The mountain does not wait for your form to return.

Patience

by / / 51 posts

It’s been about a month since I’ve last been on the bike; I can’t recall the last time I went for such a dry spell. The reasons don’t matter; life and work have been hectic, I moved, the bikes were just out of order and inaccessible enough to make it easy to find an excuse not to kit up and head out onto the roads. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really want to ride.

It happens every so often, this strange desire not to ride. It’s different from the usual one where you don’t really want to go out on any particular day; this is has more to do with burnout than laziness. I’ve learned to wait it out; the desire always comes back, organically and strongly. And come back it did, although it did take a bit longer than I expected.

With coming back to the bike after a while off always looms a long shadow of dread. My legs are soft; I feel it in every step I take. Running up the stairs, my body doesn’t feel as springy and I know that springiness will translate to lethargy on the bike. Out on the bike, I labor with the gradient; the ease with which I once scaled the local climbs hangs in my memory like a dream whose details vanish the more you try to call them into focussed thought.

To prepare myself mentally for the first ride back, I did what every sensible person does: I poured myself a beer, tidied up the bike room, and set about meticulously cleaning my bikes in order to preemptively remove any opportunity for those being an excuse. The bike itself needs to be in perfect working order lest my mind should fixate on the slightest malfunction or noise and descend into a Millarcopter-inducing fit of rage.

Patience will be my mantra for the coming months, patience. I will not push myself too much, I will let the joy of the ride envelop me. Within a few weeks, a shadow of something resembling strength will take shape in my muscles, and it will spur me on to ride more. Eventually, the power will return and the memories of this drought will take their place in the catacombs of my mind.

// La Vie Velominatus

  1. As I get older I fear that if I stop for long it will be too hard to start again.

  2. @ChrisO

    As I get older I fear that if I stop for long it will be too hard to start again.

    Exactly. And as I am old enough, I’ve found myself canceling this evening rain ride to be with family at home for holiday LEGO nite. Although the makeup Thursday ride duration will dip into the 30’s before it is done – that will work.

  3. I am experiencing the same since my winter bike being out for about a month due a troubling experience with a truing stand, and the very slow journey to the realization, that I just can’t true a wheel…

    Finally, I have been able to turn this into a mini Rule #12 experience…. “I never liked those wheels anyways, they aren’t worth bringing to the LBS to get fixed. This bike has way too much Shimano on it anyways, what I need is a new set of wheels and a nice Campag set to throw my Group-san off-kilter!”, hopefully will be able to get back in very slow and slightly heavy action soon..

  4. These short days darken. Relocating darkens. Social and romantic discontent darkens. The impending death of a loyal companion darkens.
    Depression is a lot like The Man With The Hammer, for some of us. You can do a lot to stave it off. You can go months without being smashed. You can train yourself into form to avoid being smashed. You can do all of these things, but he and his Hammer will always lurk nearby; and so too does the darkness of depression. When the time comes, the darkness WILL fall, just like The Hammer.
    I had a bike a while back, but it wasn’t until I needed an outlet three years ago after a terrible breakup that I fell in love with riding. Seeking The Man With The Hammer became a way of life. Feeling the blow of that Hammer became therapeutic for me, as the pain of utter exhaustion was nearly the only thing that could drown the pain of depression for me. Riding was like cranking a dynamo, feeding the light bulb that was, and is my life. The more and harder I rode, the brighter things got. I met friends. I developed new goals; new dreams. I pedaled through the darkness that comes before the dawn and rode my way into the glorious (if occasionally rainy) day that has been the last 2 years.
    And then came the sunset. A sunset as beautiful as could ever be imagined. Painted on the background of a long-needed move, an escape, really, from living somewhere I did not like. The sunset, A masterpiece, highlighted with the vibrant rays of a beautiful but fleeting romance… a romance as brilliant and fleeting as the pinks, purples, azures and oranges that spill across the sky as the sun sinks towards the western horizon. And tinged with the dark knowledge that my best friend and most loyal partner is being consumed by cancer.
    The sun’s last rays fade, like that romance has and like Buddy’s life soon will, leaving the cold reality of life shrouded in darkness.
    It is night. A dog can never be replaced. A woman may never be forgotten. What was, may never again be. But I know the way towards the light is on the bike. I know that Rule #6 can work in reverse.
    So yes, ‘Patience’ will be the mantra for the coming months. I too, will experience a shadow of something resembling strength begin to take shape in my muscles and in my heart, and it will spur me on to ride more. And yes, eventually, the power will return and the memories of this darkness will take their place in the catacombs of my mind as a new day dawns.
  5. Kia kaha, @KlamSoss

  6. @KlamSoss

    I really enjoyed that

  7. @KlamSoss

    I see you, “Klam Soss.” Raising a non-ABI beverage to Buddy tonight, all the way down here in Houston.

