After my last upbeat blog post, I am sorry to disappoint with a rather whining one this time. It’s great to share the ‘ups’, but I hope you don’t mind me sharing the ‘downs’ too. After a somewhat disappointing ride during the National 50 last weekend (not that I did a particularly bad time, but there was simply no power in my legs and I know I can and have done much better) I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotions how bloody lonely this time trial malarkey is.
I train alone, drive to the events alone (often a long way away), stay in a B&B on my own, faff around with turbo and wheels on my own, race unsupported without anyone handing up bottles, giving time checks or shouting encouragement, and then feeling exhausted (particularly after the longer events) drive all those hours back again on my own. Race after race. Suddenly the loneliness of all that hit me between the eyes. Or should I say in the eyes, as the tears just kept coming and coming.
It is easy when things go well. It is easy to share with anyone how happy you feel about a good race. The long drive home just flies by as you are high on that lovely mix of adrenaline and endorphins released by a sense of achievement, whether that is because you won the race or set a PB or simply managed to execute the ride as planned. Sharing the downs is not that easy. How do I explain that I am not crying because of a disappointing result, but because the long road ahead suddenly just seems unbearably lonely? I love this sport, but can I find the energy to keep doing this race after race, year after year, all on my own? It would be different if I was just into shorter 10 mile and 25 mile events. But I happen to like the longer events most, the ones that take so much out of you physically and the ones where good support can make all the difference. Even if that is just a message from a friend to wish me good luck or a stranger standing by the side of the road and smiling – haha I sometimes picture imaginary friends at difficult points along the course and that actually helps 😉
I do not intend this blog post as a cry for pity. Things are the way they are I cannot ask more from my husband than perhaps support me two maximum three times a year. It is already bad enough me spending the hours in training and disappearing in the weekend for races, stealing his car in the process.
What I love about cycling is the sense of speed, achievement, freedom and adventure it can give you. I am training mostly on the turbo these days, because it is more efficient. With a demanding job and a husband who doesn’t cycle I consciously choose quality over quantity. My mind used to be so beautifully empty before when I rode my bike. Just enjoying the moment. Maybe singing a song in my head. Riding on feel alone. I enjoy training with power now and definitely can see the advantages. But I need to make sure I don’t just ride with ‘numbers’, but make time to ride with people too from time to time. Sometimes both training and racing can give me a great sense of achievement. But at other times, there isn’t even speed. And I am longing for that sense of freedom and adventure. My outburst at the weekend made me realise how I really ought to change a few things.
The reaction from some of the other women at the weekend when I told them why I was crying made me realise we all go through similar feelings at times. And having someone coming along to support you can equally add expectation and pressure. Looking back now and wondering why it was particularly this moment I suddenly felt overwhelmed by emotion, perhaps it was because my period had just started. Yeah I know that is not really a topic you are supposed to openly discuss or mention just like saddle sores and Bartholin cyst operations, but I am Dutch and don’t feel hang-up about such things.
To sum it all up, I think the crux of this blog is that it is just good to share things, be it advice about how to go faster, mistakes to avoid, happiness after good rides or sadness after bad ones. Time trialling doesn’t only require a strong engine, but it certainly needs a strong mind too. Probably the best advice I was given by one of the other women at the weekend, was ‘just don’t give a sh*t’! It is easy to put too much pressure on yourself, especially for National races. And it was also really refreshing to hear that even those who have been competing for a long time don’t always get it right. Perhaps the sport should be renamed time trial and error…