Remembrance Day

A year ago today there was a General Election in the UK. 99.9% of folk will not only have forgotten but will still be wondering how we, the people managed to return such an incompetent bunch of incompetents for another term. I blame the voters. Anyway, I digress…

The election’s imprinted on my brain because I crept out of the door at 5am, just like the old days, in order to head off down the road to be with our mam in her final hours. But as fate would have it, I got a call from the hospital, 250 miles away, at half six (am) while I was still five miles from home, to report that her breathing was shallow and that I should not delay. I legged it home, voted (not Tory) then set off down the road: Ross was following on in his motor for maximum flexibility depending on who needed to be where and when. As it turned out, that was a wise move because I was down there for the whole of the following week: Ross had school to go to.

Whilst some of the events of that day and the following days have faded with time, others have not. My most vivid recollection is of not being able to focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time: and I had a SNOMED-CT exam to sit, which I failed first time around, and only just scraped through on the resit. My mind was all over the place.

And so it has been, this week, albeit to a lesser extent. The neuroblastoma community lost Vanessa Riddle last Friday, 1st June. Vanessa’s passing came eleven months to the day since Eileidh lost her fight against the disease. The first of every month will forever be tinged with sadness. I was working in Liverpool last Friday when the news came through. Although I’d been pre-warned, I was still in bits. A couple of ladies who were in the office where I was working asked me if I was alright: I had to say “no, not really” and I then went on to explain why: you don’t do this gig without getting emotionally attached to the kids who made it worthwhile. I’ve thought a lot about Vanessa this week. I’ve thought about the fact that it’s our Joe’s school prom next Friday and that Vanessa was cruelly denied the opportunity to finish her education at Marr College in a way that would have befitted her. It’s simple wee things like that that get to me.

V’s funeral is two weeks today and the word has gone out amongst my cycling friends that there will be a dawn tribute ride on that day: a 40 mile round trip from LCFN HQ, route known but under wraps, returning in good time to get cleaned up and pay our proper respects later in the day.

While I may have been struggling on the concentration front, the legs have been burning the miles on the R2C training gig. I’ve been trying to work out whether waiting until the temperature’s up in the 20’s is a good thing: I’ve been kidding myself that it’s good from an acclimatisation point of view, given that Oz might be warm, but these past couple of weeks have been really hard on the old sweat glands. For ten weeks I’ve been protecting a long standing and troublesome knee injury by transferring all of my miles onto the gold bike mounted on a turbo trainer in the back garden. “That’s easy” I hear you say. You’re welcome to come and give it a go. The default position is to sweat buckets, maybe as much as two or three pints of fluid over a two and a half hour stint. But if it’s windy and you’re sweating buckets, then even on a hot day, you can feel quite cold with a soaking wet top on. There’s no easy solution, other than committing yourself to being there at the end. And that brings me nicely to another problem: when you’re on a turbo, where’s ‘the end’?

Let me explain…

I started working out on the turbo on 2nd April, when there was a not insignificant risk that I might not make the Ride2Cure. I’d just come off the biggest climbing month since LCFN started and my bad knee was up like a balloon. And sore. The one thing I needed to do was take out the hills and the turbo enables that. It’s still my bike that I’m riding, rather than some machine in a gym, and as it’s got the 75psi solid tyres on it, it actually makes for a tough workout over the piece: but without the hills, you can crank up the speed so averages of 19-20mph are commonplace. That also means that the sessions are over much quicker so you get more bang for your buck, so to speak, and I can get back to work sooner. That’s the theory anyway: quality not quantity, in terms of hours.

Those first two or three weeks on the turbo were torture. Back in the days when Ross was little and I used to do all of my training on the turbo while he played with his toys (that was twenty five years ago, by the way), I thought nothing of doing 40 and 50 milers. Back at the start of April, I was struggling to make 30, and that’s what nearly cost me the thousand mile month. Ironically, it was the very push for the finish line in order to preserve that run of thousand mile months that broke the dam in terms of mental energy. Those first three weeks averaged 30.7 miles a day, way down on where I’d been for months on end (I did have a sore knee, right enough, but that’s a poor excuse). The average over the last seven weeks, kickstarted by that manic last week in April (319 miles) has been 44.4. Those two stats are light years away from each other.

But I’ve also got half an eye on the clock…

Today brought up the 25th two hundred mile week in a row, thereby consigning the blue riband record of LCFN to the bin. There are eight more full weeks of training before Jane and I board the plane to Brisbane so the max that 25 could become is 33. But there’s another obstacle to consider: I’ve pledged to turn up at the start line in Brisbane on 44,444 miles (in order to align with R2C’s 2222km gig). There are 58 days before we board the plane. I’ve got a wedding to go to in darkest, deepest Sussex, I’ve got the Eileidh Rose Family Fun Day in Aberdeen and probably another excursion down to Liverpool (one, hopefully not two). So I can probably write off five days. 44444 minus 42704 divided by 53 is 32.8. I’ve got to start thinking like I’m an aeroplane at 42,000ft and start planning my descent. The next two days are gimmes: I’ll just take the default.  The fun will start on Monday because whilst 7×32 is still well over 200, anything extravagant that brings that average down under 30 starts to compromise the 200 mile weeks. So the bottom line is: phase 2, the turbo phase, is probably coming to an end. I now need to take the Aussie bike – Jane’s bike – out on the open road and readjust for the limited time that’s left.

In terms of project planning, the Ride2Cure shirts are on order and should arrive on or about the 5th July. What we don’t sell in the UK (and Norway) will be shipped to Australia for sale over there. This is your big chance people: it’s cheaper, postagewise, to reserve one before we ship them, than it will be to buy one later (when they might be all gone anyway).

The R2C website is getting there – slowly – but it will be at least into next week now before we have something to offer. There are some folk I want to approach as potential ambassadors for the ride but I’ve been holding off making my play until the website is ready, and now time is getting a wee bit short: patience young man, patience…

So now, LCFN has come full circle, fast approaching the small hours of 9th June. Our mam passed away at 3:18am and while I won’t be staying up that late with work and miles waiting in the wings tomorrow, I will be having a wee snifter tonight and toasting her resilience in the face of adversity. I know where I get it from.

For tomorrow is Remembrance Day.

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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