The M6 is log-jammed. Barely moving trucks slide by underneath me, pressed too close against the cars in front, the stench of diesel overwhelming. Above it though, I'm as free as a bird, riding through the Cheshire countryside, legs whirring, mind racing.
I've sat in that traffic jam more times than I care to remember over the last 10 years, back and forth to work at the same time as everyone else, thinking - there's got to be a better way than this. Often I'd ride my bike to work and take my chances in the rush hour roundabouts, but every so often getting stuck in that jam in a car was unavoidable, and I'd sit there, almost stationary, fuming, thinking - there has be to be a better way .
At work - as a secondary school teacher - there were traffic jams too. A job that I loved for years gradually changed, slowly but very definitely. Kids grew up and left. Staff grew old and left, or grew tired, or got sick. My mentors, wise older men, moved on, retired, got ill, died. Sixty is a tough age to keep teaching to, and not many manage it now. By the time I get there retirement age will be sixty eight. My friends that stayed grew paler, more tired and more drawn as they fight through the sea of nonsense. Each day, the voice in my head walking through the gate - there has to be a better way.
And the parallel - a fantastic group of inspirational friends at a triathlon club, the endless laughter and camaraderie each club night session, a club growing almost out of control, word spreading online, a coaching business growing faster than I could manage, more and more requests for help and guidance.
A text from a guy I coached four years ago -
Wanna ride long with us tomorrow?
Can't, I'm at school.
A full time coach could ride with us during the week...
A full time coach ... a dream, of course. But there are bills to pay and pensions to accumulate and security...
When my boy was born, life changed and I knew I had to knuckle down, provide for him, keep him safe. I went part time so he didn't go into nursery every day. My childcare day each week - a day of endless fun with my boy, swimming, and running through the local forest, going to the beach, reading books in a tent in the back garden, hiking up the local hill. And at the end of it, the sickening feeling of having to go back there tomorrow. I wanted change so much, but I knew I had to be sensible. And I was scared
Over time, it eats away at you. The sense that you could be, should be, doing something else. That there's a better way, but you just daren't quite take it. In the end I asked myself - what did I really want my boy to learn from me? The answer was easy. That you make your dreams real, and you find a way to live the best way you can. You don't spend your life scared.
So I'm a week into life as a full time triathlon coach, and it's Monday afternoon, and beneath me the traffic is snarled up on the M6.
I'm not stuck in it any more.