Everything In Perspective

This has been a surreal day: 11,000 miles, a Cake day (for crossing a thousand mile boundary) yet I’ve not been in the mood. 10,000 was a big deal and I finally felt like I was getting somewhere. But 11,000 is like starting all over again, which is exactly what I said a month ago and anywhere seems like such a long way off. I know in my heart that eleven’s bigger than ten but I also know that until the sun shines again on a significant achievement, the operative word is slog. I think that was at the back of my mind when I dedicated the second 10K to the children who have to experience the full cycle of neuroblastoma treatment a second time. You know what’s in front of you and you have two choices, one of which is simply unacceptable.

So the way around this is to get this latest milestone is perspective…

The latest thousand miles took just 23 cycling days, equal with the fastest grand of the tour so far (and it had the 196 mile Highland Bike in it). November to date has generated 752 miles: the same period last year realised only 460 miles. A year ago I was fearful of the dark, the cold, the wind and the rain: now I just shrug my shoulders and say “let’s see what you’ve got”. I’m already thinking that a month from now, the nights will be drawing out and I can look forward to a tiny wee bit of daylight when I re-start after Christmas.

So what price can you put on experience?

I found myself asking exactly that question this week when I went back and re-read some of the stories I wrote a year ago, at a time when I was still finding my feet without really knowing how everything would pan out. In particular, I found out where the 25,000 mile target came from. I reported really going for it in November 2013 in order to make 2,000 miles by the end of the month. At least it felt like going for it at the time…

2000 miles at the end of November 2013: daily average 32 miles

11000 miles before the end of November 2014: daily average 42 miles

The difference is entirely down to learning and experience. The story That Darned Competitive Dawg introduced the prospect of the big target for the first time. It talked about how I’d settled on 125 miles a week and that if upped my game and start producing 150’s, then 25K was possible. I can tell by the language that I was fearful and unsure. But how times have changed…

I deal with the winter by naming it The 100 Days Of Hell. That allows me to tick the days off, one by one, and every day that I can stay on the bike feels like a bonus: the lycra boys of summer are long gone. This feels evermore like me versus the world. Dark in the morning, dark at night. Cold in the morning, cold at night. Windy in the morning, windy at night. Wet in the morning (half the time), wet at night (the other half). But the strength you gain by completing a winter: it just wraps you up in an extra layer of thick skinnedness, and what the weather throws at you (six inches of snow excepted), you just learn to deal with it. #NeverGiveUp

For over a week now, the wind has been off the east, or occasionally the north east. At this time of the year, that’s significant because I know from looking back at the blog this time last year, we were getting battered by one south westerly gale after another. Right now, the jet stream is being very kind to me and on checking Windguru for the coming week, it’s going to stay much like it is. That means I could quite conceivably get to day 25 without a frost or a severe weather bashing. Luvvin’ it!

Now, for next week, cue unconditional excitement…

The LifeCycle Flag, a symbol of awareness raising whenever and wherever I get the chance, is going on holiday to Australia where it will be cosseted  by Tara, one of my strongest supporters over the past few months. Those of you who’ve been with the blog for a while will be aware of the Jimmy Harrington connection. Jimmy’s the lad who walked round the coast of Australia to raise money and awareness for Brainchild, the Australian charity for brain and spinal cancer in children. I especially wanted Jimmy to appear on camera with the flag and Tara has been tasked with making that happen. She was one of his best supporters and is one of those people you just want to have in your corner. But the flag tour goes a long way beyond Jimmy. Even as we speak, Tara is compiling a list of people and places where the flag will make an appearance and I await with baited breath what she comes up with. What I would say is that if you’re out and about in Adelaide next week and you catch a glimpse of the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma flag, get yourself pictured with it and get it on Social Media. Let’s get the message out there!

This has been another week of mechanical issues with my number one bike. East Renfrewshire Council finally gave in to my rantings on Twitter and swept their section of the A77 cycle lane: now it’s East Ayrshire’s turn to get it. On my way home on Wednesday night, on an unlit section while I was rattling along at 20+, the chain suddenly jammed and for an instant I thought I was going to get spat off the bike. I stopped, got the front light off to have a shufty and discovered a couple of joined together plastic cable ties wedged firmly in the rear derailleur. I managed to rip them out but soon discovered that the gears were all over the place and I couldn’t get the smallest rings to stick at all. Having limped the bike home, a closer examination revealed that the derailleur mechanism was bent like a donkey’s hind leg, both ways. This clearly wasn’t a job for an amateur like me so that bike was duly shipped off to the bike doctor in Dunlop the following day. By the time he’s completed all the bits and pieces that need doing to it, having patched it up sufficiently to get me through till next weekend, that bike, which is just 8 months old, will have been through 2 front chain rings, 2 rear derailleurs, 2 bottom brackets, 4 chains and more sets of brake blocks that I’ll crack in tinnies on a regular Friday night. I reckon my body’s on the edge: what about that poor bike? It’s alright mate, yer doing a good job: only 14,000 miles to go…

Not content with scoring 11K miles off the to do list this week, I spy 12K on Christmas Eve. To achieve that I need 42 miles a day average and no days off. Checking back, I’ve been doing for months. But if ever there was a weather dependent challenge, this is it. Twelve grand this side of Christmas would be hugely satisfying but I’ll not be busting a gut to do it. Part of the reason for that lies in an appointment that I have with a surgeon in the middle of December. I’ve done the last 4,000 miles with a hernia and I’ve been promised by my GP that it won’t get any better, not even with rest. It will only get worse and surgery is a necessity. When is the only issue. This is the NHS we’re talking about and huge mileage on a bike isn’t exactly going to get me to the front of the queue. But whenever it happens, it’s going to mean six weeks off the bike and even then I’m hardly going to be coming back at 200 miles a week so I’m dearly hoping that I can get this thing sorted while the winter is still running its course. Indeed how fortunate would it be if we get a big freeze in January just after I’ve gone under the knife.  Chance would be a fine thing: watch me lose six weeks of glorious sunshine next summer.

But at the end of the day it’s just a hernia and it’ll be sorted by a straightforward routine. Kids who suffer from neuroblastoma don’t have that luxury, or indeed that chance. For them it’s the same prospect that I face until this time next year: take every single day as it comes and just hang on in there…

Everything in perspective.

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