Many years ago I got talked into doing an off road triathlon, I did not run or swim, I did ride a little on the MTB for fun. I was naïf enough to think elite athletes were extremely talented and was unaware of the amount of training it involved. How hard can it be I thought, I can swim 1500m, I can MTB 30kms and I can run 11kms. I had never done this back to back in the form of a triathlon and it didn’t even come to mind it would be any harder. I wasn’t arrogant about thinking I could do it without any training, it was purely ignorance. And in this case ignorance wasn’t bliss. A cool story would have been that I ended up a freak of nature and smashed the race, but that is not what happened. Underprepared doesn’t even come close to describe my overall state before the event. I nearly drowned in the swim trying to avoid all the smashing arms around me. I barely survived many near death experiences on the bike course trying to master drop offs, cliffs, and heart breaking climbs. And the run, well I am not even sure if you could call it running, I cramped in areas I never knew I had muscles and I was barely moving towards the end. Race nutrition? What do you mean race nutrition? It was a 4 hour long struggle. I had to throw up straight after the race. Never Again.
"Never Again" couldn't have been further from the truth. The experience created a certain curiosity in me and after following my equine veterinary career around the world for many years I came back for it. This time with the help of a coach. I learnt that going out for a ride on the weekend every now and then wasn't classified as real training. My baggy shorts were swapped for fashionable lycra and I learned how to swim. I was committed to spending all my free time in the pool, on the bike or in my running gear. I found people to share my passion with and a hobby had become a lifestyle. Before I knew it, I had taken a leap of faith and moved back to Europe after 15 years on the Southern Hemisphere. Pursuing my dream to race amongst world’s best in off road triathlon and Mountain bike marathons representing the Netherlands. Since I discovered the sport late in life it was a case of now or never.
The fairy tale story would be that I successfully achieved all I dreamt off in my athletic career whilst maintaining my veterinary career. But in my pursuit of elitism I lost sight of all the things which made me happy and the reasons why I got into the sport in the first place. Very quickly my life became a roller coaster of self destruction mentally and physically chasing (my own) unrealistic dreams. It was something I have had to process in the last 12 months when everything came to screaming halt. I was diagnosed with spinal compression due to an ignored vertebral fracture in my lower back. I had already been struggling with parasympathetic fatigue the year before and this for me had to be the final straw. I had to let go.
Recovering from injury has been extremely sobering for me. I signed up for the Hero MTB Himalayas, a 9 day stage race at high altitude when I could barely move.I had 12 months to prepare. It was not what the doctor ordered. But for me it was a something I could hold on to. I needed the focus mentally and physically. Something I could aim towards. In the past 6 months I have had to let go of all the power data I could no longer hold, of all the rankings I could no longer reach. I had to let go of my pride and my ego. And I did this with as many lows as there were highs. Although it has not been easy, I slowly started to return to who I was when it all began, a girl with a sense for adventure and who loved to ride a bike. To a time when results was not my driving factor. The hero MTB Himalaya had become my road to recovery in a lot of different ways.
“happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the lights” Dumbledore.
About Nienke Oostra
Nienke Oostra is a fierce competitor with big dreams. She started cycling late in life as until her early thirties she let her veterinary career lead her all over the world until her dream of becoming an elite athlete took over. Her goal for upcoming season is to qualify for the UCI MTB Marathon MTB World championship’s again and better her ranking from last year. And after 2 bad triathlon seasons she wants to feel good again and have fun again.
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