This text was initially printed in Biking Weekly’s print version as a part of the long-running MY FITNESS CHALLENGE sequence.
“I keep in mind sitting within the bathtub on a Sunday evening and occupied with who on the squad was sooner than me and the way I might beat them.” Jake Woods is retracing the emergence of his aggressive intuition from him as a teenage swimmer – abandoning his inactive youngster self and reworking into an athletic man.”As I misplaced weight and gained confidence, I constructed myself up by way of my very own sheer will.” Over the subsequent few years he reached nationwide degree within the pool, certified as a seashore lifeguard in his native Sunderland, and whereas at college threw himself into triathlon.”My first race was a half-Ironman,” he grins, “and I did simply over six hours, which I believed was completely fantastic as a primary try.”
After shifting to Glasgow and qualifying as an architect, Woods continued to participate in working and triathlon occasions to maintain match. Three years in the past, aged 27, he was working the 2019 Glasgow half-marathon when his proper arm inexplicably swelled up. “Initially I believed my watch was executed up too tight, so I loosened it, and nonetheless completed in one-hour 40,” he remembers, “however within the gymnasium just a few days later, it occurred once more – my arm swelled to a few occasions its regular dimension.” Woods spent per week in hospital present process checks and scans, which finally recognized a blood clot in his higher arm. However that wasn’t all they discovered.
“The imaging additionally got here throughout a large tumor in my femur,” he says. “I keep in mind being actually nervous going into the MRI, however straight afterwards they informed me it was benign, in order that put my thoughts at relaxation. The plan was to come back again in a yr’s time, simply to observe it.” Woods resumed his common exercise and tried to place the thigh bone drawback to the again of his thoughts, till an evening out in Scarborough in February 2020. “We had been messing round within the pub and my brother jogged his knee into the again of my leg and my femur shattered in half.”
Woods reveals me the X-ray on his telephone: his femur in two items, jagged at every finish. “I felt it go,” he says. “Fortunately I would had just a few pints so it did not damage as a lot as it’d. I grabbed onto the bar and lowered myself to the ground, then simply lay there screaming,” he laughs at what should be a traumatic reminiscence. “I knew immediately my leg had damaged the place the tumor was.”
After a fortnight in traction, Woods underwent surgical procedure to screw the 2 damaged components again collectively. Upon being discharged, he nonetheless believed the most cancers was benign and that the operation had efficiently shored up the break – till the telephone rang. “Per week after getting residence, nonetheless recovering from surgical procedure, I received a name from the specialist nurse to return within the subsequent day,” he says. “I may sense the urgency in her voice.” By merciless coincidence, that very same day Boris Johnson ordered UK residents to remain at residence; the nation was going into lockdown.
Woods hauled himself on crutches to the consulting room, the place 4 units of medical eyes checked out him inscrutably from masked faces. “We had been sitting there with the oncologist, the surgeon, the registrar and the specialist nurse,” says Woods. “I would no thought they lower legs off for most cancers, and as an alternative I used to be pondering, ‘Chemo? We are able to do that. Hair loss? Who provides a shit?’” The analysis was as dangerous as anticipated: Woods had osteosarcoma, a uncommon malignant bone most cancers, however the remedy plan was worse than he had dared to think about. “They saved referring to a surgical procedure and never saying what it was.” Woods was confused – why function on a leg that had simply been fastened? “Then the penny dropped, and I figured it out 20 seconds earlier than the surgeon informed me. You realize in Alfred Hitchcock motion pictures the place the ground falls away? That was the feeling.” The specialist knowledgeable him that his total proper leg could be amputated, together with half his pelvis, adopted by six months of intensive chemo – confined to hospital, with no guests allowed, for six days per week. It was late March 2020: whereas for many of us the world had stopped, for Woods it was collapsing.
Main as much as the amputation, he was decided to remain as match as doable. “I used to be hooked into the chemo machine nonetheless doing circuits with weights,” Woods smiles. “Through the mad rush for turbo trainers initially of lockdown, we managed to search out one second-hand, and I used to be pedaling with one leg, attempting to do as a lot as I may to get my physique prepared.” The preparation was not solely bodily however psychological too. “I held a funeral for my leg, the place I would dubbed music over movies of me dancing round to ‘Hips Do not Lie’ by Shakira, stuff like that. My buddies gave readings of humorous poems they’d written, it was actually elaborate.” Woods created a scrapbook from the occasion to have beside him when he awoke from the operation. “I included lists of all of the issues I would nonetheless be capable of do with one leg,” he provides.
