42 is Douglas Adams answer to “The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.”
Having just turned another number, which takes me a year further past this milestone, there is no doubt that the older I get the more I find myself pondering what it’s all about?
I have jokingly called running and cycling my midlife crisis, but it’s not the by-product of some deep psychological issue to recapture past glories (I didn’t really do anything for the first 40 years) or because I feel my life lacks something as I am getting older.
It all came about due to a rather indulgent drinking and eating session that went on from December 2009 to March 2010. I ran to compensate for my over indulgence, then like Forest I didn’t stop until I couldn’t run and then I started cycling. I haven’t stopped since.
So I was a little flummoxed the other day when somebody asked me, “What are you training for?” Their rational was that, given my time and commitment to riding my bike, it must be to achieve some goal.
Shortly after I started running I decided that I was going to run certain distances, 1km became 5km, which became a 1/2 marathon which became a marathon. First it was the distance, then it was the times. I have never achieved anything beyond stunningly below average for my times but the motivation has always been to go a little further or faster.
On the bike it was similar. I first rode because I couldn’t run and wanted to keep active. Then the distances increased, plans for longer and more challenging rides were made, which culminated in me riding over some long distances and up some big mountains.
This year I have no plans, apart from getting Robyn ready to ride further and up a few big hills. So why do I spend so much time on my bike?
Well a benefit of investing the time on my bike is that I do get to think things through. So the other day on my Friday ride I was trying to work out what I needed to do to stop myself from behaving like a teenager. See the joys of getting older are that you find yourself with teenage children. Milly is a good kid, she just happens to have the behavioural traits from my side of the family. She has an opinion, wants you to agree with it and likes the last word.
So I had become aware that we were not bringing the best out in each other. I had effectively been arguing with myself on a number of occasions and rather than be the adult, I had very easily degenerated into an older looking version of my 16 year old self. This involved refusing to acknowledge that anybody could possibly be right, and when things didn’t go my way throwing a tantrum and sulking.
I gave myself a ride to work out what to do. My brilliant idea was to challenge Milly to talk to me, to stimulate a conversation, to discuss what she wants. I would afford her the courtesy of listening to her if she could give me a compelling reason to. If she wanted to change my opinion then convince me, present her thoughts in a way that I would want to see her side and we can discuss things like adults.
I have since explained this to her and it has had some impact. She hasn’t adopted the exact approach I may have I hoped but she has embraced our new approach to “dialogue”. The highlight has been her response to long and eloquent speech I made about what she should be doing and how she should be making the most out of the opportunities afforded to her.
“It’s really great that you know so much about what I should be doing Dad, but remind me, when was the last time you were a 13 year old girl?”.
She asked this with a genuine curiosity and with only the faintest hint of sarcasm, in fact done so well I had to concede she did have a point. It’s all in the delivery.
Anyhow back on the bike, having worked out how to bring the best out in Milly (and myself) , one train of thought led into another. What is the compelling reason I spend so much time on my bike?
Well like the answer 42, it’s quite simple – It makes me feel good!
I am fitter and healthier than I have ever been and it helps me appreciate what I have and what’s around me. Maybe the secret is not to think too much about these things, to just find ways of enjoying yourself. That’s as compelling as it needs to be for me.