Two sides of a medal

Lately it has been a lot of talking about mental burnouts. Especially about Jenny Rissveds and how she has struggled since her Gold medal in the mountain bike event in Rio 2016.
For some of you it might seem surprising how a athlete that seems to have everything can´t find the right balance. The limit between success and failure or burnout lies very close to each other.
I´m not surprised at all.
I was there to watch Jenny win that medal and, in the evening, we celebrated with cake together.
It all reminded me so much about my first medal that I won in Bejing 2008.
You are completely out of your mind and feel like you´re flying over the clouds. Nothing is too much and you gladly answer YES to everything. Not knowing what that will mean until it´s too late.

On a rainy day In Beijing the 9th of August 2008 I woke up as Emma, the unknown rider that only got one question at the pre-race press conference.  I had no idea that some hours later I will be “SilverEmma” with the whole of Sweden.
Everything happened so fast and I could not believe it when I crossed the line as second. Silver at the Olympics!
After that it all happened in a blur… the official press conference, more media outside the hotel where we stayed, a fast shower, even more media during dinner (that had to be shuffled in as we had more appointments), a long travel (where I was on the phone the whole way giving interviews) in to the center of Beijing to visit the Swedish Television studio, and of course media waiting outside both before and after the visit.
When my head finally hit the pillow that evening, I could not sleep. It was too much to take in. What had just happened?

As I still had one more event, with the time trail a few days later I woke up to a “normal” training day. Just that on this training we had a media car following us during that whole ride. Everything had to be documented. Quick shower and then off to the Swedish embassy to get celebrated together with my teammates. I was promised it would be a quiet event for sponsors without press and media. But as the car finally reached our destination I was surrounded by hungry media people once again, every one of them wanted their story. That´s when the panic slowly started to appear…
30 hours since I finished the race and I had been going from one thing to another. Still hadn´t had a chance to even talk to my family nor understand what happened.
Back at the hotel I finally found time to call my little brother who were home in Sweden. When he said he had been on the phone more or less since the finish of my race with media wanting to know more about me, I could not believe it. They had been calling my family, friends, old boy friends, my 85-year-old grandma etc. for information. The fact that the sports magazine had more than 10 pages only about me was terrifying.
My husband and coach, Martin, looked at me and told me to hang up the phone.
– Emma, we need to have a talk: Is there anything that I should know about you? Are there naked photos of you somewhere? Have you been to jail? Have you cheated? Please tell me now because I don´t want to read about it in the newspaper tomorrow…
Suddenly I went from being above the clouds to crying on my bed wishing this medal never happened.
Martin took action and cancelled everything that was on schedule the next day. I needed rest as I still had to race… Time trail came and I should have been better not to start. No good result after those busy days and finally it was time to travel home.

What Martin did that evening when he took control of the situation was probably what saved me?!
We talked about how the medal and my break through will change my life, and I had to make some decisions about the future.
For me the most important thing was to keep riding my bike fast. With that in my mind I could easier turn down tempting offers and events. I turned down bigger contracts to be sure I would be in an environment where I could feel like home and grow as a rider. Most years I have chosen not to go to the Swedish sports gala as it was always in the middle of my annual training camp period. Just to name some of the decisions I made…

People might have thought that I was weird and anonymous and I guess I was.

My whole career has been colored from this episode and even though it was hard then, I´m very grateful for it now. I learned so much about myself, what I care for and whom I want to be. But most important, I learned to stand up for myself!
Thanks to Martin it never got to a burnout and I really wish that Jenny and everyone else who struggles will find THEIR way to handle it.
As a top athlete, you have good balance between training, food and recovery. You are prepared for winning, but what comes along with the medal is beyond your knowledge.

Emma

Spring classics

©David Rietbergen

Spring classics coming up and I know that feeling so well.
Nervous, excitement, stress, happiness…
Will I be good enough and how strong will the others be?!
What will the weather be like? Rain, wind, snow, sun?!
In reality the season have already started in Australia, but that´s different.
In my mind the real start and the big test is Het Nieuwsblad. Weather conditions in Belgium in the end of February are hard and already there you know who has done their job right this winter and who hasn´t. Of course, you have riders that don´t like this type of races and choose to start in the stage race Setmana Ciclista Valenciana (22-25 Feb.) this weekend instead or later.
But that was not me, I loved them!

