The Bucking Bronco

When I wrote last week’s blog, I’d just endured the first proper storm of the winter and I knew that another one was brewing for Monday morning. I spent much of Sunday night (including the lying awake bit listening to the wind) planning my route into work: it matters. I knew it was going to be an easterly, I knew it was going to be blowing a gale and I knew it was going to be wet. Oh, and it was pitch black of course. And feckin cold. These are the days that define this challenge. I keep saying it and I keep meaning it. Monday morning was brutal: but it kickstarted an extraordinary week. It’s why I love LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

You go through life and you come across people who have such a positive effect on everything that you do. I keep saying surround yourself with positive people and the rest is easy. It’s the way it is. I know who my influences are, they know who they are (or at least I think they do) and the support team that is LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is one very special unit.

One of those people suggested to me this week that I write about pushing the boundaries and giving it your all. Well I have a very special story about doing just that and in this of all weeks, it means an awful lot.

Back in 2009, wee Mackenzie Furniss from Alloa, aged just 5, was diagnosed with stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma. After 18 months of gruelling treatment, Mackenzie was given the all clear late in 2010. But in 2012, the cancer came back, and this time, despite specialised treatment in London, her only hope was to go to Germany for stem cell treatment. The cost to her family was £350,000, supported largely by the NCCA and public subscription.

That was 2012 and this is 2014. Mackenzie is now 10 and here is the prognosis from her mum, posted earlier this week:

“Ok everyone are you ready for the fab news, I suppose as the saying goes a picture speaks a thousands words!! I would like to take this opportunity to thank each And every person who helped make Mackenzie’s recovery possible, without the help of everyone we would possibly be writing a totally different status update. Our family will never be able to tell you all enough how grateful we are!! Everytime we look at Mackenzie and reach new milestone or have new experience we will be reminded that it is all possible because so many people believed in her and gave her a chance at LIFE!! Mackenzie is due to have her central line out on Tuesday which will be the last piece of the puzzle, she will be able to return to a normal life. She will get to go out with friends and enjoy being 10!! And the number 1 thing to do once she is central line free is to go swimming!! It really is the simple things that make a person happy. Once again thank you all soo much, you should all be incredibly proud of yourselves, I for one know I am. Love the Furniss family Xxxxx”

Have you read that? Now read it again: and again.

I didn’t save Mackenzie’s life. Thousands of other people did that. But I am trying my utmost to save the next Mackenzie and that’s why LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma matters so very, very much. Mackenzie Furniss was one of the three children who inspired me to get off my backside and start this challenge. I chose something so difficult because I wanted it to last as long as the treatment. And on days like last Monday, it’s sometimes as painful too. But you get through it. And when you get through something that’s painful and difficult, you find that it’s also rewarding. It builds confidence. And that’s the payback. No one can ever take away from you the feeling that you have beaten the best that the worst can ever throw at you. That’s the feeling that gives you the confidence to take on the world. And that’s where I am right now.

For a long time, I’ve questioned my timing in choosing to start LifeCycle at the end of the summer. I mean, why on earth would you choose to launch yourself into something extreme just as the sun is setting and Jack Frost is awakening from his slumber? You do it because you do. The timing is irrelevant. I didn’t choose the timing, I just had the idea when I did and acted upon it.

But…

When I started, I thought it was going to be a race against the clock and four long years. Wrong. I’d forgotten that my stubborn body is stronger that I’d thought and it wants the job done in only three. Now do the sums: I’m 14 months in and I’m not a huge kick off half way. That’s gonna come at around 18 months in. So that makes it January then? Correct. So whereas the first 18 months featured two winters and one summer, I can already start looking forward to the second half being the reverse. Imagine this time next year, facing every winter storm knowing that there won’t be one to face the following year on that day, in that week, in that month. That’s real Michael Fish, I’ll see ya territory.

And so to the miles, because at the end of the day, this is always about the miles…

I said a few weeks ago that I was going to have to cut back on the distance because my legs were complaining big-time. All summer long, I’ve been pushing the boundaries hoping that my legs would adapt, and then push on from there: it’s a tactic that got me from 140 a week through to 180 and onward past 200. But there’s obviously a limit, even if I haven’t quite found it yet (although I have questioned that statement a few times over the past few weeks).

Monday morning was a pig but I got by. And the return journey meant that I managed to bank 44 miles on the day. That’s a result. Ditto that Tuesday and Wednesday and follow it up with a beast of a run home on a light cross wind to bag a 46 on Thursday. 178 with a day to spare. This time last year, I was busy posting a 164 which was itself a record for a 5 day week. How times have changed…

25 into work this morning, followed by a marathon scoffathon that duly delivered 38 more just four hours later left me on 63 for the day (on already tired legs), 241 for the week (one shy of the all-time record) and 9818 for the 25,000 mile quest. This is big and getting bigger…

I know I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll say it again, but this week has been a pivotal week in determining the outcome of this challenge: some rubbish weather (fingers frozen three mornings in a row), some big miles and some even bigger in yer face attitude have combined to push my old body tantalisingly close to 10,000 miles.

And only because I rode the Bucking Bronco and survived.

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