You’ll soon forget the
Tune that you play
For that is the part
You throw away
Ah, that is the part
You throw away
– Tom Waits
I realised the other day that I haven’t had a proper drink since New Year. And by ‘proper’ I mean actually going out to a pub and consuming a handful of pints, or having more than a couple of glasses of wine over dinner.
Hardly a life of monastic sacrifice, to be sure, but a measure of how my old ways have changed since I took up cycling, and in particular as I now try to nurse my aged body through the demands of racing.
The contrast with most of my adult life is a stark one. From my first forays into underage pub drinking as a sixteen year old right up to an ultra-bacchanalian turn of the Century, when I hung out with minor rock royalty and tore the backside out of successive Glastonburys, it’s fair to say I’ve enjoyed many a heady night as well as suffering many a headache the next day.
I can’t put my status as a largely-reformed character down to cycling, although it has hastened the process no end. The actual triggers were twofold. One was realising that my weight had ballooned to a rather preposterous seventeen-and-a-half stone and I needed to do something about it urgently. The second was leaving the cosy confines of agency employment and setting up in business on my own. To help me cope with both challenges I decided to cleanse body and soul at a colonic fasting retreat called The Sanctuary, situated on the Thai island of Ko Phangan.
It was quite an experience, about which you can read here if you have the stomach for it (pun intended). After that there was no stopping me. I took up running and ended up completing a half marathon in a reasonable time; then came the shock introduction to road cycling I’ve previously written about.
And so, like Tom Waits, I’ve forgotten the old tunes I played and thrown away that part of my life which was focused on darker pleasures.
Well…not quite. I’m still capable of – and indeed truly relish – a bout or two of devilish behaviour, as any of my old pals will testify. It’s just that I worked out very early on that I don’t go well on the bike when I’ve had a drink. And with training of some sort taking place virtually every other day when I’m in race preparation mode, that doesn’t leave much time in between to indulge.
However, a natural break has now formed between my most recent Goodwood outing and my next scheduled race in mid-April. I’ve also moved house, the stresses of which would be enough to drive the now-teetotal Tom Waits back on the bottle…
So I’m designating late March and early April as a period in which I can let my hair down a little – at least until I head to Majorca for a team training camp. That trip will mean a week of riding significant distances every day, so booze will be off the menu apart from perhaps a sustaining glass of Rioja over dinner.
But for now, as Mr Waits also once sang: “Buy this fool some spirits and libations…”