Four letter words.

I’m writing this in a state of great despondency.  Sat in my room with my favourite AC/DC album playing on vinyl, it’s rare that this experience fails to cheer me up but sadly today happens to be one of those days. I am sure all athletes ranging from the deeply mediocre (i.e. me) to world class performers have these moments from time to time. Ones where giving up altogether seems like the most straightforward option.

In what has become a depressingly familiar pattern throughout the Winter I finally felt as if I was getting somewhere, towards the tail end of last week I had managed to fit in three quality bike sessions and the first pain-free run that I can remember in a long time. That was of course before the telltale sore throat and stuffy nose kicked in, signalling the presence of yet another cold. That’s now six bouts of illness in the past two and a half months. Each has necessitated taking at least four days away from training in order to recover.

My mileage goals for the year are in tatters and any hope of a strong start to next season has long since vanished. On a slightly more positive note all of my bikes are very clean and working well, recently more time has been spent cleaning and maintaining them than going out for rides. Right now it’s about damage control, accepting that things just aren’t going the way I want them to and trying to move forward and make new plans for 2018.

It’s not the first time that I’ve seriously considered throwing in the towel. Just over two years ago when I was lying in a hospital bed about to go under the knife to have my clavicle repaired I couldn’t help but think “I wish I’d never got on a bike in the first place”. Indeed things would be so much easier, more time for Uni work, friends, family and just about every other part my life. I wouldn’t have to be anywhere near as conscious of how I spend money, no more constant saving for bike parts. I can’t help but admit that there are things I wouldn’t miss; changing punctures at the side of the road on freezing cold days, getting my hands covered in cycle grease having had to adjust that derailleur for the umpteenth time and setting my alarm for 5AM in order to get up for events just to name a few.

Here comes one of the most heavily cliched statements in the world. Namely ‘looking inside myself’ (whatever that means) and trying to find the answer to my dilemma. It didn’t take long, I’d honestly rather pull my own teeth out than give up on sport. Over the last few years Cycling has managed to work its way into just about every aspect of life, Triathlon is doing much the same. There is a very long list of things I’d never have otherwise done, friends I wouldn’t have met and skills that I certainly wouldn’t have learned had it not been for the humble bicycle.

For me no academic achievement could ever to compare to standing atop a podium after a race for the first time, getting round a Half Ironman in once piece,  looking up at the summit of Mont Ventoux having climbed it three times that day or sipping champagne in the sun at John O’Groats after surviving everything the 880 mile trip across the length Britain had thrown at me. All of those are experiences I’ll never forget. Surely it would be stupid to deny myself the possibility of having more of them.

I realise now that the best thing to do is look forward. Yes, my fitness has suffered a great deal and regaining it is going to take a long time. No, I’m not going to be breaking many personal records this season. Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing that can be done about either of those things, instead I need to work with what I have and adjust my expectations accordingly.

When I look back cracks have been appearing in my mental resolve for quite a while. I can’t remember the last time I took a serious look at any power data, did an FTP test or tried for a PB on a climb. In some ways taking some enforced time away from training has therefore been of benefit. I realise now that it’s time to stop taking everything so seriously and get back to the things that got me into Cycling in the first place. Exploring new routes, trying new forms of competition, seeking out the best local Cafe’s and pushing myself hard just to see what my legs are capable of.

To that end, whilst I’m not normally one for new year resolutions this time round I’m going to try and set one and stick to it. Put very simply my goal for the 2018 season is to have fun, to swim bike and run purely for the sake of doing those things rather than focusing on external goals. I’ll get back to serious training when and only when I feel like it, if it takes six months to get my mojo back then so be it. On that, happy new year to all my readers.

That’s all folks.


2 thoughts on “Four letter words.

  1. Happy New Year, brother. Heal fast and don’t take yourself so seriously. It’ll just take one ride back for you to remember why you ride to begin with. Good luck, man.

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