It’s a common feeling when you’ve been preparing for so long for something so big. The crash that comes after the event. It comes regardless of whether you were triumphant, or things didn’t go to plan. The success of the event is just a volume button really to the emptiness that is invariably felt once the euphoria (or disappointment) wears off.
Once I had decided I was going to do LEJOGLE, I spent 5 months of my life in a kind of alternative life of working, sleeping, training and planning. It was during the early days and progression of the Covid-19 pandemic, and so it helped to fill the lonliness I was feeling as a result of lockdown, working from home and all my normal activities and stress relievers being cancelled. I need balance in my life. That mixture of social activities and human interaction plus solitude that I also crave to clear my head is really important to me
I wasn’t alone at home though, my husband Del was also in exactly the same situation and we were both working from home with our new work colleagues of 2 aging border collies and 2 elusive cats. He developed new ‘hobbies’. He tended our very small garden, learned new recipes, spent his mornings learning French or doing Yoga. I just cycled.
So the hours and hours of solo training actually suited me quite well. I enjoyed the change in scenery, and once lockdown started to ease, riding further afield on quiet roads felt like a special privilege reserved for those committed individuals who needed the headspace.
The autumn edition of Arrivee, the magazine for the Audax community arrived today and contained an article of the dark corners of a cyclists soul. Reading the opening paragraphs it was like seeing a reflection of myself. Yes I am that crazy cycling lady that likes to go off and ride unfathomably long distances. And yes, I push myself hard, but the impending challenge gave me a reason to continue.
Throughout my ride, dotwatchers commented about how I was digging deep, especially through the storm. They would comment that I kept moving forward mostly with a smile on my face. But the truth is, that there was never any question of giving up. Resting a little maybe, but I was always going to ride to the end even if I had to push (which I never did thankfully). Strange though it may seem, I had never enjoyed myself more. Even when the pressure sores slowed me right down and caused me untold pain, I wanted to keep going.
You see through all of this, there was a part of me that felt that I was a real adventurer. I have always dreamed of travelling the world by bike. I have wanderlust pure and simple. An adventurer takes the good with the bad, and finds a way through. LEJOGLE was my adventure, and I was going to take whatever it threw at me. I thrive on the peverse pleasure of testing myself to my limits.
But now it’s over. I finished it, with a lot of help from many lovely strangers and friends. I became the first woman to record a cycling time from Lands End to John O’Groats and back again. The hoped for 8 days & 12 hours as specified by Guinness became unattainably by the middle of day 3, and by the end I was disappointed not to have made my hoped for 10 days either, but was glad it was over. The enjoyment had stopped by day 10.
After a week or so of catching up with media, all the related congratulations, and bringing the Virtual LEJOG fundraising mission to life, I did think that I might have avoided the inevitable emptiness that follows these things. After all, there were so many other things that I had pushed aside for months so that I could train, and I really wanted to catch up with things. In fact I couldn’t wait to get started on them.
I’m back at work, the job that pays me well enough to allow me to follow my cycling passion, and affords me some flexibility as well.
But I just can’t get excited about creating a spreadsheet, or preparing weekly reports. I’m working from home, which normally I love, but I miss the interaction from the lovely people I work with, and that was one of main parts of my job that made it worthwhile.
I caught up with Coach T last week, and we discussed the nature of ultra endurance athletes and concluded that we are all just trying to find ourselves. Whether we are trying to prove something to ourselves, running away from something or trying to fill a void in our lives, there’s always something. If you read the books of those that have done the big challenges, you’ll always find the hidden motivation within the pages. I know that I’m certainly feeling a void right now, despite having so much that I want to get done. And the lonliness has returned. It seems the need to be around people, but also have my own space is a very complex equation. It’s one I need to resolve.
I rode for mental health charity Mind, this was no accident. I spoke about it during the ride, and I know that it hit home for a number of people. We all struggle from time to time, and I guess I’ll need to watch my own emotions for a little while, until I settle back into normal life again, or my next challenge
My next post will talk about mental health some more, but if you’d like to continue to support Solent Mind, my just giving page is still open for donations at