  8. @ChrisO

    For over thirty years, I have always feared that when spring came, I wouldn’t be waiting for that first warm day, to go for that first long ride, where even thou you dressed light, your still a little too warm, you can feel summer is just around the corner. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened yet.

  9. Too Fat To Climb. A fate worse than death. Which reminds me I need to stop cramming down the calories and get out in the rain. If I see a lanky Dutchman huffing and puffing so much the better.

  10. @KlamSoss

    I see you, “Klam”. Raising a non-ABI beverage in Buddy’s honor tonight, and sending happy beams from Houston,

  11. @universo

    A cyclist and a Lego enthusiast, you’re the best sort of person.

  12. I recently took time away from the bike as I moved from New Mexico to southern California for my job. It took two months out of what had been a great year of riding for me. From July to September I stared at boxes of cardboard, always putting off the inevitable reassembly after a long move. I do have to say that after two great days in the hills and mountains around northern Los Angeles in the middle of December those two months are not so sad a loss. I still cannot understand riding in December with nothing more than arm warmers and a forecast of 60 degree days and sunshine. I don’t think “winter base miles” exists here.

  13. @KlamSoss

    Another guest contributor in the making!

  14. @Frank must have spilled some espresso or ale on this picture from Pellos? You can still get them for 20 GBP, get your clean copy here: http://galibier.cc/product/revenge-mountain-fine-screen-print/

  15. @DCR

    Arm warmers, in the 60’s? (BTW can’t we go continental on temps too?) Round these parts that would be short sleeves, and guns out probably getting a Flemish Tan!

  16. Patience, yes. Patience is key. Preparing for the early season races I know I must be patiently training in accordance with my plan. I’m not racing yet, so performance doesn’t matter, just the intensity of effort. High when needed, low when planned.

    However, the regular base miles to and from work and the efforts at the velodrome are starting to pay off; I can feel it. I can feel that my legs have the capacity to ramp up the power, and kick…and kick again. A couple more months of effort and, with patience, full form will come.

  17. @Frank,

    Not to worry. Indurain never did a thing except eat and nap from his season ending race until December 1. On that day he would ride 50km, at a pedestrian pace. That would kick off his methodical build to Le Tour. That is patience. You have hope, Dusseldorf is still 7 months away.

  18. Holy cannoli, I needed that! Just last weekend, after doing some cross riding and realizing I’m horribly out of shape, I found myself wondering if I’d lost my love of cycling. Will it come back? What is wrong with me? Will I ever enjoy 3 hour road rides again? What in the hell am I going to do with all these damn bikes and clothes and lights and helmets and shoes and tools?

    I sincerely mean it that it’s comforting to know other Followers & Founders are going through, or have gone through, these spells. Considering that cycling has given a lot of meaning, fun, focus, fitness, mindfulness, and happiness to my life in the last 14 years, which is when I began avidly riding, I absolutely cannot imagine my life without it. And, to be honest, I really felt an inner sense of fear when I started questioning if I’d lost the love.

    I haven’t had the time to ride lately, not with a 7 month old in our hands. My form is awful, so it makes riding that much less fun. It’s harder, when it used to be easy. Then I took five weeks off from twice-weekly soccer to let an injury heal. Losing both forms of movement crippled my fitness level.

    I’m at a new place in my life, both with a newborn and a career transition. Patience is a virtue I lack, but I think now is a time in my life to really work on finding this.

    Thank you Frank & others for the inspiring words. I don’t feel as alone, as fearful, or as desperate. I already feel the cloud of questioning lifting.

  19. @ChrisO

    As I get older I fear that if I stop for long it will be too hard to start again.

    Just in the last few months I’ve started to feel old. Maybe it’s having our first child and that feeling/reality of more responsibility and living not just for yourself anymore. But, beyond the mental change, I’m definitely noticing changes in my body and athletic ability. I can no longer drink and eat without much consideration and then go tap out a century or run for 90 minutes.

