Back in September last year, I wrote a blog about how I was struggling to go long (as in ride the long distances I like to think I’ve become associated with). So, here I am with a follow-up – a short honest appraisal of where I am now.
I am genuinely at a point where I’m in danger of stepping away from the bike – I’ve found it so hard to find the desire or motivation to get on the bike recently. During the week, the short training sessions that are 60 to 90mins have been fine, I’ve completed and enjoyed them. I get to the weekend and the long rides loom and I just cannot bring myself to get out and do them.
So, how have I got to this point (the subject of this blog aka the list of excuses) and where do I go from here (the next blog)?
Why I started cycling
Cycling wasn’t something I’d ever done before or even considered as an adult, I didn’t even own a bike. So when my life imploded in 2016 I set out to rebuild it with a focus on actually living, doing the things I always talked about doing but had never actually done. So in 2017, I committed to take on one new challenge every month and raise money for charity in the process. I bought a load of gear and a bike and took on everything from London to Brighton (and back), a Tough Mudder, Half and Marathons and finished it off with a 9-day solo JOGLE in November.
These challenges provided me with something I desperately needed – a purpose – but also to feel something after years of being numbed by depression and alcohol. This was a search for redemption, a trial by punishment because I judged myself harshly for not being enough and for failing as a man and a father.
Want to know the honest truth?
Nothing – not one challenge or event I’ve taken on – has ever left me with a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment or pride. I am yet to feel that sense of achievement or success that I’ve craved. I cycled the length of the country for 9 days on my own to reach Land’s End to feel – nothing – I’d suffered so much, so why did it feel so empty?
Don’t get me wrong, cycling has, over the last 5 years, absolutely changed from the pursuit of pain and punishment into a complete passion. So why now, it is so hard to be passionate about it?
On being good enough
Life has changed dramatically in the last 7 years. After my marriage broke down I never saw myself in a long-term relationship let alone having another child or owning a house again. Life put us together when we needed each other I think. While it hasn’t been an easy journey here, I have found a best friend, someone with whom I’m building a home for our blended family. I am genuinely content.
So, is this the uncomfortable truth?
In the change from punishment to passion, has this journey removed the reason to suffer? Not living on my own means I’ve got more than just myself to consider. But more than that, there is more to lose now and so many good reasons to not want to try and break myself.
After pushing the pause button on my solo Race Across America race last year, training has been anything but consistent. I was grateful to be able to go out as crew for Simon Potter and see the race first-hand – I had the most amazing time. It was hard but never felt like work, and I learnt so much that I can use for my race and as such it was an invaluable experience.
We were staying in an Airbnb in Annapolis watching the race conclude, I woke up one morning to find I’d slept through a literal list of missed calls and messages from Louise, her family and close friends – labour had started and I was 3,500 miles away. BA got me on an earlier flight and I began my race across the Atlantic, only for Finley to take another week to arrive. In the process, I finally caught Covid only to get it a second time a month or so later.
With the RAAM, Finley’s birth, two bouts of Covid and moving home I’ve had far less time on the bike than I’d wanted and this has affected my fitness as much as it has my morale and motivation.
The truth is, the numbers matter to me – I am competitive and I am driven to be better and as such it hurts to see my fitness and my FTP tumble. I genuinely don’t care about anyone else’s numbers, and I don’t sit on Strava comparing myself, but I can see I am not where I want or need to be – the mileage, the fitness and the mental strength just haven’t materialised this year.
Two lumps or three?
So, 3 weeks ago, trying to use the opportunity to ride with friends as a way to get back to riding the longer miles – I headed over to Bristol. We rode a 150km route which was a blast – it was a lot of fun catching up as we spun along. We hit The Tumble – a 5km / average 8% climb – hard, I wanted the effort and to just give myself a little test of my lungs and legs.
I stopped for a coffee and to use the facilities on the drive home and noticed that I was peeing blood. Two weeks later I’m in the shower noticing my man bulge has got some extra bulge…and not in a good way. I gave Louise the post-shower, open towel flash just to confirm I wasn’t seeing things and yes it was there.
So, I’m sitting here with an inguinal hernia, spending little to no time working out (I tried to complete an overs and unders session and genuinely felt like I was in an Alien movie with guts wanting to burst out of me). Anything more than a 30min very low-effort spin is frankly uncomfortable.
The second uncomfortable truth?
I’m glad, not glad I’ve got a hernia, but glad I’ve had to excuse to stop. I am at the point of burnout and, as I said in the introduction to this blog, at a stage where I could have stopped riding a bike altogether and I don’t want that.
My 2023 season
So what does this all mean for 2023?
Before the hernia became more of a problem Pav and I had agreed on a plan, the hernia just meant training has all but stopped for the time being.
I’ve essentially cleared my season until at least the summer – sadly withdrawing from the inaugural Solstice Sprint, the London-Wales-London and other longer distance Audax’s that I’d signed up to. Physically I’m just not going to able to ride these distances and with the 24hr in mind, I’m questioning if I can do myself justice. Pav and I had discussed my mindset and the worst thing I could do now would be to ride, perform badly and tip myself over to the point of giving up.
So we pause, but importantly, we keep smiling!
I’ve called this blog Finding Ultra because I genuinely want to restore my love of riding long – the dream hasn’t changed, I still know I can be one of the few Brits to complete the 3,000 mile Race Across America – the great thing is I can start working on this before I’m back on the bike and the doctors have securely got my intestines back where they should be.
So over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to share my journey to finding ultra, getting back to glorious long summer rides, garage forecourt picnics and having an FTP over 300w – but more than that, being mentally and physically tougher in the process. So I’ll share what that looks like in Finding Ultra Again – Part 2 next.
Thanks for reading, Guy x
One thought on “Finding Ultra Again – Part 1”
Hey Guy! I was just think about you the other day actually, and that I hadn’t heard anything for a while. Glad to hear you are finding your way back again. 🙂