Coping with Fear & Anxiety on the Bike
Last Monday night, I was preparing all of the things I needed for my Brick planned for the next day. I had a 60 mile ride and 3 mile run to get in while the kids were at school. The timing was tight, so my plan was to get the kids off, then hop right on my bike! I was happy that I was organized enough to have all of my fuel stashed and fluids bottled and ready to go. I headed to bed with my iPad and took a look at Facebook before going to sleep. As I was scrolling through, I saw a post with a picture of a sign tacked to a tree. The sign said:
"As you come here to grieve the sad loss of Joseph and to pay your respect to his memory. please remember that a man named Richard who also was loved by family and friends, went out for a bike ride on a beautiful Sunday morning and never came home... When you get back in your car, remember the epic responsibility you have to those who love you and those who don't even know you to come home safe!"
I clicked on the link that told the story of a fatal accident in Vermont that left the 17 year old driver, Joseph Marshall, and the 47 year old cyclist, Richard Tom, both dead. Richard was an expert cyclist whom, according to the article, had biked all over the world. I cried after reading the story, it was the third story I had come across in the past week about a cyclist being hit and killed while out riding. I was equally saddened about the young driver who died. (See Reference)
I started to panic about my ride the next day: "Should I continue to ride? Everyday, I read about someone dying on their bike! I have two young kids... Maybe I will just ride on my trainer, except for race day." These thoughts were swirling in my head and I had a very hard time falling asleep.
I woke up early Tuesday morning still feeling anxious about the ride and melancholy about the tragedy in Vermont. I checked the weather: sunny, high 40's, with winds up to 20 mph. Initially, I decided my trainer would be the best solution for the day. I'm safe and sound on my KickR trainer in the playroom watching talk shows! However, as I was getting the kids ready for school, I started to change my mind about sitting inside on my bike for several hours on a sunny day. The wind outside was a great excuse for me as it would make the ride difficult, but it could very well be just as windy on my race day, so I should practice. I decided the best way for me to cope with the anxiety and fear I was experiencing was to just get back out there and ride.
I came up with a plan to make myself less anxious:
1. I changed my route to one that was close to my house.
2. The Route is 25 miles long and there is a decent bike lane along the entire ride. (I would do 2 1/2 Loops)
3. The route is also a very popular running and biking route, so drivers expect to see cyclists on the road.
4. I wore my bright yellow neon jacket.
5. I put my flashing light on the back of my bike bag.
6. I wore my Road ID bracelet on my ankle and had my cell phone with me.
7. I was riding alone, so I made sure my husband knew where I was riding and how long I expected it to take me.
I typically do all of these steps, except sticking close to home, on all my rides. However, it did make me feel better to go through them methodically last Tuesday. The ride went great...minus the hideous, gusting winds, which required me to work going Downhill on parts of the ride! I have to admit, that once I got out there, my anxiety quickly disappeared, but I did continue to hold onto a small piece of fear while riding.
Do you ever experience anxiety or fear on the bike? If so, how do you cope with it? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Reference: Murray, E.(2015, April 27). Police: Driver near 60 mph in fatal crash.
Burlington Free Press.
***This post was originally written in May of 2015 during my training for Ironman Mont Tremblant, which I completed in August 2015. I am currently training for Ironman Lake Placid 2017.