Where did this come from you may ask? Out of nowhere really, which is what can happen for those that know! I have been lately feeling good and inspired. Today I cycled over to Portimao to see the beginning of the 48th Algarve Volta cycling race. The first of the 4 big cycling events of the year, last year was postponed due to restrictions. So I did an extra loop, (that's over 2000km since 31st Nov for me,) and went across the N125 bridge passing one of the teams and support vehicles as they sat in traffic. They may have noticed me or maybe even laughed, who knows? Probably too busy focusing on their race. I was head down and cycling, in my own little bubble.
The atmosphere at the race start was very relaxed and most were wearing masks, especially the riders, but I was amazed at how between their team buses and the line-up, it was open to all to freely cycle and walk around. Some race cyclists stopped to have their photos taken and there was many a relaxed and happy conversation to be heard of many nationalities.
The heat of the day was beginning to build already.
I know I'm getting older, but these competitors are all so young lol. As for identifying any of them, not a chance as helmets, sunglasses and facemasks make it impossible for me.
But as I was wandering along looking into the team area, admiring the numerous 'spare' bikes up on the car roofs that it got me noticing and then I had thoughts of insignificance coming wandering in. When this happens, you can't help but think bad thoughts. You see, the bikes they are racing on are possibly £10k plus. And here I am, I guess it would seem merely playing at being a cyclist on my £1200 (which I see as a lot of hard-earned money,) and not as good as I was hoping I was, feeling a little out of place. Like I don't belong here.
It makes you feel deflated when you begin to compare.
Who am I to be here trying to cycle and make it mean something in raising awareness for mental health?
These are the things that come bubbling up in my thoughts. I can't stop them, but I can acknowledge them and choose to ignore them.
Thoughts like this can have damaging effects on people, so it is incredibly important to combat them straight away with positive alternatives.
So with my question of, who am I and what am I doing, I quickly squashed them with ....
'I am a small voice of many experiences to traumas and stresses in life and I am prepared to put themself out there to help others'
I quickly reminded myself that, not only are these athletes half my age, they are supported by numerous physio's, nutritionists, mechanics that get their bikes in perfect working order. A bike that is 10 times more expensive than mine. Aerodynamic to perfection and lightweight, efficient and allowing them to increase speeds and distances to enhance their performances. I'm not taking anything away from them at all, they still have to make it move after all, as do I. Getting to this level takes commitment and dedication.
But I was very aware of an almost high feeling to an almost low feeling chain of thoughts whizzing in and out.
I sat with it and chatted to my good lady wife about it, and she quickly reminded me of what I have achieved in my personal race. The mountains I have climbed and overcome.
Yes, it's good to push yourself to better yourself, but don't dwell on comparisons. PTSD and depression are very real and mental health can affect everyone. One man's loss or defeat today may haunt him for a long time. None of us knows what anyone else is going through. They are here competing and may have family issues or anything else going on like the rest of us.
Negative thoughts play a huge part in our day to day energy and activities.
But I am fortunate to have my wife's belief in me that I can achieve 'my' goals. And to remind me, not to worry about the goals of others.
And on my return, I had a lovely message from a good friend, saying what good work I was doing on raising awareness of mental health.
So, my point here is that it's ok to notice the negative thoughts and feelings. But it's just as important to look for positive alternatives. You are worthy and doing well, you don't have to be winning races. If you are really struggling and just staying in bed, doing nothing is needed, then that is what is needed. It's a rest and recovery day.
Today felt like a 'hitting the canvas kind of day.' Whacked out of nowhere and floored. Or like the time I crashed my older bike, breaking the front forks, cracking my helmet and damaging my neck.
When I came round, I just lay there in pain and worked out if I could move my limbs. Yes, the pain was with me and the option of staying here in the mud and on the grass verge and road, in the wet and rain wasn't an option. Hey, I had my wedding to go to in 2 weeks time lol.
So, picking myself up with determination to succeed was and is far greater than voices or thoughts telling me I am not worthy and to stay down, or what I am doing in talking about mental health is not of any use to anyone. I know deep down, that it is very worth it.
Please if you are struggling look back at how incredible you are.
It matters not what your race is, especially if you are doing it alone.
Then, if you are going it alone, wow, this makes you even more incredible.
Not only are you resilient, but you are stronger than you think.
Victories are the ones we set for ourselves.
Small victories are just as important.
I will do my best to keep going and have always tried to not let anyone down.
Not everyone can win and be stood on the number one podium stand, but everyone can win their own race and challenges.
I will hopefully be announcing some events and challenges I've set myself very soon, raising awareness and funds for the Bombeiros and The Firefighters Charity.
I keep smiling to fool myself, but I also know it really does change my energy and feel-good factor.
Challenges aren't supposed to be easy.
It takes courage and determination to keep going.
Having words of encouragement and support takes a huge load off too.
Reach out and speak out, don't suffer in silence.
You are just as valued and worthy.
It's my race, so it's my pace! As it is yours! Thank you for your support and words of encouragement. We all need it at times. Keep safe and stay connected.