I recently took place in the Trans America Bike race, after months of training and planning.
So when I was hit by a car on the first day it was devastating. I have already written about being hit and the impact it had on my race, so won’t bore you with that again (you can read that here), but what I haven’t really talked about is the recovery from a big event like this, especially when it doesn’t turn out as planned.
I’ve been back in London for a little over a month now trying to settle back into ‘normal’ life. It has been great to catch up with friends, but the one question everyone keeps asking me is “how does it feel to be back?” Honestly – it’s been a bit crap.
The adrenaline has subsided and I’ve found myself back home feeling as though I failed and tallying up all the unforeseen costs of the race. Getting back to London I was broke, unemployed and injured.
I missed the simplicity of just having to get up every morning, no matter how sore I was, getting on my bike and just riding as long and as hard as I could. When you’re out on the road everyday, alone with your thoughts, you sink into an almost meditative state. Runners often describe this as ‘flow.’ Coming back to London and suddenly having to deal with lawyers and insurance companies to try and recover some of my expenses was a harsh wake up call. I was suddenly required to be a responsible adult again, but all I wanted was to be out in the wilderness.
I had been very aware that coming back from an adventure like this I would need to have things planned to look forward to, new challenges to give myself structure. In fact I had spent hours planning a trip to take on the Route des Grandes Alpes, but like most of my other plans it had to be canceled due to finances, or lack thereof.
I felt so angry that because of one person’s careless mistake, I did not get to fulfil my dreams. I didn’t feel like my usual optimistic positive self, and didn’t really know why.
After a lot of research I found a few blog posts by endurance runners on “Post Race Blues,” discussing the downs they had experienced after a big event. What struck me, was how hard it was to find information about this. It seems not many people talk about the lows that can be experienced after a big event, but looking at comments and even tweets from other athletes, it became quite evident that this is not an uncommon problem.
Leading up to the race I had cut my work week down to 2 days a week to focus on training. I was out riding 100-200km a day or in the gym. I didn’t really need to think about anything else. I put all my time into reading about the race, planning where I might camp out, looking up vegan food I might be able to get in gas stations. It felt like not a moment went by that I wasn’t thinking about the race.
People would often comment about how lucky I was that I was getting to ride so much, but it wasn’t always easy getting up every single day and concentrate on the same thing, to the exclusion of everything else (friends, relationships, money, contact with the outside world). I was so excited to finally getting out to the race, so when I was hit by the car and had to abandon all plans, it was a lot to deal with. At the time I was so disconnected from reality – I honestly felt I had no choice but to carry on. I was in this bubble where all I had to do was survive.
It goes without saying that it is a huge privilege to be able to stop your life to participate in this kind of racing. I spent months saving up, putting money aside to not only cover the costs of the race, but to make sure I would have a buffer when I got back to cover rent and find a job. So when you have literally sunk months into training, all your money and putting all other aspects of your life on hold; coming back with no motivation and nothing to work towards is difficult. But there are ways to avoid it!
So how do you beat the post-race blues?
Prepare for it.
Have a recovery plan ready post event, and have things planned that you can look forward to, even if that’s just a ride with friends.
Enjoy the things that you might not have been able to in the lead up to the race.
Take time to catch up with friends, and maybe even sleep in a bit
Take the time to reflect.
Even if your race did not go as planned, getting to the start line is usually half that battle. Congratulating yourself for what you have achieved and the hard work you have put in is important.
Set another goal.
Pick another goal or find something to get involved with to help keep you motivated
Try new activities, new sports, leave the maps and Garmin behind.
Talk about it.
When I admitted to a friend that I felt as though I had failed, she laughed at me and helped me to focus on all the things I did achieve in this race. Talking about things is how we process and can help you to understand how you’re feeling.
So what’s next for me?
I have started to put together my own plan to get over my post race blues, but perhaps what has been most rewarding is just riding for the fun of it again.
I’ve had to find work pretty quickly, and picked up a few shifts working retail at a cycling shop to get me back on my feet while I interviewed at ad agencies. This actually turned out to be a great way of helping me ease back into ‘reality.’ I was around people who share my passion for cycling and gave me a chance to rebuild a 9-5 routine, while re-establishing my relationships with friends (many who I hadn’t seen in months due to training).
In terms of cycling, I’m desperate to get back at it, but recognise I still have some recovering to do. So for now I’m going to enter a few non-competitive events (please send me recommendations), and going to give CX a try. This will provided me with a distraction, and I’ve always enjoyed learning new things.
It’s been a rough couple of months processing what happened on the race, accepting that my race was not a failure, and trying to rejoin “normal” life. I recognise now it will probably still be a tough couple months while I evaluate what’s next and try to set myself new goals. However, I’ve started to accept that this is all just a part of the recovery process. That all said, the Trans Am was an incredible experience and would do it again in a heartbeat.