By Bryn Davies, Windover ambassador
Well, it sucks. As I write this I’m sat on the train returning home from a scratch at the Highland Trail 550. A scratch simply means stopping, quitting the route for whatever reason. For me, the reason was due to a bout of sickness. I’m not going to dwell too much on the ride, for this blog I want to focus on the mindset after the reality of being forced to stop something you’ve been working towards for 6 months. However, for context I’ll explain my race briefly.
It started well, I’d had a slightly dodgy stomach that morning but I put it down to a bit of nerves. As I lined up to start the 550 mile route I felt ready. This has been my focus and aim for the past 6 months. Tailoring my training and focus my mind into the effort required to be competitive. I’d worked hard. Really hard. Put a lot of hours in and invested a lot of time into my bike set up, making sure everything worked ok. I’d made it to the start and on the first climb, I felt ok. I noticed my heart rate was higher than expected but again, that could be a bit of nerves. I settled in but not getting comfortable, feeling I was straining in a way it’s hard to explain. I can ride this pace comfortably usually however it feels strained so come the next climb I knocked it back. By this point I was dripping in sweat, keep in mind this is Scotland and despite the good weather it was no more than 15 degrees. This was again a little strange. I just felt unfit. Keeping on I caught up my coach, Rich Rothwell. We chatted and he pressed on a bit. Again, I felt weak. Keeping on and trying to top up on a bit of food in case I was under fuelled. Another climb came and this time I felt worse, I stopped the open a gate and got incredibly lightheaded. From here it was a down hill spiral, I vomited my entire stomach content out. Not particularly useful when you’re riding these distances. This further added to not feeling great as you can expect. From here my stomach issues continued. A last minute dash into trees gives some context of what was going on. This continued for the next 7 hours. I thought I’d see if I could ride into it. Try and see if the feeling would wear off but I couldn’t eat anything. I rode 7 hours on about 12 Haribos. I got to Fort Augustus, shivering, pale and feeling terrible. The decision was made. I was done.
So, back to present times. As I dotwatch others I think more what could have been. In great form and a course which suits my abilities well. Constantly going round in my head the thought that I could of continued. Was I just being weak? No of course not, but the mind deals with disappointment in weird ways, and for me it’s pretty self destructive.
The first thing I felt was a guilt to myself. I felt I’d let myself down. This was mixed with sever
disappointment as I knew there was nothing I could do. It wasn’t as if I’d done anything wrong, it was out of my hands but I was desperately looking for a way to blame myself. I think it stems from my desire to constantly do better. This is something I’ve always done. I struggle to be context with a performance and the first thing isn’t happiness it’s looking for what I did wrong. Over the years I’ve got better at trying to deal with this mindset. Learning to be happy with a performance even if I could of done better. It used to plague my enjoyment of races as a junior, always wanting to impress and do better. Despite working on this I do still struggle slightly. Dales divide, earlier this year, for instance. I was initially disappointed. Not because of the outcome but because I’d already compiled a list of things l’d done wrong. This eventually was pushed away and my positive feelings of the ride
started to emerge, but you can see how a mindset like this can be a challenge when dealing with a disappointment like scratching.
A few days post scratch now and it’s slightly easier to take. However as I begin to feel better and my sickness clears a bit I second guess my choice, another obviously stupid and wrong thing to do but it’s a natural reaction. I’m trying to put the energy towards my next challenge which will be in 3 weeks from now. Migration and Evolution gravel. I find this is the most constructive way to deal with disappointment. However, it needs to be in moderation. Before now doing this has lead to me overtraining as ‘punishment’ however, I’m wiser now. This time it’ll be a focus to help me stay motivated and train to the best of my ability. Being able to start an event clear of any lasting thoughts of previous disappointment is so important. If I don’t it’s much easier to second guess things if something goes wrong. The old “what if I wasn’t ill at HT550 and I’m just a shit bike rider”. That helps no one so a clear mind is a happy mind. The best way to combat these thoughts and clear the mind for me is to get out doing what I love. Riding my bike. Long days out exploring really reminds me my love for cycling and gets me excited to go and race. Sometimes that’s all it takes, and already coming back from HT550, I’m hungry to get back. Between bouts of feeling sick I’m dreaming of the next ride. I think I’ll give it a few days tho!