Bad days happen to the best of us

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Sometimes you have a bad day on the bike. This past weekend, I had one of them. My team and I were in Lorne for Amy’s Otway Classic, an NRS round accompanying Amy’s Gran Fondo. I’ve been excited about this race for months.

It was suited to me and my Specialized Securitor team. Sunday’s road race had two major 10-kilometre climbs, which excited my inner climber. Plus they’d beefed racing up this year by adding a brutal hot dog crit, with heaps of time bonuses available, which was sure to make racing interesting.

My training has gone along nicely leading up to race weekend. I was feeling good and looking forward to great racing and hanging out with my teammates by the beach.

Saturday’s crit was as brutal as expected. It was full gas from the start, and the tight corners had everyone strung out. More than half the field was shelled early on and only 17 women finished in the main bunch – including four of my teammates. We were on track for one of our goals, which was to take out the team classification.

While the team was collectively on a good day, I was not. As soon as I finished the crit, I realised that I’d done something to my neck. The muscles had seized up and I was in a lot of pain. I was frozen on my bike, barely able to move.

Immediately I went into recovery mode because I needed to be better for the road race on Sunday. I took a hot shower, got a massage and applied deep heat to my neck. The legs didn’t miss out as I stood in the icy ocean and put on the compression. I gingerly went about the rest of the afternoon, but I couldn’t move my head. I was worried about how I’d go about racing the next day.

I wasn’t comfortable all night. I got up in the morning with limited movement, and I still had some pain. I told myself I would be right once I got going. “Just get on your bike,” I pep-talked myself. “We can do well as a team in this race. We have a job to do. You have a job to do. Let’s get out there and get ‘er done.”

Thirty-two minutes later, I dropped back to the back of the bunch, hand up and race over. My neck was too sore. My head felt like it was going to explode. I couldn’t focus on what was going on in the bunch. Although emotionally I felt otherwise, I knew the smart option was to abandon.

Most cyclists can relate to the pressure of self-created expectation. You train your butt off every day, and when you can’t hit the target that you’ve trained for so diligently, it’s very disappointing. It is so hard to DNF. It was heart-breaking to look my sport director in the eye and say, “I need to get in the car.” I felt defeated.

But sometimes you need to ignore your head and do what is right for your body. I could have made this injury worse by pushing through the pain or I could have crashed because of my limited mobility and inability to think straight. I could have ended my season just because a little voice in my head was telling me to push on despite the pain.

Everyone has a bad day at some point. You get in injured. You crash. You inexplicably show up with bad legs. You get dropped and you don’t understand why. Sometimes you might even have trouble talking yourself into getting out the door and on your bike.

There’s a fine line between pushing yourself to perform and recognising that today is not the day. Today you need to take a step back and keep the big picture in mind. A bad day doesn’t mean it’s all unraveling. It simply means this day isn’t for you – because every day can’t be magic on the bike. When you have a bad day, accept it for what it is and remain open to all the good days yet to come.

Oh – and my team managed to pull out some strong results in Lorne despite being one woman short. We put two in the top 10 and won the team classification. As for me, I’m going to get some treatment on my neck this week in the hope that I’ll be fresh and ready to rally for Canberra Tour next weekend.

About the author

The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.

She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.

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