Keeping up with the Jones’

“I showed everyone I was vulnerable and, in the end, people respect that more.”

One of the most difficult things I’ve found in making the step changes I need in my life has been the ability to talk about how I feel to others and in essence let off steam in a control way. You see, I am prone to being much like a champagne bottle or can of pop: once shaken enough and the cork/stopper is released all of the emotion discharges uncontrolled ready to hit the nearest object. At least I recognise this now and am some way towards controlling that part but I still remain uncomfortable revealing my feelings to others despite the problems that this can create. So I was quite interested to see Bradley Wiggins latest interview which appeared in today’s Guardian and his discussion of the management of his emotions. The cynics amongst you might want to file this in the “further excuses” file of the Wiggins cabinet, but let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt here. From someone who has had first hand experience of similar feelings this sounds more real and experienced than made-up and opportunist.

“You think it’s the end of the world and you’re completely alone in the whole saga.”

Now that is something I can relate to. It doesn’t matter that Brad is talking about the Tour de France, recognised as the world’s toughest sporting event, I’m talking about life of which the Tour is a part but which is just as much if not more so a tough, punishing and relentless event. I know, I felt the same way last year with the world against me as I tried to struggle on with the weight of expectation pressing heavy on my shoulders. In fact, looking around me today I can see some friends and colleagues displaying similar signs. I’ve come a long way in being able to do that. And so to some extent has Wiggins.  Interestingly it is the outburst he gave during the Tour at Ax-3 Domaines which I can see as his champagne cork moment, the point at which letting guard down and venting his feelings actually gives him more freedom but like me I’m sure he would liked to have done that differently.

The pattern is similar to previous closed season interviews he has given, the opening involving a drink an all too familiar feature some would say. But maybe this suggests that Brad is pretty fragile, that maybe he needs help and support. One of the major problems in this world is that we expect successful people to be individually strong. Maybe it is that view which is delusional rather than the emotions being a frailty or handicap.  Enough pop-pyschology. What is obvious, to me at least, is that building barriers to prevent the outside world from leaking in seems to have been counter-productive for Brad and certainly has been for me so the lesson here is actually to let the world back in but in a more measured way. For me it was a media diet, maybe for Wiggins its for Sky to adopt a more relaxed approach – relaxation clearly does us all the world of good.

The final thing to strike me from the interview was the often overlooked support we get at these times.

“He looks across our tiny table at Cath, who has joined us. In his book, Cath writes a lovely tribute to Wiggins, as her husband and a cyclist. “It was probably only a few weeks ago that I felt you were back again,” Cath says. “I’m getting there,” Wiggins replies wryly.”

I suppose for a lot of the last 18 months I’ve been absent for Mrs AB. But I know that without the love and support of Mrs AB I wouldn’t have made the progress I have. That is always worth remembering.

Like Brad I’m getting there but still have a way to go, altering my own goals and changing the path towards them. We’ll both get there in the end even if the goal is something different. What is most important is being ourselves. Good luck Brad and Illegitimi non carborundum.

For what it’s worth..its worth doing!

I’m not going to make a habit of reposting other people’s blogs on here, but yesterday I read Ben Greenwood’s blog on VeloNation and was really touched.  I can’t put what Benji says into better words myself so here you go – read, tell your friends and think about doing something too!

Pretty in Pink
This blog is dedicated to Clare Greenwood, 2nd April 1949 – 18th December 1995.

As every self respecting young boy knows. Only girls wear pink. Boys wear blue. Or black. Or red. But never pink.
 
Then as you grow up. The colour pink grows on you. Suddenly it’s an option. Something for a special occasion. You might try to bluff it by calling it salmon or magenta, but everyone knows it’s pink. And you don’t feel too bad about it. You don’t start questioning your sexuality. It’s just a colour. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
 
Of course if you were being sceptical you would say I only like pink because my team kit contains a fair bit of it. That’s true, but unlike the T-mobile kit of old, our use of it is a bit more subtle. A splash of pink is cool. Too much is overkill. That’s something the joker might wear when fighting Batman. He can get away with outlandish outfits. He’s a Supervillan. The rest of us can’t. We don’t live in Gotham City.
 
So why am I writing about a colour. And such a girly colour at that. Well it just so happens that those mother loving, bum bag wearing, metrosexuals from Italy also like pink. In fact they like it so much the leader of their national tour gets such a coloured jersey for the honour. Now before we go on lets be clear. The Magila Rosa is cool and iconic. Matching shorts, socks, glasses, bikes etc most certainly are not. Vincenzo Nibali take note.
 
Pink also has another significance. Apart from being the name of a pop star. And a hair colour if you want to rebel or stand out from the crowd. And a perfume… It’s also the colour chosen for breast cancer charities. They have walks where women wear pink bra’s to raise money to fight breast cancer. It’s a cause which gets a lot of media attention.
 
And it’s a cause which means a lot to me. I know first hand how cancer can change lives. Everyone expects to go to their parents funerals at some point in their life. But not when you’re eleven. Not when you need your mother most. At least one good thing came of it. I found my hero. I’ve never faced death before but I certainly expect it will scare me. If my mum was scared she never showed it. Not to me anyway. She never complained. She never snapped. In the end it was a fight that was only ever going to have one winner. Breast cancer won.
 
