Life off the bike can be a lonely one. I find myself battling with the ups and downs that come with the pleasures of cycling. Everything is unicorns and rainbows once the wheels start turning. When the time comes to return the steed to the stable (that is to say that bikes belong indoors) what follows can be a more difficult road than climbing hills in the heat at nauseating speeds.
I finished reading Tyler Hamilton’s book, “The Secret Race” which tells the story of the early 200’s Tour de Frances when Lance was making his comeback after being diagnosed with cancer. While this is subject is the highlight of the book, I found subtle aspects of Tyler’s life that felt much like my own.
One of the most inspiring details mentioned is Tyler describing the thoughts and feelings that come with hitting “the wall.” Dealing with (not blocking out) the pains that come from the buildup of Hydrogen atoms and the mind convincing the body to back off. While I do not care for his writing style in this book, these particular passages had me up late a few nights from the excitement and thoughts of me in his shoes.
An event that hit closest to home was once Tyler came back to his hometown from Europe. He had gotten an impressive fourth place in that year’s TDF and was greeted the way I imagine soldiers are greeting when returning from war. There were parades, posters, newspaper articles and a ceremony awarding him an honorary key to the city. While Tyler got a royal welcoming the heavy-hitting material was his perspective on the entire event. He wasn’t happy, he felt ashamed, lonely and embarrassed. I took a break from reading at this point to reflect on what I had read.
Every cyclist wishes for the fame and glory that comes from competing with professional athletes (I’m guilty as charged.) For those of us that have yet to experience such success, we can only imagine how we will take the news. Will we relish and celebrate with bliss? Or will the celebrating be less rewarding than we imagine? Being a glass half empty personality, I imagine myself dealing with the later option. Which is why Tyler’s response struck me on an all-to-familiar chord. He does mention dealing with depression in between the bike racing, new relationships, and the hide-and-seek game that is the cyclist vs. race officials. I am refraining from self diagnosing myself with any form of mental imbalance such as depression for reasons that are destined for another day. That being said I can relate with the peaks (and very sudden falls) that come with succeeding in a goal. Which brings me back to my main point of dealing with this emotional wave on a daily basis.
I have hobbies that occupy my time when I’m off the bike. I still dabble with the guitar, I read books, I write when I’m feeling up for it. These all seem like healthy alternatives to a physical lifestyle, but I still can’t seem to shake this void. Today I sarcastically mentioned to my friend that cycling is a highly addictive gateway drug that causes you to lose all your other priorities in life. Oh how right I was on so many deeper levels.
Like the junkie looking for their next fix, so does the cyclist look for their next ride. Loneliness can set in between rides and can get the best of us (I’d write my name at the top of this list) but can be dealt with. As challenging as things may seem, its the happy moments that help us (myself) through the lonelier times. Thought I would write about it in hopes of a little clarity.