Riders On The Storm

When Leona signed the LifeCycle flag in the Oncology ward at the Royal Belfast Hospital For Sick Children on Monday, she said to me “that’s for the wind at your back”. Leona’s signature sits just behind the adult cyclist on the high five image. Four days on, I was starting to think that Leona has magical powers because the wind had been blowing so strong that I hadn’t been able to get out on the bike since I returned home!

But something has changed. Something is different. Whereas I would previously have stressed over missing LifeCycle miles, now I just look upon it as confirmation that I’m in it for the long game. Michael Fish has played a blinder this week. The gales of Tuesday prevented Mouldy and I from staying over in Belfast on Monday night, and the storms of Wednesday and Thursday have kept the bike in the shed. It’s been a week with less than a hundred miles in it and I doubt there’s been  one of those since I started. C’est la vie…

Before the weather broke, I’d been on such a good run that 12,000 miles this side of Christmas was virtually in the bag. But of course nothing’s a certainty in life, and most definitely not on this adventure. I’d planned my mileage through October and November like a Twenty20 one day slogathon, but I’m afraid December has brought about a mini collapse and the wickets were falling with every day that I was sat with my feet up.

But it’s the right thing to do. Jane deserves me screwing the nut and wearing my sensible head for once, because that hasn’t happened much these last six months. Angela tells me (like Angela always tells me) that I shouldn’t be out there in these conditions, then up the road in Inverness, Mairi and Lynne are similarly concerned. Add on to that the counselling I get from Leona on playing the long game wisely, and it’s been a bit of a no brainer this week. But I was frustrated to be on the bus, really, really frustrated, make no mistake about it.

I have to say that despite all this wild weather, it has been nice getting a lie in until 6am these past few mornings. I don’t think Mouldy was too impressed when I woke him at half seven on Tuesday in Stranraer so that we could get back up the road before the rain came on, but when you’re used to being up at five, anything past six feels like midday.

One huge benefit of not being out there however, is that the body has been getting some much needed rest. I’m still carrying the remnants of last week’s lurgi and the various niggly injuries that I’ve been carrying for months are finally getting a chance to recover. If you’re listening, dear legs, don’t get too complacent because once this storm clears off, you’re going to be out there making up for lost time. 12,000 might be gone in reality, but I work in virtuality…

Next Monday promises to be a critical day. For the best part of five months, or 4,000 miles if you prefer, I’ve been cycling with a hernia. Always a problem when I’m walking about the place, and worse still when I’m standing still (who mentioned kids’ football?) I’ve generally got by on the bike because my weight is supported by the seat post. But at some point in the next 12 months, it’s going to need operated on. My own doc says it’s only going to get worse, so I’m really hoping that the specialist on Monday takes the “stitch in time saves nine” approach. Basically, I want patched up before the end of January if it can be scheduled. So how do I play it? Do I tell him that I’m currently riding 200 miles a week for neuroblastoma and risk him thinking that I’m not a priority case, or do I use that as justification for being back to full fitness as soon as possible while the weather’s shit? I’m definitely going for the truth strategy (I might even go on my bike then leg it straight into work for extra miles) and hope that he views my situation sympathetically. I think he’ll be getting a LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma business card or two as well…

Tuesday’s bonus blog laid bare my emotions over Cycling Santas and the sad contrast between Yorkhill and Belfast. But a lot of good stuff also came out of that trip. For a start, Stena Line demonstrated amazing customer service in both Cairnryan and Belfast, culminating in Mouldy blagging a complementary shower on the boat back home, courtesy of a sob story about us having been cycling round Belfast in the rain for charity. Well done, big man! And I finally got to go in the downstairs bar at The Crown and sample the Guinness. When Jane and I were there with the boys back in January, we had to head upstairs because kids aren’t allowed in the booths. It’s a great pub!

Let me return briefly to the miles because I always like to do the scheduling thing on a Friday night. 70 miles since Monday: that’s it I’m afraid. That’s over 200 down on last week courtesy of Edinburgh to Glasgow last Sunday and the fact that each new week starts on a Monday. It leaves me on 11,620 and there are a maximum of 8 LifeCycling days to Christmas. I’ve got a decision to make here: 380 divided by 8 works out at 47.5, so call that 48. If I want 12K on Christmas Eve, 48 a day is what I’ve got to average between now and then: on top of the job and in the darkest, coldest conditions of the year. Does that sound like a challenge? Or, I could just meander into Christmas in the sure fire knowledge that on the very first day back in the new year, 12,000 is gonna come a knocking on my door. I’m undecided…

Perhaps the best thing that happened this week, apart from meeting Stephen and Leona (and Dr Rob) occurred 11,000 miles away in Sydney. Those of you who have been with me for a long time will already know the Jimmy Harrington story. But as new people come to the party every week, it’s worth telling again in summary form: I picked up a retweet back in the spring about a kid from Adelaide, then 20, who was attempting to walk around the coastline of Australia in order to raise money and awareness for spinal and brain cancer in children. He’d already been on the road for the best part of nine or ten months before I picked up the story but I was so impressed with the eccentricity and dedication of this guy, I was hooked straightaway. We quickly became Twitter and Facebook friends and I watched with admiration as he completed his epic 18,000km walk in May 2014. Jimmy raised over £250K for the Brainchild Foundation.

Well that’s only half the story…

When Angela took the LifeCycle flag out to Adelaide in late November, Tara Griffin, my head cheerleader in Australia offered to take it on walkabout. Tara did not disappoint. However one special request that I made was for Jimmy Harrington and Anna Meares to jointly hold the flag. Tara fixed it for the Velodrome and it duly happened the day after the flag arrived in town. People look at that photo and go “okay I recognise Anna Meares but who’s the kid”?

Well now they know: the kid was yesterday voted the People’s Choice for Australian Of The Year 2014. Jimmy Harrington is now formally a legend. I am honoured and proud to be able to say that Jimmy Harrington is my friend. He may still only have a small number of followers on Social Media, but I’m also pleased to say that a few of them are young ladies from Scotland who I’ve converted to his cause. There ya go Jimmy, a wee Jimmy Jimmy fan club! And as if that wasn’t enough, I got an instant message from Anna in the early hours of this morning recognising Jimmy’s achievement so now he’s even got an Olympic Champion on his case! Not bad for 21, eh?

I implore you to Google Jimmy’s Walk For Cancer, or hunt it down on Facebook. It’s an inspiring story, and one that can only be good for your soul.

But back to this week, and the story of the bike: 50 miles into the teeth of a biting wind on Sunday, with hail showers driving into yer face. Thunder, lightning and hail as we boarded the boat at Cairnryan on Monday, followed by a right good soaking from an icy cold blast just before we arrived at the hospital in Belfast. Two days on the bus followed courtesy of 60mph winds and driving sleet and hail before finally I managed to get back out and bag some miles today. But even that wasn’t without incident as the temperature this morning couldn’t have been much above -3C and the first 15 miles were an exhibition of unclipped-in ice riding.

It’s been a right old week on the weather front, one that Jim Morrison and the Doors wrote a song about many years ago…

“Riders On The Storm”.

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