So why am I writing about this now? It happened 15 years ago. I dealt with it a long time ago. My life’s changed a lot since then. Why talk about the past?
 
Well because while I might have changed. Some things haven’t. Modern medicine might mean more people survive cancer. But it’s still deadly. And in some cases on the increase. And now I’ve got a chance to do something about it. Raising money for charity is something other people do. While you sit at home worrying about what luxury item to buy. Other people are giving up their time to help others. Good for them you think. But do you do anything to help. Maybe. Maybe not.
 
The trouble is there is so many charities. Which one do you pick? While breast cancer might be getting all the news stories. There’s another more silent killer on the prowl. This is prostate cancer. Men are too proud to get cancer. They are too manly to admit it. Cancer is for women. Well, unfortunately not. And denial isn’t going to help it.
 
As a team we’ve been luckily enough for the last 2 years to be sponsored by Sharp. The team’s jersey in 2009 were filled with the words Sharp 4 Prostate. This was to show the company’s support for the Prostate Cancer Charity. And in 2010 a team from Sharp, including the UK Managing Director Paul Molyneux, took part in the RAAM. The Race Across America. And they did very well. But racing across America. Non stop. With little sleep. On a bike. That’s not fun. Only crazy people do that.
 
But in 2011 there’s a new kid on the block. A new challenge. And this time it’s in the land of pizza, ice cream and grappa. Italy. With its epic mountains and stunning scenery. And the occasional ‘bella donna’ to take your eyes off the road.
 
But only pros get to ride round Italy. You have to be a superstar to the do the Giro d’Italia don’t you? Well no. Not any more. In 2011 you can take part in the Prostrate Cancer Charity supported by Sharp, Gran Corsa (www.grancorsa.com) covering the whole 3 week long route starting on 29th May 2011. The ride will be launched in London on 13th December but the ride is open to people from all nationalities so give it a go.
 
What an opportunity. You could be one of those fund raising people. Completing the challenge of a lifetime. And saving lives while you do it. The riders of Rapha Condor – Sharp will be there.
 
Will You?
 
Thanks for reading.
Benji

The original post and the rest of Benji’s blog can be found at http://www.velonation.com/Blogs/Ben-Greenwood.aspx

The value of our dreams

A friend of mine posted a very interesting blog piece on Sunday about day dreams. It got me thinking.  According to Jenny’s psychologist friend day dreams are made up of random thoughts whereas our decision making, the example she uses is what we want for our tea, is a more systematic process.  I’m not sure I necessarily agree.  I’m sure I am not alone in indulging in, somewhat too regular, bouts of day dreaming.  There are many times when I should be concentrating on a particular task and yet my mind wanders off to what are for me more interesting and entertaining thoughts.  In coping with my recent health problems I first addressed this as work avoidance. I then questioned whether it was me being merely lazy (though having consulted that great radio psychiatrist Dr Fraiser Craine whilst tackling the ironing mountain this morning I know leanr that this is fear!).  The response to all of these seemed to be to buck up my ideas, focus, concetrate and get on with it – whatever “it” might me.

But Jenny’s post got me thinking.  What if, instead of day dreams being a mere random thought they are infact much more systematic than we might think.  Are my daydreams the means of telling me to that I engaged in the wrong task and that I would be better off and more productive in switch to my alternative.  If this is the case, and I’m starting to believe it might be, rather than scolding daydreamers for being unrealistic the power to greater happiness and dare I say it a better society might lie in nurturing those dreams into reality.  Like so much in life I am learning to realise the value of the small things.  Jenny has sparked the idea that the value of dreams should not be overlooked and underestimated.

Get off your horse and drinks your milk

Cafe stops are what make bike rides. I am guilty of forgoing this treat for fear of being alone and looking stupid with nothing to read.  However, today I had both the cafe in mind and a companion to keep me entertained on the stop.  This morning I met up with an old school friend Adrian for a ride that has been a long time in the making (courtesy of Facebook). On a cold and overcast morning we rode out to Ironbridge and a favourite sopping point of mine, the Tea Emporium. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but I need good coffee – and all in the pursuit of good taste, good tea too – and the Tea Emporium does just that: a dark, slightly bitter espresso with just enough crema to make it slip down.  It makes the exit from Ironbridge that bit easier, not that it can ever be described as such.  As any good geography student (or even an astute history pupil) will know, Ironbridge sits in a gorge and though any entry in is downhill, the exit is via a climb.  Today’s ascent was Jiggers Bank, a climb I first encountered after watching the Tour of Britain in 2008. On that occasion I had noticed a double espresso was sufficient fuel to take on this beast and what better excuse today.  Yes, I conquered it but riding with Adrian up that I now know how Tom Boonen must have felt watching Fabian Cancellara ride away on the Muur in this year’s Tour of Flanders. Oi oi oi.

In all seriousness it was great to get out with an old friend. I am now completely shattered and have my entertainment lined up on the coffee table next to me. I think I’ve deserved a second beer this evening before an early night.

Ever had one of those days…..?

We all have that feeling some days where nothing seems to be going right so maybe I should be glad my name isn’t Pat McQuaid and I’m not President of the UCI and so eloquently put by 39Teeth in his latest blog post. And just remember, Professor Brian Cox had a hand in tell us “things can only get better”. Did that put a smile on your face? (Just try and forget what happened in the following 13 years)