By Susan Plonsky
Having survived all the ordeals, having cheated death, at the end of the story heroes return home. However, they continue their journeys with the sense that they have been changed by the experience and are starting a new phase in their lives. Heroes (both women and men) bring back a prize, whether it be wisdom, experience, money, love, fame, or the adventure of a lifetime.
After the randonnée is the time to bring your cycling experience back into your daily life. You are more than you were before. You may decide you’re more persistent, resourceful, adaptable, focused, confident, in control, compassionate, ruthless, helpful, more alive, more aware, more whole, or more human. After the event is a time to reflect on how you want to carry that forward, not only in your cycling but in your daily life as well. It’s time to acknowledge the change, if only to yourself, and it’s time to celebrate it, no matter what the result.
From Hero to Zero
Returning to every day life is sometimes a letdown. Other people may not acknowledge the change. You’re not mentioned in cyclingnews.com. You have no trophies, no TV coverage. It seems the longer the ride or the richer the experience, the bigger the letdown.
Your experience may be diminished or lost in the onslaught of daily life. Not everyone will understand it. Most people can’t imagine riding 250 miles in a day or 750 miles over four days. In all fairness, if you’ve never been on a bike more than a couple hours, there may be no way to explain ultra cycling.
Others may even dismiss, criticize, or minimize the experience without intending to do so. Other cyclists may want to know your average speed or if you won, as if everything were a contest. Some people will claim that anybody can go that far if they just sit in the saddle long enough. Your boss may feel threatened to hear that something is as important or more important than your work life.
Marking a Passage
The transition between cycling seasons is an opportunity to mark a passage. Take time to reflect and acknowledge your emotions and reactions. How have you been changed by this passage? Is there a gift to be claimed? What do you want the next part of your life to look like?
Here are some activities that may help you with the answers:
1. Don’t shove that medal or event jersey into a drawer when you get home. Leave it out where you can see it daily and savor the experience while it’s fresh in your mind.
2. As soon as you can after the ride, journal about the experience or write a ride report. Find the positive in the event first, even if it didn’t go the way you wanted.
3. Learn from your past. Every event or race is an event in itself and a practice run for the next event. Even if your event was totally successful, make a list of things to try next time to make the next event even better.
4. Accept responsibility. We tend to attribute success to our efforts and we tend to blame external forces or other people for our failures. This is our way of preserving our self esteem and protecting ourselves from getting hurt. While such an attitude may provide temporary relief, it also prevents us from taking appropriate actions to deal with our failures. By accepting responsibility you bring the problem within your realm of control where you can then deal with it.
5. If something happened during the ride that you feel you didn’t handle particularly well, visualize the scene, but this time imagine yourself acting in ways that make you proud of yourself. Be careful not to visualize anything you wouldn’t want to become a reality.
6. Above all, find ways to celebrate the end of another cycling season. Reconnect with friends and family, buy yourself a gift, or ride with a friend who’s doing his/her first century.