The most unpleasant part of my recovery isn’t the infected gash on my arm, the bruising on my ankle, or the scabs on my knuckles.
It’s the ache in my head.
The visible wounds from my accident are healing well. Quickly going from “have you spoken to the plastic surgeons yet, Ross?” to “this is going to heal completely on its own.” within a few weeks.
Fantastic. Because the longer my body takes to heal, the more my head is suffering. I managed a few painful rides on my bike last week, thinking I was well on the mend after finishing my course of antibiotics. However, a trip to the Hospital for a check-up on my recovery put an end to that. I left with a fresh prescription and another week long course of those horrible things. One to be taken three times daily. Washed down with a big gulp of even-more-time-off-the-bike. Sigh, not what I was hoping to hear.
Taking these pills and sitting around doing nothing at all does me no good.
The last few days I’ve experienced small periods of depression and anxiety. I haven’t felt anything like it before. I’ll be sitting around getting on with ‘it’ when suddenly I’ll get a lump in my throat like I could cry. A feeling of lethargy. An overwhelming sense of anxiety that I’m wasting my life, making terrible decisions, and that everything is about to come crashing down around me.
I’m an active person, but with a sore ankle, I can’t even get out for a gentle walk along the beach with the dogs (In fact, it’s easier and less painful to ride a bike). It’s difficult because I’ve worked so hard for my fitness (as anyone training regularly knows, it doesn’t come easy). I’ve made sacrifices and invested a considerable amount of time in my cycling. This year alone I have so far spent 14d 19h 52m in the saddle.
And, for what?
Here’s where I’m starting to lose a grip on things.
I enjoy cycling, but just allowing myself to enjoy it doesn’t seem to be enough. I feel this pressure to be competitive – whether that’s Road Racing (which I do very rarely), Time Trials, Hill Climbs, or even Strava. Like winning something will somehow justify the hours spent on the bike. Even getting a King of the Mountain on a local climb is enough. I guess most of the time I live for the Kudos.
But winning doesn’t happen very often and unfortunately my personality doesn’t allow me to be satisfied with anything but being one of the best.
Cycling is becoming so popular, and the level of skill and fitness in the North West is at such a high level now, that it’s becoming harder and harder to get a KOM, or win a race.
And now I’m forced to spend three or four weeks off my bike. I’m well out of shape. My once rock-solid thighs are now all doughy and squidgy. I know I won’t be anywhere near the same fitness as before my accident, and I understand getting back to that level is going to take a lot of work. And time.
But here’s the thing. Mentally will I ever get back to where I was?
Crashing so hard sucked. I already don’t think I’m going to Road Race next year – I can’t justify taking those risks. What if I had come off even worse? What if I couldn’t work? I have a family to support now. Don’t I need to put them before cycling fantasies like a Strava KOM or winning a local Hilly Time Trial? Which, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t have the ability to do. There are much faster people out there than me.
Am I only training for disappointment then?
I want to do other things. I want to hike, climb, run (fell run even!), I want to swim with my kid, have mini adventures, skateboard, write more, read more, improve my skills at work…
Because of cycling.
There are only so many hours in the day. Is it time to stop the (serious) training? Try to ignore the competitive impulses? And just enjoy cycling in a different way. In my own way.
And it doesn’t just cost my time. I don’t dare to think how much money I’ve spent on cycling recently. It’s money that could go a long way if saved or spent elsewhere. I’m starting to feel guilty and selfish for spending so much on a hobby (mostly to try and get a faster time on Strava, ha! – Because I raced so little this year). Sure, I can say it’s to prepare for the SPOCO season next year, but still. Is that even worth spending so much money on? It’s not really, is it. I’m struggling to justify any of it.
My head is just a bubbling stew of strange thoughts right now, and I wanted to spit them all out somewhere. Hopefully, I can now move along, get my shit together and figure out what I really want.
I know I’m being daft, but recently there are days where I’ve just felt so down about my cycling, and fitness in general. I’m hoping it’s the painkillers I was on (I’ve stopped taking them now), and that these feelings go away soon.
Cycling will always be a massive part of my life. I have NOT fallen out of love with it.
Just maybe it’s time I didn’t let it be all-consuming?
In sport, I’ve always been a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. Good at most things I try but never mastering anything. It’s probably the same with cycling. I think I might have hit my ceiling and without dedicating more time to training, I’m unlikely to get A LOT better. I think I’ll progress slowly and surely for a while yet, but huge gains that justify the time and effort it takes? Unlikely.
But this gets me thinking.
Maybe… Maybe triathlon isn’t such a bad idea? I’ve threatened to get into it a few times in the past, never seriously considered it, but it does make perfect sense.
I’m sure I can get pretty good at all three disciplines – quickly too with my cycling base – which would put me in a great position for doing well in any events I entered. Especially tough ones with lots of hills on the bike, and a tough run and swim course! It would also mean variety in my sport and training. Something I think I’ve been craving for a while. There would be plenty more opportunities to mix my training and family time. Swims, hikes, or even gentle runs on a Saturday morning will all aid my training! And I can still ride my bike almost as often as I would. I would just have to cut short some of the longer weekday rides, and one of the weekend ones.
For someone who a few paragraphs before complained they were spending too much time doing ONE sport, this might appear like a stupid thing to suggest! And I won’t be acting on any of these thoughts straight away. They’re the musings of a Ross feeling sorry for himself and full of painkillers and antibiotics. But they have helped to snap me out of a spell of depression.
As soon as I’m fit enough I’ll get back out on my bike. I’ll start to feel better again. My legs will come back. My fitness will improve quicker than I expect, and I might even forget all about this post.
Or maybe you’ll see a few swims and runs popping up on my Strava account too. Watch this space!