Long-distance riding offers more time for reflection than any other discipline in the sport. ‘The Distance Diaries’ is a series of journals penned anonymously by a randonneur and, a few months on from the first entry, our rider laments a long-term injury, and the mental challenge of being in limbo.
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My injury-enforced hiatus continues. I want so desperately to fix what is wrong with me, to drag it into the light and understand it fully. I’m trying, but nothing changes. Even now I don’t know what to call this, yet a name could change everything. I thought I could thrive in ambiguity, but in reality I mourn my past definition as a cyclist. I’ve lost the one thing I liked about myself, the wellspring of my self-confidence – it’s like there’s nothing special about me anymore. Living in the stagnant in-between breeds a stress like no other, raising its head in many forms. On my worst days I harbour fictitious guilt and low self-esteem, but most hurtful is the anxiety.
Anxiety is a vacuum. It calls and I follow, first seduced then captured. In its grip I slip between the fabric that holds us all together. It drags me between details, regardless of loved ones and life’s work, sense of self and all its worth. I worry about myself, about the unknown, about loss – losing the things I need and love: my health, my relationships, my ability to be happy. How can I have let myself get here?
I visualise my femur, clamped in a muscular vice. The bone is a file that shaves away at my hips, back and forth with every pedal stroke. The idea sends a chill through my body, running its electric hands all over me. The association between riding and self-harm has been made and now I’m scared to do anything for fear of digging a deeper hole.
The injury lingers, haunting me in anonymity. I’ve experienced short-term improvements, maybe even placebos and the excitement that comes with them, but no real progression. I wish it were clearer – If I’m broken, I want to be broken beyond all recognition, to extract all false hope and start over. The limbo is unending and the setbacks demotivating. But the least I can do is not stop trying. I want giving up to be something that happens to me, not something I have to do.
I find myself in moments between moments, having thoughts of thoughts of thoughts. The introspection is exhausting and tainted by an unwanted selfishness. I’m trying to look beyond the mirror, but all I see is myself – origins that lead to endings, success polarising failure, happiness contrasted by sadness. For the most part I’m managing to exercise control. I’m still functioning.
My hyper-awareness extends physically also. My whole body is disjointed and refracted, my form is a picture traced many times over, each rendition losing clarity and character. On the eve of summer I am slowly disappearing from everyone’s lives. While my friends play out the rides we dreamed of in winter, I grow used to the rituals of rehab.
Going home is always a test. When I leave, without fail, my parents offer for me to stay. Until recently I’ve had something to pursue and a reason to move on, but now I’m scared to go home, scared of their kindness – I’m fragile to the point of submission. All I want is for someone to take care of me, and rejecting them is a contradiction I can’t understand. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My awareness of my internal workings borders on the unbearable. I don’t care about greatness, I don’t want to be unique anymore, I just want to be well.