One Hundred And Sixty Seven…

The eyes of the world are focussed on Australia: cheating, the Commonwealth Games and the Ride 2 Cure tour. The ball tampering scandal has dominated the news all week and rocked the proud Australian nation to its sporting core. The Commonwealth Games kick off on the Gold Coast next week and my mate Gabby is rushing home to Brisbane to feed off the frenzy. The Ride 2 Cure tour has been at the back of my mind for a long, long time but now it’s getting ever more real: some might say scary…

Anyone who ever had the privilege of being a guinea pig of mine while I was soaking up coaching theory like a sponge in the late 1980’s will know the score: periodization of training: I pinched it off the Russians and used it as the cornerstone of PB2000, the coaching management software that I wrote thirty years ago. Periodisation is as relevant today as it was back then: it’s just the science behind it that has moved on.

The principle is simple: select an objective event some distance (way) into the future then break the time between now and then down into phases. Typically, phase 1 is the longest and focusses heavily on strength endurance: it’s the biggest and most important building block in the pyramid of phases: it’s where the grunge work gets done: hours and hours of endurance based training, designed solely to get you to Phase 2 in good shape.

Phase 2 is more focussed on the speciality of your event: it’s where you start to use the mental and physical strength that came out of Phase 1 to hone your skills. Phases 3, 4 and 5 are all about further sharpening of the plan to bring the athlete to the peak of competition which comes at the end of phase 5. Typically, the whole periodisation from Phase 1 through to Phase 5 takes about 10 months to play out, although you can shorten it as required. The problem with today’s athletes, and this is just my opinion, is that they expect instant results off the back of insufficient preparation, or worse, they don’t plan for an objective outcome in the first place: I come from a school whereby if a job is worth doing at all, then it’s worth doing right: and with that comes 100% commitment.

Here’s the requirement of the Ride 2 Cure tour: 70 miles a day, every day, for three weeks. Now to avoid blowing up in the middle of nowhere, that means that Phase 1 of the R2C training programme demands pushing the body to a place where it can cope, mentally and physically, with that challenge. Anything less, given the gravity of the workload, and you’re just playing at it. This has been serious for a very, very long time…

Phase 1 kicked off last August, I just didn’t publicise it as such. I much prefer to do the work then reflect on it afterwards. Phase 1 has embraced August, September, October, November, December, January, February and March: eight long months in the harshest winter we’ve had in years. Here we are at the 30th March and there’s yet more snow forecast for next week. Phase 1 hasn’t been just a physical thing: it’s been way more mental than that.

Eight months: 7,900 miles.

Compare that same period to the LCFN years gone by:

2013/14: 4,300

2014/15: 4,900

2015/16: 7,100

2016/17: 3,600

I can excuse the winter of 16/17 because I was still trying to establish myself after the big R and my motivation had taken a hit: but the thing I hark back on is that I never gave up: it would have been the easiest thing in the world to use the circumstance to justify a copout but it never happened: and from that came the Ride 2 Cure.

It’s now just four months until Jane and I head out to Brisbane. It’ll be gone in a flash. The first two weeks after we arrive will be what Leo Matveyev, the Russian physiologist, called tapering. I’ll get out on the bike when I can to offset muscle wastage, but both body and soul will be focussed on the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital on August 24th and the climb up and out of Brisbane. Day one of R2C will be just like a classic Ayrshire tour, but longer: and all the time I’ll be focussing on day two because I’ve gone back five years in Windguru data and there’s never been a strong headwind in the last week of August in the direction we’re headed. Day two is mostly flat and downhill and I’ll be disappointed if I can’t bag a hundred miles. We have 11 hours of daylight to play with and in temperatures in the low twenties ©, it could, and should be idyllic. In my mind I’ve broken the tour down into two: 700 miles to Wagga Wagga then turn right and head another 700 miles into the wind. That’s basically it in a nutshell: make hay in those first ten days because I’m sure as hell gonna need it in the second half of the journey.

The route is inland, five hours drive inland from the coast (Sydney et al), so we can get the distance down to 2222km, 2 being the most common age of diagnosis of neuroblastoma. When I started training, it was with the coastal route in mind and a further 300km to do. With the change, I feel a degree of comfort with where I am: three one thousand mile months in a row through January, February and March: there has only ever been one instance of 3×1000 before and they were back in the autumn of 2015: believe me, autumn doesn’t have a patch on winter: chalk and cheese.

But there’s another side to just banging in miles: climbing. Bagging miles on the flat is akin to cheating when there’s a bigger challenge on offer. LCFN has now been on the road for 56 months and the most climbing that I’ve ever done in a single month in 57,000ft. That record will go tomorrow. So not only has Phase 1 delivered an increasing number of miles over an ever more challenging winter, it’s done it going uphill.

58,000ft is the same as scaling Everest twice in four weeks while continuing to bang in 35 miles every day.

But it’s all come at a cost…

Twelve years ago, I had an operation on my left knee after two mountain bike accidents on the Corrieyairack Pass within a fortnight of each other: they finished my running career. That same knee is now giving me cause for concern. There have been times these last four years when I felt like this adventure would go on forever, but the intensity of the training for the Ride 2 Cure has delivered an altogether different message. I crave another four weeks of high mileage training if I can get it, but that may not be possible: so I’ll take them one week at a time. Actually, right now I’m taking each day at a time… 68 thirty mile days in a row and 88/89 this year.

And with that in mind, and my long term wellbeing on the line, I’ve decided that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma will finish when I reach Adelaide. Looking back, I never really thought through how I would feel when I reached 25,000 miles and as Princess Puddles was fighting her own epic battle at the time, I had no inclination to call it at day. This time it’s different: when the Ride 2 Cure finishes, I will have taken LCFN to the other side of the world, and hopefully lit the fuse under a new adventure for another continent with an altogether better climate than ours. But more than that, the moment I meet Amelie, it will bring about a form of closure for both of us. Eileidh’s passing affected both of us in different ways, and it feels like it will be absolutely the right moment to call it a day. Just like Puddles herself, LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma will be #ForeverFive.

One hundred and sixty seven days and counting

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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