I cannot tell you how many times I have been woken up in the middle of the night and drifted into thinking about work. When I have lucid, good ideas I write them down, which then gets them out of my mind. Sometimes calming; mostly not so much.
For some years, I distracted myself with refereeing rugby. Sometimes one game a week, sometimes five. In my last season, 50. And then a knee problem, so no more running. But what to do? I can swim, but mainly to stop myself sinking – I don't float very well. So, cycling it was.
To get equivalent physical and mental benefit, I found myself riding further and further. I needed focus. I joined a club. I thought I was fit. How wrong I was. But I improved quickly.
And then I heard about a six-day ride to the south of France to MIPIM, a property trade fair. As a lawyer with a strong interest in property I could (net)work and get physically fitter at the same time. The ride was mentally and physically tough at times, but I made some fantastic friends. While I was definitely not the lightest and fastest, I could sit at the front of a large peloton for hours grinding out a consistent pace. In other words, I could time trial.
Within three years of getting a proper road bike, I entered my first time trial. Within another three years, my goals had moved on significantly. I resolved to qualify for my age group in what are often thought of as the amateur world championships. I got a coach, I got gadgets, I did protein, I burnt calories, I put on healthy weight. In April 2019, I went to the Greek island of Kos and came fourth in my age group. I was put through. In August 2019, I raced in Poland in GB kit!
Top level athletes are amazing. Their drive, commitment, motivation and, of course, ability is extreme. But I more admire high-performing "amateurs" who also hold down a job. To get the training done, do whatever chores one has and do a full day's work is an enormous challenge. Family support is essential. Throughout the time I was training to qualify and then for the worlds themselves, work was very busy. To maintain the levels of commitment we pride ourselves on giving clients and colleagues, I'd usually be up before 0430 to get my sessions done.
I still time trial. It's hard to shift a routine which gets you up early. So on training days, I'm out early, sometimes when it is still dark despite being summer. That's become essential as people have got back on the roads. If I am lucky, I might do three races this season. At least they're possible, unlike so many activities. In time trialling, you're not allowed to ride close to someone else. Perfect for social distancing!
What of the folk I have met? Those MIPIM relationships led to a small, invitation-only group of very successful athletes (mostly in property), with 7/11 of us having qualified for our age groups in European or World cycling or triathlon events.
What happened to be a distraction from the stresses of my role as a property litigation lawyer became a hardcore activity that's led to some deep friendships and enhanced both my work life and health.