Even lions need courage

All the lion needed was courage, but that wasn't so easy to find without the right help.

I opened the sports section of yesterday’s paper and in amongst the postmortems of England’s failed World Cup bid and the jubilation over the England cricket team’s successes down under was this advert for Time to Change featuring former England batsman Marcus Trescothick. It’s interesting that it is in the Sports section and in some ways follows on from last weeks post about Bradley Wiggins. Firstly, Trescothick received a lot of flak for leaving the last Ashes Tour down-under after he came home early as a result of what was then described as “home sickness”. To appear amongst the very same sports pages obviously was meant to provoke a reaction amongst readers. And so secondly, who are the main readers of sports pages? Men. And who are least likely to admit to suffering from depression, anxiety and stress? Men! I admire the way that Trescothick has not only acknowledged and started to deal with his problems but has fronted this campaign.  We admire our sportsmen and women when they are winning but love to bash them when they are down, never accepting the excuses and dismissing as unacceptable weakness the underlying reasons.  I’ve been as guilty as the next fan but I’ve started to rethink this.  It takes courage to make a stand, be that to yourself and to the outside world.  Each of us can play our own part in beating the stigma of mental health issues: those of us who suffer can take the courage to admit our problems – life will only get better when you do; to those on the outside, look at how you can support family, friends and colleagues best in feeling less “odd” (even if its just an ear to bend and shoulder to cry on, that often can be the biggest help).  Out of it all we can begin to share our experiences,  in this way we can break down the myths, give others the inforamtion they need to take their own steps and so begin to fight the prejudice. I hope I’ve managed to do my bit through this blog and would encourage others to do their own thing.

And if you want further information about the campaign go to www.time-to-change.org.uk and make your own pledge. This is something I have become passionate about changing as a result of my own experience. And in the words of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, courage can make slaves into kings. Let’s all be lions this winter and lay these bigger ashes to rest!

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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.

Apologies for the interruption to our service

Hello all. Its been a while hasn’t it?  I’m not really sure what happened there but I hope you either didn’t miss me too much or enjoyed the break from my ramblings depending on how you view this blog.  I thought it was about time I got back into the swing of things again and try and keep a regular update going.  One of the things I have found hard in my recovery has been making a note of how I feel on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  Somehow the idea of doing so feels silly, strange and daunting all in equal measure and freely admit that I have not managed to do this. Or so I thought. During a recent counselling session I discussed this with my counsellor and I was honestly surprised when she suggested that I had already been doing so (wait for it…..) in this blog!  So there’s me thinking I’m rambling into the ether but bot only do a few of you read it but it is also beneficial in my recovery.

The last few weeks have carried on being tough.  Part of this I can put down to the change of season and this year it seems to have been a strange transition from summer to autumn.  With the big rides gone and out of the way I’ve found myself suddenly at a stop.  I’ve had less to stress over as a result but this has ion some way also been a strange sensation, somehow leaving a vacuum which is yet to be filled. I know that for you reading this you will see the blatantly obvious benefit of this already yet to my warped cerebral machinations this makes only limited sense.  It’s another thing I want to get over and so I’m trying hard not to find a replacement, at least just yet.

Not that I’m saying I’ve been totally happy the last few weeks.  In fact I’ve been facing up to a lot more issues than I was prepared to admit even a couple of months ago.  The elephants in the room are finally being recognised and its time to work on them.  I’ve alluded to parts of this in past blog posting but I think the post I made on identity is closest to the truth.  I’m struggling in a big way to work out who exactly I am, what it is I want and how I can get there.  On the face of it that looks selfish but that is a feeling I need to get over and learn to recognise when it is ok to look out for others and be selfless and then times when I have to be a bit more selfish.  That’s not to say I am going to change everything in my life, far from it, just making changes to some areas which are continuing to sap energy, confidence and happiness.

Last week marked the “anniversary” of me owning up to a problem that was a long time coming. I can look back on it now and realise it was horrendous and awful at the time. I know that I am still on the road to recovery and there is a lot more work to do. Yet in a perverse way I’m glad it happened because otherwise I’d still be careering my life away .

From dreaming spires to punctured tyres

Maybe I spoke too soon on Friday. Maybe I have got what it takes to ride the Tour of Britain. Specifically, may I’ve got what it takes to ride this year’s Tour of Britain.  Yesterday’s Oxford-to-Cambridge ride certainly was a contrast to last week’s exploits on the Tour Ride.  The distance was slightly less, the start slightly earlier, the terrain more what I would call undulating than the shark’s teeth of North Staffordshire and the weather… Well the weather was truly ToB 2010: wet, windy yet warm.

