By this time last year, my short road season was over due to financial constraints, and I had shifted my focus and motivation on preparing for a solid ‘cross season. I was in the best racing shape I had ever been in, and spent a lot of time pedaling because I wasn’t working much. It seemed like things would eventually fall into place. ‘Cross season came and went, and I was left with a fairly decent sense of accomplishment and a very painful left leg.
I took some time off in February to let my body rest after nationals. I had hopes this rest period would allow my leg to heal, and figured I’d be good to go by the end of the month. When it was time to ride again, I noticed the pain was still there, but being the stubborn ass that I am, I continued to ignore it. I only worked 24 hours a week, and was poor, but I got a chance to ride 15+ hours for most of the early Spring. I used the bike as a mental escape and my career frustration as fuel for wildfire that would later become my normal state of being.
When I lined up for my first (and last) crit of the season, I had my reservations. I had a gut feeling my leg was going to blow up again, but the small glimmer of hope helped me push those thoughts to the side. 15 minutes into the race, I quit, and felt defeated once again. If I couldn’t do hard efforts, how would I race? Will I be able to race ‘cross? Can I be fixed? Why can’t I just suck it up and push through it? I had so many questions and so few answers. I felt like my time as a bike racer was over before it really got started. The thing that brought me so much joy and allowed me to escape my life stress, quickly became part of my life stress. So, I was just stressed with nowhere to escape.
I got health insurance in March, and had an opportunity to take care of myself from the inside out (finally). It wasn’t cheap, but I knew I was risking a lot by riding/racing a bike without a safety net. I started seeing a chiropractor. I got a physical. We discovered a couple health issues that needed immediate attention, and I felt relieved to have insurance to cover a lot of those costs. All you ObamaCare haters can kiss my ass. Thanks Obama!
The leg wasn’t getting better. In fact, it was the worst it’s been in 2 years. I could only ride a bike at ‘party pace’, and I canceled my crit season. I still had no job offers, let alone job interviews, and found myself feeling more hopeless by the hour. How could someone so smart and talented get left behind and overlooked by so many employers? I was suffering from major burn out, and the ambulance caused me more anxiety than joy. I’ve always loved emergency medicine, but when you work so hard for very little money, it can suffocate you. I was struggling for air. I just wanted to find joy in going to work everyday.
I started seeing Wes at Anti-Fragile Physical Therapy, through the referral of many close friends. His specialty was fixing ‘broken people’, and I was definitely broken. My first session of dry needling made me a believer, and I felt more relief that day than I had in years. We discovered a lot about my cycling technique, muscular imbalances, and ways to correct them. I also made the decision to stop racing crits, and to hold off on those super high intensity situations until I could do it without severe pain.
I focused on the woods. I didn’t want to trash racing for the entire summer, so I decided to step out of my comfort zone and race mountain bikes. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a shit show in the woods. Some days I’m on fire, and some days I’m on the ground. Pulling off a season of mountain bike racing would definitely test my mental and physical strengths, and force my weaknesses to come out of hiding.
The job stress was getting to be more than I could handle. I finally found another part-time job to supplement my other part-time jobs. I continued my daily ritual of drinking coffee at dawn, searching the internet job sites for things I felt qualified for. I continued to receive “Sorry, we didn’t pick you” emails and letters from places all over the country. I tried using my background to give me leverage, but no luck. I tried using my degree as leverage, but no luck. I even went as far as name dropping and using my friends and acquaintances as leverage, but no luck.
9 years of job applications and rejections had built up so much rage inside of me, and I became a loose cannon of emotional outbursts. I rode my mountain bike hard, stepping outside of my norm, and actually got pretty good at it. I was faster, stronger, and doing well in races. I tried new things, riding sections I had previously walked due to overwhelming fear of getting hurt. I pushed my speed limits. I looked forward to riding Pisgah for the 2nd time (1st time in ‘proper’ Pisgah), and actually surprised myself. I built up a confidence I had never experienced on the dirt, and had a sense of pride I rarely felt while racing. I was escaping my job stress every moment I could, riding as much as I could with a 50 hour work week. Sometimes I had to get up at 4:30 just to get on the trainer for some time to myself.
No matter how fast or how far I rode my bike, the job stress was always there when I got home.
April was hard for me. My mother started chemotherapy on her birthday 5 years ago, which is also Earth Day, and every year I get all fucked up in the head around that time. I sunk back into my turtle shell, avoiding people and places other than work and bike rides. I was tired all the time. I took care of myself the best I could, but I had too much stress weighing me down. Her birthday came and went. I knew May was coming, which sucked even more. Mother’s day and the anniversary of her death fucked me up more than her birthday. My leg was getting better. I applied to a Graduate Program. I crashed really hard at DuPont, and knocked myself out. It was the worst crash I’ve had since I started riding bikes. I had to start building confidence from the ground up again.
I worked on Mother’s Day at the outdoor store. Luckily, those folks were fun, and I was distracted for most of the day. My roommate was awesome and sensitive to my needs, and everyone was really nice to me. I survived. I was too exhausted to ride my bike that day, so I drank wine on the porch and looked for jobs online. Chico was there. The sunset was pretty. I survived.
The anniversary of her death was hard. I was a little under the weather, and hadn’t been sleeping well, so I prepared myself for a tough day. I planted a stoop garden. I played with my dog. I took a nap. I did what I could to keep my spirits up. I drank wine for lunch and laid on the front porch thinking about her. I took another nap. The day wasn’t bad.
My leg is getting better, but I still can’t do much high intensity work. I switched things over to my ‘cross bike, so I can get on the road again, and it’s been nice having easier gearing. Spinning up a climb is much more pleasant than trying to crush the 53/39 on my road bike. I still have a long way to go, though. Mountain bike racing has been a blast, and I have been experiencing a lot of highs.
Yesterday was tough- one of the worst days on a bike in a long time. I felt horrible. I felt stressed. Too much stress in your head translates into a body that just can’t go hard. I almost quit 5 miles into the race, and even stopped pedaling for a few seconds. I wanted to cry. For whatever reason, I decided to keep going, and made up some time in the process, catching 2 women at the end. I lost the battle for 4th. I didn’t quit. Yesterday was tough.
It’s Monday. The anxious waiting by my email box continues. Did I get accepted into grad school? Did I get an interview for one of the hundreds of jobs I applied for? Will I ever fall back into love with the ambulance? Will I be 100% by ‘cross season? When will I be able to ride pain free? When will someone give me a fucking chance to use my skills and knowledge for a job that gives me joy? Is it going to be like this forever? When will my dog stop shedding so damn much? Just kidding…he’s a hairy bastard for life!