Journals Riders

Joe Nally journal: the best of a bad situation

Rider journals 2020: Joe Nally #03

Joe Nally and five other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental this season. The 20-year-old Scot, a former Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy rider, races for Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK. This is Joe’s third journal entry…

The vast majority of cyclists are now totally lost. Nobody knows when normal order will be resumed, so nobody knows what to do with themselves. Except me

Today was a good day. 

For the first time in months, my average power was higher than my average heart rate on a training ride. At the start of December, I got a virus. Before anyone panics, not that one. No, I picked up an honest, hard-working virus that isn’t just in the game for the headlines and publicity. My new lodger is the type that’s happy to keep its head down and get on with its job. I got the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis (aka Glandular Fever) and it’s taken me until now to start seeing some signs of improvement. 

Let me get you up to speed. I flew home from Tenerife on the 7th of December with a fortnight of training camp fatigue in my system and even after a few days taking it steady to soak up the work, I was still feeling a bit flat. The plan was to keep the momentum going until Christmas Eve and then take a week to recover fully. I dragged myself to the 19th before surrendering and taking the rest early.

2019 Tour de Yorkshire – Stage 1: Doncaster to Selby – Joseph Nally of Great Britain rides in the breakaway. Photo: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com

Fatigue morphed into a week-long headache, and after talking to the doctor we concluded it was likely to be just some virus that wasn’t going to hang around long. On Boxing Day I got back into training feeling marginally more alive, but with a couple of bike issues I was stuck doing turbo efforts while staring at some depressing numbers on my Garmin. With a few days before my next trip to the sun, I woke up and was denied a kiss from my girlfriend who claimed my breath smelled like death. Imagine my relief when I got a medical excuse to explain this.

The next morning I was on a plane to Mallorca with a course of antibiotics to fight the tonsillitis that was ruining Jenny’s mornings. I was staying with a group of mates from the junior days who I hadn’t seen for a few years, and I was really keen to get past the infection and get out riding with them. In reality, I spent roughly 20 hours a day lying on my sofa bed in the middle of the living room, struggling to find the energy to socialise with anybody. Sorry guys. Countless ice lollies and very little improvement later, I flew back to Manchester where I got seen immediately at the Institute of Health and Performance. They spent a couple of hours running various tests on me and stealing my bodily fluids to examine in the lab. This now takes us to February when the suspicions were confirmed and the results came back saying I had EBV.

Recovery is inevitably a slow process, and the return to full fitness will take a tonne of effort and equal amounts of patience

The entirety of February can be summed up very simply. Sleep and Netflix. I would regularly get 12-15 hours of sleep a night and could happily get through a season of anything on Netflix each day. Eventually, I got back to extremely slow, short rides, grateful for the extra day we got this year since it was one extra day of rest before the season. Recovery is inevitably a slow process, and the return to full fitness will take a tonne of effort and equal amounts of patience. Of course, a return to racing is another issue indeed. 

Obviously I can’t ignore current events while writing a journal about a virus. I reckon I’m one of very few people whose life hasn’t been totally interrupted by COVID-19. While the world seems to be grinding to a halt, I’m slowly becoming less upset about losing three months of training since I’ve ended up missing very little so far. Hypothetically, if I could have chosen a certain part of my career to be sidelined, scrolling sadly through ProCyclingStats reading all the race results, now seems to be the ideal time.

2019 Tour de Yorkshire – Stage 1: Doncaster – Selby – Joseph Nally of Great Britain Cycling Team. Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

That being said, the past few months have been a pretty horrendous ordeal for my head as well as my body. I love watching Instagram stories of the beautiful view someone is seeing during their training ride or looking at the stats of someone’s mental 200km ride on Strava. Being surrounded by happy people, physically and virtually, is fantastic when you feel part of it but at times I couldn’t have felt much further disassociated from it all. Waking up at 3 pm and having a diet which is 90% ice cream sounds great, but when it feels like your career is helplessly slipping through your fingers and everyone you know seems to be having the time of their lives, it’s hard not to be totally miserable. While measures to reduce the spread of Coronavirus cause havoc around the world, I get some stress free time to focus on the long road to recovery. This has been a difficult paragraph to write without sounding like a terrible person, so I hope that’s not the message you are getting!

I’m focusing on my own health and fitness, and making sure I do what I can to make the journey to finding some respectable race legs as smooth as possible

The vast majority of cyclists are now totally lost. Nobody knows when normal order will be resumed, so nobody knows what to do with themselves. Except me. I’m focusing on my own health and fitness and making sure I do what I can to make the journey to finding some respectable race legs as smooth as possible. In the worst-case scenario that we all get locked inside our houses, I’m now a seasoned professional at personal quarantine and another fortnight in bed doesn’t scare me.

Find out more

Joe Nally journal: Senior Academy – a review

Joe Nally journal: who is Joe Nally?

Rider journals 2020: introducing Joe Nally

Joe on Twitter

Joe on Instagram

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