1999

I have to pinch myself that I’m almost there. I know there are still two thousand miles to go but as I’ve done a thousand in a month four times (and eleven hundred once), the finish is almost within touching distance. Part of me wants to go all out and smash it in six weeks but that’s not going to happen for a variety of reasons.

This is a time for looking back and thinking “what if”…

I’ve been reading Gail’s posts these last couple of weeks and here is a mother, a good mother, torturing herself because she didn’t spot the signs of Eileidh’s neuroblastoma this time two years ago. I have so much time for Gail. How she has coped with Eileidh’s illness almost singlehandedly is beyond me. But because we are now at the second anniversary of Eileidh falling ill, when she was approaching only her second birthday, it’s difficult for Gail, just as it would be for any parent in that situation.

I’m joining Team Eileidh in nine weeks time. I guess there’s no official contract to sign, it’s just that Eileidh took the neuroblastoma baton from Oscar and has played with it ever since: throwing it high into the sky, kicking its ass, and generally giving it “you may be cancer but I’m the Princess”: and right now the Princess is on top (form).

Gail, when you read this, as you inevitably will, do not beat yourself up. It was for the medical people to rule out x, y and z, and it was your persistence that finally got to the proper diagnosis. Yes, an early diagnosis would have been better, but the reality is that only in Coronation St do the kids get an easy journey. Eileidh’s giving it laldy as you well know, even if she is a bit of a madam.

I’ve thought an awful lot this week about anniversaries past. I don’t for the life of me remember 1000 miles but that’s maybe because there wasn’t a blog on 10th October 2013. The average miles per day back then was a measly 30.3: it’s now 43.4. And I was a complete novice. I thought I remembered 2000 but checking back in the blog, I don’t. For some reason I thought it was in the same week that I had a coming together with a shopping trolley and lost, but that was another time. So I suspect my first real anniversary memory was 5,000 in April 2014. That’s when Cake Day started.

Let me go back to Gail for a moment. Our journeys are unmistakeably intertwined from that time forward and that first Cake Day late in April was just a few days before Eileidh was diagnosed. It seems such a long time ago.

Back then, I used to block out the fact that there were still thousands upon thousands of miles to go, because if you let that stuff get to you, you will achieve nothing. I once read that “the time will pass anyway, it’s how you choose to use it that’s important”. And that lesson has served me well for 530 days. It’s become my mantra. Yes, I hate getting woken by the alarm at 4:53am; yes I hate stepping outside at 5:10am in lashing rain; yes, I hate riding into an icy blast in the dark. But do I have a choice? Yes, I do, and I choose to do it. And I make that choice because approximately three times every week in the UK, a family doesn’t get to make a choice. Gail didn’t get to make that choice on May 9th 2014. It was made for her. So my commitment was that no matter how hard, no matter how cold, no matter how sore it was, I would ride for those kids.

And by Christ this week has been sore. Neil (my man up at Fast Rider Cycles), if you’re reading this, fast forward or look the other way: anything to avoid what’s coming next.

My road bike was written off by Trek two weeks ago. My first concern was that it had suffered irreparable damage in the black ice crash that fecked both hands on 10th February. But no: the issue was with the screws that attach the rear derailleur to the frame: they wouldn’t tighten which meant that the hanger was moving whenever I changed gear and the alignment would never be true. But why would that happen on a bike that was only eleven months old? Maybe the fact that it had done 10,000 miles and 450,000ft of climbing had something to do with it. LCFN is a bike breaker. Credit to Trek, they replaced the frame under warranty so once Neil had put every back together, it was like riding a new bike: literally.

Then on Tuesday I crashed. Big time.

I didn’t even tell Jane in case she got mad with me for riding after the last time but honestly it was nothing to do with my injuries from a fortnight ago. It just made them worse. What happened was a result of the weather overnight on Monday night. The rain started soon after I got home and was lashing it down when we went to bed. But by 5am it had stopped so I went about my business as normal. A bit of flooding here, a big puddle there, no worries, just crack on… until a mile from work. I changed my route, as I do constantly to add some variety to the workload, and I chose to hang a left through a big puddle at a road junction. It was a road I’ve cycled many times but in the other direction so I’ve never had a need to be aware of the dirty great pothole lurking under the surface. It chucked the front wheel hard against the kerb and because I was leaning the bike, I overcompensated as the bike tried to mount the pavement: I went over the handlebars. Neil, you’ll be pleased to know that the bike was fine. I wasn’t. This being early in the week, I had a payload on my back. The bike pump was at the bottom of my bag, then on top of that were three tins of mackerel and three jars of salmon. And on the other side was a banana and an orange. My phone was in there too. The good news is that the banana got away unscathed: that was because the tins smashed into my back, just above the waistline on the left hand side. Two of the tins split open on impact. The rest of the week has been brought to you courtesy of Ibuprofen. I can’t even get out of the saddle to honk the bike up the steep hills: it’s just way too sore.

So against that backdrop, I’ve been trying to keep the show on the road for May 5th, and my date with destiny in Belfast. I keep telling myself than pain is only a four letter word and that if I can just find a gear that will allow me to keep turning the pedals, then everything will be okay: except right now it’s not. My right thumb took another whack when I landed and my left wrist is no longer able to compensate for right handed tasks. Basically I’m falling apart.

But I keep telling myself that the end is just around the corner and that that’s the time to take a proper rest. When Eileidh was really ill, she just kept fighting with what she had left in the tank, then the sun came out and she lived to fight another day. And that’s precisely what I plan to do.

No mile is an easy mile just now, and I suspect it’s gonna remain that way for the foreseeable future, maybe stretching out as far as Oscar2Eileidh itself. I’ve adapted my grip on the handlebars as much as I can, and apart from the Billy Bowie hill, which demands a pain barrier transplant of 40mph down to 10 for the left hander at the bottom, it’s pretty much under control: I’m getting home in daylight now, and if I can only manage to stay onboard in the mornings for nine more weeks, I’ll be okay: ish.

The plan now is to do hee haw for two days over the weekend (apart from decorate the study and watch football) and hope there’s some improvement by Monday. I’m hoping that history repeats itself because the intercostal muscle that I knackered a month ago in my first spill of the year is pretty much sorted. Shit happens in life: it’s how you deal with it that matters.

And so back to those anniversaries…

I especially remember 10,000 miles because two weeks later, Vanessa and I stepped out at Celtic Park. 15,000 was notable because Angela and Gordon came round, as did Ross, and I got a row because I went off to write the blog, as I do every Friday night (except when it’s on Thursdays). At 20,000 a few of us went out and got pished in the town and since then I’ve just kinda kept my head down and kept on bagging miles in the dark.

But this milestone is different from the rest. This one isn’t about the miles done, it’s about the miles to go…

1999.

The Prince of milestones.

Author: Von Schiehallion

I'm an old endurance athlete who's pulled a few tricks in his time. I ran my first marathon at 19 round a grass athletics track, ran/hobbled 100 miles in a day at 30, cycled from Manchester to Glasgow in a day at 40, kickstarted the Highland March at 50 and now, at 60, I'm doing LifeCycle. Life's too short to sit still for long. I like doing stuff that just seems impossible...

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