You spend nearly a year preparing for an event.
You say no to nights out as you need to train in the morning.
You say no to pizza to keep the weight down.
You push, you sweat, you grind, you plan and you count the days off until the event.
Then, in what feels like far too short a time, the day all this has been leading up to has come and gone.
I’d guess most people experience this to a degree when you put an event (be it sports or any other life event) on a pedestal, but we’re talking specifically about sports and the slump I would venture most of us feel after completing something we have put in serious time and effort to accomplish.
I went into my ride on La Marmotte determined to enjoy it and try to “live in the moment” and take away absolutely everything I could. And I did. I remember all the excitement in the lead up to it. I remember the nervous energy the morning of the event. How great I felt once we started off and even how good I felt up the Col du Glandon. I also vividly remember how much the Col du Galibier saps your legs, and the mild head rush I got at the top. I remember the heat at the foot of Alpe d’Huez and how much I had to grind to get up it.
Like any sport, you take the good with the bad, but crossing that finish line after all the preparation you feel that “high” of accomplishing you goal. The rush of endorphins following the end of physical exertion. The high fives, fist bumps, the knowing grin shared with other competitors who’ve just done the same as you.
Then within a day or so, its worn off. It’s over. All that work has been done and now what?
Training for La Marmotte was perhaps the most serious I have ever taken training for an event. I’d run a couple of trail marathons and cycled some tough centuries, but going to the Alpes to cycle is a different ball game and you have to treat it with respect or you’re going to have a bad time. (Pro-tip: There will be times of suffering no matter how hard you train)
I trained 5 days a week for 9 months, lost about 30lbs and it was all in training for La Marmotte and a week of additional riding afterwards towards Annecy.
That regimen defined who I was for nearly a year (as my wife can attest in extreme detail). I focused on the training and the end goal at the expense of a lot and pushing that hard will lead to some testing moments in the relationships you have at times and I eternally grateful to the patience and support my family gave me to pursue this goal.
It’s been six weeks since the Marmotte and I have struggled somewhat mentally with a lighter training load and not really working towards anything in particular. I was plain miserable for the first day or two. Not that I wasn’t glad to see my family and sleep in my own bed, but after any amazing experience comes the realization of how fleeting it was. Since getting home, I’ve been feeling somewhat listless without any goal in mind as the last nine or so months were so focused. I’m riding three or four times a week but my mindset is still stuck in that training mode of “must count every calorie”, “must keep training” and there is more to life than that kind of single mindedness.
It’s a bit bitter sweet finishing something like La Marmotte. On the one hand, I am enjoying spending more time with the family and not being as strict with my diet and riding more just for the fun of it than anything else without having to worry about what power zone I am sitting in.
Then, on the other hand, I miss the training, the focus and how driven I was and the climbs in my area just don’t compare to the Alpine Cols. After the amazing time I had out in France with Dave, Karl and Andy it’s odd coming back from an experience like that and just jumping straight back into home life after living with things like this every day….
(Descending the Col de la Madeleine)
So where do you go from there? Another event? retire from riding? Pro contract?
For me, the immediate future is all about having fun with the family and just enjoying riding a bike for the sake of it rather than focusing on performance. It’s easy to get far too wrapped up in numbers, stats and watching your power level and work on your FTP and that comes at a cost. My son loves to ride and I nurture that as much as I can through coaching at his club and taking him out riding as often as possible, but as much as he loves riding on the road the roads in our local area are far too dangerous and even once you are out of the suburban locale the drivers in the country aren’t always as considerate as you’d want if you are trying to encourage a nine year old to feel safe on the road.
So, what I have opted for and will be documenting in a series of posts to follow is my first full bike build as I build up a gravel/winter bike. Whilst the roads can be a little intimidating to younger riders, we are really fortunate to have an abundance of gravel tracks and off-road riding which we have yet to take advantage of. Many adventures await.
After all that, I still get a perverse pleasure from being here….