Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Songs They Never Taught You At School.

I'm biting off more than I can chew again here, trying to put into words something I've not even really able to grasp yet. Sometimes, though, you gotta plow on regardless, in the hope that somewhere amongst all the waffling uncertainty there might be a word or phrase or idea that sticks.

When I first started training with Alf Walker at the Harrison Street Velodrome I quickly realised that it wasn't all about doing tempo work or whistle sprints. Sitting around afterwards was just as important. Alf would always be in a good mood after watching us suffer for a couple of hours, and the stories would start coming out. About how blokes used to ride their track bikes for training down on Beach Road, back in the fifties. About riding the tandem on the Essendon Track and rolling a tire. About eating ice-cream sandwiches on the way home from training at the very same track I'd been busting my gut around.

Ewin Williams would come down and train with us every now and then. He was - and still is - freaking fit, but had been around a bit too. His stories were a bit more recent, but equally hilarious. Perched on the benches, listening to the stories going back and forth was like having the history injected straight into my veins. I was new to the game then - and, let's face it, still am - and all of this felt big, heavy and somehow important. It left me with the impression that when I stepped out on to the track I wasn't just some muppet doing laps, even if that was actually the case. No, instead it made me feel like I was part of a continuum, a long line of athletes who had suffered, crashed and occasionally been brilliant before me. As if somewhere in the future I'd be a character in the story, that I'd be mixed up in the combination of history and myth that forms the narrative of cycling in Brunswick.

None of this sounds like a big deal - and I guess it isn't really - but I guess all I'm saying is that it's nice to be a part of something. And a vague feeling that all this history and tradition is to be respected. Even if it does mean that members of Northcote hate us for being Brunswick.

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