Mountain stage

March 25, 2020

Hey, how is this new life going? I can’t complain for now. We are lucky to live in the mountains and spring is upon us. The snow melts quickly but we don’t care because our ski resort shut down like everywhere else.

Of course, the coronavirus has a bigger impact on our everyday life. My son’s daycare closed last week and we do our best to keep busy at home. It’s not easy to explain him what is going on because I’m not sure I fully get it myself. As a kid, I lived with the fear of the Soviet invasion and nuclear war. Still, it felt far from the Swiss mountains. The coronavirus is already amongst us and there is a feeling that we’ll be thrown into chaos any day. How can I tell him without instilling fear and suspicion in him?

My wife is home too. She has acute back problems and had to stop a three week intensive treatment in a medical center. It sucks, she’s in pain but that’s the way it is. I do my best to help her – can anyone point me to PT for Dummies videos on YouTube?

Unlike some countries, we are allowed to get out and exercise, preferably alone. This could stop any day and I try to enjoy it in a responsible way. Not everyone agrees with this stance and some are urging everyone to stay home, no matter what; I don’t want to judge or argue – we all deal with the anxiety provoked by this scary thing that’s happening to us in our own way. What matters is that our cycling community  stays united and we support each other. 

No need to say that my sporting goals for the coming months were wiped out, starting with the Patrouille des Glaciers, a skimo event I was going to do for the first time. Rather than lamenting over training hard for nothing, it is time for me to remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination. I went on incredible outings in the high mountains and learnt a ton with my teammates, who pushed me outside my comfort zone more than once. I also broke two vertebrae, cracked two ribs and smashed an eyebrow on two separate skis accidents; so maybe it was time to cut the losses before I really hurt myself.

I work freelance and my business is hit hard by the pandemic. As I’m writing this, I don’t see any significant work or revenue before the end of June. Fortunately, my wife has a job and we have some savings. We’ll make it through this, we’ll be poorer like everyone else (except Zwift shareholders) but I have lots of cool projects for when life gets back to some kind of normal. 

For now I’m healthy and no one I know got seriously sick or died from the virus. But if I am to believe the news, the wave is coming and this could change over the next few days. Gulp.

Like everyone, I freaked out over the irruption of coronavirus in our lives. Or rather, in my social media feed. Like many, I read anything and everything on obscure blogs and media from around the world. Thanks to that, I became a pandemic expert overnight and felt I knew better than our doctors and decision makers. It brought me down, I felt no one around me understood what was going on and our government was doing nothing. I lost sleep and became irritable. I started yelling at my wife more than I ever did. Luckily, a cheese fondue and a bottle of wine later we loved each other again. And we woke up the next morning with a headache.

It’s getting better now. I found some sort of balance thanks to simple principles.

1. I limit the time spent on social media and deleted their apps on my phone. To see others freak out, to think they are idiots because they buy toilet paper and to bombard them with information from dubious sources found on… social media won’t help them. Me neither.

2. I rediscovered local media. This is where I found verified information, close to my everyday life. Yes, some are hidden behind a paywall and are not as easily accessible as all these blogs and studies that flourish on the web. But quality media are made by journalists who must pay their bills like you and me. So I pay my subscription to get informed.

3. Rather than trying to save the world on Facebook, I try to bring comfort to people around me: 

  • My wife and my son – we’d better get along well because we’re about to spend a lot of time together
  • My 77 year old mum who has a poor health and lives an hour away. I go shopping for her even if visiting a supermarket freaks me out more than a technical mountain bike downhill
  • My friends and relations. Our neighbour is a freelance tennis coach, his revenues went to zero overnight and his wife is in Brazil with her family and their kids. We speak over the garden fence and strangely it feels way better than looking at scary stuff on my phone
  • Friends who work in healthcare. I message or better, I call them. Because that’s what phones are for and it feels good. And if I had friends working in supermarkets, I would call them because they too are the new heroes. I hope their wages will be tripled when this is all over. 

4. I set myself realistic goals to keep some purpose in a world that that does not have much left:

  • Build a cabin in the garden for our son who will not see his friends for a long, very long time
  • Do some strength training so that I can finally get beyond 10 push ups
  • Write
  • Read the 906 articles I “saved for later” and forgot about over the last 5 years on the app I keep on my phone
  • File my taxes less than 6 months late.

But I don’t forget Mike Tyson’s quote: “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth”. Because yeah, we literally don’t know what tomorrow will be like. But one day, it will all be over. We will have lost a lot. Lives, wealth, carelessness. But we will have learnt too. That we can slow down, that it is good to take care of ourselves and others. That we can live more simply. These are all topics that matter to me and I touched in a video shot last year with Cyclist Magazine on my home roads. Watch it and look forward to riding on these roads soon. I’ll be waiting for you.

Click here for a French version of this text.

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