“I was officially burnt out”: Time to stop and look at the bigger picture

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Watching on as an elated Kate Perry charged across the line to step onto the podium at the Australian Road Nationals time trial it was hard not to smile. It was an impressive performance from the regular top level performer in Australia’s National Road Series (NRS), to become the only amateur alongside two professional specialists in the discipline and the pure joy of it was written all over her face – so much so that it was almost contagious. However, instead of being a launching pad into a stellar Australian summer of racing and beyond, it was the start of a burnt out slump that too many of us know the feeling of all too well. The Specialized Women’s racing rider talks openly and frankly about going through one of those times in life where it is necessary to pause and hit the reset button. – Simone Giuliani


I have wanted to write this piece for a while now, not because I want people to feel sorry for me, or to make an excuse for my poor results on the bike of late, but to show that sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. We convince ourselves that everything is okay, when in fact it is isn’t, and to raise awareness that our bodies have this amazing ability to keep on going, until we stop. Sometimes we need to stop. We need to take a step back, draw ourselves away from the distractions, away from the noise, and just be ourselves. It is okay to fall in a heap, and sometimes it takes a catalyst to show us something that we have been choosing not to see.

I fell in a heap at the end of January. Actually, I started to fall in a heap the moment I crossed the line after the Nationals Road Race. The elation of pulling off my biggest result to date in the ITT (individual time trial), pouring everything I had into the 30km TT, both physically and mentally in what had been a testing lead-up.

At the start gate for that podium place winning time trial.

I then pulled myself together momentarily, just enough to scrape through two UCI tours and the busiest week of my working year. I successfully distracted myself from the emotional exhaustion that comes with the ending of a relationship, and I ran my body into the ground resulting in a very unhealthy immune system and consequent infection. All I had been telling myself was that I needed to get to the end of the month, just get through January. Just get to the end of the month. And get to the end I did.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how long it would take me to bounce back. In typical cyclist fashion, I had a small ‘offie’ (week off the bike) which typically in the past has been enough to reset and then I’m hungry for more. Not this time.

Tour of East Gippsland rolled around and I took to the start line for the first round of the 2017 NRS season. Somehow I found myself being interviewed and talked up about the season ahead, being interviewed before the time trial talking about my hopes for the tour and the season. I guess that’s what happens when you are the current top non-professional time trialist in the country. As the words rolled out, I realised that naturally, I wanted to have a great season (who doesn’t); building on last year, but I wasn’t ready, not yet.

If we are being honest, which we are, my results at TOEG are some I would rather forget, not because I didn’t put in 100 percent, but because they are not a true representation of what I am capable of. The same probably goes for all my results in January, post-Nationals. Tired, flat and running at about 70 percent.

I was officially burnt out. I was run down and I was mentally exhausted. Not from racing my bike, but from all that ‘life-stuff’ that had crept up on me over the past few months. I needed to sort my shit out.

So for the past few weeks I have hit the ‘reset’ button. I have finally accepted 2016 both the good and bad, but most importantly I have realised that sometimes bouncing back is actually a work in progress, not a quick fix.

Having always been extremely independent and focused, for the first time in a long time I felt that I was suffocating in uncertainty.

Juggling four casual/part-time jobs and a full time training schedule for a sport that I have zero-clue whether I will ever ‘make it’ in (or more so make a living from) is exhausting. I am living at home with Mum and Dad (who I really would be lost without) and have had to close a chapter on a relationship with someone I have a great deal of respect for.

So why am I not racing Oceanias this week?

The answer is because I don’t want to. I don’t want to turn up underdone with a head that’s not currently in the game.

I have otherwise channeled my energy into working on the off-the-bike KP – re-gaining a sense of direction, shifting my mindset, accepting change, and becoming aware of the affect my emotions are having on both myself and others.

Intrinsic goals have become the sole-focus of late.

I have started writing things down (contributing to the writing of this piece); I have cut back on the amount of coffee I am drinking, in an attempt to sleep better; I have gone back to racing at a club level, and just riding my bike. Trying not to jam too much in to each day, taking some time for myself and spending quality time rather than quantity on social media, the process has been both liberating and refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong, scratching from Oceanias was extremely hard, the case of the FOMOs is inevitable come Thursday, but it was a decision I needed to make if I was ever going to follow the ‘Less is More’ approach.

There will be other bike races. There are other bike races. And those are the bike races I am working towards, to line up prepared and ready. Happy head, happy legs, right?

Right.

Kate Perry (left) with team mates following the first crit of the Santos Women’s Tour.

For those who have helped me through some of the tougher weeks of late, thank you, and for all those lining up this week in Canberra, I wish you the best of luck. There is no substitute for the feeling of nailing a performance after weeks and months of preparation, something I have experienced first hand this year already, and hope to again feel sometime in the not too distant future.

This article was first published on Kate Perry’s blog, which you can find here.

Kate Perry rides in Australia’s National Road Series for Specialized Women’s Racing, and took fifth overall last year. Perry is also a coach with FTP training.

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