When I woke at 5am last Saturday morning (I’ve not yet found a way of re-programming my body clock for weekend mode), I did what I always do at weekends: I reached for my phone. A surefire way of passing 90 minutes before it’s time to head for the kitchen for the first brew of the day, I went through the same ritual as normal, it’s just the sequence that changes: Email, Messages, Twitter, Facebook and Scrabble. I do it that way round because email normally carries the biggest payload, the important stuff. I have notifications set on specific Twitter accounts and one of those is on Team Oscar. So at around dawn o’clock, I found myself skipping messages and going straight from email notifications to Twitter to peruse a Grand National tip from Oscar’s mum. The tweet explained that her record in the last 6 Nationals was 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th and that this year, her money was going on Long Run. “Crikey”, I thought, “with a name like that, how could it possibly fail”. Oscar’s been in it for the Long Run, I’m in it for the Long Run: I actually felt like I’d just been handed the keys to the bookies’ safe. Except I don’t do big bets. A pound, maybe a few of them spread around, but I don’t go well on a big “winner takes all” play. Too stressful by far, and what if it loses?
Now if I may paint the picture, we had family up from down south for the weekend, and it’s traditional in our house to march up to the bookies once a year to stick pin money on donkeys in the Grand National. And we generally lose our money. My brother wanted a form guide so I printed off some stuff I found on t’internet: words and numbers. When it got round to my turn to peruse, I’d already decided on Long Run no matter what the form guide said, but to spread my interest a little wider, I picked out five more horses, all at long odds for a quid a head (well it is the Grand National after all – I can still remember Foinavon). And I’d also decided that if any of them won, the winnings were going on the LifeCycle account. One of those horses was Pineau De Re, selected because its trainer is a doctor who appears to apply some kind of science to his work. I like that approach: it mirrors the best results I get with my athletes.
Cue the race…
I think between us, we must have had half the horses in the race covered and I always find it difficult to work out who’s who. With the commentator going at nineteen to the dozen, it’s not normally until somewhere near the end that I can see the wood from the trees. Anyway, to cut a long story short, with about three fences to go, three of my horses were still in the frame, albeit that the favoured Long Run had nosedived into the turf halfway round the course whilst handily placed. My brother was getting quite excited as one of his nags, The Package kept getting a mention, but I just sat there, beer in hand, glimpsing occasionally at my betting slip as the fences slowly counted down. Two to go and I’m sitting with two of the first three, both to win. You know what I was thinking… “second and third”. But no, Pineau De Re went over the last in pole position and actually pulled away in the home straight. As it crossed the line and the din died down, I just rose from my chair and did “the Broonie”. “You never had that did ya” they said to a man. “I feckin did: 28/1 anawl”. And long before I’d been back up to visit the Turf Accountant, the money was indeed on the LifeCycle account. But see the best bit… not only was the vintage horse at almost twice the odds of the fallen Long Run, I got to bang the Gift Aid on as well. It may only have been a pound, but it gave me great satisfaction to whack all of that money on the thing that means most to me right now.
Second up this blogging week, my thoughts are with Chumba, Highland Marcher extraordinaire, and deserving of a bit of luck. No, change that: deserving of a lorra luck. Despite still being twenty something, Chumba has not been well for a couple of years and you kind of get immune to it because it’s ongoing: that’s not meant to sound unkind, but Chumba and not being well has pretty much been the way of it. But suddenly, things got serious, like really serious. Without wishing to break a good mate’s confidentiality, Chumba got very, very ill last weekend, ill as in emergency ill. But he got lucky. The same NHS that has treated him so poorly (sic) these last few years upped its game when it needed to most and saved his life. Chumba, I was where you are now, 25 years and six weeks ago: same dreadful illness, same brush with the afterlife. My thoughts have been with you all week and will continue to be so until you make a full recovery and come back stronger than ever before. For the record, and by way of encouragement, it took me a good four months to get my strength back, but it didn’t stop me bagging the Cumbernauld Marathon Walk for the fourth time. You can do it mate. You’ve got the Highland Marchers and the LifeCycle Man cheering you on.
Mileswise, this has been a week with a looming deadline that quite frankly I’ve been dreading for a while. With my rota days finished, this was the second of the four and a half day weeks, and with it the first of the back to back 180’s. I’ve never done consecutive 180’s since I started and to make matters worse, I started the week with early signs of the lurgi: all that sore head, sore throat nonsense. Cue a lower gear and let the lycra boys away with their pace: I haven’t overtaken anyone all week, but I’ve been overtaken by plenty. The result: 180 miles, a weekend of complete rest and a ridiculous attempt at the hat trick this time next week.
And as if this week wasn’t exciting enough already, I got a call from Jane late on Thursday afternoon (sitting in a garage on Glasgow, waiting on the motor being MOT’d) announcing that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma was in The Metro (UK wide as it turns out) as Fundraiser Of The Day. The NCCA put me up to it about six weeks ago and we thought “well, it won’t do any harm”, so they wrote a script and I sent it in. I don’t know how many people read it but it has resulted in another few quid being chucked in the kitty, which is ultimately what this game is all about. As I wrote on my Twitter account earlier in the week “Maybe Rome wasn’t built in a day but there’s nothing wrong with laying a couple of bricks…”.
This project never ceases to amaze me. The weather continues to be rubbish (four soakings this week) but nice things keep happening too. Next week I have the branded LifeCycle business cards to look forward to (they’re going like confetti, by the way) and whatever fate throws my way.
But tonight, on the back of another big week of miles, it’s really a case of Pineau De Re….