When I was 3 or 4 I visited a small, rundown adventure park near my grans’ house. It was out of season but a tiny train performed mournful laps of a simple figure of eight track within a concrete compound. As the youngest in my family, I was the only one eligible to ride the train. I don’t remember expressing a desire to do this but I must have. My family are not ones for supporting depressing commercial frivolity unless put under some pressure and I was a child that could apply such pressure.
I boarded the train. The sole passenger. A switch was flicked and slowly the train began its lumbering, mindless circuit.
There are pictures of me in my little duffel coat white knuckled and panic stricken gripping the small plastic wheel at the front of the train while valiantly attempting to keep up with the twists and turns in the tracks. I remember the ordeal lasting an eternity all the while unsure how long I could keep up the surprisingly good job I seemed to be doing keeping the little rain from derailing itself and smashing out of the compound.
My family tell me that between poorly suppressed giggles, they tried to shout their explanation that I was not in control of the train, that I could relax and enjoy the ride. I didn’t hear them. I remained pale and rigid while manically turning the wheel this way and that.
I remember thinking, "I must be able to manage this. This was a train for children after all". It never occurred to me that such responsibility was above and beyond my delicate years and learning. I had stepped up. I would die trying.
This ernest, ambitious child with a disproportionate sense of what was achievable grew up to be an adult who continues to find herself in these situations of high pressure. Even if no pressure exists you can be sure i’ll engineer some so that life remains a constant drama. This means I am generally high achieving and, I like to think, very capable in a host of different ways. But this way of living comes at a cost.
In July 2014 I will climb onto the world stage and compete against the best in the world in my sport in front of a home crowd at the Commonwealth Games. If it was as easy as just climbing up into the cab of a wee train on the 29th July and holding on for dear life, that would be ok. Only, I climbed up into this cab about 2 years ago and have been pretty much constantly turning the wheel this way and that since then. I have to find a way to relax. Trust in the knowledge that this train I’m on will continue on its tracks even if I fail to make perfect turn after perfect turn. I need to learn to let go of the stuff I cannot control and spend my energy on the things I can. In short, accept I am not omnipotent simply a mountain biker who has a chance to race a really exciting race later in the summer.
On that day when I get on my bike my knuckles might turn a bit white but up until then I’m going to try and let the train take me where I will inevitably end up anyway, minus the duffel coat.