Being a pro cyclist means going fast during training and going really slow on recovery days. Life revolves around riding, eating, sleeping and preparing for the next race. It's 24/7 job because everything affects performance. Stepping away from such an all-encompassing focus can be difficult. The dopamine high from training, after all, is addictive and being fit isn't something anyone wants to give up easily. Now that I've decided to hang up my road racing wheels, I'm starting to wrap my head around what it all means.
It's been almost 4 months since my last race, and in the meantime, I've done everything from hike in the Blue Ridge mountains, rekindle my love for waterskiing, and drive cross-country with my dog and husband. In between adventures, I did a lot of soul-searching. The inner dialogue kind of went like this: "You just gave up on cycling after working so hard all those years. What are you going to do now? Go back to the same job you did before and call it a day?"
If you sensed some negativity, you'd be right. My heart was leading me onto a different path, but walking on that path wasn't easy to accept.
I didn't ride my bike for about 2 weeks once I was back on US soil. I ran, kayaked and did tons of yard work to keep my energy levels at bay. When I did start riding, it was only a short 1.5 hour jaunt in the mountains. Little did I know that it was the start of the transition process. How can I continue to ride without stressing over my form and fitness? Now, 3 months later, I think I finally figured it out...
Take in the Views
I've been to some stunning places to race. My pictures usually end up on Instagram, and thank God I spent the time to capture those moments! Looking back at some of those memories makes me so grateful. The journey is not only about testing yourself and learning from experiences but also finding the valuable seconds to enjoy it all. And it's especially more enjoyable now that I don't have to worry about the set of intervals on my training schedule. My sense of wonder has been restored and that alone inspires me to go ride.
Meet New Friends
Deciding to leave the racing circuit doesn't mean that I have to loose touch with all my friends in that space. In fact, having an alternate focus means I have more time to think of creative ways to keep in touch - care packages, random Facebook messages with tons of smiley faces, or showing up at their race unannounced with a bright, embarrassing sign...
Watch out friends because that's what's coming in 2017!
Being home more often provides opportuntiy to get involved locally. Riding with people in the Bay Area, anything from a fundraising ride for World Bicycle Relief or a fast group ride, reminds me of why I started riding in the first place. My cycling community includes people I would otherwise never meet. Their interests beyond the bike extend into finance, flying, small businesses, traveling, children, volunteering, coaching, dogs, good coffee (obviously)... the list goes on.
Do Other Things
I'm no longer stressing about staying off my feet to recover for the next day of training. Doing other activities has hightened my awareness of body imbalances that have been nagging me for years. Thanks to Jen Shepard, PTMSPT, CFMT, FFMT, FAAOMPT, I am now all fixed up. If you are in the Denver area and need physio or functional manual therapy, she's your go-to lady. When I was in Maryland visiting my dad, I had a chance to go all-in during some waterski sessions, something I haven't done in years for fear I'd be too sore. My dog and I walk for hours in the park. I have done some urban adventuring in San Francisco. Overall, I'm just not afraid anymore about how I'll feel on the bike the next day. I can just be in the moment, moving and doing whatever seems right. It's freeing and makes time on the bike even more special.
Make New Goals
Ah, the big life question: What are you going to do now? That's something I've thought long and hard about for the past 4 months. Being in purgatory can be exhilarating or stressful. For me, a little of both. I know is that I function best when I have a plan to follow. I played with ideas of going into marketing, into the small business world, into biotech, onto grad school, and even having babies and calling it a day...Some would give this process a title: a mid-life crisis. But I prefer to call it a mid-life evaluation. Weighing options - the opportunity to HAVE options - is a blessing.
I do think my calling is in healthcare, the career I left to pursue my cycling dreams. Helping people by sharing knowledge, using valuable skills, and doing everything with a smile is something that gives me lots of satisfaction. So, I'll start there. I'll start rebuilding with what feels right and eventually I'll find my way. In the meantime, you can find me riding my bike for fun!