When I first got back on my bike last year, and subsequently announced my return to road racing, the question I got asked most often was ‘why’? To be honest I didn’t have much of an answer to this, and I’ve been relatively quiet ever since as to what I was trying to achieve. This isn’t for any reason other than that I didn’t have much to say.
In truth I was searching for something. Initially it was to fall back in love with riding my bike, which happened almost immediately. Then it was to silence the voices of regret and envy in my head, which it did. I missed so many parts of being a professional cyclist, but more than anything else I missed the sense of identity that had come with it. It was who I was, and it was the thing that I believed made me successful in the eyes of others.
So, I went back. Attempting to relive the past, to rewrite the story on my terms.
…Then I destroyed my wrist.
On the surface this wasn’t a great moment in this story, and it was definitely the most painful. It was literally excruciating. But if you’re a believer in everything happening for a reason, which incidentally I wasn’t, then this is the moment when that comes into play.
I was annoyed and angry that I’d crashed, but a lot less upset than I should have been that it marked the end of my season. As the weeks passed I was increasingly numb to it, and to be honest I’d been pretty numb to everything since I returned to training and racing. It had enabled me to be okay, and it made life better, but it didn’t go as far as to make me happy. I’d felt this way for a while, and at some point it became what I settled for.
I hadn’t got back in the bunch through passion. I couldn’t even remember the last time I actively wanted something for myself. I just felt that if I stopped fighting for this then I would be giving up. I would officially be failing.
Breaking my wrist meant the fight was put on pause.
Suddenly I found myself with time on my hands. As most of it was spent on the sofa for the first few weeks, I started reading about people’s sporting adventures, watching documentaries about epic physical challenges, alternative events, and races around the world. And a switch flicked in my head. I was suddenly inspired again. I was excited by this. All of it.
So I guess maybe everything does happen for a reason, and I’m okay with being wrong about that.
I started to reevaluate the box I’d put myself in, and the idea that I had already decided who I was.
Instead of focusing on getting back an old life, on all the things an outdated version of myself wanted, I opened myself up to the now. I forgave myself, and let go of that which I could no longer change.
I realised that if I could do anything with my life going forward it would be to push myself to the limits on my bike again, but not in a way I ever had before. I wanted to start fresh with a new challenge. With that the dream was born.
Ultra-endurance racing. One day, multi-day, road and gravel. Across countries, continents, and the many obstacles I’m sure I’ll face on this journey.
Given that I have no experience at all in this corner of the cycling world, I’m going to spend a fair amount of time outside my comfort zone. I haven’t even camped since I was a child, and that didn’t go far beyond the garden. In reality I really have no reason to think this will be a successful endeavour, other than the fact that I really want it. More than I’ve wanted to do anything for a long time. And I’m willing to work hard for it.
I started this whole journey by saying ‘it’s ok not to be ok’, but I’ve also learned that it’s equally important to embrace all of the other ‘ok’s’ that come with this. It’s ok to be sad about something, to have regrets, but to be proud of what you’ve done, to continue to fight for it, to let yourself move on, to let it go, to start something new, to not have all the answers.
It’s not been easy, and I’m sure there will be plenty of moments when that continues to be the case. But I believe that if you’re passionate enough about something, and if you work hard enough, then amazing things can happen. And nothing worth having is easy.
I always hated all of those clichés about having no regrets, about every difficult moment leading to something better, about the hard times making you stronger, because to me they weren’t true. Until suddenly they were. All the moments in my life that I wished I could go back and change suddenly have purpose. They’ve brought me here.
Although this might seem out of the blue, it’s been months in the making. Events have been entered, sponsors are on board, and training has begun. I’ll be releasing more details on all of this soon, but for now I wanted to share the start of this journey. And I want to bring you along for every weird and wonderful moment of it.
The truth is that we never get to choose how we fall, but we do get to decide how we stand back up. And how we move forward again.
I didn’t get my fairy tale ending last time around, and I don’t think many of us do. But then again, I never really liked fairy tales anyway.
So, here’s to a perfectly imperfect beginning instead. What a beautiful place to start.