“Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” — Eddy Merckx
Something shifted this past week and I can’t quite put my finger on it… yet. There’s been such a significant number of major life events (issues?) either resolved or reactivated. One of these key events has without question been my return to road cycling.
I can draw a line in my life mid-March 2017 when my husband died and I had a 4 month old son to look after. My life before that, well the previous 6 years had been very consistent. The business was great, I was in love with my soul mate and I was very fit and healthy living the cycling life dream with many free hours to train and travel across the globe on two wheels. Life was grand. I’d only recently started road racing and invested in a new Specialized S-Works road bike when I found out I was pregnant at 39 years old. We were shocked and overjoyed but that also signaled the end of cycling for nearly 4 years.
Last week after several false starts and attempting to reuse previous training programs I found my mojo again. As my old cycling coach mentioned today in a very encouraging text, ‘it is a feeling that’s hard to replace.’ Once you have dedicated yourself to cycling for a few years and achieved some incredible goals returning after a long break is tough. I’ve had to deal with a fair bit of negative self-talk comparing my current self to previous ‘fit self’, looking at my segment times, and of course the excess weight. Fortunately, I have the strength to overcome these hurdles as I’ve been there before, but last time without the knowledge I have today.
So today I just went for a ride. A simple flat 25kms along a pristine stretch of coastline just after sunrise not far from home. Minimal traffic, friendly cyclists who gave me the nod as they passed me by and the smell of fresh bread wafting out of the bakery doors as I rode past. I was tempted to push a little harder at times but held back knowing it would only end in injury and setback, this time I would ease back in and be sensible. Remembering my last effort I pushed my body so far so fast that to achieve my 100km goal in 3 weeks (from zero fitness again) I ended up needing pain killers for the last 10km My knees had been screaming in pain. I was off the bike recovering for 3 weeks… I didn’t get back on for months.
It’s early days but this effort somehow feels different. My headspace has changed enormously these last few weeks and more than anything it’s a relief. It feels as though another layer of the grief has lifted, and happiness is returning accompanied by glimpses of my old self. Because so much of my identity was tied into my cycling life, the loss of my love and home environment, finally parts of each appear to be emerging again within me. Perhaps it’s also that my son is finding his own identity, less reliant on me and I can afford myself some essential ‘me time’. Either way as cliché as it sounds, the sun on my face while on my bike today and glimpses of those indescribable moments when you are at one with your bike was pure bliss.