    Oh well, it’s high time to take better care of myself and be a bit more mindful.

  20. @KlamSoss

    Bravo. One of the finest pieces of writing I’ve come across lately.

    I have a friend with a different (but similar) struggle and your words echo around my head. Thank you.

  21. @Ron

    Sonny, you plain ain’t old ! (Insert optional random punctuation keys here).

    The benefit I have of losing some of whatever Summer fitness I had is that I found at the weekend that my main riding buddy is in even worse shape.

  22. When I was a young rider, my impatience and desire to keep adding strength led to digging a deep hole of over-training. Fast forward to now, I’ve finally learned to listen to my body and mind. Where before I would drive through the malaise, now I step off and relax a while. Certainly a long break does soften the legs and add to the belly if you are a beer drinker as I am. But that time away allows those little injuries to heal that nag but do not stop you from riding. It also clears the mind of taking for granted that special feeling of freedom as you ride. Patience, yes. Spring and Summer is coming, as it did last year, as it will next. You will ride, the legs will come around, the belly will shrink.

  23. @KlamSoss
    Very nice.

  24. Thanks Frank. A helpful reminder.

    The past three weeks have been impossibly busy for me. I took a couple days off to spend with my wife, and spent most of the time working on a school project.

    Yesterday, with the project nearly finished, the sun out, and a rare few hours of daylight at my disposal, I stared at my bike locked up on the porch and just couldn’t get myself on it.

    I can tell I’m already gaining weight. Shorter days means getting on the road happens less – cold, dark rides just aren’t as rejuvenating – which means beer takes on a greater role in stress relief.

    How to balance embracing the burnout with the desire to improve though? I’ve got goals for next year.

  25. work has cut my 200 mile per week program back to about 100, if i’m lucky. did a cold 40 miles at tempo in the fog this morning, and it felt great. i was lucky to be riding with an accomplished local velominatus, so i stayed on pace the whole way. better than climbing the same bridge 30 times, which is what some of my rides lately have amounted to.

  26. @KlamSoss

    Damn! Nice perspective.

  27. I love that picture. It reminds me of The Triplets of Belleville.

  28. I broke my leg, so there.s my excuse. Hope to be back on the trainer soon. It.s been 6 weeks and I.m flat out mad, depressed, and way too devoted to finding the right formula for the perfect cup of coffee via aeropress, but that.s another story entirely. Thor waits for us all.

  29. @SamV

    How to balance embracing the burnout with the desire to improve though? I’ve got goals for next year.

    By accident and the way the racing calendar works, for the past two seasons I’ve planned my first peak to before the first races and TT’s of the season. This has three effects:

    1. Base miles are done at the end of the summer and in the autumn when it is pleasant to long rides.

    2. Intensity ramps up/volume goes down through the winter meaning that when I’m out on the road I have a distinct goal.

    3. The turbo becomes more important in building form and I don’t begrudge the time on it when its dark and the weather is crap (which I would if it were the summer).

    After the early season races I plan to ease off for a bit, then build up again for another peak towards the end of the season.

  30. @RobSandy

    Holy shit what’s wrong with my writing today?

  31. @ChrisO

    As I get older I fear that if I stop for long it will be too hard to start again.

    Precisely what can happen. I can speak of that experience this year. BUT, that’s when interest in race directing and coaching increases! Cheers

  32. @Teocalli

    @Ron

    Sonny, you plain ain’t old ! (Insert optional random punctuation keys here).

    The benefit I have of losing some of whatever Summer fitness I had is that I found at the weekend that my main riding buddy is in even worse shape.

    Ha, I know! One upside of having a newborn is you’re too crazed, busy, and sleep-deprived to reflect on any existential matters.

  33. Holy Shit, Batman! That lead photo seems so Nazi to me (maybe it is the local German influence???) but damn that is great. Is it a Rouleur image?

    As for “Running up the stairs, my body doesn’t feel as springy and I know that springiness will translate to lethargy on the bike”, I am the opposite. If I feel springy on the stairs, I know that I have not been riding hard enough lately as normally my legs are dead and a bit burny when climbing stairs but if I have not been riding, they feel fresh on the stairs.

    (and welcome back, Mate! You’ve been missed!)

  34. So, I’m not alone in being crazy busy in December and neglecting my form? Woo hoo!

  35. @BacklashJack

    So, I’m not alone in being crazy busy in December and neglecting my form? Woo hoo!

