Waking up to see another day
Earlier this year my sister was confronted with a serious health scare. For a long two weeks which seemed like an eternity we were awaiting test results, and specialists opinions. It felt unbearable to think about what this could mean for her and her young beautiful family. Fortunate for us it ended up being the best case scenario coming with a warning to look after ourselves.
Last week I was informed about the passing of a close childhood friend, I could not breathe when I read the news. Her family living the exact nightmare I so feared for my sister.
I took my bike out that night. Caught up with a couple of friends and we head for the hills which are literally on my doorstep. We have been extremely lucky with the weather lately and a sunny Scotland is absolutely breath taking. This evening was no exception. Everything looked almost a little brighter, a little more colourful and a little more peaceful. I enjoyed riding my bike more than I had for a long time, soaking up the beauty of my surroundings and the positivity of the company I was in. As always happens on the best rides we had to chase daylight on the way home and as I walked into the door Michael asked me “what are you smiling about?” It was a good ride.
I have had a bit of a love/hate relationship with my body over the last few years. First it was fatigue which I could not get rid off and then I broke my back. Frustrated with a body which simply did not cooperate. A body which in my eyes continuously let me down. I have often felt I was running out of time to do all the crazy sport related things I still wanted to achieve. With the increasing amount of wrinkles taking over my face and often getting out of my bed in the morning moving like an 80 year old women. Fighting the fact that I was getting older. I was reminded this week however that growing old is a privilege. And it hit home hard.
Next week I will be heading to Sri Lanka for a 5 day MTB stage race in the mountains with one of my best friends and in September I will be heading to the Dolomites for StrongHer to ride 900kms in 6 days through the mountains. My training has been mainly based around rehabilitation for my back injury and I am not entirely sure if I actually have proper endurance yet. But I also know that if I was asked to ride it tomorrow, I would and I could. The question being how fast? I have been struggling with accepting how much my injury has hacked into me and the feeling of not being competitive anymore.
I absolutely love training, and I love training hard. I love pushing my limits. And therefore I love racing. But what I love more than the actual physical aspect of it all, is the beautiful places my bike has taken me and the beautiful people I get to meet. I might never gain the strength I once had or the speed to be competitive. But as long as I am alive and mobile, the pure enjoyment of riding a bike through beautiful scenery or an exhilarating descent which makes me feel so very much incredibly alive, will always be there. And that really gives me more happiness than any podium ever will.
How to prepare for a 5 day MTB stage race in a hot humid country like Sri Lanka, or riding 6 days over massive peaks through the Dolomites? My advice would be just enjoy riding your bike as much as you can. I am not saying I don’t train hard to get ready for these events and I certainly do a lot of high intensity sets on the turbo and long rides to mimic the strain my body will endure racing. But I do these things because I love doing them, not just to prepare myself for races. Its a life style for me incorporated with a busy and demanding job as a veterinarian. Now more than ever I would really like to inspire people to not wait for life to happen but make life happen here and now. I often hear people say “I will do it next year, I am not fit enough yet, I am not ready” But what if next year won’t be there? Injury can strike anytime, circumstances change. If you love riding your bike go ride it, if you dream of doing an event, go enter it. And tell yourself you can do it. Because you really can.
It has been a slow process letting go of my competitive mind and the disappointment that comes with not meeting my own expectations. But if I have learned anything from the last few months is to not take life for granted. I am here, I am living and I am still able to do what I love doing albeit at a different pace. I am looking forward for a trip of a life time in the Dolomites and I will consciously embrace my preparation for it and the joy of being able to ride my bike on a daily basis. For all the ones who have been taken away from their lives way to soon;
“I will laugh a little louder, smile a little bigger and walk through life a little slower”
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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