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Self-isolating away from home with Peter Disera

Three-time elite XCO national champ reflects on mental fatigue in a rapidly changing world and reconnecting with the bike

Peter Disera

As the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak develops, many of us are making adjustments to our daily lives in order to stay healthy, and do their part to slow the spread of coronavirus. This includes Canada’s top professional racers.

Peter Disera, is currently in Victoria, B.C. where he just finished riding out his self-quarantine period after returning from cancelled early-season US Cups in California. With racing in B.C. cancelled shortly after, the three-time elite men’s cross country national champion is now trying to get back home to Ontario, though cancelled flights are making it difficult.

Disera shares how he dealt with isolation as a naturally extroverted person, navigating the mental fatigue of the news cycle in a rapidly changing pandemic – including the cascading race cancellations culminating in a postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics – reconnecting with the bike, and what he’s watching on Netflix.

Peter Disera
Peter Disera at 2019 world championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn.
Canadian Cycling Magazine: You’re currently away from home, in Victoria, B.C. You’ve mentioned you’re concerned you might not be able to travel back to Ontario for a while. How did that situation develop?

Peter Disera: Nicola, my partner, and I are still in Victoria. She was out here completing a veterinary clinical rotation at a pet hospital here in Saanich until the end of March. However, Ontario Veterinary College cancelled all remaining rotations 1.5 weeks into her rotation in response to the pandemic, allowing her to self isolate with me upon my premature return from California. Since then, we’ve had a challenging time lining up flights to get home because as they continue to scale back domestic travel, our connecting flights have been cancelled multiple times. Our return to Ontario is currently set for April 15th, giving us time to self-isolate for another 2 week period before moving out of our student house at the end of April.

What is different about being in self-isolation away from home and family? And what are you doing to adjust for that?

Once Nicola’s rotation got cancelled it made things easier for me returning from travel. I was able to isolate with her since she no longer had to go into work and wasn’t going to have contact with clients. Honestly, I would prefer to isolate away from my family right now. I wouldn’t want to stress my parents by isolating with them or temping them to visit if I was close by. I know it’s hard, but they are approaching the ‘at risk’ age and in this way, it’s just better to be away.

Peter Disera
Family congrats after winning a third straight Elite Men’s cross country title at 2019 national championships.

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Day to day life in self-isolation looks a little different for everyone right now. What does your new daily routine in isolation?

A day in the life of isolation isn’t too terribly different than a normal day in the life. The only major difference I’ve had to deal with is the lack of social interaction. I am very extroverted, making this the hardest part for me.

Have you learned any unexpected lessons from your time self-isolating?

During my time in isolation, I had great ambitions to tackle my long ‘to-do’ list of desk work. However, the ever-changing daily pandemic news has been very fatiguing. The consistent bombardment of news, ups and downs of the Olympic postponement, and the lack of varied human interaction for my extroverted self made the days feel like weeks. During this time, it was pretty typical for me to not ride until the afternoon; and although lacking structure, discipline and motivation, getting out on my bike and into the woods was an escape for me. The woods are the one place that I can just be, and pretend things aren’t so crazy. I’ve enjoyed reflecting on this and have come to value my time on a bike even more.

Mont-Sainte-Anne world championships in 2019. Photograph by Nick Iwanyshyn
While the Olympics have been postponed, parts of the World Cup calendar are still scheduled as planned. How are you adjusting your training to A) isolation and B) the changed race calendar?

A) I adjusted things by relaxing daily structure somewhat to alleviate some pressure and expectations, and have shifted to focusing more on volume and fun rides.
B) I am putting no stock in the current race calendar. I am planning to take a few weeks to have fun on the bike, and will plan for a race season early fall, if at all. Regardless, this is still time to build up our strength and look forward to the coming years.

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What challenges do you face maintaining motivation with a sudden lack of immediate race goals?

Motivation comes and goes with the wind these days. Logically, I should just be building for the coming years of racing. Emotionally, some days are so draining with the news that I don’t have the energy to ride. Physically, somedays feel better than others. We were prepped and tuned to go racing this past month, and now switching back over to volume required some time to adjust. Without access to physiotherapists and massage therapists, I’ve also had some difficulty keeping my body comfortable on the bike.

Peter Disera weaving through the rocks during 2019 XCO world championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne. Photograph by Nick Iwanyshyn
You recently wrote about joining the OCA Camp in Girona, Spain. What’s it like seeing the current news in Spain, having been there less than a month ago?

The news in Spain is mind-boggling in many ways and just doesn’t seem real. I’ve always really enjoyed my time in Spain and I feel deeply for everyone over there struggling.

What are you watching/listening to during isolation?

During self-isolation we were living in a one-room tiny home with a loft bed, so living quarters were snug. Nicola watched a lot of Gilmore Girls, and I watched Netflix’s Formula 1 series. We also had access to Google Home, and would listen to the news most mornings, depending on how overwhelmed we were feeling that day.

What’s your top isolation comfort food?

Nothing at the top of the list, but I did buy ice cream amidst the volatile Olympic cancelation/postponement news.

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