Unbelievable, it’s been three weeks already since I’ve abandoned the TCR. Three weeks back at home and two weeks back to work and my old routine. It felt so relaxed, not having the pressure of trying to balance training time with social life all the time. And the weather has been really good, we even got a heat wave, so lots of terraces, park picnics, swimming and going to the beach whenever I could. I’m enjoying myself and I’m doing well, but not a day goes by where I’m not thinking about anything that’s happened in those days between July 29th and August 15th.
In many ways the signs of the race are still showing on my body. On my hands and the top of my feet the skin is peeling. The tips of my left pinky and ring finger are still a little bit numb and the strength in my hand isn’t quite back yet, but they only cause very minor inconveniences (like being unable to open a jar) and I’m kind of used to it by now. My tan lines on my hands, arms and knees are fading, but still very much visible. But I cherish them as kind reminders that the race and the entire experience was real, so on the hot days I’m making very little effort to hide them.
Eventually they will fade though, and the memory will be less fresh. Sometimes I read back one of my blog posts and relive certain parts of the route or think about where I was at the time of writing (I really didn’t do enough justice to some of my overnight addresses, I might have to get back to that sometime). Other riders have also started to write up their experiences, and it’s really funny to read how everyone’s story is so highly individual, yet huge parts are extremely relatable and sometimes nearly identical. This goes from certain places where I know I’ve also paused, to route fails or other bad choices I’ve also made, to emotional processes I’ve also been through.
Reading blogs from fellow riders I’m sometimes triggered to go back to trackleaders and pull up certain parts of my route. When I look at my route, it’s amazing how many little details this brings back. Though my daily blog has been quite OK in describing the overall day and highlighting some note worthy anecdotes, I now noticed I definitely omitted a lot of details. Mostly because I wanted to keep it kind of short because I was tired and wanted to sleep, and sometimes it just wouldn’t fit in the flow of the story. Or it just wasn’t of any particular interest for you, eventhough it’s still a really nice memory for me. So I’ve now started to write up a more elaborate recap nearly on an hour to hour basis, just as a way for me to not forget anything, and not necessarily meant for publishing on this site. But who knows, if I do come across a particularly funny or interesting memory, I might dedicate a little post to it.
Post Race Thoughts
Ever since I’m back, the question I received most is how I feel now. Mostly they were referring to how I feel physically, but also how the trip has enlightened me. A couple of days after returning home I went to my physiotherapist and told him about the pain in my knee cap that suddenly occurred in the first couple of days, but then also left on its own. So he said ‘oh that probably came from here’ and proceeded to pinch in my upper leg. That immediately got me doubled up, shit that hurts! ‘Yeah, that’s definitely a bit stiff’. My physiotherapist has a sadistic kind of humour sometimes. Apparently the pain in my knee derived from overburden on my lower back and hip. So he massaged that area to decrease the tension and I’ve been taking it relatively easy on my bike rides (except the one where I had to do a 15km time trial to the train station to make it to my train home in time), to give my legs a bit of a break.
In terms of catching up on sleep, it only took me about one day to feel fully rested. But then again, I wasn’t nearly as sleep deprived as most others have been, sleeping relatively long and nearly every night in a proper bed during the TCR. Only my sleeping pattern seems to be a bit off, especially the first couple of days I’d sometimes wake up in the dead middle of the night, thinking I was still underway and that I had to get back on the bike again. That doesn’t occur anymore, but now I still have nights where I can hardly stay awake til past 9pm, and other nights where I can’t catch any sleep before 2am. Not really sure if that’s directly caused by the TCR, but sleeping is usually one of my bigger talents, so this isn’t normal for me.
As far as if and how this has enlightened me, I can say it mostly reaffirmed what I already knew: biking is fun! And it’s even more fun when riding your bike in areas you don’t know. Since my return I got to ride a fair share of pancake flat rides, which was a nice change from my hilly ride from Belgium to Croatia. But boy, do I miss those mountains. The views and scenery I got to see were truly spectacular, and I can’t wait to go and see more of the world on my bike.
On a more inspirational, life lesson-y note, I’ve been thinking a lot about something Anna McNuff wrote in a Facebook post: “if the last few years have taught me anything it’s that there’s nothing waiting at the finish line that I do not already have”. (Seriously, if you were even remotely entertained by my blog, you should consider following her. She’s a British adventurer explorer doing nothing but cool stuff, but she also writes very humorous pieces about all that cool stuff) That quote really helped me be OK with deciding to quit the race, but it also made me realize that the journey was just as important as the finish line. The stars may not shine as bright once you managed to reach them, so you better make sure you enjoy the way to get there. So there you go, your motivational quote to put on a tile and hang on the wall!
Good question, but I don’t have a good answer just yet. I’ve been inspired to continue doing more bikepacking, but for TCR2017 I will probably step down and let others have a go. I’ve been thinking about voluntering on one of the checkpoints next year and then continue on a touring holiday on my own account. Doing a bit more touring is definitely appealing and I already have a long list of countries in my head where I would like to do that. I’m also still considering the option to fly back to Split somewhere late spring, and finish my route to Turkey. There were still some wonderful areas on my route that I missed out on, so I’d love to go back and make up for that. And lastly, I’d love to do a similar challenge sometime soon. Probably a bit shorter, a bit cheaper, maybe some randonneuring events, but I’ve learned so much about bikepacking on this trip, and I’d love to learn even more and continue fine tuning that knowledge. So yeah, I’m really not sure yet what will be next, but rest assured. Whatever it is, I will be writing about it on this site.
A picture says a thousand words
Here’s a previously unshared image to compensate for this otherwise imageless post.
My pit stop on Day 2 just after National Park Morvan. It was hot and I’d been craving a cold Coke the entire afternoon, but it was Sunday so nearly everything was closed. But then I stumbled upon this little gem of a service station. It was also a tiny restaurant and hotel, and it was so charming, I’d love to come back. If not to stay there, then at least for the lovely melon Popsicles they sold, delicious!