It is not uncommon following a big adventure or challenge to crash and to experience the post adventure blues. Focusing on one objective for so long and the void completing it leaves can be hard to fill. Add to that the physical and emotional hangover, and your body’s fight to get back to normality and it’s safe to say that it is a real rollercoaster.
In the final days of the Alpine Coast to Coast, Sophie felt confident that, with so much lined up after the adventure, this might be the time when she sneakily sidesteps the blues and doesn’t have that massive crash. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t happen and Sophie had a very tough week following our arrival in Monaco. We both knew exactly what was happening and did our best to ride the waves of emotion, physical exhaustion, and fears of what next.
Expecting this to be a difficult time, I have done my best to be a constant, and a rock, helping Sophie with the stability and support she needs as she begins to process what she has achieved. What I didn’t expect was how the adventure would affect me, and how I have been struggling to deal with it all.
Sophie’s Alpine Coast to Coast
There was never any question in my mind that I would support Sophie on this, her biggest challenge yet. Previously, when either of us have gone off on a big adventure, upon returning there has been a certain amount of time of readjustment, where we are out of sync, and it is through talking about what we have been through that we get back on a level. This can be as little as an hour or as much as a few days but neither of us had been on something lasting so long before, an adventure that we would experience so much, and that would fundamentally change who we are.
I knew I wanted to be there, every step of the way both as a mountaineer, climbing with her and looking after her in the hills when she is tired, and, as a husband, supporting my wife through an extremely tough mental and physical challenge, I wanted nothing more than to share this experience with her.
We would be on this adventure together but, by not cycling with Sophie, this would always be her event and I would be just the support. This is something that caused a few tensions both before we started and on the challenge, my ego not entirely comfortable being in a secondary role for so long. We discussed it time and time again, settling on the fact that it would be tough at times but it was something that both of us wanted to do and, most importantly, wanted to do together.
Not realising that I would get the blues too
The climbs, though technically not difficult, all packed a real punch. The poor conditions and scale of the latter mountains really took everything we had as athletes and mountaineers but, if it was easy, then everyone would do this. Each mountain we came down, both of us were exhausted however I had the ability to take a day off and recover, Sophie didn’t. She was back out on the bike, pushing hard to keep ticking off the miles. This made my life much easier than Sophie’s but it also started sowing the seeds for my own come down.
The fact I was doing less, that my part was easier, and that I was there as support rather than the star has led to me feeling guilty a lot. Guilty if I felt tired when Sophie was doing so much more, guilty that I was sometimes envious that all the limelight was on Sophie, and, guilty that at times, I wanted to be somewhere else, focusing on my own adventures.
We talked about my feelings and emotions throughout the month and Sophie was incredible at putting my needs first when she really should have been looking after herself (and this sometimes made me feel guilty of that fact too!). She helped me get over my low moments and, together, we supported each other as husbands and wives should do.
As we came to the end, I started to feel a sense of relief. I was finally going to be able to go out and climb routes that I wanted to climb, that were more in the vein of what inspires me in the alps, and not have to spend days on end, alone in the car. The excitement of getting back to Chamonix was all I could think about on the last few days as Sophie cycled from Gran Paradiso to Monaco and making it back home, I was straight out the door enjoying in what is the most incredible playground in the world.
I thought I was going to be happy back where I wanted to be, that I finally could be a little selfish and focus on my own objectives, and that, finally, the Alpine Coast to Coast was over. I was irritable though; snapping at Sophie unfairly, getting frustrated with my lack of climbing progress, and generally feeling discombobulated. For the first time in a long time I felt unhappy and that made me feel even worse. How lucky am I to be doing what I’m doing? I’ve no right to be unhappy, I should be grateful and be making the most of it not wallowing in self-pity. I started to blame external factors for my less than sunny disposition and to try and place blame on something concrete, something that I could attribute these feelings to, and thus something I could work at fixing.
Realising I just needed time
It is nearly three weeks since we finished and, though I am not back to my normal self, I finally feel like I’ve turned a corner. The last few days have been the worst but I’ve finally started to understand why I’ve been feeling the way I have; I have been having my own post-adventure blues.
I haven’t felt justified in having the same come down as Sophie as I have felt I didn’t do as much, that I don’t deserve to have a blues, and that I haven’t earned as much of the credit for completing this adventure. What I have realised is that I have.
I didn’t cycle the 1600km+ with Sophie but I was there every turn of the pedal, I was there every step of every epic climb, and, for 32 days, we slept it in alpine huts, camped, and occasionally shared a rather fancy hotel together. We shared the adventure entirely and I have just as much right to be proud of our achievement as Sophie. I am also just as entitled to feel down now that it is all over and that acceptance is the first step to me feeling better about it all.