He never heard the words spoken in person. Instead they were passed along to him through a phone call from an excited friend. As he listened at his home in England to the brief yet potent phrase, he did not know what to make of the call coming so late in the evening from New York.
The friend told him that Sri Chinmoy had just remarked to a couple of people, “Tejvan is our cycling champion.”
On hearing this, Tejvan was intrigued as to what his teacher had meant by saying that. True he enjoyed competitive cycling but he, at age 31 in the summer of 2007 was at best only an amateur cyclist, though he had won quite a few local races. To become a national champion was an incredibly lofty achievement in the very competitive world of British cycling. One that was still a long way off.
Also, like many other part time athletes he had lots of other responsibilities. Not the least of which, in order to pay the bills, was his job as a tutor of economics in Oxford. In addition he also spent many hours each day on various volunteer Internet projects.
When asked about all the tugs and pulls on his time and his life he says, “the most significant part of my life has been being a student of Sri Chinmoy. The spiritual life and meditating you could say have been the cornerstone of my life.” He became a student of Sri Chinmoy in 1999.
Audio Part 1:
The notion of being a champion was of course appealing. One that was certainly not impossible, but for all appearances it was something that was extremely remote. For just to fulfill all your daily obligations is difficult enough, and yet to excel at them all is something most of us just don’t care to think about, little alone try to succeed at.
He modestly says, “I am fortunate to have a few different hats to wear.”
Yet to even to begin to understand the relationship between a spiritual master and their students is to realize that every word spoken, every glance exchanged, are just fragments of things that exist only on the surface of a very vast, deep and inner relationship. One that transcends all that we physically see or mentally understand.
A spiritual master has only one objective when they take on the responsibility of having students. That is to tirelessly inspire them to succeed, challenge and nurture them to grow spiritually, and set forth goals that will teach them that nothing in their lives is truly impossible to achieve.
This in a nutshell is what Sri Chinmoy had set out for Tejvan when he called him a cycling champion.
It was only in May of that year, 2007 that he had received his spiritual name, which by itself brims with potency. Tejvan means, enthusiasm, dynamism, and self-giving in abundant measure.
Yet not many months after receiving his name and pondering more fully the significance of that short phrase he, like all his fellow students would also have to endure the passing of Sri Chinmoy at age 76 in October of the same year.
Now he would have to decipher on his own the meaning, of not just in those 4 mysterious spoken words but also comprehend how to move forward with his own life without Sri Chinmoy’s outer guidance. Do so in a way that reflected all the love and inspiration that Sri Chinmoy had offered to him in so many ways.
To simply look at Tejvan from the physical perspective you would be immediately impressed that nature has designed him to be light and strong. This is a polite way of suggesting that he looks scrawny but that assessment is deceptive. He has been always good at sports were bulk and traditional strength are not of primary importance. He had images of himself when young he says, “that I might be a professional footballer or cricketer.”
His mom likes to tell a story of how his interest in cycling came very early. How at a very young age he rode his bike down the stairs at home. It is an experience that he himself does not recall but it seems ironic when considering how much time he would later spend practicing ascending hills in quite the opposite direction.
“I didn’t really cycle until I was 14.” But eventually he was caught up in the sport. While riding he says he, “felt supremely exotic and magnificent.” The fascination would only increase after he found himself as a teenager covering longer and longer distances on the roads around his home in Yorkshire. “I liked the freedom it gave you.” There was a fluidity of movement that allowed him to explore and enjoy the countryside, he says.
Later while attending Oxford University it meant a new phase of his life. One which included, not just a formal education but also meant using some of his loan money to purchase a better bike. His new location meant a great new countryside in which to explore. It also opened up even more interest in cycling as a sport and not just for transportation. At the time he was also part of the Oxford university cycling club his first brush with racing. He admits though to some interest in competing but that it never seemed to work out.
By 2004 however he began to compete in cycling events in earnest. Now in his 20’s he realized that the life of a professional cyclist at this stage in his life was out of the question. He saw that with more training and better bikes that at least as an amateur he could be competitive in the big events. In particular hill climbing was one in which his light slender physique was ideally suited for. He says, “that in the genetic lottery I was very lucky, in terms of hill climb physique.”
The science of weight and power can be identified easily. It is said that with every kg of weight that is removed in the hill climbing equation that you can loose something like 2 seconds of very precious time. “It is obviously a huge advantage being light in any event that goes uphill. Your power to weight ratio is an important thing.”
