The last thing I wanted to do when I got home from Cali was ride. But I felt as if I had no choice, and simply had to ignore my suffering; and go train.
My first ride was with team mates Jure and MA, and Karlee. When we rolled out it was about 4 degrees with a light drizzle. I actually didn’t mind, and was surprised by how comfortable and strong I felt. Right away I started to think that I was finally getting strong, and might actually be strong this season.
As soon as we left town it started to pour. I was soaked through within minutes. I dropped back out of the draft to avoid the spray from the bikes around me. Back there, no one could hear me struggle to breathe as I fought an anxiety/panic attack. As we made our way, it dropped below zero and continued to pour. My hands were so numb that my left thumb couldn’t actually hold my hood, and I could barely brake. I didn’t bother trying to shift. As soon as the rain started I stopped having fun. I just wanted to be home. The other three were cold, but they managed to enjoy themselves. It was ‘epic’ to them. I stopped talking.
When I got home I stood in the doorway for ten minutes trying to undo the Boa on my shoes. My fingers were numb from the cold and I couldn’t get a grip. My roommate eventually had to help me get my shoes and clothes off. I stood in the shower and cried.
The following day was more or less the same. I fought back tears and fought for breath as I rode with a lump in my throat. I was warmer this time, but that didn’t matter. Every day I was getting up to do something that I was hating. I didn’t enjoy riding remotely. Why was I doing it? I’d go home and cry in the shower as the water burned life back into my extremities and I’d dread the next day when I’d have to do it all over again.
After a few of days, we finally had a dry morning and went out for the Oak Bay Ride. All the cyclists in Vic meet on Saturday mornings for a 90 km ride. The final 30 or 40 km is always a hammer fest. The first 35-40 km is always a steady group ride. On the way out, Jure flatted. MA and I stopped to help him out. We were all excited to try riding as a team for the first time, even if it wasn’t a true race. Once Jure replaced his tube, we set out chasing after the group that was now ten minutes ahead. I did a couple of rotations before sitting in the draft and trying to hold on. Eventually I got dropped. Whether it’s a race or a ride, riders will know that losing contact with the wheel in front of you is extremely dispiriting. I was already at an advantage being in the draft, and I still couldn’t hold on.
We eventually regrouped, and on the return ‘race’ portion of the ride I got dropped again by the lead group on the Panorama climb. During the Oak bay ride, I’m pretty much always first or second over the climb. Shortly after being dropped, I joined the second group. As we crested the hill and made our way down, another rider cut me off and tore a couple of spokes off my front wheel. I skidded into the ditch but managed to stay upright. I rode home alone very slowly, as my bent front wheel barely turned through the wide open brake. I was angry, but it was mostly due to my obvious lack of fitness. I had one week until my first race.
On the following Wednesday, we crossed over to Vancouver. I didn’t want to go on Wednesday, because the race wasn’t until Saturday, and it was sunny on the island for the first time since I got home which would have been ideal for my scheduled four hour ride. Really, I didn’t want to go at all, but I had to attend a sponsor’s event on the Thursday night, and my manager could only give us a ride from the ferry if we went early. Wednesday became a write-off due to travel and logistics. It was sunny in Vancouver until around 4:00 when we finally got the chance to ride. It started to rain as soon as we left and snowed after an hour. I rode behind MA and Jure. Again I fought off tears of anger and frustration, and had to focus hard on my breathing so as not to have another anxiety attack. That night I cried on the phone with Bryanna, and sent my coach a text.
Here’s what I told my Manitoba coach:
“I've just hated it for months. I don't want to train, I don't want to suffer. I don't want to ride in the rain and I fucking hate being cold. I'm slow as shit right now and have been for ages but I don't have the drive to bounce back like I have before. I have such an attraction to a normal life. Hanging out with friends, travelling, going on road trips with family, and actually making money. Eating, drinking. Freedom. New experiences. Time with my girlfriend. But the biggest thing is that I need to take time for myself to work on being happy.
There's so much bullshit in cycling and it's no longer just a part of it to me. It's the whole thing. I'm an unpaid 'professional' but I have to buy my license because it's 'my job'. And I'm trying to explain myself but all it is, is whining.
Everything cycling depresses me. Every bike ride I battle anxiety attacks. I can't push in an interval because I already can't breathe because of anxiety. One ride in California I spent 30 minutes crying as I rode on my own.
I feel like I'm riding because I think I have to.
I don't want to quit but I don't want to continue. I'm too weak to quit. I want an excuse. Idk, Jay, I'm not proud of this. I've wanted to say this to you for ages but I hate myself for saying it.”
Basically, I wanted to do the things I enjoyed. Cycling had become my nightmare, and it had drained the life out of me. My entire life was biking, and biking had become my trigger. What had once provided me with an escape had become the very thing I needed to escape from.
I sent that text out of desperation. I needed help. What I haven’t told you is that on every ride, I’d wish for a car to hit me. I didn’t want to feel pain, I just wanted the ride to end. Since October, I would spend entire rides imagining a car crushing my leg and giving me an excuse to stop riding. I wasn’t brave enough to stop on my own. My head trouble wasn’t a serious enough or clear enough reason not to ride. I required a physical injury to remove the option of pushing through or taking a break. Getting run over by car was the perfect solution.
In October I wished for it a handful of times. In Cali in February I wished for it almost every day. By the time I got home, I was ready to pay someone to do it. I needed to get out. It goes without saying that it’s not healthy to wish for a car to hit you. When I finally convinced myself of how fucked up that was, I told my coach. Now I had to tell my boss...