Shadow of my former self


Been a while
Since I last saw
That once-familiar silhouette
Racing, keeping pace with me
Along the sunlit road.

I was a different organism then,
Precision-milled and smoothly-oiled,
Each day’s worth, and mine,
Minutely measured in hours and miles.

Most days now I see a softer, slower,
Mellowed me, the fact of being out here
More important than statistics. And should I catch
A sidelong glance of what I was
I wonder if I miss me.


Went out on the road bike for the first time in ages on Sunday. It was very foggy when I set out at 0900, but by 1200 the sun was out and I raced my shadow the last few miles home. The title of this poem popped into my head at that moment and the rest has followed.

12 thoughts on “Shadow of my former self

  1. Goodmorning Nick,

    this personal reflective poem speaks to me, you have come to a point where other matters in life are more important than the ratrace, and this wisdom I think only comes with aging a bit 🙂 I like it very much. “I wonder if I miss me” 🙂 Somehow I don’t think you will? To be out here! That is what it is all about!

    I do 60 km every morning on my bike to keep healthy but it is a tredmill kind of, indoors, as my vision doesn’t allow me to ride bikes anymore. Which, for a Dutch person, is not good.

    Enjoy your biking!

    • Hello Ina

      Thank you very much – I don’t really miss that rather obsessed and driven version of myself, to be honest. Since I stopped racking up 12,000km a year on the road (I’m down to about half that now!) I’ve found more time for walking, playing music and other things I only realised I’d missed when I started doing them again (if that makes sense!) And I stand in awe of your 60k a day – especially indoors. I did a couple of winters’ training on a ‘turbo’ (a static trainer that clamps to the rear wheel of a standard road bike) and it was purgatory. Staring at the back of the garage door for hours at a time on the ‘road to nowhere’ takes a tougher mind than mine! I’d rather wrap up, go out and get soaked. Sorry you can’t ride on the road any more; as you say, that’s a big deal in Holland.

      • I read (you should see me read and cycle at the same time ) or watch Homes under the Hammer whilst, lol. And some stuff about Scammers, the morning program. BBC keeps me going!

        Cycling can be an obsession, but you sound as if you got it under control now 🙂

        To find out what really it is you want to do with the rest of your life is inspiring I think. Writing poetry 🙂 Shadow of my former self is a great title.

      • I’d love to think I could spend the rest of my life writing poetry, but I can’t imagine my bank manager being very keen on the idea! I used to listen to music when I was turbo-training: I wasn’t allowed to take the TV into the garage…seemed a perfectly reasonable idea to me.

  2. I love this Nick

    It is a deep, meaningful poem and invites me to look at where I am in life too.

    “…the fact of being out there more important than statistics” – I love that line, it sums life up for me really and I think it is a fairly healthy place to be.

    I have never been the sporty type at all! But I know all about obsession through one of my daughters, her main one being running. Although she has recently taken to the world of cycling too and the same thing is happening. I think she will be chasing her shadow for years yet! She is very happy with it all.

    You have a very special way with your words, I love them!


    • So pleased you like it, Christine. As I said in the blurb, it all started with the title: it’s fun to take an old cliche and (ahem) breathe new life into it. Cycling is known to be a highly compulsive sport (as are rowing, running and swimming, all of which I cordially loathe, fortunately) and I certainly got hooked in a big way. Oddly, I’m not a sporty person at all: I always despised PE and sport at school, especially team games, and it wasn’t until I discovered horse-riding in my teens that I did anything even vaguely active other than under duress. The cycling bug, if it bites you at all, generally bites pretty hard: if my daughter succumbs, I shall comfort myself with the thought that there are much worse things she could be addicted to! I’ve been on this easier regime for a couple of years now and it feels good, although there are still days, like Sunday, when it would be oh-so-easy to fall back into my old ways…

  3. Ah Nick, You captured so much of what could have been me in this poem –
    That need to always be competitive – even if only against myself!!

    It is still there, but thankfully as I have got older I have been able to find more pleasure in the activity (what ever the activity is) just for the activities sake – a valuable lesson. 🙂

    I am reminded of the words of Walter Hagen –

    Do not worry,
    do not hurry
    And don’t forget
    to stop and smell
    the roses on the way.


    • Now there’s something to hold on to, David. And quite right, of course. I’ve now progressed far enough in my post-serious-cycling rehab to stop to take photographs when I’m out and about, instead of just pushing on, head down, all very focused and ‘in the zone’. My father was a lecturer, and later vice-principal, in further education and used to say that he felt like a “‘human doing’, not a ‘human being'” most of the time. Maybe it’s an ‘eldest child’ thing (he was, and I am) to feel you have to do the right thing, work hard, try your best, set an example etc etc even in things you supposedly do for pleasure! I think I’m getting over it now, though…many thanks for your thoughts, as always.

  4. It is hard to drop that competitive spirit…I think I’m better but still when riding if I see someone approaching behind me… I must gear up…oh well I’m getting better but not cured…enjoyed this one.

    • Thanks, Charles – I guess I’m still in the recovery phase, as if I see another rider up ahead, even if it’s by half a mile, I still can’t resist chasing them down. Especially when I’m on my 1930s replica…I’m a bad person, I know!

  5. I read this earlier (visiting from David’s blog) and have just returned to read it again. It struck me that in some of the lines you could be describing either your bike or yourself; I found it very interesting to disentangle the two, which I think is something you’re analysing here: how to be yourself, and not driven like a machine? It’s very subtle; the poem itself is like a journey, which is apt, given the subject. I love the final line, and the title.

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