Monday, May 7, 2012

It is NOT a lonely road to the top

I knew going into this season abroad that at some point the novelty of being in europe full time would wear off. And I knew that I would have to wrestle internally with my justifications for being over here, living a very simple life... day in and day out; sleeping, eating, training and racing. Living in a foreign country, not speaking the language, far away from my friends and family. I didn't know how I would react to it. I knew it had the potential to take what has been a very very good thing, and turn it inside out, opening the door for me to resent my decisions to be over here because they aren't always comfortable, they aren't the same decisions I see my friends making, and they have pulled me physically very far from those closest to me. They have been decisions that haven't necessarily been immediately gratifying, and present challenges I could not have foreseen.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is incredible
That time came as I was sitting in the San Francisco Airport preparing to fly back to Zurich, having just said goodbye to my parents and friends after an incredibly enjoyable week in Monterey at Sea Otter. I had thought it would be a trip that renewed my energy, and gave me a new focus once I got back in europe, but it did exactly the opposite. I found myself suddenly missing all the comfort, laughing and conversation that comes with being around people you care about, have history with... and who share your language. The silence was deafening once I got back into my quiet little apartment in Fully, this shortly after I found out I wouldn't be racing in Heubach that coming weekend in order to focus on recovery and the upcoming world cups... my birthday weekend none the less. I would be sitting quietly in my lonely apartment on my birthday... and at the time that was totally devastating. I went from on top of the world (sans a miserable performance at the Sea Otter) to really really low over the course of a plane flight and train ride. What I came back to wasn't comfortable, it wasn't emotionally secure and to be completely honest, a little boring... which means I had plenty of time to sulk and feel miserable about my "loneliness".  Also it was raining.
As I told a close friend today though, I have a visceral distain for feeling depressed, and generally I am pretty good about channeling my inner Mitch Hoke; that is the ability to view the people and situations I find myself in under very positive light, and not stress over shit that doesn't really matter. 
Some nice views along the roads here in Valais

After a couple well timed emails, Facebook messages, and Skype sessions with those closest to me, I realized how much my life was anything but lonely. A lack of proximity means nothing. Someone once told me that its a lonely road to the top... and I would argue that's impossible, because it takes the support, love and care of so many for any one person to rise to the top. If it were lonely we wouldn't have the Olympics because only the insane would be able to cope with the hours of training, isolation, travel and emotional toll of competition without a vast, supportive and close network of friends and family. Something I am incredibly blessed to have. And I had lost sight of that for those few days. But you all reminded me that I am indeed not alone over here in Switzerland... not at all! Thank you for that! 
So I found myself on my birthday morning smiling while riding my mountain bike in the sun, surrounded by the Alps, and in afternoon I made my way to Sion to watch the Tour de Romandie finish. I spent hours talking with people at the BMC tent, both fans and the marketing people. I turned acquaintances into friendships, and started new ones as David escorted me through the VIP tent introducing me to people who I look forward to seeing again. I came home exhausted, but committed to making something tasty for dinner (I'd already had a birthday dinner of sorts with Mitch and my parents in Monterey), before retiring to my book and some chocolate. I doubt I will ever forget what exactly I did on my 23rd birthday, it made a big impression. 

Birthday Ahi

In some ways it signified a new chapter turned for me. I've greatly expanded the depth and breadth of my relationships here in just a few days (feels like it took long enough); People to train with, people to go out for coffee with and even though Mon francias est miserable... its getting better :) I'm confident in my abilities, and I have reexamined my motives, both rationally and emotionally. Those are two hard things to separate sometimes... and I have a much better grasp on why I am over here, now that the novelty has worn off!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the update, Stephen! Glad you are able to rally yourself and find support with all the travelling! Best wishes on a great late Spring and Summer of racing!