Even though I retired after the 2016 season I still get the same feeling in my body around this period and it´s like I´m getting prepared even though I´m not.

Or maybe I am?

In fact, maybe I am preparing for the biggest season ever?!
All my experiences I have in finding balance between training, resting, knowledge and guts feeling comes back to me.
A normal February for me is to make the last preparations and to recognize the different courses that we will bring on once the season starts.
Last week that was exactly what we did when we went to the hospital for a visit. Knowing where to go, how it looks, the smell, the people (opponent) and when to attack…
All these aspects are important to me and to be well prepared was something I was really good at. Preparations like how to pack my bag before a race was what made me calm and gave me confidence.
So while following these first races “to prepare well”  is what I´m going to bring with me in my different kind of spring.

I have won Het Nieuwsblad two times before and I know it will never happen again. But that’s ok, this year I´m aiming for something even bigger!

©Dailypeloton
©Dailypeloton
©dailypeloton
©Dailypeloton

Emma

#pimpmyporridge

Cooking is something I enjoy doing. But it´s not always I have the energy to be creative. With my man out of the house at the moment means that I´m alone at dinner, and to cook for one I find boring.
Then I cook because I have to, and it need to go fast. My absolute favorite healthy fast food is porridge. It works for breakfast, lunch as well as dinner and all you need is less than 10 minutes to have it ready.
A favorite of mine is the one with sliced banana and homemade almond butter.

To make Almond butter is very easy. Here is the recepie from the cookbook “Velochef”:

500g of almonds
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 pinch of salt

1. Put the oven on 150 degrees.
2. Toast the almonds for 20min.
3. Pour the almonds into a blender while still warm.
4. Add oil and salt and blend it all together on high speed for 5-6 minutes.
5. When creamy pour it into a jar. Lasts 3-4 weeks in the fridge.

In the female peloton #pimpmyporridge is well-known and if you want inspiration for other porridge dishes, give #pimpmyporridge a search on Instagram. I´m sure you will come across many tasty mixes from my fellow cyclists.

Emma

Contrasts

My idea for this blog was to take you through my journey “From fit, to fat and back again”. And it sorts of speak for itself.
To use the word fat might not be ethical correct but that is what it feels like.

I can´t even remember the last time I was above 60kg and boobs were normal…

Those days when my body was a tool to perform are gone and gosh I miss them. I miss having control and to know exactually what the next day will look like. Eat, train, sleep, repeat!

Top sport is extreme and my last 10 years have been extreme in every single way. I have trained hard, raced hard, slept hard and travelled hard!

The frustration I feel when my body is telling me to rest is the worst. I used to be filled with energy and all I want to do these days is sleep. I go early to bed, wake up late, take a nap after lunch and fall asleep in the sofa in the evening.
I know this amazing little person growing inside me is going to be the most wonderful thing but right now it´s hard to imagen.

I see all my old teammates laughing and suffering together at camp and that is one of the things I miss the most.
I have friends and family that I love and that loves me back, but there is something special about surviving a rough training together. The satisfaction, the pain you feel when lying on the massage table afterwards, the taste of dinner and then when the evening comes. The simple mind of knowing that tomorrow will be just same.

These last months I have been working hard with finding good routines and to accept this new situation of mine. I miss the “easy” life as a top athlete. But to miss it and to be ready to go back and do the hard work all over again, is a totally different thing. Just to be clear; A comeback from me on the highest level will never happen!

My new goal is to find the right balance in life. The balance between what I have been, what I am and what I will be.

Superfit me at the beach in Rio
Training with my team Wiggle in South Lake Tahoe, California 2016.
Selfie by teamie Julie Leth at teamcamp 2017.
My winter training crew.
Mel and me 5min before the start of a TTT 🙂
Sunset with my parents.