    Funnily enough I’ve just been thinking I need to build in a bit of neglect.

    My PMC has been going along nicely but I need a bit of a dip now and then or it isn’t sustainable.

  36. @Ron

    @Teocalli

    @Ron

    Sonny, you plain ain’t old ! (Insert optional random punctuation keys here).

    The benefit I have of losing some of whatever Summer fitness I had is that I found at the weekend that my main riding buddy is in even worse shape.

    Ha, I know! One upside of having a newborn is you’re too crazed, busy, and sleep-deprived to reflect on any existential matters.

    I think the plea for patience applies to your situation equally as well, Ron. They don’t stay tiny very long in the scheme of things, and you’ll find your way back to ‘normal’ pretty quick. Of course it’ll be a different ‘normal’ than before, inevitably with less time for yourself.

    If it’s any encouragement I’ve got a 5 year old and I’ve been riding an average of 6-7 hours a week since he was coming up 4. I just fit the hours in unusual times (i.e. long rides on the weekend are out, extended early morning commutes are in). It can be done. And your kids are more important than cycling anyway. Emoticon.

  37. @KlamSoss

    These short days darken. Relocating darkens. Social and romantic discontent darkens. The impending death of a loyal companion darkens.
    Depression is a lot like The Man With The Hammer, for some of us. You can do a lot to stave it off. You can go months without being smashed. You can train yourself into form to avoid being smashed. You can do all of these things, but he and his Hammer will always lurk nearby; and so too does the darkness of depression. When the time comes, the darkness WILL fall, just like The Hammer.
    I had a bike a while back, but it wasn’t until I needed an outlet three years ago after a terrible breakup that I fell in love with riding. Seeking The Man With The Hammer became a way of life. Feeling the blow of that Hammer became therapeutic for me, as the pain of utter exhaustion was nearly the only thing that could drown the pain of depression for me. Riding was like cranking a dynamo, feeding the light bulb that was, and is my life. The more and harder I rode, the brighter things got. I met friends. I developed new goals; new dreams. I pedaled through the darkness that comes before the dawn and rode my way into the glorious (if occasionally rainy) day that has been the last 2 years.
    And then came the sunset. A sunset as beautiful as could ever be imagined. Painted on the background of a long-needed move, an escape, really, from living somewhere I did not like. The sunset, A masterpiece, highlighted with the vibrant rays of a beautiful but fleeting romance… a romance as brilliant and fleeting as the pinks, purples, azures and oranges that spill across the sky as the sun sinks towards the western horizon. And tinged with the dark knowledge that my best friend and most loyal partner is being consumed by cancer.
    The sun’s last rays fade, like that romance has and like Buddy’s life soon will, leaving the cold reality of life shrouded in darkness.
    It is night. A dog can never be replaced. A woman may never be forgotten. What was, may never again be. But I know the way towards the light is on the bike. I know that Rule #6 can work in reverse.
    So yes, ‘Patience’ will be the mantra for the coming months. I too, will experience a shadow of something resembling strength begin to take shape in my muscles and in my heart, and it will spur me on to ride more. And yes, eventually, the power will return and the memories of this darkness will take their place in the catacombs of my mind as a new day dawns.

    this is quite a piece of writing. my best to you in this difficult time. this resonates with me. i lost my little buddy yesterday morning to a brain tumor. he had a great life.

  38. @RobSandy

    @SamV

    How to balance embracing the burnout with the desire to improve though? I’ve got goals for next year.

    By accident and the way the racing calendar works, for the past two seasons I’ve planned my first peak to before the first races and TT’s of the season. This has three effects:

    1. Base miles are done at the end of the summer and in the autumn when it is pleasant to long rides.

    2. Intensity ramps up/volume goes down through the winter meaning that when I’m out on the road I have a distinct goal.

    3. The turbo becomes more important in building form and I don’t begrudge the time on it when its dark and the weather is crap (which I would if it were the summer).

    After the early season races I plan to ease off for a bit, then build up again for another peak towards the end of the season.

    Thanks Rob! Interesting that it’s almost the inverse of what I’d expect, but it makes sense if I think about it, especially points 2 and 3. What I’m having a hard time with is just getting motivated to get on the turbo. Broadly, my goal is to do low-volume, high intensity sessions through January, easing off volume slightly in February, bringing it back up in March and starting to mingle in more road rides the closer we get to spring. I’m only planning on doing one race this year (end of July), but I’d like to do it well.

