By: Justine Clift
The days are getting longer, and with them comes the palpable anticipation of a new season. Training camp kicks off for the Cyclery crew this weekend in South Carolina, where our team will meet for the first time after spending our winters scattered across Canada.
It’s difficult to admit that I’m apprehensive about the week ahead, though not in the butterflies-in-your-stomach pre-race sense. While my teammates have been putting in the hard work logging base miles for the year ahead and winning medals on the track, I’ve not had the off-season I was hoping for. I would love to be writing about how my fitness is coming along and my ambitions for the upcoming year, but I’m just not ready.
My 2016 season was overshadowed by lingering injuries from a season-ending crash the previous year. I came into the season riding a precarious edge; first pushing hard to regain lost fitness, and then jumping back into racing, seeking the pre-concussion form I’d left behind on the pavement in Utah. Managing rehab alongside loss, illness and the day-to-day stresses of a career and a full race calendar took more of a toll than I bargained for.
Cycling glamourizes the hard women and men who endure at all costs. I bought into that narrative, believing that my only path to success was pushing harder. As the season progressed, my performances became inconsistent and my overall health suffered. I denied and rationalized the signs that I needed to back off, not brave enough to listen to my body. I kept racing until I crashed hard again.
The aftermath of September’s crash made it clear that I needed time off for my body and mind to recover.
Returning to training has taken longer than I ever expected. I’ve been doing the hard work of getting healthy, trying to be patient and trust that the fitness will come when I’m ready. Though there have been false-starts and missteps this winter, I’ve had my fair share of adventures: winter-camping in the desert, riding fat tires for the first time, and days in the mountains have kept my heart full and mind occupied.
While early season racing is no longer in reach, I’m appreciating some hard-earned perspective. I have affirmed that I still have ambitions in cycling, and am tremendously grateful for the support of my extended cycling family who have held me up through the challenges of the last eighteen months. For now, I’ll keep on pedalling and see where this road takes me.