I say this every year: I'm gonna try to stretch out the season. But with recently receiving emails that beat over my head to "BRING LIGHTS!!!!!!!!!!!" and one morning out of last week that forced me to quickly decide whether to wear the arm warmers or not, I'm finally coming to grips with the SEASON WINDING DOWN *sad face* (and I don't do cyclocross).
Cycling up here in Canada's a funny thing; our road season is a duration of four, maybe five months. That means for four or five months, the weather is kind enough to permit us to wear kit only and the sun stays up to light the day for 10 hours at a time. For the other eight dark, rainy/windy/snowy/gloomy/suicide-induce-y months, [most of us] are either training or cross training for just those measly 4 months...
So there's this sense that there's a very tiny window to "GET ALL YOUR KM'S IN!!!" and I operate on the bike under this crushing pressure and anxiety to "GET ALL YOUR KM'S IN!!!" before the clock runs out. And the moment I feel like I'm not "getting it all in" or I can't get it all in for one reason or another, I'm "wasting the season" and then I feel a hellova lot of frustration, shame, embarrassment, defeat or that I've fallen short and it reflects on my abilities as a cyclist.
It's a head fuck.
But the fact is that I'm unwittingly creating more of a gap between what I think I am (a subpar cyclist) and what I actually am, based on cold, hard data logged on my Strava app (which would indicate that I'm a pretty alright cyclist)...
- SPEED/AVERAGE: I've added 4-5kms on this year's average from last year.
- DISTANCE: I realized that I had a weekend criteria of "nothing less than 90-120k, it's not worth it to wake up early otherwise". I used to be daunted by doing a 60k ride.
- FONDO CYCLING: I have to admit, I'm crushingly disappointed by not being able to not even pursue my goal of hitting the double metric this season (170km still stands as the longest distance I've ever rode on a single ride), especially when all my cyclist peers were able to hit their first double metric this summer. Time and fitness didn't allow me (see below). Still, I can look back on the season and gaze at the few I did (still in disbelief that I rode solo from Vancouver to Whistler... did I mention that I had my own broom wagon? Ha!)
- KM's COVERED: Last year's distance (late start to the season due to a devastating break-up; injury; crash) closed out at 2,000k. I've just broken 3,300k. Again, a number that should be higher, but time and fitness just didn't allow me. Now I'm gunning for 4,000k... it'd be nice to close out the season with a nice square number like that.
- ELEVATION: Last year, I climbed 8,000m. This year, I've climbed 25,000m+ (B.C. helped me out a bit there)
- RECORD DESCENT SPEED: A skinny-ass cyclist such as myself can only go so fast. But 70km/hr is pretty good, no?
- EARLY WEEKDAY RIDING: I actually still think a 6am roll-out time is unreasonably early. But opening your front door up, bike in tow, to a post-apocalyptic setting with the sun just waking up is pretty special. You wont believe it until you do wake up in the 4 or 5's, but it's just so fucking worth it. Thanks to the BOW ladies for making it happen (by the way, I shouldn't play favourites, but... y'all have been my favourite group to ride with this season, I love you all!)
- WOMEN'S RIDING: It makes me so happy to see more women riding and I've put myself out there to help and contribute in any way possible to the movement. I've listened to women express their timidity and apprehension about being on the road and riding wheel to wheel or bar to bar or being afraid of getting dropped or gassing out or crashing. All of it breaks my heart to hear because I know they're better than they think they are. The ability gap is real. But I understand that that leap of faith is also real. So rather than coax them into taking the leap, I've tried to help them descend down a staircase... just step by step. I know I have a bad habit of surging forward, but hopefully when I wasn't doing that, I was helping out someone else and making sure they felt safe.
- CLUBS: I'm proud to be part of my home club, but I was given the chance to ride with other clubs and groups this season (shout-out to Bikes on Wheels; The Lantern Rouge/Liberty Cyclery; Bateman's Bicycle Company/Shack Pack CC; Two Circles). It's made it so rich with experience and good times. I've loved meeting and bonding with so many new people... *blessssssed*.
Okay, now for the not so great stuff (as excellent as my season has been overall, yeah, there is some shit to comment on)...
- LIMBO: The most frustrating part of my season was, by far and by large, not being able to level up... or rather, not having the balls to level up. I'm clear out of novice/intermediate riding, but to climb another rung and hang in with the big kids is just something I couldn't do or I was just barely hanging on. I already felt like I was working really hard (to my mental detriment... seriously, I was literally losing sleep over thinking about it so much) and I just haven't been able to close that gap. Too fast for slow and too slow for fast. Too gripped by fear of getting dropped or gassing out. Too proud to publicly fall short (having so many followers on Strava adds to the pressure). At what point is it no longer pleasure and just pain? I might just have to rely on private, off-Strava training to give me a boost. Or go back to the track. I can't tell at this point.
- INJURY: Thank GOD I never became injured or crashed out *tap wood* this season. However, I did suffer hell's case of saddle sores, so bad that it actually kept me off the saddle for a bit (seriously, this is a real thing) No amount of shammy cream, Vitamin E cream, exfoliating in the shower, or the best bibs on the market could save me. I may just try out a new saddle?
- TIME AND FITNESS: I dislike answering to people if they question why I wasn't on the road over some weekend. I'm trying so hard to strike a balance between cycling life and non-cycling life. And this is necessary for a less lonely existence. I'm trying to see if I can actually sell chocolate, and that's been taking up time (and from time to time, I'll resent this). I need to keep my relationship from falling apart with Matt and our time together is rare due to distance so I have to weigh if I want to see him or go out riding. My parents are in country/in province/in city so I try to see them every week. I've made an effort to neglect my non-cyclist friends a little less this summer. I love spending time with Matt's family and I'm there if they invite me to their gatherings. If all of this takes me off the saddle for three or four days at a time, I can't hop on a fondo ride straight out of the gate (and at that point, my fitness has fallen that I have to start from the bottom again, it's just how my body is). Sorry, bike doesn't come first in this life (although, by moments, I've contemplated saying, "Fuck you all, bike does come first.") In the event that I can't ride for a period of time, I know I'm still surrounded by friends and family and have an identity outside of cycling. This is fucking important.
- BURN-OUT: So yeah, I burned out a few times (and here is what burning out actually means, I most definitely fit the profile). I've experienced a return of paralyzing panic attacks and insomnia that I've had to seek therapy for. And again, I ask... at what point is it no longer pleasure and just pain...
That said, it's been fun, but evidently, it's also been a struggle trying to keep all of the balls up in the air. I wonder if I have to be more selfish or have my life audited or take an actual vacation and not just use a long weekend to decompress or I need to let something fall by the wayside and not feel bad about it...
There is already talk of winter training plans, which, honest to god, triggers awful, dreadful, back-to-school feels. I have my plan (spin class; ZWIFT; Erg rowing machine; track) and hopefully I not so much train harder, but train smarter. While I'm sad that road season is winding down, I'm secretly thankful that some time will be freed up in the fall and I'll feel less stressed out and anxious.
See you in the spin room.