Dear Diary 013: Post-Cyclocross Depression

[Lede photo by PDXcross]

The cyclocross high is wearing off and the hangover is heavy. In January I’ll go to California and get 5 more races in, but I might as well be a junkie at a methadone clinic. I know it’s ending. It won’t be the same. It will just keep me from jumping out the window.

It’s not that I miss the mud or the bike washing or the post-race track hack. I don’t miss the cost of replacing equipment or the pre-race warmups or the 39-degrees-and-raining start lines.

It’s the vortex that I miss.

The 45 minutes of unrelenting focus. A tiny slice of time in which I am reduced to crude physiology – violent circulation of blood, desperate dissemination of oxygen to muscles, a brain attempting to override and nullify notifications about widespread pain and suffering. This isn’t happening. it says I don’t believe you. [Shutup, legs!]

How incredible is it to be able to go out once a week, sharpen yourself into a point and cut into the deep, unpretty parts of your brain. It’s not that we are pedaling away from our troubles, because they’re back as soon as the checkered flag waves and our frozen fingers reach for the brakes to call it a day. It’s not a suspension of reality or an escape – it’s an intensification of everything that is inside. It’s a risk we take. A risk that always pays off, even when it doesn’t.

Last week on the night before my race I sat in a hot bath and studied my legs. Knee swollen and yellow from an icy early morning crash on the nationals course before it had turned into a muddy hell. Scar on my knee still plump and purplish and maybe a little tender from where I went down and jammed a piece of gravel into my flesh during the first race of the season.

My elbow is developing a constellation of shiny arcs and slashes – slivers of damaged skin in chaotic patterns that trace the memory of a fast crash on a bad day in a good town. When it’s cold my left shoulder aches from the inside out. The skin on my left hip is tight and red and angry and reflective in a single line just below the top of my hip bone.

It’s been a long season. Staring down at so much damaged skin and bone, I couldn’t help but sigh. I thought can you do this for me one more time, body? Please? Just once and then we’ll rest? It did it’s best and I can’t say that I blame it for feeling weary.

It’s good that ‘cross is ending. I get that. It can’t go on forever.

Super cheery people attempt to console us by reminding us that it’s time to ski! Or, now it’s time for long, slow rides with our friends! Winter training!

I acknowledge that their intentions are good and their points often valid, but sometimes I feel like my 13-year-old best-friend-love-of-my-life dog just died and they are standing on my doorstep with a puppy wrapped in ribbons and rainbows. It’s not time yet, man. Let me have this desolation for a little while.

I’m listening to sad songs on repeat and mourning more than just the loss of this season. There’s something about cyclocross that makes me a better person. More willing to walk with you to the edge, more willing to put my hand out and connect, more open and vulnerable and humble and terrified and elated.

More everything.


[Photo courtesy of PDXcross]

10 Responses to “Dear Diary 013: Post-Cyclocross Depression”

  1. Caroline says:

    I worry about you!

  2. snarkypants says:

    :) I always bounce back!

  3. Chris C says:

    I’m on vacation and feeling the same vacuum… You guys going to come race Surf City series in January? See you guys then!

  4. Serena says:

    Heidi – I feel you. 100%. We are addicts. Period.

    This is an email string Ben and I shared yesterday…post cross depression abounds….

    Ben: Will you be joining in for the swim?

    Serena: No, I think I will just bake you some brownies.
    Actually, I think I am going to ride my bike. It’s Thursday, seems like a good idea.

    Ben: Not this week champ. 6 weeks off right?

    Serena: Not 6 weeks off the bike, just 6 weeks off the hard stuff. Like a drug addict. They can’t have heroin, but a joint here and there is just fine.

    Ben: Are you really getting on your bike?

  5. beth h says:

    I don’t know the context of the photo of you and the little one but it is one of the most beautiful shots of the entire racing season.
    I hated my USGP race — the suffering, the stupid course, all of it — and yet I somehow miss it, too. Go figure.

  6. Jeff says:

    Heidi, I hope you liked the pictures of you taking pictures, thought it was kind of cool. Told my wife today that I must have a post cross hang over. Too bad it is lasting this whole week. Like you said, I don’t miss the shit, but I miss getting pumped up, I miss having a bike to get ready. I miss not having something to get ready for. I do feel like an addict this week. Trying to get into the guitar this week, took me until today to pick it up… Going to Tucson next week, going to get back on the bike…

  7. Remy says:

    I inhabit my brain and body so much differently when I race. I struggle with them more. I appreciate them more. I not sure I was ready for my season to end but I began looking ahead to what I would feel like next season. I have never felt stronger or more dedicated or more hard core than I did riding my cross bike this year. I want more of that. I had a moment on the mountain recently when something felt familiar…the minutes swooping down the face my mind and body went back to that place. That big free yet focused place. God, I love it there.

  8. ludo dx says:

    I love your words. Thank You for sharing your gut feelings that some of us feel but are not able to put into as well as you do. You should try skate skiing if you are looking for snow covered suffering without the mud.

  9. James says:

    Ms. Swift, you are awesome. great post.

  10. Pat says:

    “The 45 minutes of unrelenting focus. A tiny slice of time in which I am reduced to crude physiology” – poetry! This defines exactly why I’m a Cxaholic. Don’t worry Heidi, only 8 short months until the madness and cowbell starts again ;-)