Friday, 27 June 2014

It's Not About the Bike

Today's song is a children's classic.  Everyone knows it and everyone has some way of interpreting it.  Puff the Magic Dragon has been sung by us all I suspect and like lots of my songs has no place on a blog about the Arch to Arc (not that this blog has that much to do with the Arch to Arc).  Basically, it's here because Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea.  So taking that into account as his residence he probably knows a fair bit about things of a nautical nature, and may have seen a few swimmers, although I have always believed him to be a solitary character.  When Little Jackie paper fails to show, I get the impression that Puff has few other friends to share his time and his life with.  When I was little I felt so bad for Puff, and today, at this moment in time I feel very much the same. We all need some friends.

Much has been written about this song being about drugs; Puff = marijuana, Jackie Paper being rolling papers.  Listen to it and you realise that is a nonsense interpretation.  Puff the Magic Dragon is a piece of imagination.  Jackie Paper is a boy who grows up and, as we do, loses his imagination and we see a reversal of reality as the fantasy (Puff) watches the reality (Jackie) disappear.  Even today the line, "A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys" makes me nod my head in sad recognition.  If only that didn't happen.  Being grown up is bloody difficult if you ask me.  

And if you still think there is a hint of drug use, check out this video from 1965.  Are you telling me that Peter, Paul and Mary were really rolling up backstage?

Having got that off my chest, I am struggling to make a link with that and the Arch to Arc. Maybe the Arch to Arc is my little fantasy and it offsets real life.  Yes,  there is a lot of  truth in that.  When you read this blog the natural end is the moment of the event itself.  But for me the hardest part of all this is having a long lead time to the start of the event and trying to negotiate the life that one leads whilst trying to get to the start point.  Every time life hits me with another brick I have to take the knock and carry on.  Since I signed up for the Arch to Arc, so many things have happened in my life and when I look back and look to the future I cannot comprehend how I can carry this project through without at some point being knocked off balance. My fear mounts and I am scared that the voice inside me will cry "enough's enough" and make me stop.

But it's very close now and with two and a half months to go, I just need to hold my nerve and keep going.  The Arch to Arc has become a place of escape and meditation.  The endless hours in the sea or running have been my place to chew over life's problems.  Not  that I think very deeply.  I can spend 50 minutes thinking about someone who pissed me off at work in 1989 but at some level it is ridding me of some of my more recent stresses.  And I need that at the moment. Yes, I really need that.

You will notice that I refer only to running and swimming.  I rarely, if ever, mention the bike leg of this event.  I think we should get this into context.  The bike from Calais to Paris is 180 miles.  Even by Tour de France standards that is longer than any one day stage that they will cycle.  But set against the depleting effect of an 87 mile run and the technical, physical and mental stamina needed to complete the swim the cycle ride is a the least frightening of the stages I need to tackle.

The cycle is a such a crucial part of any triathlon, but definitely plays third fiddle on this event.  I am used to some monstrous cycle rides - I have done a couple of 200 mile + cycle rides and on one, never to be forgotten event, managed 336 miles.  Just to pause for a moment, I cannot describe how glorious it felt to get my arse off my bike saddle after a 336 mile ride. I have always liked cycling.  Travelling long distances under your own steam is immensely satisfying.  But training on the bike is really time consuming.  When you are looking at the training needed to go above 200 miles it takes a lot of time out of your day, especially if you are a "so-so" cyclist like me.  I used to be off at 5.30 am and not back until Midday and still feel I hadn't achieved much.

On the other hand learning to be a Channel swimmer has certainly taken a lot of time up but it is only recently that the mammoth swims have really begun to happen. 6 hours in the water is a mammoth swim whereas it's not such a long time on a bike. Well, obviously it is, and it could be time better spent learning Spanish or how to bake cakes, but relatively speaking is what I'm talking about.

I can't project. I would love to tell you my dreams of how it might feel to cycle into Paris with the rest of the event successfully completed.  But I don't want to do that.  Sadly, I am now an adult and my fantasies have made way for realism and self doubt.  Where are you Jackie Paper?  Come back!

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