But the quality that cannot be measured is the intense focus and discipline of training that Tejvan could also apply. Training year round at between 200 and 250 miles a week. Completing that kind of mileage that would take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours. This kind of training for which there is no holiday and takes place year round.
In discussing the British hill climbing championship Tejvan says, “it is open to everybody. I had been trying to win for several years.” In fact he had competed every year for 9 years and had never made it to the podium, never finishing better than 4th. It should be noted as well that more often the race is won by younger riders in their 20’s rather than those who have strayed well over the edge of 30 years of age.
Audio Part 2:
Every year the event is staged on a different hill. In 2013 it was staged on a particularly long climb of about 2 and ½ miles in north Yorkshire. The year had been a good one. He had won 11 out of 12 other open races. A thought would come to him often over the course of the year leading up to the race, as both an inspiration and a provocation of sorts. “If you don’t win this year, you’ll never win. At age 36 it felt like I didn’t have too many more opportunities to win.”
For those whose only grasp of cycling are the images they see on their flat screen in the parlor each July of the colorful peloton casually sweeping across the French countryside. Hill climbing is nothing like that. Instead it is brutally hard and the rider is alone with just the hill and the relentless clock ticking once they start. It is over a distance that is short but one that rises in agonizingly stretches ever upward in fierce harsh increments.
You cannot pause or doubt or relax at any moment. Your legs burn, your heart pounds, and your lungs cry out for air from practically the very first spin of the pedal of your bike. It is a road upward that seems at times to be without end and there are moments when the finish line seems to never come and yet the rider knows it is always just ahead. Tejvan describe it, “as very intense. Every pedal stroke counts.”
On October 26th of 2013 on a cold and very wet English day, 36 year old Tejvan Pettinger set out for the top of the mountain and came down again an English cycling champion. His time was 7:57:7. A time which was just 2 seconds ahead of the 2nd place finisher.
He says, “they call it the race of truth. It is all about your individual effort. You just have to concentrate on your race. In one way it is very simple, because you just have to get up that hill as quick as you can.” But also he describes the experience, that during those 7 minutes, “you are really living. You are stretched. You go beyond the mundane.”
“You can learn a lot from cycling and use it towards the rest of your life. Whether it is being detached from whether or not you did as well as you would have liked. It is another way of trying to transcend yourself.”
He says that the way he approaches his cycling life is a combination of both physical, mental, and as well spiritual. “What I get out of racing is a sense of pushing yourself to the absolute limit. That is exhilarating because you find yourself right on the edge of what you are capable of.” He also describes that his love of mediation as not being foreign to competitive cycling because mental preparation has long been recognized as being significant to competing.
Tejvan also has no particular love for gadgets and technology. He says he had purchased a power meter before the race in 2013 but it broke before he could really use it. “I think part of me is attracted to the romantic idea of do it on feel.”
“I feel that the essence of my life is as a student of Sri Chinmoy. It is a very big inspiration.” He vividly recalls how his teacher never stopped lifting heavy weights even up until the final months of his life. “If someone can transcend themselves like this then anything is possible. It makes me laugh when we think that 36 is old. He was 76 and still breaking records.”
“Age is in the mind and not in the heart,” Tejvan says and then laughs. “I feel there is more to come. I feel there is a lot of potential for getting better for transcending.”
In the year that has passed since that glorious day he won in 2013, Tejvan has continued to compete in cycling races of all kinds. Both time trials and various longer distance events. On October 26th of 2014 the National Hill climbing championship was held again. It was on a much different kind of hill and he placed 4th in a time of 3:32:1. He said, “I thought I rode a good race. It was all a bit of blur really. This distance isn’t really my forte and I think I did as well as I could.”
Audio Part 3:
Throughout the fall and the winter he continued to train and to write about his sport extensively in his blog, ‘Cycling Uphill.’ In one of his posts he describes how in January he rode for 1200 miles in training. This taking place, during the coldest wettest part of an English winter. It is also a distance further for that month than he had ever ridden before.
“In the short term I have quite a few cycling goals. The thing about winning a cycling championship is that it gives you a lot of confidence. I guess Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy is that when you have done something. It is always, what are you going to do next.”
Cycling, cycling, cycling!
Evolving, evolving, evolving!
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