How to deal with Post Croc Depression

So here’s the thing… I’ve just crossed the finish line at the Crocodile Trophy and I feel on top of the freakin’ world! But I also know that in two to three days time an all too familiar sensation will set in. In the Crocodile Trophy world we call it “Post Croc Depression” and if I may, I want to share this with you, if you have never experienced feeling low after an extremely big event that has you running high on adrenaline.

Such a low can strike after major positive events like a wedding or a successful exam too. Or after working for a major work deadline and putting in massive amounts of effort and when stress levels are high for a prolonged time or – in our case – after a challenging personal project, let’s call it that way. The key trigger seems to be intense and prolonged effort that ends abruptly.

So, let’s fast-forward two to three days. I know I should be:

  • Proud, because I just completed one of the hardest stage races on earth. For the ninth time. In a row.
  • Relieved, because I get to sleep in tomorrow. I have a bed to myself for one more night without a toddler’s toes in my ear.
  • Happy, because I just spent almost two weeks with like-minded mountain bikers from all over the world, racing through the magnificent landscapes of Tropical North Queensland and reaching remote areas on my bike that the locals often never see.

Instead, I feel this sadness deep inside me and this feeling of loss wash over me. At the same time almost guilty about it. Heck, I just got to do what I want and what I love for two weeks. But, let me admit that I am sad, because now it’s all over. The race I’ve trained for all year is done. Finished. Everyone is packing. Bikes are dissembled. I won’t be able to roll out of my tent and stroll over to Micha our mechanic’s tent and say G’day. I won’t have breakfast with my team mates and brood over a stage map and elevation profile. I won’t take turns in front of the Croc train… well, at least for another whole year anyway. No finish sprint this afternoon. No lunch under palm trees with my mates and new friends.

Classic. Post. Croc. Trophy. Depression.

Actually, it’s not a Croc-thing, it’s a well-known phenomenon in the racing, and stage racing world in particular: Post Stage Race Depression (PSRD).

I have experienced it this feeling every year after the Croc and actually, as a race organiser myself after every big or especially challenging event I host myself as well. You push and you push and you push. And then you STOP. You feel low after a huge event during which you’ve constantly been running on adrenaline and are on a high all the time from all the exhaustion and new impressions and fun you’re having, suddenly it’s all over and your body craves it back. Actually, physically.

It took me quite a while to put it all into words and realise what it was and it really helped finding out that others felt like that too after a stage race.

Mike Blewitt from once told me,

Mountain Bike Stage Racing offers far more than a conventional XC or even Marathon race can. The rivalries are more intense, you meet more like minded people from around the globe, and you find a new routine, that ispurely based around riding your bike as best as you can. You’re a pro for a week. It is a dream state of sorts, and very easy to get accustomed to. But the days and the stages tick by, and then it ends.

I guess for me the only way out has been to re-create that Croc-high every year since 2010 and the good news is that “your” Post Croc Depression will be temporary. If you think in a few days time you feel similar, treat yourself gently, as if you were recovering from the flu. In a few days or a week, you’ll probably find your spirits lifting and your energy returning and you’ll finally unpack that bike bag in the garage that’s been collecting dust since coming home from Cairns.

Here are some things that have helped me over the years:

  • Stay in touch with fellow Croc finishers – it is hard sometimes to explain it all to ‘other’ people, to talk about those experiences in the Outback over drink or dinner. But do talk about it – brag about it, you have just added your name onto the very exclusive list of Croc finishers! You should be proud. My wife Juliane and I are regularly checking in on the Croc social media pages and would love to hear from you!
  • Reach out to the people in your life who care about you, and remember, you may need to thank them for putting up with you during your race or letting you take the time off to do it.
  • Give into the feeling, it is ok to feel down, embrace it and take the time as an opportunity to relive some of your best – and most character-building – moments.
  • Look after yourself and treat yourself gently, eat well, REST. I know it’s tough, you’re most likely back at work on Monday or still on a plane, wondering what the actually crap is going on and if life makes sense at all. But try and relax when you’re in your familiar surrounds. And, let me tell you, it is OK not to jump back on the bike for days. Weeks. Months. If you’re staying on for a holiday in Australia – awesome. But don’t feel guilty if you feel like you don’t want to see your bike. Ever again. I remember my wife dragging me out for a walk. A walk! To the playground. Who WALKS?!? But I actually felt better afterwards. I have to also admit after last year, I didn’t feel like racing until early this year, when I signed up for Koenraad’s Belgian MTB Challenge and knew I had to back that up with 4 days at the Alpentour Trophy, riding behind the peloton cleaning up. Don’t worry, that’s totally normal.
  • Make plans for another adventure, let me shamelessly plug the sister events and race network around the Croc
    • Middle East Tour – Gerhard’s newest project, a 7-day road event from Amman to Israel via the Palestinian region
    • Alpentour Trophy – the Austrian sister of the Croc in Schladming each year in June, four days through some of the most beautiful parts of my home country.
    • Belgian MTB Challenge – Koenraad’s stage race in the beautiful Ardenne Mountains in Belgium with it’s marathon spin-offs. I raced it for the first time this year and really enjoyed it (read: suffered A.F.).
    • And, of course, if you’re an Aussie or will stay a bit longer or come back, come and try one of my own Rocky Trail Entertainment races Down Under
    • But also, if you’ve caught the racing but, start planning your next adventure – next year is the Croc’s 25th Anniversary and until 25th October you get a 25% entry discount I’ve heard plus there are some wicked stage races around world-wide, let me know if you want ideas!

Cheerio, it was a hell of a Croc this year.

Bring on 2019!