The surgical procedure befell in June 2020, and Woods remembers watching all the Tour de France that September as chemo left him wiped-out. “The opposite factor that received me by way of was occupied with the issues I used to be enthusiastic about doing,” he says. “A Netflix documentary concerning the paralympics had simply come out, and I will need to have watched it 10 occasions.” As soon as he lastly got here off chemo in spring 2021, Woods tentatively resumed train. A number of weeks later, a momentous day: he returned to his native outside pool. “It was actually atmospheric, a chilly crisp morning with steam rising from the water,” he paints the vivid reminiscence. “Once I received out, I believed, that is going to be alright: I can nonetheless swim, I am nonetheless shifting.”
Over the summer season of 2021, Woods started to organize for a return to competitors. He researched paralympic sport and began a fundraiser for the near-£20k wanted for a bespoke racing chair and handbike. “The bike arrived in March,” says Woods. “It nonetheless wants just a few extra carbon mods, however this can be a long-term challenge.” What has it been like adapting to pedaling with fingers quite than legs? “It is nonetheless actually exhausting,” he says, emphatically. “Once I began, my arm-powered FTP was 108 watts and now I am as much as almost 140.” Although pedaling is more durable, the low-slung handbike does have aero benefits. Woods remembers a latest tour across the Isle of Arran. “Going downhill, I used to be doing 70 or 80kph – completely flying! That’ll take a little bit of getting used to.”
Alongside constructing confidence on the highway, the resurgent racer is coaching exhausting indoors. “I’ve managed to arrange the handbike on a Tacx Neo turbo and rented a lockup storage. I stand up at 4 or 5 most mornings to get in as a lot as I can on the turbo or rower earlier than work.” He’s delighted that Zwift’s newest replace added handbikes to the digital world. “That odd second whenever you cross one other handcyclist, it is very nice to really feel a bit extra seen, and it jogs my memory I am not the one one doing this.”
In July he took half in his first British Para-triathlon Championships and amazingly took bronze. “The sphere wasn’t large,” he downplays the medal, “however each the fellows who beat me are supported worldwide athletes. It is all actually thrilling.” It’s unattainable to not be taken again by Woods’s positivity from him, how he’s treating his modified circumstances as a possibility to check himself in new methods. “I’ve had one leg for 2 and a half years, and though I am not younger at 30, I am new to being a para-athlete and nonetheless determining what I am good at, what I could be aggressive in and what I take pleasure in.”
Behind this urge for food for bodily problem isn’t solely the aggressive intuition he developed as a teenage swimmer but additionally a brand new sense of urgency. “There’s nothing I may have executed to forestall my most cancers,” he says, “and I do know there’s a likelihood of recurrence, so it is like having a clock on my shoulder.” The ticking of that clock is a continuing reminder. “Caught in hospital, I promised myself that once I received out, I would not do something that did not carry me pleasure.” It is how all of us ought to stay, if solely we may discover the braveness. “I do not wish to remorse any of this time when I’m able to transfer, to be free,” Woods continues. “If ever I really feel too nervous to do one thing, or simply cannot be arsened, I keep in mind these nights in hospital once I would have given something to be within the place I’m now. I will push to make it occur.”
Package with a conscience: ‘It is an honor to work with him’
lily riceartistic director at Presca – “the world’s first climate-positive sportswear model” – tells us why the model appointed Woods as an envoy.
“We first made contact with Jake by way of Instagram, having observed a submit concerning the funeral he’d held for his leg. It was clear that he’s an unbelievable character, the way in which he is tackled every part he is been by way of. We provided him the possibility to come back on board as a part of the workforce.
“We additionally work with the Lennox Kids’s Most cancers Fund, and one of many most cancers survivors they help is Sophia, a 10-year-old amputee. She’s an unbelievable child who re-learned to experience a motorcycle with one leg, and he or she actually needed to be in a sports activities photoshoot. We organized it and introduced in Jake to fulfill her and participate within the shoot.
“Presca’s workshop provides a wide range of customization companies to disabled individuals, serving to to take away obstacles to entering into sport. It is free on any Presca garment and for a nominal price on different manufacturers. We have already altered a tri-suit for Jake.
“His humor and perspective – the hallmark of a high-achieving sportsperson – he has utilized to each new problem in his life. He is doing wonderful issues and we’re right here to help him 100%.”
The complete model of this text was printed within the 15 December 2022 print version of Biking Weekly journal. Subscribe on-line and get the journal delivered to your door each week. (opens in new tab)