When cycling is your true love…

…but you hate it for a while. You know, everyone who even went through some form of burnout can relate to this. There will be a time when your boundaries trigger too fast. Perhaps because you’re not fully recovered physically or mentally, it might be that you haven’t yet managed to trust your capabilities or judgement.

After TNR, I laid low for a while before waking up to the realisation I wanted to do another long ride in June. Of perhaps two. In my mind the 160 and 200 km rides I planned, weren’t that big of a deal. And with the proper training, that wouldn’t have been a big deal. But I didn’t fall back in love with cycling yet. So with minimal training, and a round of Prednisone, I forced myself through the 160 km Unbound ride and attempted the 200km, but managed to be semi-smart about it and turned around after 55km.

After that, I had a sit down with myself because this half-assed riding but attacking big things was ruining me. I came to 2 conclusions; I wanted to stop riding. I had to give myself permission to stop riding and not have any milestones in the back of my mind, rushing this cycling-sabbatical. No goals, no expectations.

I agreed to start with a personal trainer to help me recover physically. My message to her was clear: help me enjoy riding again. I felt mentally and physically at rock bottom in terms of fitness. I had skipped the foundational training after my TNR crash, so after this second mental crash, I was left with nothing.

In July, I did nothing but hiking and PT sessions. After a week or 6, I noticed some stamina and muscle gain. I toyed with the idea of riding again and gave myself permission to do a 30-minute Zwift ride. And sure enough, 2 days later, I signed up for the training plan “Back to Fitness”. I liked it because the workouts were short and easy. I left the bike with a smile after every workout. Great start.

The next week I extended the workouts with a bit of freeriding to get 60 minutes of riding. Still a smile on my face and the feeling of “I want/could do more”. And that’s the feeling you want. Still not trusting myself, so keeping to 60 minutes until I rented a Wahoo Kickr Climb. I found a Zwift event for the Four Horseman badge (90km with 2k climb) and wondered if I could train for it in 3 months’ time. So it took me all of 2 months without a big goal. I added some longer workouts on routes with more climbing and by the end of september I did my first Alpe d’Zwift again. I felt like a million bucks, because I paced myself and kept it together physically and mentally. This stretched my permission to intensify the workout, but still only indoor and always maintaining the “I could do more” feeling afterwards.

The biggest win after 3 months was that I didn’t do the Four Horsemen. A few weeks before the event I started wondering if I could do the length of riding. I focussed on climbing, not so much on length and the caused a concern with me. At first I decided to just go ahead and start and see how far I’d go. The best thing about Zwift, is that when you had enough, you can just get off the bike and hit the showers and be done.

The week before the event I found an event for Quatch Quest (48km with 1678k climb). Another much desired Zwift badge and I thought I’d use that ride as a test. I loved it, loved the fight and the struggle but even before finishing I know, no Four Horsemen for me. This was perfect enough and I was mad proud of the badge. I walked away from the Four Horsemen goal, to leave it on the bucketlist for someday, maybe.

Without zero regrets I let that event pass by and just did my thing, PT and my 60-ish Zwift workouts. Perhaps I was falling back in love with cycling again? Not sure, because I haven’t done any outdoor rides. But goal setting has crept back in. Yes dear people, we have a new goal for 2024. I want to try and qualify for the World Championships Gravel, which is held in Belgium in Oktober. There are a few qualifying opportunities, one in Valkenburg. But it’s pretty early in the season, april, my best form usually only comes after a few months of sunshine. But Valkenburg is on the schedule and perhaps also Roden in July.

Long story short, trust the process of recovery. Both mentally and physically, your love of cycling comes back, when you nurture that foundation and build upon that.