As most people who know me know by now, I’ve stopped cycling at a competitive level. I wrote a post on facebook about the reasons behind this decision a few weeks ago and you can find a copy of the text at the bottom of this page.
About my post-cycling life: I’ve returned to my home country Austria and job-wise I am excited to go back to mathematical research. Obviously I keep doing sports but only to an extent where it contributes to my health and happiness. I won’t update this blog anymore, but leave it online just as a (not very comprehensive) souvenir of my cycling past.
About my disappearance from cycling (fb post, June 27)
I was hesitant to write anything at all, but I think it is good to give some explanations in order to bring this chapter to a proper close and also because some of my experiences might be valuable to others.
A short version of the story is that I made certain mistakes regarding my training during winter – not taking sufficient rest after what had been a very hard season for me and following a training philosophy that didn’t suit me – which led to a mental and physical burn-out. This does not capture the full scope of the problem, however. If I were just temporarily overreached/burnt-out/whatever, I could rest a few weeks or months and come back stronger.
What really happened is that the break that I was forced to take made me rethink my priorities in life in general. One of these is health. I don’t see a reason to conceal (on the contrary, I find it important to break the silence on this wide-spread issue) that I’ve had amenorrhea for many years and that the bone density in areas of my lumbar spine is osteoporotic. It was frighteningly easy to ignore this when the main focus of my life were results and w/kg. The other thing I realized during my break is that it is actually quite sad to have a life that is reduced to results and w/kg. Constant tiredness, sleep and eating disorders, lack of motivation, interest and energy for anything and anybody, terrible memory and concentration… I was so used to all this that I forgot how beautiful life can be.
The concerns about my health and my desire to “live” have led me to the decision of extending my break, which a priori had been planned as temporary, for an indefinite time. Obviously the fatigue-related part of my problem could be resolved with rest, a gentler training plan and strategies to cope with stress. But I think the hormonal issues are more complex and I don’t want to put any pressure on myself for a “comeback”. I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of person and I have doubts in how far an all-in approach to sports is compatible with health at all. Especially for a woman and especially in sports were weight is an issue. If I can’t be the best I can me, then I will rather just do it for fun and invest my psychic energy in other things.
Perhaps what I’ve written above makes my experience with sports seem all negative, but this is definitely not the case. Sports took some things (like health) from me, but it gave me others. It made for some of the most exhilarating moments of my life, it taught me discipline, tenacity and pain tolerance and makes me fearless of many of the challenges in everyday life. Even my quick breakdown this winter was, in retrospect, a good thing because if I hadn’t lost all my power and mental sanity, I wouldn’t have been able to stop. I have absolutely no regrets about any part of my journey.
One of the beautiful things in sports is the interesting, inspiring and helpful people one meets along the way. I want to end by saying THANK YOU to everybody who helped me along the way – family, friends and many, many people who hardly knew me. It would be a long list to name them all. I also want to thank my team Lotto-Soudal for their support during the last few months and their understanding concerning my decision. It has been an untimely moment for me to “crash” but some things are beyond one’s control…