Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nothing But The Best For You.

It will come as no surprise to some of you to hear that when I was in Year 12 I studied Drama. The subject at school, not the other kind. Drama being Drama, there was a final group performance instead of a final exam. Coming up to the spring school holidays our group was a bit behind schedule, so our teacher gave us the keys to the theaterette and let us practice over the two week break.

Around that time I was spending a lot of nights out at a friend's place in Hall's Gap, mostly because they had a spare room and I liked it out there in the Grampians. In the evenings I'd get the fire going, have dinner with their family, then head into that spare room and write out the performance. In the crisp spring mornings I'd start walking into town, my thumb pointed in towards Stawell. I was pretty well known back then, so it never took me long to score a lift. I'd meet the rest of my group at school, we'd rehearse the scenes I'd written the night before, and then, when the day was done, I'd hitch back out to the mountains.

When I think back to 1997 I remember a lot of angst, a lot of bad poetry and a lot of disasterous attempts to figure stuff out. Most of the memories, if not horrible, aren't particularly pleasant, a highlights reel of blunders and awkwardness. But I also remember this one moment: Walking past the Grampians Motel, waiting for a car to come past and pick me up. The sun was out, and for the first time in a while there was a bit of heat to it. I had my backpack on my back, and inside it were the scenes that were gradually turning into a play. I was probably singing, possibly to myself, but more likely out loud. I remember thinking to myself that other than this performance I had nothing else in the world to worry about. That I was completely free to pour everything I had into what we were creating. It was a pretty good feeling.

I don't know if you've noticed, but over the past few months this blog has been a bit of a bummer. I've been sick, unable to ride my bike, and more than a bit depressed about it. I've had a mountain of bloodtests, specialist visits and medical bills. It ain't been a great time. But today I've been feeling a bit better. My resting heart rate is back down and my weight is back up. I've had consistent energy throughout the day, and more importantly, the thought of riding my bike doesn't fill me with dread. I've seen enough false dawns since April to not get too excited, but it's always nice to have a decent day.

And then, out of the blue, I receive an email from a bloke whose opinions I respect more than most. This email outlines his theory about peak performance: that if you want to be really fucking good at something, there's only enough room in life for that thing, plus one other thing. No more.

"It's not just about time," he writes, "It's about all the other energies you have to expend as well.

"Cyclist, partner, teacher, friend, mentor, race promoter, vegan... that's a lot of things to channel your energy towards...

"And I'd wager that in all of those pursuits, you do a damn sight better than pretty much anyone. Sure, you might get dropped every now and then, or have guys beat you that you used to be able to smash - but how important is that in the grand scheme of things?"

The email hits me in a way that I'm not sure it was supposed to. I read through it a bunch of times before replying.

"I've said for a while now that I'm going to concentrate on riding my bike until I'm 35 - only three years away now - and then after that start doing other stuff, like getting involved with the club and starting a family. I guess, though, that I need to rethink what "concentrating on riding my bike" means. I got a short attention span, and it's easy for me to get distracted by plans that could probably wait until after I've hung it up. You're right, though - each of those plans means a little less energy for riding.

"Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, getting dropped in a club race doesn't matter. But you know how the first time you heard Minor Threat you knew that everything was just a little bit different? All of a sudden you knew that there was more out there than just the little world you knew before, and you wanted to move out into that bigger world, explore that bigger world until you just couldn't any more. That's what riding a bike is like for me. I'm late to the game, so I know that I won't be able to take it all the way. But there's nothing I want more than to see how much further I can go.

"Fuck man, it's been a long time since I've been this earnest, or spoken this openly about it. Thanks for making me."

It was a pretty good day.

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