Thursday, 8 November 2012

The End of The World...(As We Know It)


I recently wrote an article on ‘The Travelling Athlete’ for a triathlon based website. I’m not sure it was quite what the editor had in mind when I sent it through. He feared my tongue in cheek, nonchalant approach to the subject would be lost on his American readers. Nonetheless he printed it in good faith (beyondtransition.com if you’re interested). 

Within the article I made reference to the effects of altitude on your emotions; how suddenly, even those with the emotional capabilities of a fish, are reduced to a blubbering mess.

Even after the 200th time, when Kate promises Jack she’ll “never let go”, but tosses him over board for an eternity of ‘sleeping with the fishes’ anyway, the tears swell up and your sat in 31C shovelling  in airplane issue crackers between sobs, desperately hoping your neighbour doesn’t catch you out.

No?! Just me?!  

Well anyway, I’m not sure what’s inspired me to finally crack out a much over due blog, but I’m not actually convinced it’s the best time for me to be doing so. 

After all I’m sat in 31C, airplane issue crackers in hand.  

Maybe it’s the rousing tones of my favourite Fleetwood Mac album playing on my headset (the movie section on my entertainment system has been firmly switched ‘off’ for the remainder of the flight!)

Or maybe someone, namely my travel buddy, has switched the sleeping pill I popped an hour ago for a pro plus?

Traitor? Comedic genius? I’ll leave you decide. 

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to do, like any proper triathlete does, is get my excuses in there early, before you read on. I cannot be held accountable for any emotional drivvle that you are about to read. It’s the altitude. I swear.

So 2012. 

The year that everyone’s harped on about since God made man from dust.

OK maybe that was a little ‘flowery’ but remember; altitude.

But to be fair it hasn’t really disappointed.

The Queen’s Jubilee. A great excuse for a good old knees up on the village green.

The Olympics. No extra explanations needed.

The European Football Cup.  Being Welsh I’d be disappointed if England had done well.  

And on a more personal level..?

2012 has been, honestly, surprising beyond my own, often high, expectations. I’d be lying if I said I’d started the year entertaining visions of myself getting top 10 finishes at World Series events, let alone clutching two World Championship Gold’s. As clich├ęd as it may sound, I do have to pinch myself.

One of the first questions I remember being asked after winning the World U23 Championships was “to what do you credit your recent success?” I think my response was something akin to an Oscar acceptance speech, thanking everyone, including my best friend’s dog. I say think; the whole emotional episode was aired and forever preserved by the BBC.  

But since then I’ve had a lot of time driving in a camper van around New Zealand to think about it. And unsurprisingly the list is endless, and the people that I’d need to mention would only bore you. Again. So I’ll thank them in my own time, in a more personal fashion.

But ultimately it keeps coming back to one thing. One thing that, if you choose to listen, although I’m sure many people enable their selective hearing mode whenever this answer is provided, is repeatedly echoed by those achieving excellence. Coincidentally, it’s also the one answer that people spend (and probably make) a lot of money and a lot of time avoiding, instead thinking up elaborate alternatives and magical short cuts.  

Answer: Hard work.

The last 12 months were tough. Bloody tough. There was definitely blood. There was definitely sweat. And there were definitely tears. My poor training partners will vouch for all three.

But sorry kids there are no substitutes for hard work. Yes you have to be smart. I’ve learnt that the hard way through numerous illnesses and injuries over the years. But there are also no secrets. No magic formulae. Just get out there and get on with it.

I’m not professing to have mastered this triathlon business either. I definitely have a long way to go, many more 12months like the last, until I can maybe, one day, with a little bit of luck for good measure, entertain the idea of ditching the U23 part of my title.

In addition to Royal celebrations and crap football, I think it’s also worthy to note, that the end of the world, as predicted for 2012 by the Mayans, never occurred. Not that I’m aware of anyway. Although R.E.M nearly had me convinced one night. Wine, not altitude was probably the excuse that time.