So yesterday I went out riding for the first time in a long time. As mentioned in my previous post I have bought a new bike. I've fully accepted the fact I am growing older. The fact that I quit working with/on bikes for the good part of two years to work with beer and then burgers has kinda fucked my fitness. Although I've flirted with getting back in shape I've finally admitted that getting my fitness back to where it once was is going to be a struggle. One I've been avoiding for probably a bit too long now.
So... With this in mind I finally committed to buying a new bike. One with gears... I know, I know. See to a lot of people who know me, this will come as a shock. For years I was adamant that the only bike you'd need for riding road is a fixed gear. My attitude was if you can train yourself to ride up some pretty gnarly stuff then why the fuck would you wanna cheat the effort by using gears? I'm still kind of in this mind set. Its still feels a bit of a cop out to make things more manageable but as defiant I am, I am no longer able to ride my fixed as well as I once did.
Roughly about a year and a half ago I was in quite a bad state of mind. I'd over worked my self trying to make something of my years in hospitality. The way I used to deal with stress was to get out on the bike and almost punish my self for being so affected by work. It was quite normal to see me hammering the streets at some late hour of the night only returning home when I was physically exhausted and close to "doing a sick". Instead I replaced exercise with drinking and a general air of self destruction. Drinking a load of good beers and eating vast amounts of fatty foods seemed a lot easier and more of a quick fix at the time.
I'm paying the price for it now though. I can no longer drink booze as it gives me a bad case of the rattles and throws any good state of mind into a whirlpool of negativity, self doubt and anxiety. However, I'm not tee total by any means. I'll enjoy a nice whisky every now and then if its a special occasion. The difference is I'll enjoy it over the space of an hour and that'll do me fine. Rather than enjoying several over the space of thirty minutes and becoming a wobbling, shit talking mess.
The same goes for my cycling. Before I was considered fast and aggressive. For a while I didn't agree with those who said it. It wasn't a case of modesty or anything like that, it was more "yeah I may be quick, but that guy/chick is waaaaay fuckin faster". I was always more focused on how I could beat the next person who was faster than me. Not in an aggressive, competitive way... More of a way self worth kind of way. Its a hard one to explain. I kinda felt that praise wasn't worth anything unless I was any where near the ability of those I truly respected. If I wasn't it felt like the scales were kinda tipped in an uneven way. I'm sure what I just said doesn't make any sense. I'll explain more another time when we have a brew together.
With all of the above in mind I started to feel a weight hanging over me. Almost as if I had a reputation to uphold of being that guy with a beard who rides a fixed gear. For a while I started to believe my own hype. It was during the time of being a cycle courier. I wasn't half as fast as some of the veteran riders but I was starting to see how strong I had become. I hate to admit it but I had developed a cocky attitude to it all. I don't know if cocky is the right word (quiet at the back please!) but it was a self assured feeling of knowing I was becoming faster than certain circles I'd ride/ridden with.
This is when I became complacent. Had a few more beers and had second servings of burgers etc etc. I believed I was so strong at that time it didn't matter how much shit I pumped into my body. "Yeah i'll ride it all off tomorrow" was a constant narrative in my head. But shock horror, tomorrow never came.
After a while I'd notice how slow I was becoming. I was still quick but no where near as quick as I had been months previous. Everything was slightly more laboured. My legs felt like two old dogs that refused to go out for walks. Previously they felt like young pups that were almost impossible to get to sit down and behave. In turn looking at my bike almost became shameful? I don't know if thats the right word to use to describe how I felt. Every time I planned or was asked to ride I'd find an excuse. I was becoming too stubborn to admit I couldn't do this thing justice any more.
You see, I built my bike in an aggressive manner. I built it to be punishing. To feel like despite how much I'd improve through training I'd never quite "tame" it. It's built to be fast. There's no fuckin denying that. Everything on it is the best it should be. All beautifully made products that seem to work in harmony with one another. The bike does it's bit regardless of how you are feeling. The fact I couldn't exploit this bikes potential any more made me feel fuckin shitty and worthless. The best way to describe it would be to liken it to sled dogs. You spend years training yourself to control this pack of wild dogs to pull a heavy sled and yourself beautifully through rough snowy terrain. They pull and pull regardless of conditions. That's all they know and all they love. Previously I felt like I was the alpha of this pack. Knowing all well that they have wild instincts and could turn on me, break loose and escape or even turn on me. But no, they respected me as much as I respected them. Now I feel like I'm slightly intimidated by the dogs. I don't fully trust myself to control them and work in harmony with them. Feels like I know what to do but nothing happens. No matter how hard I shout "Mush" the dogs will remain seated whilst looking at me thinking "who's this twat?!".
Despite admitting all of this I have no doubt I will get it all back again. I just know its not going to be as easy as I expected. Starting from the bottom again and gruelling my way back up. Not to mention eating a lot of humble pie and not taking any of it for granted again.
I guess in a way it's similar to what I'm doing with my photography. I'm working my way from the bottom in hope of becoming a house hold name... Or at least being responsible for making a few waves. I've no doubt made a few mistakes so far and will most definitely make more. I like having moments where you are forced to swallow your pride. It's where you learn the most and hopefully prevent further mistakes.
Chasing humble pie with a big cup of harden the fuck up is quite delicious after the bitterness subsides.