Inhale. The cranks turn, pedals absorb the power, finally transmitting it to the wheels, turning them with an almost silent hum. A few gentle clicks and the rear derailleur smoothly moves the chain further on the cassette. Exhale. I grab the handlebars tight and pull myself out of the saddle. I feel the bike respond to my every action. Acceleration is smooth, yet effective. Every move has been exercised so many times, there is almost no energy lost to the thought. Inhale. I gasp for more air. I can feel the oxygen fill my lungs with a gentle burn. I continue pedaling seated and tune in to a optimal cadence. The legs feel springy. Exhale. I feel part of the lactate and carbon dioxide leave my body. I have settled into a fast pace and my body works like a Swiss watch. We whizz down the road to the gentle sound of humming wheels. I open my eyes.
Three months. That's the time it takes for a cyclist to sit down and write about post-season depression. I don't know what the word for that actually is, but that cyclist, is me. It's a cyclist I never met before, and I hardly recognize myself. Maybe it's because that's not me after all? However, what I can tell is that the story above is far from reality at the moment. It's a dream, slowly fading. It's filled with things I once felt close to me, almost on a daily basis.
So how come a thing so near and dear can become so distant? I am probably not able to mark out every link in that chain, neither do I know if I'm willing to do so, even if I knew. At the end of the season I had knee-pains. I found it hard to walk every now and then. I took some days off, just to ease the pain. I visited a doctor and got the knee examined, it was slightly worn out but nothing critical, at least not yet. If the pain would come back, the knee would need surgery. I denied the pain and took some time off the bike. I guess it was a week, or two. I found a new job. A lot to learn. It was a good excuse not to have the energy to bike. I took up playing badminton each Friday. It gave me a time-slot to see friends and enjoy sweating. A well deserved day for doing something different and something to look forward to each week.
I managed to put some hours on the bike thanks to a friend who was able to join me for a ride or two. I had been worried, since getting on the bike had caused a lot of frustration and stress, and all rides included checking the time every now and then, making them all but relaxing experiences. I had set goals for next season and the bar was set higher than ever before. I started going to the gym. Then I lost the fraction of momentum I almost had back. My legs were in cramp and I could barely walk. I got another reason to not ride the bike. I took a ride, maybe two. I felt the pressure of how much I already had lost and how much I soon would lag from all schedules, to be able to achieve my goals. I rode less in September and October than I did indoors in January or February. I started calculating how many watts I was able to produce at the different zones. It was far from encouraging. Despite that I thought I would get back soon, and would gain back watts fast once I had more time, soon. Denial.
Last week was in many ways like turning a new page. I could have gotten out on my bike. I had time. I decided not to ride the bike. I did not feel guilty about it, even if I knew I would do the same the next day. And most likely the day after that. I felt the new goals slip out of reach. I don't say I let them go. Truth is I don't know. Letting go, I assume should feel like letting go. I felt nothing.
Cycling has an amazing way to clear your thoughts, lift you up, and it really gives you a lot even if you're not competitive. For me it has been of course much more than that. What comes next? Maybe I'm writing all this to find out. I thought it would ease to get it all put into words. Only time will tell if doing so was a step towards getting back, or if it was just another excuse to not ride the bike.