The hardest part about riding in the wet is the start.  Who wants to leave the confines of a warm place to get wet and cold. The warm place on Sunday morning was bed and the 6am alarm call was unwelcome. Last week I was suffering from a post Tour Ride cold: sore throat, cough, aches and limited energy.  I hadn’t wanted to admit to myself that I was in this state knowing full well that I had over 90 miles to cover on Sunday so needless to say it wasn’t the best preparation.  However, having committed to rising with my cycling buddy Nicola I couldn’t really back out. Reluctantly I think it’s fair to say that with the added support of Mrs AB we chivied each other up and out and to a very dark car park in south Oxford.  In comparison to last week, yesterday’s “event” was more village fete than major sports parody which was slightly disappointing and somewhat anti-climatic.  The heavy morning rain doing its best to add to the deflation.  And so at just after 7.30 am we rolled out of Gloucester Green with lights and waterproofs on.

The ride itself was fine.  Riding at a slower pace than last week was good and dare I say enjoyable. Despite Nicola urging me to go off at a faster pace, riding together and joined by her colleague Helen not only seemed right it also would be fun.  And it was.  Indeed, as the rain eased (not the wind) and the sun came out, as our thoughts turned to triple chocolate muffins which Mrs AB had procured for the finish it might be fair to say we all sensed achievement. I’m glad we stuck together, I wouldn’t have wanted to do that distance alone nor at the pace of last week and I’m starting to find the joy of cycling with others.  In fact, Helen (who has recently returned from the States) and I were sharing our mutual want to ride with others but a hesitancy over the potential clique of the cycling club. Maybe there’s still some way to go on this one.

And so we finished on Midsummer Common in sunshine. 90 miles under our belts and a nice sense of achievement. My companions were great and despite our couple of technical hitches (and for some the hills!) we had a good time.  Thanks to both Nicola and Helen for the company yesterday and to Nicola extra thanks for being my virtual cycling buddy as its helped a lot!  (Apologies though if I was annoyingly fast at times) On the point of technical hitches though maybe I can send a message to those riders who decided not to bring basic puncture repair equipment to do so next time – good Samaritans only have so much patience when they are getting cold and have chocolate waiting less than 10 miles down the road!

So that draws to a close this phase of the reclaim.  I have completed the challenge I set out to do and added an unexpected bonus.  Now to reflect on the achievement before drawing up new plans.  I’ll keep going out on the bike but try to enjoy some relaxed miles around the lanes and start to find some nice tea shops to stop at along the way.

What Sundays were designed for

This is how Sunday’s were designed to be, I’m pretty sure of that. Despite the Catholic education, I’m pretty sure that any overseerer in the sky thought that Sunday was meant for a good ride in the English countryside.  And so with enthusiasm gathered from depths I didn’t know existed I’d had breakfast and first espresso of the day by 8.30 and was in the car by 9 headed south.  My destination was Evesham and a rendezvous with one of my virtual cycling buddies, Nic.  Nic is a friend of Mrs ABs who responded to one of my early blogs suggesting we give each other some mutual support.  I think it’s fair to say that we have both suffered inertia in varying forms and so far Facebook and email encouragement together with an eye on each other’s Runkeeper log has been great in keeping this going.  Today was time to meet up and hit those roads together.

Evesham seemed like a mutually convenient meeting point being about equidistant time wise from our respective homes and I was quietly impressed with it on a sleepy August Sunday – I can’t say I can say the same later in the day but I suppose every town suffers these days! Parking up on the Meadows just kept the dreamy Sunday image going and it wasn’t long before Nic turned up.  We had a 35 mile circuit planned around the Cotswolds.  What we hadn’t factored was a) parking charges on a Sunday (almost financially embarrassed at the start after false information from the local authority website) b) hills of which there are legion and c) the human sub-species Homo Moterus Inpatientus.  Still, we managed to find some quiet rolling roads and enjoyed the amble, complete with an obligatory coffee stop (espressos 2 and 3 in dual formation) at a nice little and surprisingly quiet coffee shop in Chipping Campden (although I was asked if I wanted a small or large double espresso!).  The only sting was the climb out of CC which seemed to go on and get steeper – one of us definitely didn’t have their climbing legs on but I won’t say who.

So all in all today’s been good and I’m not complaining.  I’m sat here with a post-ride pint and about to collapse on the sofa. Job done.

(Thanks to my virtual buddy and another challenge added to the calendar.)