To new readers: Hi, nice to meet you. No, I don’t take myself too seriously; you shouldn’t either. My life motto is “It’s only a thing if you make it a thing”. The story below is a prime example of making it a thing… enjoy 😉
About a year ago I saw images of my ultra cycling heroines Lael Wilcox and Emily Chappell riding the Torino Nice Rally with a bunch of women. Right then and there I decided to take part in the 2022 Rally.
The Torino Nice Rally is a self-supported event. Cycling from Turin to Nice over all sorts of mountains and backcountry gravel roads. It would be somewhere between 600 and 700 kilometres. I figured it would take me a week, maybe eight days.
I have been riding bikes since 1995. Cycling is my refuge. It keeps me sane, and healthy and I am a much nicer person to be around when I stick to my cycling routine. Oh, you must know… I am a highly sensitive introvert. I like isolation. I don’t mind being alone. In fact; me, myself and I… we get along just fine.
So, I figured I was made for this epic challenge.
Hmmm turns out I was not. And turns out that I had some things to learn.
Here is what I learned
- Stress you know is much easier managed than stress you don’t know. Having experience makes a lot of difference in letting go or just going with the flow.
- A good mindset helps to endure physical exhaustion. Likewise, good physical condition helps to endure mental challenges. Combining physical and mental exhaustion is a recipe for disaster. At least for this person. I know this because I battled depression many years ago. The combination of physical and mental exhaustion is very close to how I’d feel back then.
- Solo or pair. I think having a familiar face to share the experience with, would have made all the difference. Not just the worries, but simple things such as reminding each other to have a proper break and eat. Mind your bike during a bio break or supermarket raid. Or a boost of confidence when the going gets tough.
- Permission. I couldn’t accept the fact that it was okay to leave my family and take time off from work, for as long as I needed to get to Nice safe and in a timely fashion. Instead, I gave myself a deadline.
- It is okay to quit. It’s okay to say “This is not for me” and quit. There is still a bit of faulty wiring inside me that rather endures hardship and persevere than quit. I cried turning my bike around to go back. I cried posting on Instagram that I had to quit (cried again when I saw all the lovely comments).
I spend a year preparing for this trip. Preparing was a way to take control of something completely unknown to me. When it came close to departure, there was nothing left to prepare. But a lot of unknowns remained. The only way for me to deal with this was: stress and worry.
This is an old pattern. I used to be really good at worrying in the time before I healed from depression. It surprises me how easy I shifted back into that pattern. I also stopped eating and sleeping the days before departure. Just to have more energy to stress and worry, or have more to stress and worry about.
Barely 60km of TNR
The first few kilometres into the ride I was pretty happy. A bit relieved to be finally doing it. I had taken the traditional departure photo and was happy just pedalling. Then I missed my exit, had to turn around and lost about 5 minutes. Something insignificant but a big trigger.
It kick-started the worry mode again. I skipped my much-needed break in Viù. And because there was already so much deficit, I wouldn’t recover. But I know I am good at enduring and persevering, so I stubbornly kept going. After a long time of suffering up a mountain at a whopping speed of 1,5 km/h, while my body was screaming “Please stop!”, my strong-willed mind finally woke up and gave in.
I texted my best friends “I don’t think I can do this…” feeling defeated and relieved at the same time. I was met with supportive calls and texts guiding me to a safe place to stay that night. A way home and some recovery time with my parents before embracing my family again after a few days. Thank you all again, so much.
Yes, I was very sad to miss the views I came for and miss the special moments of comradery with other riders. But as soon as the decision was made, I knew it was the right one. It was a tough -and a bit extreme or expensive- lesson to learn that I’m just not cut out for such (solo) adventures.
ps. look at the comments in the Instagram post. So much love.