From Australia, Serene Lee Pro Rider talks to us about cycling

I met Serene Lee, last year at the Taiwan KOM challenge and it was a pleasure talking to her and riding with her. She is a promising rider and a great climber with strong legs. Hopefully we will see her soon in Europe.

I have personally asked her to tell us about road race cycling down under.

 Serene with her Australian Kit

Serene with her Australian Kit

There’s this thing called writer’s block; and something called verbal diarrhoea. I’m just about to unleash some of the latter because by a cruel turn of fate, I’ve to be off my bike on an uncharacteristically sunny, wintry (going-to-be-spring) weekend. You know that feeling? It stinks like a pile of poo.

There’s this powerful drug that WADA cannot, and will never be able to, ban – road cycling. I can go on and on about its beauty and the benefits that it extols, particularly to my being, but I will save this for another time. Anyway, if you’re reading this, you probably are reasonably clued up.

Long story short, I’ve been intoxicated and probably should’ve been stopped by the police at the roadblock just off the street. It’s early morning on Saturday after all. SADDLE DRUNK. Or rather, not allowed to be saddle drunk and suffering unexplainably (according to the “mortal” souls) from withdrawal symptoms.

 The rest of the Team

The rest of the Team

Pursuing a higher education has always been a legitimate reason to keep riding my bike. Racing it, gives me even more legitimacy to ride my bike for obscene hours. Or so I think at least. I’ve come a long way, in all sense of things. I’m 26 this year and pursuing my Honours (research) in sports and exercise science. Actually, I was about to type, pursuing my studies in all aspects of cycling. That’s the plan anyway – to do my PhD studies on female elite cyclists. There’s a whole host of things that I’ve dabbled with, cannot wait to validate with scientific research and seek solutions for. The paucity of scientific data on female elite athletes is rather in-your-face alarming and I hope to shed some light in that regard. I’ll come back to this next time since I’ve digressed again. 

By a long way, I meant that I flew from Singapore to Melbourne at a whim. One Facebook conversation and ten days later, I found myself staying in Melbourne for the past nine months. That’s me the past few years – doing things uncharacteristically me. So I got lucky with the Holden team (thank you!), managed to find my way into Victoria University and convinced my parents that Melbourne is the place to be for this year. It almost sounds like an amazing, dream-come-through journey right? Yes, and no. It’s been a physical, mental and emotional roller coaster ride that I really could do without in my life. I think. 

For a good example, let’s just start with this weekend. I had to make the decision to miss a race for school. You know, that shit moment when life gets in the way?! I’ve just come off a 25-h training week despite it being lab-testing week for my research studies. I’ve just come off a 3-week training block, off a pretty good performance at a flat and windy NRS race (not quite my thing with my physique) and off a 7-day antibiotic course prior to that race. Before that, it had been on/off for a good 4 to 6 weeks due to a whole host of bad luck – when it rains, it pours. In my case, it storms, floods and overflows the banks. I lost the big chunk of goodness I gained over the first half of the year (I was the fittest I had ever been in April/May this year) and I was just about getting this back….

So I was struggling the first few days of this week trying to recover from the big bout of effort and doubted (rather incessantly) about my ability to pull it off  in the race over the weekend. Snozza, my amazing coach from cyclingtraining.cc., dealt with me admirably and convinced me that the legs would come good on Friday. It did, but I was riding (and weeping) on the trainer as I contemplated the “what-ifs”. I was meant to be unleashing those pistons at the morning TT and afternoon kermesse. I had left my team one down – I’m sorry teamies.

 Nice and swollen ankle

Nice and swollen ankle

It was blood, sweat and tears literally. I had decided to re-visit the doctor to look at my recurrent inflamed heel. It got bad again over the week, probably because the immune system was down and my tired body was rebelling. On that note, I was definitely fit to race however angry the heel was. I was pretty sure it was nothing that sinister; or rather I didn’t want to think it was. The doctor prescribed me antibiotics (again!) and sent me off elsewhere for ultrasound. 

I managed an appointment almost immediately (too soon that I was almost too scared to turn up) and the radiologist gave me a good scare when he told me to keep lying there while he got a doctor to come and see me. Those were a long couple of minutes as I thought he wanted to say that my ankle needed to be chopped off! Apparently it was just protocol, my Achilles tendon was intact and that consulting doctor said he would report to my GP about the ultrasound. Basically 2 options here: for antibiotics to clear the infection and inflammation or to consider aspirating the internal blister/bursa whatever. You know, the last time I had to pull out of a stage race to be sent to a small community hospital in the suburbs, I had asked the doctor to just burst the damned thing and drain the pus. She didn’t, and wouldn’t. No one had relented since then. I’m hoping I get lucky this Monday with my GP – it’s going to take a ballsy doctor to do it but I figure it’s the quickest way to relieve my grief and I can’t do it on my own. I would have a long while back, if I had found a way around it. 

 Training at home

Training at home

Anyway, that consulting doctor advised me to stay off cycling and anything strenuous for that matter, to give my heel a chance to heal. Pun intended. However, being a road racer – illogical sometimes – I had convinced Snozza that I could still ride my bike over the weekend. Maybe just not racing the criterium he had wanted me to enter, as I probably could not deal with excessive heel rub with the off-saddle efforts, but definitely big, long, aerobic rides in this awesome weather. Heart over head?!

An assessment of my heel last night gave me a shock. I wondered how I had put my foot into my cycling shoes. It was pig trotter-ish. An overnight sleep confirmed that trying to ride my bike through this was rather stupid. So I’m looking for an outlet to vent my frustrations as the emotional turmoil ebbs and flows. One moment, I can see the positivity in things and the next; I wallow into a bout of self-pity.

Acceptance;

Contentment;

Enlightment.

 Test Centre

Test Centre

Till the next time, thank you SD for providing me with this platform to air my thoughts. I’ve a lot more to say.

Thank You Serene for talking to us. We wish your all the best for the rest of the season down under.

Good luck and be SaddleDrunk.

Ciao SD.