Sunday, 16 March 2014

Cricket & A Wildcat

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I headed up to the Big Smoke on Monday to see a talk given by Jeremy Snape, a former England cricketer who has since turned to performance coaching and sports psychology (he has a company called Sporting Edge - and he relates sports psychology to business. It was a happy coincidence to see him because what he had to say has huge relevance to our Land's End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) efforts.

Jeremy initially spoke about how he decided to follow a career in sports psychology. He was playing for England against India at Eden Gardens, a huge stadium packed with 120,000 vociferous supporters.  England were under pressure chasing a target set by India and it was not going well, Jeremy had just managed to run out Freddy Flintoff, the last recognised batsman, and begun to panic as he faced India's top spin bowler for the very next bowl.  In his moment of panic, years of training deserted him, instead of following a plan and playing to his strengths, he decided to innovate a new shot with the aim of hitting a 6.  Of course, that moment of panic cost him his wicket and he trudged back to the dressing room somewhat embarrassed.   But it did sow the seeds of his career after cricket, in particular, to understand how in pressure situations emotional thought can get the better of you and make you do something daft.

He also talked about cycling,, in particular he talked about how Jason Queally won gold at the Sydney Olympics beating the huge favourite Arnaud Tournant.  Queally headed out for his ride and set a blistering pace to beat the world record, this panicked Tournant and he urgently instructed his mechanic to change his bike to put a bigger cog on his bike.  This was a mistake and if he'd thought logically he would have realised it too; he'd spent 4 years training for this event, so why change at the last minute.  What Tournant should have done was left his bike as it was, concentrated on his ride and let the result take care of itself.  Instead he set off at a blistering pace and for three laps of the track he went off at a pace, but by the time of the final lap the larger cog caught up with him, he tired and finished 5th!

Today I took on the Wiltshire Wiltcat, my first 'Epic' ride ahead of the LEJOG, 82 miles of huge hills, incredibly demanding.  Until yesterday I wasn't even sure if I'd take it on, still suffering the after effects of man flu, coughing and spluttering, but in the end I went for it.  Over a 6 hour ride you have an awful lot of time to think about everything and anything and it's really easy for the emotional side to take over, and it does, several times I thought of the horrific hills and how my legs were aching, my calves cramped and my lungs burned, but I had an extra tool in my armoury today and I pushed much of the emotion away with logic and clear thought - I've done this before, I've trained for it, I hurt now but I will feel great when I finish.

There was one moment when I did lose control of my emotions though and I can recall it very clearly.  It was on mile 56.  I was struggling a little at that point.  There were no riders I could see ahead of me and none behind me either.  And then it hit me, a huge wave of emotion came barrelling over me from nowhere and as much as I struggled to hold it back it pushed on with huge force and I was overcome.  I'm struggling to write this now thinking of it.  I began thinking of the two people that I'm doing this to raise money for, images of then sped through my mind and a huge swirl of thoughts had my mind swimming, I broke down and cried.  Now thankfully the words I had heard earlier in the week stood me in good stead and I regained my composure without doing anything daft and actually, the release of emotion, in this case, actually helped push me on and got me out of that difficult patch.  So, if anyone ever asks (although somehow I doubt they ever will) what has cricket got to do with a wildcat - well, now you know, and what a tremendous help it was too!

Thanks for reading - and if you're interested, I've copied the ride below