by Marie-Soleil Blais

I was deeply saddened to find out about the tragic loss of Kelly Catlin. I didn’t know her personally, but I read just about every article and learned about the struggle she was dealing with. Among them her struggle with depression, post-concussion symptoms and the stress of time management as a student and world-class athlete.

Kelly Catlin

I can’t imagine the incredible pain she must have been in. I’m not sure if any words or help could have saved her, and I know too little to comment anything about it. But she wrote something in her last contribution on Velonews that really struck me and that’s what I want to address here today. She wrote that she didn’t feel successful at managing being a student at university with her athletic career, comparing it to juggling with knives, but dropping a lot of them.

I think we can all relate–to some degree–to that kind of stress and struggle, to that desire or need of excellence, especially in any competitive fields with the pressure to perform, the margin for error so small and the expectations so high. I don’t want to make any comparisons neither discuss her particular situation but I want to share my thoughts on the topic because it sounds too familiar to me.

Cycling can be so harsh, so cut-throat at times. Too often in cycling, I feel like I’m surrounded by sharks, ready to eat me at the first sign of weakness. It makes me want to always fight, to always be on my guard. It can get so overwhelming if we lose perspective. For me, perspective is the key. Success and failure in perspective.

Juggling responsibilities is only harmful if you perceive them as knives. Something–like racing–is as important as you let it be, just like the pressure is as heavy as you weight it. Maybe the knives are ping-pong balls after all. Maybe that’s the challenge: to see them as ping-pong balls when all we see are knives. That’s a challenge for many of us, because we all drop balls sometimes, especially when they seem like knives. If only we could see them as balls and let them fall down sometimes.

Accepting to let go of perfection has helped me a lot in cycling. Most of the time it’s not perfect, most of the time you’re not winning. Accepting defeats, accepting deception. Accepting it might take more time to achieve your goals. Letting it go. Especially if it’s cycling related, it’s just bicycle racing. Let it fall down and bounce over like it’s a ping-pong ball. Let go of that race, let go of that exam, or whatever seems so important at this moment only because it’s happening now. You can always race better next year, you can always go back to school later, there are always new opportunities.

The only thing you cannot re-do is living those days and years with this burden on yourself. Time only moves forward, so you just do your best and make the most of the situation. Live it and please, drop all the balls you need.

I know this would not have been enough for Kelly, but maybe it’s a good reminder for others who feel a similar struggle to balance cycling with life.

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