Sarah Sturm Journal

Words By Sarah Sturm

Photographys by Dylan Stucki

I started writing this piece in the beginning of our lockdown. My overthinking and procrastination has allowed me to peer back in time just a bit to see just how much and also how little have changed in those long-is-short four weeks. Time seems to have both accelerated while slowing, we’ve watched numbers grow, then shrink, then grow. Our emotions have swirled right along with the time, hand in hand, waiting for change while trying to escape any certainty too. All this to say that right now we are collectively experiencing something unexpected, truly unplanned and it’s not an isolated event it’s our global community. And though it’s gotten this label, “pandemic”, a scary word and a very scary thing, I find it strangely comforting knowing that the entire human population, a community around the entire world is faced with the same problem…yes this problem is a virus, but we’re all in this together. And though we’ve probably all seen and read plenty of “we’re in this together” jargon, let’s just take a moment to appreciate what that togetherness really means and brings.

So apart from being apart, I am with you in this. Experiencing the same things differently. I am right here counting the days as they drag and then again as they fly past.

Controlling the controllable-s in a time of uncertainty, fear and boredom.

We have in front of us a chunk of time. We have a global pause. There are no races, there are no events, there are no parties or gatherings or high fives. We have busy minds and bored bodies and there isn’t an exact day that we can mark on our planners when “this will all be over”. Nope. The only thing that is certain is uncertainty. And we’re getting sick of seeing that phrase plastered all over the media. Yes, we know, things are uncertain right now and saying it over and over doesn’t seem to help.

But we do have something, and you have to hold it like a baby bird that’s fallen from it’s nest. We have control of our own time. For some of us this might be the first time we’ve felt this level of control…or time for that matter! And this gift of time comes at a price. For me, I use a part of it to grieve those who have lost someone they love, I think about all of the healthcare workers facing death every single day, I think of those who had very little stability going into the pandemic who will get hit the hardest, those who have lost their jobs and their businesses. I allow myself the mornings to grieve, quietly and alone, and then I use my gift of time.

The athlete archetype has always been in me. It makes me goal oriented, driven (to a fault) and extraordinarily self critical. I’m not suggesting that these traits are those only known to athletes, but rather that these are the pieces that have made me the athlete I am today. And now, I get to see how all of those idiosyncrasies react when mixed with nothing but open time and zero external goals. Without any deadlines or events, no gallery openings or launch parties, no race day nerves or glorious line crossing, HOW DO WE FIND OUR MEANING? We make it ourselves.

Making meaning out of lemons, or just staring at the lemons.

I don’t like to follow. I’m not good a coloring in the lines. I dislike trends. This is why I’ve never been the sort of cyclist to follow a training plan. Until now. Yep. More on this in a moment. Before I go into the reasoning behind why a training plan has made me feel the opposite of how it usually makes me feel, I want to explain what isolation does to an extrovert.

It makes us feel even more like a crazy person than usual.

No, not every extrovert. No, not all of the time. But for this driven, goal oriented extrovert it’s been quite challenging to find my meaning. I know what you’re thinking, now that we don’t have any of the normal tests of “success” (ie races, competitions, awards…) those of us who rely on these tools of measurement are left feeling lost and without purpose. That’s kind of it, except for the fact that in a lot of ways I’ve really loved the vanishing of race stress. I don’t have to endure these tests, and not in the way that you miss a race because of injury, having to watch everyone else do it but you still feel guilty and you wish you were out there. No one is out there. It’s a FOMO sufferer’s dream come true. However, I do get some sadness when I notice a date pass by, a date that should have been a race. I know that there will be more races, that this isn’t forever, so for now I am controlling what I can. It’s not that I am happier without the racing, I am just welcoming the unusual break in the stress. A break that is new, that is going to expire and that (hopefully) won’t ever come again.

Bringing us back to this lemon. And training.

This lemon is the pause. For me, it’s time. For me, it’s the controllable part of my life right now. I have turned my lemon into my graphic design business, I’ve turned it into drawing, painting and riding more. I have made that lemon my little lemonade b****! (I’m skimming over all of the moments in the day where I question everything and the lemon juice sprays directly into my eyes and I feel like I’m doing it all wrong…don’t worry, that happens at least once a day). And the training, yes, the training. That’s another lemon…but let’s call it a banana.

I used to peel my bananas the way that monkeys do, from the bottom up. Yes, a little unconventional but it worked for me and I have my reasons. Same with “training”. Traditional training (intervals, plans, hours, power, heart rate….) didn’t work for me. I like to ride hard, I like to find different ways to challenge myself on a bike that don’t have to do with completing a workout. Mainly it was social. And now, well, we know the situation. You may be asking yourself, why train when nothing is certain? Why train when there are no races? I have made the training my racing. I am now peeling that banana the way “normal” people do…almost. And for now, it’s working. It gives me structure that I am missing and my brain feels healthier right now. I’m just trying not to think how many bunches of bananas I’m going to have to go through until this thing is over!

Parting words

Until we get to meet at the races, share beers and high fives. Until we get to choose to ride bikes as fast as we can, together, to find who does it the fastest. Until we can share real life hugs. Thank you for reading my words, thank you for letting me share how I make lemonade and how I peel bananas. I cannot wait to see you all out there!