Motivation, mental brain battles, and mud

On Sunday I rode the Dirty Gran Fondo.


It was hard, for two reasons. It was both: physically hard and mentally hard.

More so, it was mentally hard. I’ve lost my motivation. Where’s it gone?

Well it probably began on Saturday when I missed the TR Shop ride, which I love. I slept in, I never sleep in. For some reason, my alarm went off and my brain said. Stuff that, it’s raining, stay in bed. Which I did, until 10am. Which is late for me. I’m usually up at 7:30. At the latest. So I finally dragged myself out of bed, told myself to get my shit together and put on my lycra and ventured out towards Beach Road. I say towards Beach Road, because I never actually made it there.

So there I was. Fanging it down Chapel Street in the rain, hating my wet miserable life, when suddenly, slip [insert sound of carbon on asphalt] and bang, I found myself laying, still-clipped-in-holding-handlebars sprawled out in the middle the road. I had binned it. Great. I slipped on the tram tracks. Outside the Country Road store. In the rain. In peak shopping time. Embarrassing.

I sprung onto my feet, brushed myself off, beat concerned pedestrians off with my hand pump and got back on the bike. Tail between my legs, I made a b-line straight to TR to assess the damage. Sadly my beloved helmet did not make it through, and Napoleon thankfully, just suffered some flesh wounds, I was perfectly fine. Albeit with a slight bump to the head, and my pride left on Chapel Street.

So I sat in the shop (whilst Jake kindly cleaned and fixed Napoleon) wondering why the hell I even decided to get on my bike and ride it that day. I obviously was not in the right frame of mind for riding bikes. A quick break in concentration and I did what thousands of cyclists around Melbourne have done, a tram track bin. But why me, and why today? I think it was karma telling me what I knew already. I should have just stayed in bed.

My motivation has been waning for a while. I’m sure it is due to a number of things in my life, including work, and the weather and the fact that I probably just need a holiday. The drive I once had to get on my bike and ride it is slowly disappearing. I’ve got to work to get it back.

Motivation generally is a combination of personal drive (such as a desire to perform well and succeed) and outside factors (such as physical rewards, prizes, money etc. and things such as praise, recognition and achievements) which all work to affect it in a positive way.

So in trying to nut out why my motivation is having a holiday when I’m not, I’ve done a little research. Apparently it is quite common for this time of year. The mid year slump, when the weather gets terrible and your goals seem so far away. It is fascinating how weather contributes motivation (read about it here and here). The more terrible the weather, the less likely it is that you want to ride your bike. Familiar right?

This graph demonstrates a linear relationship between the weather and your motivation. This means when the weather is really terrible, your motivation is low and motivation increases in line with an improvement in weather. This is shown in the graph below (Fig. 1.).

Motivation for blog
Fig. 1. My impression of how weather affects your motivation.

Admittedly, it is not just the weather. There are a lot of other things that are contributing to my lack of motivation. I have a feeling that other factors are working here because I usually have excellent personal drive. I just need to find my mojo again.

So back to Saturday. I took myself home and spent the rest of the day hanging out with my friends and generally having a great time. I did not think about my bike at all. That is a lie. I thought about it a lot. I almost hated it. Which is absolutely ridiculous. It is one of the things that makes me happy in life. Have you not heard of the #theoutsideisfree hashtag!? I was dreading getting back on the bike….But I had too. Because I was supposed to get up at 5am, drive to Wandong the very next day to do the Dirty Grand Fondo. A 65km cyclocross ride/race. When I signed up a month ago, I was looking forward to it. It was going to be cold, muddy, hilly and really, really fun. Heaps of my friends were doing it. It was going to be fun. But why was I feeling this way? The same feeling I had lying in bed on Saturday when I missed the shop ride. I just didn’t want to ride my bike, anywhere.

Fast forward to Sunday morning , my alarm buzzed. I sprung out of bed, reluctantly put my lycra on – this time in a 100 layers, put my cyclocross bike Candy Crux on the roof and went to pick up my friend. All the while I was thinking of 100 excuses of how I could get out of it. None seemed legit enough to bail. My friend promised post-race beer and pizza, maybe that was the “reward” I needed to get me through.


We arrived in Wandong to a very brisk morning. It was icy but clear. Great weather. I let my tyres down to 40psi, put my gloves on, and hi fived my friend to pretend there was more motivation than there was. I felt so disinterested and definitely not really feeling the love. I just wanted to get it over and done with.

We all shivered and bantered on the start line, I was calm. Was it over yet? Soon enough we rolled off and pretty much straight away we were into the dirt. It was slippery and fast. My heart rate went straight up the endorphins were working on overload. It was bloody amazing. I was feeling awesome. The blood was pumping through the veins.

Not long in and the mental brain battle had begun. I started off rather disinterested, calm. I just was there, to ride my bike, get through to the end and now I was feeling stressed. My brain was telling me to give up. I told myself to stay calm, don’t stress. Just get through. Were my endorphins were messing with me?

honey badger

With up, comes a down. Emotionally that is. As each hard km ticked on, I was constantly questioning why I was doing this to myself? This was hard (I usually thrive on hard). My motivation levels and emotions rose and fell as the gradient did. Yet I was calm or was trying to be. I just kept peddling. The terrain was difficult, every climb we’d be slipping and sliding around, the decants were rocky and technical, the mud was soft and the sand loose. But it kept it interesting. Kept the mind focused on riding and not that it was battling with my brain. It was an awesome feeling riding through that kind of terrain. It was a challenging and nothing like riding on the road.

The scenery was amazing, I tried to make time to look up and around, but difficult between the panting, sweating, and concentrating on how cold my feet were. It was hard. But was it? I think my brain was telling me it was hard. The route was hilly, I love hills. There was mud, I love mud. I was with my friends, I love my friends. What the hell was I thinking?


The Dirty Gran Fondo was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, mentally. I found the ride itself quite easy, I loved the climbing, I loved the off road, I loved the mud. I hated what my brain was telling me, that I could not do it, that I was not good enough. It was bull. I did it. It was fun. I love riding with my friends. I love riding my cx bike off road. I love riding my bike full stop. I also love the “reward”. I had a great sense of satisfaction when we finished.

So where’s my motivation and why is it making me feel this way? Well it is there, it is just not functioning at its peak. I’m going to have a chat to myself about why I ride, what I love about it and what my goals and rewards are in the short term (Power Meter?). In analysing where my motivation has gone, well, I think that I have lost focus on my goals which has affected my motivation to ride my bike. The fact that the weather is bloody terrible for riding bikes does not help the matter. But you know what, it’ll come back. It almost has already. The Dirty Grand Fondo helped that.

My friends and I rode together, uphill, down dale, through the gravel, mud, sticks. There’s was a stack. We laughed. We cursed. We wanted to do a Wiggo. But we made it. I got on my bike and rode it. And my motivation was better for it.

my butt.jpg

What’s next? It’s time to plan a holiday.

Other than that, Northern Combine Hawthorn Trophy Race is on this weekend. See you all there!

You can follow me on Twitter @lowercasev or on Instragram @lowercasev

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s