need to focus on when I get home to make me a better racer.

Would I prefer to be in St. Wendel, Germany right now getting ready to race in the World Cyclo-Cross Championships on Sunday? Yes! This was my season goal after all. But everything happens for a reason and I can’t dwell on what didn’t happen. I know that really this season was out of my control. My body took over and I simply couldn’t race my bike.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in this recovery phase. I think the next phase will be the re-building stage where with expert guidance from coach Steve Weller, I’ll start getting my fitness and strength back. In a twisted sort of way, I’m looking forward to riding the trainer in my basement in Ottawa – this will be a sure sign that I’m on my way to a bigger and better 2011-2012 season.

Looking Forward

This is the time of year when most people list off their New Year’s Resolutions and proclaim to live a better life. Well,  I’m not going to do this…

As you most likely know, December was a very rough month for me. In fact this entire cyclo-cross season, which ended early after the Koksijde World Cup has been very rough. I didn’t race to my potential. My body couldn’t benefit from the hard training I put it through during the spring and summer. I couldn’t benefit from my improved technical skills. I kept at it but it just didn’t come together like I had planned. And then to top things off, my ulcerative colitis returned three days after the Koksijde World Cup.

What I thought was “just a flare” turned out to be the worst ulcerative colitis flare I’ve ever experienced. I’ll be honest here with you (as I always promise to be on this site) – my ulcerative colitis has gone from being mild to severe. It has now consumed my entire colon. By the time I finally let Marc take me to the hospital on Dec. 24, I was on the verge of rupturing my colon. I was sick. I am so sick. But I’ve now been out of the hospital for four days and I’m starting to feel better. I’m not symptom-free but I do have more energy and I’m definitely better than I was two weeks ago. I’m on a new type of medicine (immune supressant drugs) that will hopefully balance my blood cell counts and allow my body to fight this disease. There is no cure for ulcerative colitis so all I can do is learn how with the advice of my doctors how to best manage my disease.

As for racing and riding? Well I can’t start real training until I’m 100 per cent symptom-free. I trained and raced through-out a flare last spring – fall. I thought I did a good of managing my training and flare but by the time the cyclo-cross season came, my body had been pushed to its limit and I couldn’t do what I’d been preparing for. I’m not going to make this mistake again. This last month of being sick has made me realize how much I love racing and riding my bike. I’m hoping that next week I’ll be able to get out for some light and short rides – really light as in small ring only and short as in 30 minutes long.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about nutrition and the inflammatory effects that food can have on the body. I don’t have any food allergies but I do feel better with less gluten and dairy in my diet. I’ve also been paying attention to how my body feels on a diet of mostly fruits and vegetables compared to a more meat-based diet. This combined with reading the Thrive Diet and poking around on various food and cooking websites, I’ve decided that once I’m healthy again and can eat fruits and vegetables again (for now I’m stuck eating chicken broth, white bread, eggs, and some meat and fish) I’m going to move to a gluten-free/dairy-free vegan diet for 85% of the time – this gives me the flexibility to eat meat, fish and eggs when I want/need them (partly because I struggle with very low iron so I do feel I need some natural heme iron sources). I’m hoping that this dietary change will help me a healthier person and keep my ulcerative colitis in remission.

So this is where I’m at…. There is lots of subtle change going on but no big New Year’s Resolutions on my plate. I do have one mantra for 2011: live everyday to the maximum, smile more, stress less and appreciate it all.