This blog post was first published on Gracie's website here.
My favourite time of the season has arrived and on the eve of the Spring Classics I wanted to reflect on my time since last season.
Contrary to my colourful social media pages, it wasn’t all Highlight Reel over the Aussie summer for me. I did have a lot of good times but it took me a little while to get going post Olympics.
I enjoy a few short weeks off the bike post Worlds doing as little as possible. Usually I would be quite active in my break but this time I barely did a few walks. I decided that I would exercise when I felt like it, not when I thought I should do it. I was at almost maximum burn out by the end of the season and any mental output was an effort that I wanted to avoid for a little while.
It’s fair to say I wasn’t myself for a few months following the Olympics. I had expected to experience the low but did not expect how long it would last. While I would have been happy to go home early, I was glad to finish the season supporting the strong Aussie team in Qatar and have fresh goals to focus on instead of a potentially worse low time at home with not as much to do. I can’t say for sure, but I think jumping back into racing life helped me mentally even though I was struggling physically. I was also a little worried about putting myself in a “hole” that could potentially affect the next season, but with good management from my support network we planned as much as we could to maximise the current and future outcomes.
I like to think I’m an open book but in reality I tend to not express myself enough to those close. It took some time to admit that I wasn’t happy. My rational mind was telling me that it was normal and that the heavy feeling would pass in time, but emotionally it manifested in uglier ways that I lost control of every so often. I could barely concentrate on conversations and was easily irritable. My motivation to be a good athlete was still there but when I went to train it came short when it came to actually getting it done. My close family and friends could tell I wasn’t the same Gracie, especially my very insightful husband Stu. I did my best to communicate my feelings but struggled at times to put them out there because on the inside my voice was saying that I would just get over it and not to bother others with my unhappiness.
The Olympic burnout was coupled with the usual off-season expectations. Every year I come back from Europe it seems harder to reintegrate with my home community. I get so excited to do all of my favourite things and see my friends and family, but the reality of it changes when I am back. Time flies by, I start training again, social dynamics have changed and other people’s lives have gone on without me. It is also hard to find my rhythm in my relationship. I am lucky to have someone who is so supportive and patient, but being away from each other for so long takes it’s toll when you learn how to be your own company a little too well.
I endeavoured to be positive and patient. I let the bad days wash over me and find productive measures to ensure stability and progress to enable future happiness. I reorganised my university degree so I could begin as soon as I could. It had been six months since studying and my brain needed both sharpening and distracting away from cycling. I found balance between socialising with my favourite people and personal time, and made time for new friends. I talked to a sports psychologist for the first time and decided on positive action for personal development.
Another major change was my coach. Since my break I have been given new and challenging programs from my team director Gene Bates. After watching his success with team mate Spratty over the last few years, I was confident in his abilities as a coach. It was actually his suggestion to form this new relationship and at first I was unsure as I have had success with my former coach Neil Ross since my MTB days in 2009. I am a loyal person and I was reluctant to change, but after good thought I decided it was a good time to try something new. Much to his credit, Neil was very supportive of the decision because he knew it was a good thing for my progression as an athlete. I just want to say a massive thank you to Neil for his support over the last 8 years, you have been a huge mentor to me and bloody hell WE MADE THE OLYMPICS!!!
I was well supported by my team over the Aussie summer and was allowed to sit out much of the racing with the intention of a relaxed but decent slow build towards the European season. At times I was doubting if I would be ready, especially when everyone else was riding so well in January, but I stuck to the plan and have had a great few weeks of training g following a very satisfying performance at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. With the cancelation of the Ladies Tour of Qatar, I was given a bonus two weeks at home where I had a lot of fun on and off the bike. I trained super hard in good weather, got a few more MTB rides in on my beautiful Scott Spark loaned from Scott Sports Australia, and spent lots of time with my friends and family. It’s amazing the difference a few weeks can have on your mentality!
I arrived well in Europe and settled in to our little home base in Gavirate, Italy where the AIS has it’s European Training Centre. We were lucky to have some nice weather for a week of training and now I’m back in my playground of Belgium about to race Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. I am super excited to get into the racing now and not worry if I’ve trained well enough. Only a tough race can make you an honest bike rider and I want to see how honest I’ve been with myself the last few months…
Big thanks to my support network of family and friends for being awesome over the last few months, especially Stu. I couldn’t have done it without you!
About the Author: Gracie Elvin is an Olympian, and double Australian Road Cycling Champion, who currently rides for ORICA-SCOTT. Keep up to date on Gracie's cycling around the world on her Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & Blog.