I think I have realised that while I love bikes, I have to accept that with my busy life it’s always going to be a fraught relationship. I love bikes when things are going well, when it’s warm, when I am fit. When things aren’t going well, when it’s cold and I would rather be in bed or drinking wine, and when I am unfit it’s significantly more difficult to love the bike.
I went to Cairns for XCO World Champs in the hope that the best case scenario would be that it would kick my butt into loving my bike again, and worst case scenario I hate it and I quit riding forever. I was a bit apathetic about which way the needle would point.
Neither of those things really happened. I struggled like hell throughout the race, simply unable to get going in the Cairns heat. It was still cold in Brisbane (for Brisbane) and I was not acclimatised. The legs were shite and I couldn’t climb. I could lift heavy things pretty well and look a little steezy on the D (that’s self-assessed, by the way: total FIGJAM). The saving grace was mitigating time lost on the descent. Alas, I got pulled and ended up a few spots ahead of where I started–which was second last on the back grid– so was a meager win.
The other thing that happened was that I moved house. From 12km out of the city, we moved a further 12km into the sticks and up a mountain. That was a few days prior to worlds. I guess I didn’t account for the life stress going in, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Regardless of what happened in Cairns I was able to go home to an awesome place. There was solace there.
I had such a shocker in Cairns; I am not unhappy with the result, it is what it is, I just can’t believe how cooked I was from the gun. I haven’t had many races like that in my life, and that experience motivated me to not have another. Coming home, the mixture of that and the 20% climb to my house followed by the 30% driveway really kicked my butt into gear.
Arriving home, it was a bit of ‘what next’? What was supposed to end my season kind of marked the start of it instead. Or at least the start of something meaningful.
It seems to happen more distinctively every year; the season changes get harder or at least more definite. Last year I managed to avoid the whole fiasco by training through the whole thing, with motivation intact the whole time. This year I wasn’t so lucky. While I had managed to drag myself out of the big hole I had buried myself in earlier in the year, I certainly wasn’t quite thriving.
It’s amazing what happens when suddenly days are 30 degrees instead of 18. When you hit up your friends to come out and play rather than tucking yourself away.
A good mixture of friends, heat and coffee, plus some wayward motivation meant it all clicked one day when doing strengthie reps up GT/Glorious and Vera Blue “Regular Touch” came on my iPod and I felt this weird elated joy I haven’t experienced on–or off–the bike for a very, very long time. I didn’t even know I liked the song until then…I busted out a weird sprint up a little berg, nearly died, and had a smile from ear to ear. I could have cried tears of joy to actually be feeling something positive on the bike again. I am a long way from race form but it was nice to get the good ‘feels’ again.
In the space of a week or two my legs have suddenly lightened, the outlook is much better, and I am a much more positive person. I suppose when you’re in a bit of a hole your whole body moves slowly. When I am at work and I treat people in a major depressive episode, their whole life slows down. Getting out of bed happens sometimes. They move slowly. Speak slowly. Think slowly. So it makes sense my legs just wouldn’t go around very fast for much of this year. It makes sense I was pretty foggy on the skills, it makes sense that the effort was all just a little too hard.
Thankfully, finding the joy up Mt Glorious wasn’t an isolated instance, soon after I raced a crit in which I had mediocre legs but was willing to give it a red hot go, and a mountain bike race the next day in which the climbing left a little to be desired, but I felt like my bike was on rails. The senses were tingling, I was five steps ahead of anyone else (well, probably not but that’s what a good day riding feels like). That sensation of being unable to do no wrong on the trail is not one you get very often, so you have to appreciate it when it happens.
The road bike is no longer a fraught affair, as it was for a very, very long time.
It just goes to show that even those you reckon have it all together often don’t. I am glad those ducks are behaving and generally getting in their row again, and I have a whole new network of people to help corral them back into shape should they start wandering off. This year I have learned more than many others about friendship, working hard, relationships, expectations, sport and myself. I am extremely lucky to have a bunch of true friends around, not just flash in the pan ones, and much of that is due to cycling.
I see good things in my future!