If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, some of you may know that I recently spent 12 days in Athens, Georgia to hang out for Speed Week to do a little work, have a little fun, and watch my husband race in between! (For those of you who might not know, Speed Week is a series of NRC crit races in the South and is kicked off with the Athens Twilight race.) The first race of the week for my husband was a qualifier for the Twilight race later in the evening. He took a spill during the qualifier, but got his free lap and still managed to place 8th and qualify for the race later that night. When I saw his helmet had been cracked into five pieces, I immediately started drilling him with questions to see if he had a concussion. He passed the test and I was very grateful that his helmet had done its job and kept his head safe. You may find this surprising since I LOVE working with cyclists and even specialize in working with cyclists, but I must admit that as much as I support my husband racing, I do have moments when I wonder if it’s worth it.
Nine days later, I was overcome with a heavy heart after hearing about the tragic death of cyclist Wouter Weylandt during the 3rd stage of the Giro D’Italia. Because cycling is such a community, people around the world were overcome with many different emotions upon hearing the news. When we hear about catastrophic crashes of our fellow cyclists, it’s normal to start to reevaluate and wonder if the risk is worth the reward. Some cyclists may even feel guilty for riding when there is someone else who no longer can. I’ve worked with many cyclists through the process of returning to racing after sustaining an injury due to a crash; it can be a huge challenge to get back mentally and get to the place where you are just as confident and aggressive as you were before the crash. Experiencing a crash or hearing about the death of a cyclist can make you feel vulnerable and possibly even make you wonder whether riding or racing is worth the risk. If you find yourself feeling this way, here are some things to keep in mind:
- It’s OK to take time off: It’s normal to feel a little nervous and vulnerable when you see or hear about a crash. If you find that you don’t want to ride or feel tense and nervous while riding, you may just need to take a few days off the bike to get yourself back to homeostasis and regroup. When you do get on your bike, ease yourself back into it. First day back, do whatever sounds fun and then get back into training and racing.
- It’s OK to not take time off: Some people may experience feelings of guilt when they get out for a training ride or start to look forward to next weekend’s race. It’s OK to ride and it’s OK to be excited about racing. For some cyclists, continuing to ride can be a way to pay tribute to someone who no longer can. Whatever you decide to do is OK. If it doesn’t feel right to ride, don’t ride. If it does feel right, go ride.
- Don’t watch the footage: I went through some moments when I thought that I needed to witness what happened in order to honor a fallen rider. You don’t have to watch the footage of the crash. One of the downsides of having access to so much information is that we have access to information that doesn’t necessarily serve us. When you watch media coverage of a catastrophic event, you are subjecting yourself to a traumatic experience which can have a lasting impact.
- Celebrate what you love: After a tragedy it is normal to reevaluate what is important to you. We are often so busy running from one moment to the next that we don’t take the time to step back and make sure we are living our values. The decision to continue to ride or not to ride in the face of tragedy or after injury is a personal one. No one can tell you what you should do, you can only figure out what is right for you and be OK with that.
If you do want to pay tribute to Wouter Weylandt’s memory, to his family, and to a sport that you love, there are many different ways you can do just that. Even if you didn’t know him, he is part of our cycling family and it may feel right to pay tribute in some way. You can go on a ride and take a moment off the bike in honor of his memory. You can go out on a ride with friends and take the time to tell them “Your friendship means a lot to me and I’m glad we’re friends.” and then grab a beer after the ride and toast to his memory. Or you can buy a memorial t-shirt from a very cool cycling friendly company that has created a very cool shirt that both pays tribute and helps Weylandt’s family.
Part of living a full life means living it while doing what you love. There are risks in many things that we do, but we can’t live in fear of the what-ifs. This is my truth and is right for me. You have to find your truth and what is right for you.