Temperatures still skipping along near zero and the snow has been transformed into solid ice by successive thaws and re-freezes... am I ever going to get out for a ride?!
My Turbo-Reformation continues though and I am feeling all the better for it-blood surging through the system where previously it was more a syrupy treacle. Combined with my dietary discipline I can feel the weight trickling off of me, the turbo sessions serving to boost my metabolism and caridiovascular systems which has boosted my appetite also. Holding firm though and was even surprisingly well behaved over the weekend consuming a moderate intake of 1 (large...) glass of wine and a couple of whiskies.Only snacking on the odd bit of fruit between meals has probably made the biggest amount of difference as my junk-food intake over the last year had been slowly worsening as I grew more an more despondent about my work situation and other wider life-factors. Even just a few weeks into my signing up for the Etape things seem to be improving in all areas of my life... I feel much more positive and the training regime adds a bit of structure to my day as well as encouraging me to be healthier and make better choices with regards to diet. Next year's calendar now has one major focus that has such emphasis that it has helped distract my attention from the chaos around finding a job and wasting a lot of time and energy fretting over things that I really don't have much power to change, and this has helped improve my mood and my sleep as a result.
I may have moments of shitting myself at the prospect of screaming down the Galibier at upwards of 50kmh but I also feel very excited and get a tingle of adrenaline just imagining the sensation of crossing the finish line. There's also a feeling of having opened a door to doing other events all round Europe once I've reached that level of fitness, and I'm really looking forwards to riding the Skye Mor and Etape Caledonia for Macmillan in memory of a friend who passed away last year.
Although when you're confidence and energy is at a low ebb you'd think getting out on the bike would be most important, its also the hardest to rouse enthusiasm. It's tough to describe but I can definitely identify the lowest point for me over summer when I'd been feeling really down and had struggled to force myself out for a ride... eventually after a couple of days I summoned the will to do it, trying to defy a heavy heart that was making my legs even heavier still. Coming to the foot of a steep hill near me that more often than not I would grind up out of principle if not necessity, I half-heartedly began to climb the steepest section at the bottom, telling myself I wasn't a quitter despite every muscle in my body feeling dead and my brain listlessly conceding that it just wasn't happening. As I turned to freewheel back down the few hundred metres I'd just climbed I knew I was in a bad state, made yet more painful by this ready capitulation to a small hill. I was back in the house in 20 minutes and didn't touch my bike for about 3 weeks, unable to face that same feeling of failure but willing myself to give it a go in the knowledge that to do nothing was to give into the creeping malaise that was choking my head up and tainting even the simplest of pleasures. Then when I did eventually force myself back out I couldn't believe the time wasted and opportunities gone by, making me feel ever more ridiculous for failing to overcome the bad feeling emanating from my own head.
With more and more sports people coming out to talk about depression there is less of a stigma about it than before perhaps, but its still there. Reading Graham Obree's book 'The Flying Scotsman' there was much I could relate to and as much as his account of struggling with severe depression was harrowing and difficult to read, it was also incredibly helpful to hear such a giant of the sport be so candid about the very real and life threatening instances where he's had to overcome much more than just another opponent on the race track. I've dealt with it since I can remember but its only in the last 4 years I've started to recognise that I had a problem and taken measures to help it, though even then the NHS isn't the place to find quick or comprehensive treatment beyond being fobbed off with Prozac, or even on one occasion, offered consultation with a Priest ''if that would help''. I'm not deriding the many qualities of someone who has devoted a lot of their time and energies to contemplating the wider meaning of life, creation or our purpose here on this earth, but as a message to be sent by a GP it is akin to saying that depression is a purely existential condition, something to be tackled by philosophy as opposed to medical science... and maybe it is, but surely this is where effective psychoanalysis and treatment should span the gap between the two. For all my faults or problems I remain essentially a pro-active and determined person which is lucky for me, as this is where I've found the greatest strength; reading books from Jung to Kundera, and educating myself as to the causes and what can be done to help. Although I still have a near constant battle to shrug it off that can lapse depending on circumstance or mood I genuinely feel like I have learned enough about what makes me tick to be able to protect myself from the worst and to persevere through the rough patches we all hit from time to time.
Finding an outlet in cycling has really been a huge help in seeing me through some of the worst and helping me get back to the best, and I am certainly much richer for having it in my life. I don't expect riding the Etape to be life changing in itself or in any cliched sense of the phrase, but I am seeing already that the experience will be enormously beneficial to my life as a whole and day by day I'll be throwing myself into being in the best condition possible come the 11th of July, trying to stay as positive and healthy as I can, and taking the hard-learned lessons of the past few years and applying them to the task in hand.
I don't know why I wrote about that today... I feel good, in my life I am blessed with many precious people and things. Perhaps its a moment of reflection on the distance we can travel mentally in the space of just a few days where focus becomes sharper and an area of our lives that was perhaps under capacity is filling up and enhancing our appreciation of the other parts that have been compensating for this lack through their over-abundance. At any rate, to anyone else considering the endeavour I would wholeheartedly recommend it... but I may be speaking too soon, I've still a good many miles to cover before its over!