I found myself unable to “find my legs” earlier in the year and struggled through the Spring Classics season and continued to struggle thereafter. I now believe that the reason is that I lost sight of why I cycle and that I needed to press the reset button somewhere.
In the weeks preceding the Spring Classics, I was doing regular sessions on the turbo trainer in preparation for the big sportives. In other words, I was training, not in a serious and structured way, but in my own little way. I don’t use a heart rate monitor or a power metre, but I was watching more mundane data like cadence, average speed, the miles I was eating and the number of hours perched on the saddle. It’s not at all something that a proper trainer would prescribe as a regime, but the point is that I wasn’t doing it just for the fun of it.
Yes, I was getting the endorphin high, but the truth is that I wasn’t enjoying it. The fact that I was not able to”perform” led to further negative feelings. It wasn’t fun any more.
Time was in short supply the last few months, and cycling, as an endurance sport, takes up a lot of time. Therefore, it requires organisation and prioritisation to make it fit in one’s schedule. One important driver to make it fit is for one to actually want to. After the Spring Classics, I couldn’t be bothered to make time for it.
Then, when I was in the south of Italy this summer, I went for a few rides. Nothing big or ambitious, routes between 30 and 50km, without any quantitative objectives. I just picked a few villages I wanted to see and just pedalled to enjoy the sites and scenery. The only constraints was to return in time for lunch or for a conference call. I realised I was having fun on the bike again despite being woefully out of shape. Of course, it helps to be in a picturesque area with good weather, but it reminded me of the reason why I got back on a bike several years ago.
I don’t commute by bike; I walk. I pin a number on my jersey every once in a while, but I don’t race. Cycling is purely recreational for me. Life tends to be full of obligations and responsibilites, but for me cycling is not something I should do or need to do, not something on the task list to tick. It’s when I can switch off. Preparing for the Spring Classics put it firmly on the to-do list. Cycling became yet another thing that I needed to do. That wasn’t good. For me.
I think the rot actually started last summer when I was doing my fourth charity fundraiser in connection with a multi-day cycling trip. I have raised funds for charities that work in areas that are important to me. Therefore, I put in a considerable amount of time and effort in preparing and carrying out my fundraising campaigns that span multiple channels. There are regular articles about donor fatigue, but I have yet to come across anyone writing about fundraiser fatigue. Even though I was raising funds for a worthy cause, there was no denying that I was experiencing fundraiser fatigue, probably because I was trying to do too many things simultaneously during those months. (My fatigue, of course, is nothing compared to the plight of the ultimate beneficiaries of the campaigns.)
I did my first fundraiser in connection with a cycling challenge because I wanted to be useful whilst having a bit of challenging fun. That is why I bothered to run 4 campaigns to date. However, last year was different because fatigue set in. I think this is when I started to think of cycling more as an obligation.
About 10 days ago, I hopped on the bike and headed south. I ended up in Leuven where I have never visited before. I pootled around town, through the university campus, and then I headed back home. I had the Garmin on, but I wasn’t looking at the numbers. Of course, once or twice I saw another roadie (minding his own business) up ahead and the chase was on… However, it was a care-free ride on a clear day, and I enjoyed every bit of it.
Just a pootle.