Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tomás Swift-Metcalf Blog – Storm Damage


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I haven’t written an update on the Tomás Swift-Metcalf Blog since the penultimate stage of the Volta a Portugal. I have been wary of writing bullshit in such stressful, emotional times. I don’t like to speak of the problems in cycling, since I find them so boring. It’s the first thing anyone outside the sport mentions when I say I’m a cyclist.

The Armstrong fiasco affected me quite a bit.

I was one of those kids that took to the roads because of the Armstrong myth. My mum, Kate Swift, died of cancer when I was 19 during my first year at university.

Armstrong was a huge motivation for her and I, or at least gave us reason for optimism. That winter I watched my first bike race too: the Volta ao Algarve; won by Floyd Landis.

When Kate died in 2004 I didn’t deal with it very well. It took ages to get over it… years, in fact. I would run at odd times of day, like late at night round Loughborough and up to Beacon Hill and round the woods, always fast. The lactic burn was kind of a relief from something. It was a this time that I took to cycling on a Giant OCR I had bought after a summer’s work, because I found road bikes attractive looking.

Armstrong getting busted depressed me. It was not justice given all the bullshit and corruption in this world. The reams of blind hypocrisy since the Armstrong fiasco have been nauseating. I am so sick and tired of people cheating everywhere.

I asked a few pros if they would support a ‘doping league’. A doping league where you make sure to promote and protect health; i.e. the investment in dope control is channelled into health control, but otherwise athlete can use verified methods to boost up to certain thresholds.

The argument that the rich would take advantage in such a scenario is muted the law of diminishing returns; there is only a very limited number of things you can do to boost performance. Unfortunately the current system rewards the wrong types of ingenuity: control and subversion.

I can’t help being disturbed by the fact that anti-doping has grown into a multi-million dollar industry in symbiosis with doping. Those pros thought I was joking, but even so fundamentally disagreed with the idea of ‘doping league’. A system that was harder to cheat would be my priority. I find cheating repulsive.

My mother left quite a few works of art, to me, my brother and my father, mostly oil paintings.

I went through a process of organising these works for a long term exhibition in Lagoa, the main town in the county I live in.

A lot of these were damaged and the fact that I was the only person giving a shit about these works hurt me. Because of the weight of emotional investment in the situation I found it very, very hard. But hopefully, one day they will be exhibited in a dignified setting here in Lagoa.

People need to be told what’s good when it comes to art and the art world are sold on fads, but these works are genuinely excellent and it will be worth the anguish I’ve gone through cataloguing and looking after them as best I can, when they are eventually displayed and people can enjoy them.

Tomás Swift-Metcalf Blog
A painting by Kate Swift, “Brian and Tomas at Alvito”.

I was really stressed around the time of my birthday. There was a number of factors: being broke; being stressed – the business wasn’t working well enough to look after itself yet; my granny being poorly; sorting through the damaged paintings and having no contract sorted for 2013.

And I had this notion, “the Jimi Hendrix threshold”.

This notion was that, if your going to be good at anything, do anything in your life, you’ve got till you 27 years old. Jimi died when he was 27 and look what he did.

I was broke, living back in the family home and depressed; I hadn’t done anything in my 27 years, I had raced a bike, risking my life for peanuts, battling from out of a coma in 2006,  and for what?

Anyway, I chose not to celebrate passing the Jimi Hendrix threshold, but my family got together regardless, which made me feel even worse. It was a really dark time…

My granny died just three days after my 28th birthday.

She suffered a massive stroke the following day. Before she left she was telling a joke to my girlfriend – she always said jokes. It went “She’s a small girl, she’s a round girl, she’s a…something…girl, who’s that girl?” We never heard the punch line. It was so taxing watching her die, I was there right to the bitter end, optimistic she might recover.

A tornado hit my home region.

It passed within 500m of my house. Luckily the roof stayed on the house, but many others were less fortunate. I’m organising a charity cycle for the people affected next weekend.

I reckon I’d like the help if the roof got ripped off my house, or my car was slammed into a wall.

Tomás Swift-Metcalf Blog
Damage from the tornado.

I’m coaching and organising training camps and really enjoying it. I always dreaded coaching – my first coach in athletics had said “those that can, do. Those that can’t, coach”, and proudly spoke about how bad he’d been as an athlete (his p.b. was 1:52 for 800m, so not bad at all..), but that sort of self deprecating humour kind of struck a cord ‘Shit, I must be good or else!’ I thought.

But coaching has definitely become a passion since I started helping a few under-23’s and a couple of friends – and found I was very good at it. It’s incredible to watch people improve beyond their own expectations.

I’m not sure what will happen in the New Year. I’m training like I am going to race, but there is no certainty. If anyone wants to sponsor the team, or have me on your team, get it touch.

Cheers, Tomás.