Following on from E3C’s recent newsletter that covered the topic of goals and stepping stones, I thought I would share what can happen after achieving these goals. I have experienced both great disappointment and highs in the last year, but also some unexpected feelings and reactions after these events.
So, lets me start with the disappointment... After more than 12 months of hard work and build up to the Worlds 24hr championships in Weaverville in 2015 I arrived in what can only be described as ‘not the best condition’ due to an incident at SSUK that left me with a damaged rotator cuff. However, even the physio could see how determined I was and didn’t try to put me off, but gave me the best advice to deal with my shoulder and prepare me for the race. Likewise a friend and doctor gave me advice on pain management and I headed off to the USA in high spirits and with my fingers crossed. I ended up in the lead of my category after 2 laps and then lead until just over half way, at which point my shoulder injury got the better of me and eventually I was forced to retire after 16 hours. As you can imagine I was absolutely devastated. No other words for it. No-one could say anything to change the feeling.
For a couple of days I struggled by dealing with the pain in my shoulder and putting on a brave face while we enjoyed the rest of our time in California on a bit of a holiday. It helped having Ingrid & Erik around me and messages from friends wishing me well. But the fact that the injury was down to my own stupidity didn’t help, and the thoughts of what could have been kept creeping back. However, on returning to the UK things quickly got back to ‘normal’ as I got back to work and had other things on my mind. Pretty soon conversations on Facebook got started about the Worlds for 2016 being in Rotorua, New Zealand and my mind got ticking trying to think of a way to broach the subject with Ingrid... This scared the crap out of me because of how much time I had already spent training, and it would mean another 5 months of pounding the trails. Eventually I plucked up courage to have that conversation and got the blessing to go as Ingrid knew how devastated I was about having to pull out in California.
All of a sudden I had my focus back. I can definitely say that I have never been so determined to achieve something. Nothing was going to stop me! Nobody could say anything to put me off. In no way was this going to be easy... OK so my fitness was still there, but winter was starting, work was getting mental with 2 projects due to hit production in January & March, and my shoulder was still repairing. Regardless, I knew what was needed and Ingrid, Jon and my cycling friends helped fuel that feeling for the whole of the winter regardless of how foul the trails got and how often I had to get up at 4am to go riding in the cold wet conditions.
So, now for the other end of the scale... New Zealand could not have gone any better (other than having Ingrid & Erik there with me!). What a feeling! I felt amazing (if not a little tired when I got back)! Getting the single speed title after such a close race felt awesome, so too did a top-10 overall. I got back home and I was absolutely buzzing and this was fuelled further by the numerous congratulations for everyone and the admiration I got at work – I even walked in to a senior managers meeting on the first day back and got a round of applause! I turned up to the pub on Wednesday night after my club had finished their ride and was greeted by the biggest cheer I have ever heard – even the owner of the pub came over & shook my hand. I was on top of the world, and this feeling lasted for weeks! I didn’t want it to stop, but... Eventually I came back to earth with a massive bump. After I got back from the press launch for one of the projects I had been finishing off at work, and all of a sudden things really had got back to normal – and to go with it I had seriously lost my riding mojo. I couldn’t get the motivation to go riding. The cold and dark of winter really wasn’t helping and I had lost my way. No matter what, I couldn’t imagine how anything could match what I had achieved. I was lost, without focus and not enjoying the sport I had loved for so long.
It took a lot to get me out of my stupor, but the advice I was given was to go ride somewhere different, no pressure – just enjoy riding again. I alsodid some decorating and spent time with my family and started getting my head straight again. Very soon I was bumping into people I hadn’t seen since my trip to NZ and they lifted my spirits as they wanted to know all about it. I owe them a lot for helping me sort myself out. Eventually I realised that each event is unique and has it’s own challenges, it’s just a matter of identifying future goals – some are just bigger than others, but often mean just as much when you get there. This became clear after Mountain Mayhem this year – OK so it’s not as big a deal as going to the World’s, but it still felt great and I had fun while competing there.
Having experienced these 2 extreme reactions I now know what to expect if I find myself in the similar situations again in the future. Expect the unexpected... don’t lose focus of why you’re doing what you do – at the end of the day, I mountain bike because I like being out in the countryside riding on dirt.
By Steve Day (World 24hr MTB single speed champion)