Offseason persists, despite protest, as if Winter left the gate open and the aimless days crept out. The obvious thing is to complain, to bemoan this lack of competition after too much time away from the start line. I try to reframe it. Maybe I will get to enjoy September this year, legs fresh, weather perfect, a still-insatiable hunger for results.
The days pass numbingly slow; I feel like I remember each blink. Summer heat is already here in Santa Barbara, early May and it’s jersey unzipped, extra bottle in the back pocket temperatures, mirages beckoning on the pavement ahead. There are days the road calls me and days it’s quiet, I listen, and act accordingly. Not much to aim for at this time aside from a general sense of consistency, a certainty that I am fit and ready to up the intensity as soon as a certain faith in upcoming race dates allows. I miss it. Racing, I mean. Dearly. More than I would have said I would miss it were you to present its loss to me hypothetically last Fall— how much do you need racing? How much of your life revolves around one competition to the next? I would have shrugged it off. Not too much, really. Not why I ride.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that I do ride for other people, not just myself. It is hard to argue a legitimate career out of riding for myself, days blending into each other, training rides good, really good even but nothing to stand out, no moments of utter exhaustion and for that matter, bliss. No serendipitous alignments of time and effort and luck and athleticism, no valleys, no peaks. Were it still merely a hobby, I’d be content, grateful even for the escape and time on my own. Yet I have made it what I do, who I am, and now that it lacks its climaxes, is robbed of its drama, I am, to be honest, bored.
I think about reimagining myself. Someone new, or not new, just a different version of my existence had I taken three left turns all those years ago instead of two. Had I made more friends who led me into other worlds, art perhaps, or science. Had I possessed a tame enough mind to commit to more studies or leave a chance at notoriety, however small, behind me for bigger things.
Yet I find this is not the time for rebirth. At least not yet. Hopes still pinned. Momentum which refuses to die out, it is paused - racing is only paused - I promise myself every morning. One day you will wake up and book a flight and knock out some intervals and show up and race and win and ride this beautiful upward trajectory into the sky. One day. One morning. Not this morning, but maybe in a few weeks.
I don’t know how to continue if I do not hope. The news makes it harder; every passing day in the doldrums makes it seem more ridiculous.
Here are some things scrawled in my notebook:
- “all my anxiety in isolation can be traced back to death, not of me but of my mother and the 30-odd people I care about. I hope I can look at this and smile someday at my ignorance. It is so hard to see beyond tomorrow.”
- “my mind is everywhere lately, moments of focus rare, ten thoughts all at once ten headlines all fighting, all telling me not to pause lest the tenuous grip on the idea of things returning to Before Times slips and I am left staring into the void of Nothing Is As It Were or Would Have Been and what then?? I’d spend a lifetime missing the casual interactions with people I probably would not miss anyways, miss leaving home without a requisite amount of anxiety.”
- “where is the patience I had— was it ever patience at all or just the ability to wait for a specific date laid out?”
I am sorry if this is despairing. This is a morning that lacks hope; the only hope here today is the hope that tomorrow morning will be a better one. Everything is heightened when I have so much time to pay attention to it. Let us focus on the good. Let us take a deep breath, two deep breaths, and learn our own intricacies more closely, teach ourselves over time how to respond better to acute stress. I do not know the seriousness of the situation and it seems that nobody does, postulates everywhere, a whole world off-kilter. To react appropriately now will seem like overreacting in the future, if it works. I leave the house, keys, wallet, phone, mask. I come back, spray things down, wash my hands, so keenly aware now of every little crease in my palm, the spaces between my fingers. I will not forget them in future years, full race calendar, adrenaline pumping every weekend, my finger-spaces will be as real to me then.
I think maybe it was never patience. That now, I am learning real patience, having never truly practiced it, and through daily frustrations and hope and despair and boredom time grows collectively behind me, and I can plot each morning on a graph and the correlation spikes upward, I am finding contentedness, piece by little piece. For every new seed that sprouts in my small garden, I learn the cotyledons for each vegetable, those first two leaves, they look nothing like the future plant and I can’t help but think of how impossible anything is to predict, to know. I make a promise to stop guessing. To soak up the sun and summer heat and thank myself and the world today for pressing forward, and what is pressing forward in uncertainty but hope, relentless, stupid hope?
And for now I will ride my bike on the days I want and stay home on the days I do not and I hope this makes you feel valid in both paths, as I’ve found they both go forward. Learn what it is that drives you outside and what gives you comfort outside or in. Trust your body and mind to rejoice in movement and in stillness and know that nothing is as it will be, for better or for worse or for a little of both at once.
Amity Rockwell is a competitive gravel cyclist and contributing writer to the SILCA blog. After her 2019 Dirty Kanza win, she's sharing her offseason regime. Stay tuned as she continues to share her journey with us as she prepares for the 2020 racing season.
SILCA first met Amity at the 2019 Dirty Kanza, pre-race. She ran over to the SILCA van and bought the SPEED CAPSULE TT. Right after she won Kanza, she came back to our van to thank us!
At that moment, we felt like our stories were forever intertwined. Way to go Amity, you inspire us and we are looking forward to continuing the story!