What I Learned From Cycling Against The Wind
As generally is the case with most road cyclists, I looked out the window one morning and felt a sense of dread build in my stomach. Whatever tree had the misfortune of being outside that day was intermittently swaying from its upright position down to (what in my opinion seemed like) a strong 45 degree angle.
Now, I’m no romantic about challenge and finding strength in being defeated, but for some reason, unbeknownst to me now, I decided to go out that day. Helmet clipped. Jacket zipped up. ‘UK Top 40’ set on shuffle (judgement is not welcome on this matter). I stepped outside and was welcomed by a strong gust of fresh country air.
It was great. For all of 5 minutes.
In planning the next 2 hours of my life, I looked at the weather app to find out the wind speed. It read 31 km/h (that’s nearly 20 miles for my friends across the water). Without examining its direction, I decided that I would cycle to avoid meeting it straight on.
What I did not realize was that my oval-shaped route would inevitably, despite my wishes, have me cycling straight against the forceful gale. This part of the route just happened to begin at the turn off my road and would last for about 17 km of my 40 km cycle.
One objective I’d set at the start of my cycle was to stop at the shop to buy yogurt. You see, dear reader, I really enjoy yogurt. However, I also really enjoy not fearing for my life. The question now was, do I turn around and return to my yogurt-less domain OR do I carry on, potentially collapsing out of sheer exhaustion and dying on a deserted country road somewhere in north of Ireland.
Like the spokes of my wheel, my emotions were rotating between anger, hatred, frustration and colossal regret. The growing need to make a decision was inhibiting my every thought as I tried to cycle up steep inclines with cars slowly trailing behind me.
I thought, is this not a lot of what life is like? There’s an easy way out — but it’s not necessarily the one that would make you better off (in my case, yogurt-less). But your immediate circumstances could change dramatically, ridding you of that crippling frustration.
I could have taken a u-turn at any point. Literally nothing was stopping me from breaking and reversing the direction of my bike. However, once I’d reached the 13 km mark I concluded that I would indeed go to the shop, get my yogurt, and carry on with my route. Everything seemed so much easier then.
That’s the funny thing about making decisions. When you really and truly decide to do something, it doesn’t seem at all like an option to do anything else. Suddenly, despite the wind pushing me off my bike and the road that only ever seemed to go up, it all seemed so much more manageable.
The debilitating thoughts that occupy our heads everyday; ‘should I eat that’, ‘when would be a good time to tell him how I feel’, ‘am I happy in my career’, could actually very easily be eliminated. That cloudy-head feeling familiar to all of us could be eradicated in one step. Decision.
Uncertainty and self-doubt are two friends that come hand in hand. When your mind is so occupied with trying to make itself up, there’s virtually no room for confidence and levelheadedness. Doing well is not possible if you don’t know what it is you want to do well in.
Once I’d realized that the best decision was to carry on, my entire body seemed to understand. I fell into a rhythm. My helmet stopped feeling so tight. Even the music seemed clearer despite being dulled by the wind.
When I got to the shop, they didn’t even have the yogurt I liked. At that moment I couldn’t help but laugh at the joke that life is sometimes. I got a few drinks, some tea bags, an energy bar and plundered on to the last half of my route.
I’m still adamant I was better off going to the shop. Had I not, I would be sitting here wistfully envisioning the yogurt filled life I could have been living. Yet, now I know that this life was not possible and I am no less happy without my precious yogurt. My decision to carry on actually left me better off, just not in the way I had initially imagined.