Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Breaking-up-then-making-up isn’t sweet. It’s not romantic, either. It’s thoughtless.

I know what you’re going to say. (Well, unless you agree with me at the outset—then I’ll be very surprised.) You’re going to tell me I’m wrong, that it is romantic, and that sometimes you don’t really appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.

That probably makes you feel better about some of your past choices, but you’re wrong. If you didn’t really appreciate it, you didn’t really deserve it.

If you were so quick to reverse your decision to break up, then maybe you didn’t really think it through in the first place, and that’s a thoughtless act that shows a lack of appreciation for yourself and your partner.

Way back in high school, I decided that I would always think hard before ending a relationship, and I would never, ever go back. Not in those weak moments when I only remembered the happy times. Not in those lonely times when I just longed for someone, anyone to be with. Never.

Instead, I clung to the knowledge that the break-up hadn’t been in vain—I had not impulsively ended the relationship, but instead felt and reasoned my way to the decision, so I knew it was the right thing to do. Sure enough, a few weeks later I would start to remember the sad times, the annoying times, the boring and unsatisfying times, the angry times, and all those other times that weren’t happy times…and I knew I had made the right decision.

I’m going to guess that a lot of people don’t ever give themselves that space to practise such thoughts. I’m going to guess that a lot of couples get back together because people are too scared to be alone. We’re told time and again—in the media, by our families, everywhere—that being alone is the worst thing that could happen to us, the very definition of ‘failing at life’. I think being in an unfulfilling relationship is worse.

If you couldn’t see what your partner brought to your life until they were gone, perhaps you should ask yourself why you were so blind. I don’t mean that in a blameful way. It’s an important question, because if you don’t appreciate someone for exactly who they are, and exactly where they fit in your life, then you both deserve something better.

I’ve been in that boat myself, with a kind man who treated me well. When I realised I wasn’t appreciating all he brought to my life, I spent some time beating myself up over it, and thought long and hard about what I could do to fix it. Then I jumped overboard. He deserved better, and so did I: I deserved to be a person who could appreciate someone completely. I wasn’t that person yet, so I set off to become her.

My travels were dark and violent. I suffered greatly. Strengthening my ability to love made me vulnerable to those who craved appreciation and gave none in return. Those are the hardest people to leave, because they break you down and leave you doubting your own logic.

But I achieved what I set out to do—I finally appreciated what he had given me. I also appreciated that it was in the past, and that the experience had changed us both for the better. I had no regrets about leaving; I only regretted the pain it caused him at the time. My consolation was knowing it minimised the pain we’d have both felt long-term.

We are taught from a young age that ending a relationship equals failure, but that’s just as untrue as the lie about being alone. Ending a relationship that we don’t appreciate frees both parties for relationships that can satisfy us completely.

Now I’m finally at a point in my life where I appreciate someone fully, and I feel fully appreciated by him. The thought of losing him from my life makes me feel physically ill, but the thought of callously throwing away such a wonderful relationship and then reinstating it is far, far worse: I will never let our relationship deteriorate to the point where we don’t appreciate what we have.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Adventure report: Coot-tha Burn + Dusk to Dawn

A few weeks ago I asked Susannah if she was doing anything at the Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn event and she responded that it was the same day as the Brisbane Coot-tha Burn—13 February. Or maybe I asked her about Coot-tha Burn. Or maybe she asked me. It didn’t matter.

What mattered was that neither of us thought doing one event should rule us out from doing the other. Why would it? She’s in training for Ultraman Australia (don’t even ask—it makes my events look trivial) and I’m headed off to Expedition Africa in a few months.

So that’s how we ended up spending our Saturday:

  • cycling from Bowen Hills to Mt. Coot-tha, then
  • time-trialling up Mt. Coot-tha as part of the Brisbane Coot-tha Burn, then
  • cycling to Caboolture (bringing the total to 80 km), then
  • running and walking in the six-hour event at the CHV Dusk to Dawn.

I was predictably dreadful in the Coot-tha Burn, but I did manage to finally meet the famous Jordana Blackman from Chicks Who Ride Bikes, and she was just as bubbly and intelligent as I'd expected—despite being hungover. I even recovered from death to the point I could answer some interview questions for the BrizTreadley podcast. (I recommend you listen to the whole thing as I'm not all that interesting, but my mother will want to know that I come in around 4:08.)

Maurice (left) looks pro, whereas Susannah (right) and I (front) look like we're about to ride another 60 km

Susannah was scheduled to compete half an hour after me, which meant she had no chance of catching me (which had been my greatest fear), so I'd originally planned to ride around the mountain and meet her at the bottom. But when I finished the interview, they opened the road to let our wave ride down…and how often do you get to descend Mt. Coot-tha without any car traffic? I zipped down at 57 km/h and didn’t regret a thing.

Well, not until I then had to ride up the other side of the mountain to meet Susannah. But it was still worth it. As we came back to the main T-junction with Mt Coot-tha Rd, I dropped my chain and she jammed her derailleur, but we survived and made it safely to the race village where she consumed something healthy (a salad) and I ate superfoods (a soft-serve ice-cream dipped in chocolate and sprinkles).

The rain dumped down on us as we headed to Caboolture, ruining yet another impractically pale-coloured jersey with ingrained road grime. That wasn’t a big deal for me, as I had a set of running clothes waiting for me in Susannah’s car, which she'd parked at Caboolture the previous day. But Susannah had decided to ride up in her running gear, and she was going to have very soggy feet. I’m not sure how she always manages to bring the rain; maybe it’s me. (Last time the rain washed that grinding noise right out of my rear hub, but I had no such luck this time around.)

Once we arrived we quickly sorted our bikes out, ducked out to buy some cold drinks and ice, and started getting organised for the run. For Susannah, this meant about 10 minutes of concentrated preparation and then some chill-out time, but I opted to fart about and chat to everyone for over an hour before frantically changing, laying out my gear and trotting to the start line.

Catching up with my six-day race buddies Karen (left) and Annabel (right)
(Photo by Dreamsport Photography)
Right from the start, I ran three laps (of 500 metres) and then walked one. It was a great strategy for my unfit legs and one I continued right until the last lap, except for a few small deviations:

  • When my iPod started playing up, skipping tracks or reading their titles out loud, I walked an extra lap to fix it. I accomplished nothing—I think it may have been caused by sweat in my headphones, because it's working again now.
  • When I drank Coke instead of taking a gel, I walked an extra lap to get the accompanying water down.
  • When the timing didn’t update properly and I lost count of my laps, somewhere in the last hour, I ended up running two extra laps.

It was a magical night where I got to catch up with old friends, including David Waugh (who has been off the scene since forever!) and my six-day race buddies Annabel Hepworth and Karen Chan. I enjoyed my whole time out there, and felt fitter than I’d feared. I was delighted to have clocked 51.522 km. I was also delighted to stop, and glad I’d only signed up for the six-hour and not the full shebang.

But, most of all, I was glad to have a buddy who is always up for adventure. Thanks, Susannah!