This morning was a great morning to be out with the Carrick Dole gang. The Dole gang gained their title during the recession when jobs were scarce in Carrick, but whilst the name remains, most members are now gainfully employed once again. Some now work shifts whilst others work Saturdays in order to have their sacred Wednesday mornings off to join the gang out on the roads of Waterford and Tipperary.
Cruising along with the wind on our backs and sunshine in our faces life was good. Ardfinnan, Newcastle and Kilmanihan all came and went as we took in the majestic surroundings of the valley between the Knockmeldown and Comeragh mountains.
Leslie, Eoin, OC, Mark and the two Joes are always excellent company and the kilometres pass easily with 31 of them being covered each hour.
Back through Clonmel and then on to Kilsheelan where I bid my buddies farewell and veered right for Kearney’s road.
Now with just my thoughts for company my mind began to wander. I thought back to Monday evening and the kids league in Carrick on Suir. I brought my two daughters along and they both were a little nervous before we arrived in Faugheen. I remember well that feeling before many an underage race myself. But was there anything that I learned that could help them? Nerves are good before a race or an event. They are a sign that your body and mind are psyched up and prepared for battle. Knowing that in itself can put your mind at ease, a little.
People often say to take a deep breath but the opposite is actually better. As a breathing technique that many public speakers use it is known as ‘resetting’. You exhale as much of your breath as possible and hold for 10,20 or as many seconds as you comfortably can before taking a long slow in breath where you fill your lungs by expanding your stomach first and then your chest. Many people shallow breath by just using the top 30% of their lungs up in their chest. This technique calms the most hyped up of minds and learning to use the full capacity of your lungs is a great help on the bike too.
At the top of Kearneys road I looked to my left and noticed the breathtaking view. I had to stop and take a photograph. I am always on the lookout for something that would make a good photo, partly because it makes me take in more of my surroundings that I might otherwise overlook.
Just after I took the quick snap a blue astra came careering around the bend 50 meters up ahead completely on the wrong side of the road. Had I not stopped to take the photo I would have been taking up that very same piece of tarmac and most likely would not be typing this now, or at any time in the future. Chances are high that the driver was actually a nice person but also someone with their phone in their hand. A phone in the hand of a driver is essentially a loaded handgun with the safety off. Sometimes the trigger gets pulled accidentally and lives are taken or changed for ever.
I now began to ponder the fragility of life itself and the importance of perspective. We all get stressed and worry. In general none of the things that we stress and worry about really matter at all. A good way to deal with stress and to know if something is worth worrying about is to ask yourself if you will be able to remember the thing that is now stressing you out one year from now. 98% of the time you won’t so why bother now? Life is short and we all have a choice of whether to enjoy it or to worry about the small stuff and be miserable. Use your freedom of choice wisely.
I was now reaching the top of Boola and another choice had to be made. I had 80k done on a small breakfast and a single bottle of plain water and was in the first throws of the hunger knock. The easy options would be to cruise down Tickincor or coast down the Mountain road. The hard option would be to turn left up Powers The Pot. I turned left.
Another great way to relieve stress and to put it into perspective is to push yourself to physical exhaustion. Going well beyond the point where you are comfortable. (Always remember that when your mind tells you that you are done you are really only 40% of the way to where your body can go.)
When you get home after a particularly gruelling training session your body feels shattered but in a good way, not in a lazy tired from doing nothing way. When you reach that point of physical exhaustion after intense exercise someone could tell you that the house is burning down and you would just be like ‘ Ahh right grand, I’ll be out in a minute’. No stress, no fuss, no hurry and no worries. Life is put back into perspective.
Then this afternoon Sam sprinted to a podium finish in the Giro. If ever there was an example of someone who can deal with and battle back strongly after adversity it is Sam. As a teenager he was softly spoken and mild mannered. As one of the top sprinters in the World he is still mild mannered. But don’t let that fool you. Inside there beats the heart of a Lion, and a ferocious one at that. One who craves victory and who is willing to put every ounce of effort necessary into making his dreams come true. In years to come books will be written about Sam. About how he overcame adversity beyond the comprehension of ordinary men to achieve extraordinary feats beyond the dreams that others would be capable of dreaming.
We are lucky to have someone like Sam to look up to and cheer for. Appreciate and most importantly enjoy it. Tomorrow morning get up at 6am and go out on your bike, even if it is just for half an hour. And tomorrow evening watch the highlights of the Giro and shout for Sam, no matter where he is in the bunch on a tough mountain stage, because you are not just shouting for what he achieves tomorrow but for all he has already achieved and all that he will achieve in the future.
Life is short. Appreciate it and enjoy it!