‘Time to suck it up, Princess’: Loren Rowney on dealing with post-tour depression and disappointment

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Post Tour Depression. It’s a thing, at least for me.

When you’ve been on the road for a while, you become this walking, talking robot, reliant on being told where to be and what to do. A typical tour day goes a little something like this:

– Wake up
Wake up around one hour before “scheduled departure” (sometimes you are awoken before your alarm due to hunger pains – again this may just be me!), perhaps hit snooze for 5 minutes, wake up again, sigh, literally roll out of your bed, straight into team-issued trackies, sneak, army crawl out of the room if your roomie is not awake yet (this is always me because sleeping is not my super power…usually my shirt is on inside out, I’m carrying my trainers in one hand, phone in my mouth, using my other hand to try and close the door as quietly as possible).

– Food
Bee line for the breakfast buffet, coffee is the first thing I do before anything else. Good or bad, I will drink it. Day one, day two, you’re usually so pumped about the breakfast spread (the Aviva Women’s Tour did not disappoint). Most of us competing at the professional level are massive foodies, with breakfast as the most anticipated and awaited meal of the day. By the end of the tour however, you’re not so pumped anymore about all those delicious breakfast possibilities. You’re just trying to shovel in whatever you can…generally something very bland at this point (for me, it is bread, butter and ham). You’re just at the point where eating is purely for fueling purposes, and no longer enjoyment. For a foodie, this is a sad thing to admit, because I live to eat or, as my instagram bio says, “ride to eat.”

– Transfer
Then it is time for the transfer to the start of the race. This can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours. This is a time to talk smack with your teammates, pump tunes, take another look at the stage, and try to anticipate how the race will pan out. Towards the end of the tour, the motivation for some is still very high, but for others all motivation may be lost by this point and it is more about survival mode and just getting to that finish line every day.

I have been there, done that. In fact, in the Aviva Women’s Tour last year I was so tired and cracked that I was in pure survival mode. It’s a horrible way to be. You’re just holding on for dear life every day, trying to contribute to the team plan, and you’re just not able to do jack shit.

This year however, I was feeling pretty good, and I was super motivated all week. Motivation is not usually something I’m lacking. When you have such an awesome bunch of people around you, you always find a way to rally. This year I so desperately wanted to see the team get up for a stage win. Even with all the bad luck we had throughout the week with injury and illness, my team and I were still pumped and ready to have one last dig at the win. Things were slightly quieter in the camper on the way to the race. You could see everyone had been giving it there all, the whole week. Once we arrived at the start, thanks to our amazing fans out there, we got deliveries of delicious chocolate chip cookies, mainly for our cookie monster Tayler, who was a bit under the weather. Fueled with some cookie power, we were in it for the win collectively.

– The Game Plan
Go out fighting. We had planned to wait till towards the end of the race to at-tack. However, I had anticipated due to the sprint being so early on in the race, that there would be fire works. And there was! After about 30km, the race went up the road. A well formed breakaway with strong riders, from strong teams teams. It was a great move…and I was there…and then I wasn’t there anymore. I had one of those days on the bike where your head is screaming at your legs to just go, and they won’t, and you’re trying so hard to will yourself on…but there is nothing left. I suffered and dug deep and tried, and I was dropped. Yep. I got dropped out of the race-winning move. The worst possible thing you could do. Whilst in no man’s land between the break and the peloton, I wanted to scream, cry, throw my bidons at the race motorbikes filming my humiliation. All I could think is how much I had let my team down, it absolutely crushed me…the fact I had missed an opportunity for myself didn’t even register, I just couldn’t believe that I had gotten my team on the back foot. For someone whose main purpose is to be a team player, working for the leaders, this was crushing.

– The P.T.D
I’m sitting here writing about it because I need to get it out, move on from this horrible day on the bike, and think about the upcoming races. Usually I’d sit and analyse the how and the why, and stay up all night mulling over “what the f*** happened today?!”. But you know what? I know what happened, I had a bad day, and there was nothing there, nothing more to give. My suffering for the remainder of the race was evidence that the tank was well and truly empty. I tried, and I failed, but I’ve learned. It’s just once again, another lesson in resilience. Time to suck it up, Princess (as Geno my DS would say), and get on with the job.
So yeah, I’m feeling a bit of PTD at the moment for a few reasons. Disappointment in myself after today, sadness for the team that we didn’t achieve the goals we wanted for the week, and the end of a really cool race. One of the best, if not the best-run women’s race on the calendar.

So how do I turn it around quickly, and boot the PTD in the butt before I get off this train?

Simple. Focus my energy and attention on the good things, starting with comparing my experience of this year to last year’s edition.

This year’s tour was far harder than the previous edition for one. So the fact I was able to contribute on a higher level this year compared to last year, can only mean I am in a better place physically and mentally. Tick.

Secondly, in the two bunch finales, we rode really well as a team, my lead out skills are a massive improvement from last year, where I wasn’t even included in team lead outs…now I’m finding myself as the last person there. Another tick.

Thirdly, watching young Alex the kid develop as a rider and person was my favourite moment of the week. You just need to read Alex’s blog about last year’s edition, and you’ll see that she is on another level to last year. Being part of her development the past few months has been one of the most satisfying aspect of this whole crazy circus called professional cycling. I’m really excited about the next few years and watching her blossom into a future champion of the women’s peloton.

And lastly, I can sit here and smile and know that every single member of the team gave everything this week, including staff. Hmmm. That list of positives from the week is starting to look a heck of a lot bigger than the negatives from one moment, in one race. So, time to suck it up, have some well deserved easy days, and build up for the next exciting part of the season!

Loren Rowney is a professional rider for Orica-AIS. The South-African born Australian lives in Girona, Spain during the European cycling season.
Pictured: Rowney during the 2012 UCI Road World Championships in Valkenburg.

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