Release the pressure, open up.

Yesterday’s second post I realise was written in the haste of the moment, much like the comments on which it was based. I can see how some of you might have been offended by the language repeated in the quote and how opinions of me might have been formed in my apparent glorification of this. So I wanted to clarify my admiration for Bradley Wiggins “outburst” in front of a packed room of journalists by reflecting on personal experience.

It goes without saying that the Tour de France is a pressure cooker of expectation, emotion and rumour.  The pressure on riders such as Wiggins has been building throughout the year and the only “acceptable” form of release is results on the bike – though for some this is an excuse for more pressure. When our “stars” achieve those results we question them, tainted by the brush of association. Nick Hussey has written a fantastic piece on the erosion of our trust in cycling which encapsulates this eloquently. This negativity actually puts me off – I feel a worse person for consuming it, I just want to watch cycling, enjoy and admire. Increasingly I feel I can thanks to riders like Wiggins and Cavendish.  All of which has led me to cull some of those I followed on Twitter. Sorry folks but if I unfollowed it is because I find your arguments tiresome now, your negativity draining, and I see no magical end to your problems where I can see you will be happy. I’m going to reclaim some control, be happy again and enjoy my cycle sport without you.

I wanted through this post to put Wiggins’ comments into perspective based on realism, through personal experience of pressure and in so doing illustrate why I admire a statement bookended with “profanities”. I’m sure after the event Wiggins himself realised that the phrasing was not the best.  Yet it was uttered in the heat of the moment, in the fierce gaze of the world’s professional and amateur media at a moment that gave him the chance to look his both his visible and faceless critics in the eye.  As the saying goes its better to regret something you have done that something you haven’t.

Whilst I do not condone the language Wiggins used – especially not the c-word – I can see why and how he did. Neither am I going to join a growing crowd in the virtual world and throw the next hypocritical stone. These were words not punches, they hurt ears not bodies. And can you tell me you’ve never ever done the same? A defence based on “flight” can only work for so long and, as we have seen by some of the comments, silence and avoidance in Wiggins’ circumstance probably maks matters worse. I am speaking from experience here too. Under pressure I swear – MrsAB would say a little too much and often tells me off for my language. My use of expletive is born of frustration.  I am proud neither of its use nor of the things that make me feel the need to resort to it. However, I was told as a child “swear too much and it loses it effect”. Perhaps this is why it has caused such a stir – these are not generally the way of Wiggins in press interviews.

But I am sure I am not the only one for whom this pressure and its consequences are a part of everyday life. Many of us live inside our own pressure cookers day in day out.  For me, I seem to spend large parts of my life dealing with the pressures and expectations of myself and others. I find myself striving to do my best in the way I see fit only to feel questioned and scrutinized by others in doing so. My hard work, my dedication and my commitment questioned by others with limited evidence and seemingly written off as worthless.  This breeds frustration, it creates pressure. And we all know what happens if you don’t release pressure gradually. Shake a bottle of bottle of pop then open it quickly and you are covered in a sickly sweet mess. As human beings we are no different: if we let the pressure build too much we end up popping, releasing it in a less than controlled way, regretting the consequences.

This does not excuse my behaviour but it at least explains it. I look back on each time it happens and vow to learn to control it the next. Equally it does not condone Wiggin’s use of certain words. Nor though is it an excuse to ignore what he is saying and why.

This is why I respect Bradley Wiggins for what he did and said. His comments were a cork popping moment. I admire him for facing down his critics and demons. What did was defend hid determination, hard work and commitment. And if others cannot see through the bad words and understand his reasoning they have obviously never been there themselves. Maybe one day they will too.

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.

Whimping Out

Today was meant to be the start of a new regime.  Had I considered the history of regime change and taken heed I would have tried to adopt a much better strategy.  Needless to say day one has not been particularly successful. The plan was to have my long ride of the week, possibly with a pit-stop at a caffeine emporium before getting home tired but contented with continued progress.  Waking up at 5am with what seemed to be a hybrid of migraine and pressure headache, rummaging around in the bathroom cabinet in the dark for any form of painkiller and not really having the deep sleep I wanted from that point on did not bode well. Finally rising and realising the dull skies were actually full of “that fine rain that soaks you through” put the nail in that particular coffin!  So here I am, sat at the computer contemplating a day I hadn’t planned.  I wonder if George Bush ever felt like this?