    You’re welcome to critique my “training plan,” but that’s not what I’m after. My woe is a tale of two competing desires and the reconciliation thereof: replenishing the depleted wells of discipline and self-control versus finding the fortitude to put in the work to become a faster rider.

    @Cary Damn. Sorry for your loss.

  39. @Cary

    So sorry for your loss. I hope that you can find peace in the coming weeks. These partings are always so hard and esp so during the Holiday season.

  40. @ChrisO

    @BacklashJack

    So, I’m not alone in being crazy busy in December and neglecting my form? Woo hoo!

    Funnily enough I’ve just been thinking I need to build in a bit of neglect.

    My PMC has been going along nicely but I need a bit of a dip now and then or it isn’t sustainable.

    I like to think that I neglect one form for another. Right now, “round” more approximates my condition.

  41. @KlamSoss

    I so feel for your pain, having been there myself. And lord how your post resonates. Even to the place I did not like. All I can say is I’m out the other side, and no doubt at all the rides heloped me through it. I’m going out today, and like a Buddhist prayer wheel, every turn of the crank wI’ll be for you.

  42. @Joe Bloggs

    It’s all relative. I’m getting used to constant 70° to 80° days. Low sixties feels chilly. And due to the drought here there is a very low chance of a Flemish tan happening. I will say I miss the hard days in the saddle fighting exhaustion, frost bite, and losing the bike on an icy turn.

  43. Thanks @frank for posting this, and thanks to all of the commenters—this is exactly what I needed to read tonight. I’ve been off the bike for a while as well. Roughly three years to be exact. Excuses come easy—work, children, family, other made up things…

    I’ve made plenty of excuses to not be on the bike only to discover that those excuses are actually reasons to be on the bike. Riding makes me eat better, sleep better, laugh more, and it makes me a better worker. More importantly, it makes me a better father. I need to ride not only to expose my children to the sport, but to be a happy father for them. They deserve to live in a happy house and I can’t imagine a house being happy without bikes and the people who ride them.

    I’ve been back on my bike consistently since the end of October. I’m not good for much more than 40 miles right now, but it’s coming back. Patience.

  44. @frank that makes two of us. 3 weeks off here for no other reason than work, big illness, and sheer fuckn laziness.

    Like you, I will now show patience on the comeback trail. Dont reckon the infamous Garmin will even get turned on.

    “No Garmin, No Rules” Well some rules maybe, we aren’t savages after all.

  45. If riding is to be a lifetime thing, patience is what it’s all about.

  46. Long time lurker here!

    After a year of excuses many on here will recognise (work, kids and a DIY “project”) I’ve barely ridden a quarter of last years mileage and nothing at all for the last 3 months.

    Today I was presented with an opportunity to cycle to the in-laws that had to be taken. What followed was 30 long horrible miles in to a headwind. It was brutal.

    But now, now I feel great. I know that was the hardest it will be and I’m back on the bike at last.

    Most importantly though for the first time in ages I’ve earned my malted recovery beverage!

  47. i just concluded my own month long layoff this morning. holidays, a chest cold, and my family’s health insurance policies being discontinued, with the resultant scramble of research and daily phone calls, all kinda ganged up on me, and i basically spent a month in bed doing business on my laptop and ignoring the world at large. 40k today felt like 80k, and i struggled to average 30k/hr. but damn my bike felt good as it ate the asphalt.

  48. I recently had surgery to repair a leaky brain blood vessel. (It is not as scary as it sounds). I was off the bike for over a month (doctor’s orders which also included no climbing at all). I must admit that the forced histus was somewhat enjoyable. Today was my third ride post surgery, the legs feel rubbery and my arse aches. Patience…patience…patience. Thanks for the reminder.

  49. @EJ Acosta

    I recently had surgery to repair a leaky brain blood vessel. (It is not as scary as it sounds). I was off the bike for over a month (doctor’s orders which also included no climbing at all). I must admit that the forced histus was somewhat enjoyable. Today was my third ride post surgery, the legs feel rubbery and my arse aches. Patience…patience…patience. Thanks for the reminder.

    Keep well, best wishes.

  50. @Teocalli

    Thank you. The riding is getting better.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar