Doctor's rides keep medicine at bay

Medical practitioners theoretically know all the healthy habits they should adhere to, but do not necessarily do so. Dr. Rachel Gooden follows her own medical advice, though. 

Since arriving in Cayman a year ago from her Jamaica homeland, she has been a regular on the cycling circuit. In fact, she was the only female in a field of 22 riders in the Batabano Circuit Race a couple of weeks ago. 

Gooden was 13th overall in the hourlong ride, quite an achievement considering how tough it was and also because she encountered a flat in the penultimate lap, missing out on the grand finale. 

Gooden set herself goals that day. “I knew from the start that I was the only female, so my aim was to stay with the main group of men if possible. 

“Although I won my category, it was by default, so I’m a bit dissatisfied.” 

That experience is all part of the vagaries of the sport, which Gooden accepts. “Cycling is my salvation and I enjoy it,” she said adding that after meeting Orrett “OC” Connor and the Daybreakers group on her arrival here, they “made me feel at home.” She was pleasantly surprised to discover that Cayman has such an active cycling scene. 

Many nationalities compete and enjoy the social rides. Cycling association president Craig Merren deserves praise for coaxing more Filipino riders to get involved. 

“There are just as much or more events here when compared to Jamaica,” Gooden said. “More events here appeal to me than back home. The overall level of performance in Jamaica may be a little higher, but competition is definitely here and it keeps getting better – and it’s just what I need for my level.” She expects to see larger groups coming out to cycle and race soon. Cycling is the only sport Gooden does and has stuck with for more than six months. 

She used to go to the gym to weightlift, was a middle-distance runner in medical school and also had a short-lived stint in kung fu. “But cycling is the only sport that has ever held my attention and interest this long.” 

Gooden’s ambition is to enter races outside of Cayman and Jamaica, possibly in the U.S. and other Caribbean islands. 

The 35-year-old Jamaican specializes in anesthesia and intensive care medicine so any rider who gets injured can rely on her for immediate treatment. 

She does not expect to be called to unexpected duty though because “the sporting scene is awesome here; the Triathlon Association and the Cayman Islands Cycling Association are doing a great job.” Given her passion for riding, it’s no surprise that her sporting heroes are cyclists Mark Cavendish, Lance Armstrong “though controversial,” and lately, Peter Sagan. 

She adds, “Cayman seems to be blossoming with a lot of sporting activities such as running, swimming and triathlon. It’s a relatively safe environment with a setup that allows for easy access to pick up a new sport. 

“There’s always a 5K, bike ride or triathlon event going on. There are gyms for those who want to tweak and improve, Revolutions Cycling being my favorite.” 

Gooden hopes to one day see a velodrome in Cayman “to watch races in an arena.” Perhaps targeting countries which lack the lovely climate during winter would improve Cayman’s sporting revenue, she reckons. 

“There’s always an event going on all through the year. Through more advertising, whether by social media, newspapers – especially online – or by making direct contact with various associations in other countries. But word of mouth should get the job done.” 

Her next big sporting event is the Orlando Horrible Hundred ride in November and she hopes not to “bonk” (become suddenly exhausted) as she did in her first race, the Blue Mountain time trial in Jamaica. 

“I pushed too hard and have no recollection of most of what happened after I came off the bike. It taught me that you can really push to the limit on a bicycle.” 

The Batabano ride will become a permanent event. - PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD
The Batabano ride will become a permanent event. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD