The Impossible Dream

It has been an astonishing start to 2014.

180 LifeCycle miles in week 1 followed by 144 more in week 2 (w2 was only a four day working week otherwise we’d be looking at back to back 180’s) have taken the project onto a whole new level as the days inch out by a minute morning and night.

But let’s take a pause for a moment…

A child is diagnosed with Neuroblastoma (on average) every 3 days in the UK.   #Fact

LifeCycle is delivering 100 miles (on average) on those same 3 days.                  #Fact

That’s 100 pence of potential lifesaving support for a child, every 3 days.             #Fact

But there’s a problem…

The rate of support amongst my friends, my work colleagues, my Facebook friends and my Twitter followers is way, way worse than even the survival rate given to the families of the worst affected.

Friends                     4%

Workmates               1%

Facebook Friends    3%

Twitter Followers      1%

Those are the raw numbers. That is the raw truth. That is the prognosis for the LifeCycle patient: a delivery to wellness rate of around 2%.

That is a reflection on the society in which we live.

But as every affected child facing up to an uncertain future knows that the odds are stacked against them, LifeCycle draws strength from adversity which presents itself by way of hardship and the duration of the programme.

From start to finish, LifeCycle is a 1668 day project. This is day 148. That’s roughly speaking 9% of the way through the course. The mileage target is 25,000 miles, which is further than the distance round the world at the equator. Today, the miles stand at 2769 which represents a healthy 11% of target: on course you might say. But back at the start I dreamed the impossible dream and set the Neuroblastoma target at £100,000…

Houston, we have a problem: funding is currently running at only 0.5% of the target.

Send support!

We need backup!

To those compassionate, charitable souls who are chucking their pound in every week, or their fiver on pay day, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. But to the other 97% of folk out there who are reading this and thinking “nice idea but I think I’d rather have another can of juice”, I ask you, plead with you, to think again. One day, this might be your child, your relative’s child, your friend’s child, or your child’s best friend, or your best friend’s friend’s friend. Neuroblastoma does not discriminate according to the weather. It doesn’t just happen on nice days, it happens every third day. There have been two new cases diagnosed this week, perhaps one even while I am writing this blog.

But LifeCycle does not discriminate either. The road is long; the road is hard; the road is hilly and the road is bumpy. It’s also windy and the road is wet.

But the journey goes on.

When I was cycling home last night, and strangely enough not getting soaked, which made it a first for this week, my mind wandered back to October 1983 and how the events of one particular weekend helped shape my vision of how this project is going to pan out…

I had (very) recently split from a relationship and I was an athlete, an endurance athlete at that (hint alert). I stayed in Cumbernauld and every year Action Research promoted The Cumbernauld 24 Hour Marathon Walk. I’d never done it: I’d never even thought of doing it. It was something that other people did, just like supporting the LifeCycle project is something other people do. I had run two marathons that summer, a debut run in scorching heat at Loch Rannoch followed by a less than noble effort up in Caithness. However in the week prior to the Marathon Walk, I toyed with the idea of giving it a go to take my mind of other things. 102 miles later, my knee was wrecked, my feet were wrecked and my ability to move like a normal human being was pretty much wrecked too. But inside, a spirit was born. Those 24 hours (it was nearer 21 actually) taught me that time is immaterial: it gets dark and it then gets light again: the challenge is to stay the course, through the darkness and emerge in one piece out the other side. It has been dark since October and maybe, just maybe, those wee chinks of light at the end of the day are the difference between success and another outcome altogether that we don’t talk about.

My eldest son thinks I’ll be done with LifeCycle by March. That’s exactly the kind of motivation I need to see me through the long summer nights till it all kicks in again. When you are me, there is no greater incentive to finish the job than have your very own come up to you and say “you know what, dad, you’re not gonna do this”.

Son, watch me!

To everyone out there who has a dream, an impossible dream, go do it, go make it happen, because if you don’t, you will go down in history along with the 98% of everyone out there who couldn’t be arsed.

And so to Monday…

That Darned Competitive Dawg

As I sat looking out the window today, I found myself reflecting on the fact that maybe the darkness isn’t so bad after all: at least then you can’t see the black clouds and all the rain that’s heading your way. Sometimes I ask myself which is worse, the wind or the rain, but in actual fact it’s no contest. I’ll take the rain anytime, all of which fills me with dread for the week ahead. Yes there’s going to be rain but the prospect of a 30mph headwind on the uphill trip home every day this week is pretty daunting.

Another thing that’s been going through my mind these past few days is the likely total of miles by time this project is done. I suspect that’s been kicked off by the 2,000 mile barrier have been breached last weekend, a November target I loosely set for myself back in August without ever thinking it was at all realistic. Having done it of course, and in some pretty inclement conditions too, all things suddenly become possible. When I set off, I’d lived on a diet of 60-90 miles a week for the best part of 18 months and I thought that would remain pretty much par for the course. But I’d reckoned without the competitive spirit that’s always fighting within me. It’s like that old George Bernard Shaw saying about there being two dogs inside your head, one good and the other bad: the one that you feed the most is the one that wins. For me, competition with the past always wins the day unless I make a conscious effort to screw the nut and do what’s actually required for me right now in this moment. I find myself fighting that demon pretty much every day of the week. Yes I want to do the miles: yes I want to do even more miles, but in the back of my mind I know that there’s a limit on how far I can push an old body.

There are just under 160 Life Cycling weeks to go, excluding holidays and sick days (note to self: haven’t had a day off sick since I had appendicitis five years ago – how I need that record to continue) and at the current rate of progress, assuming the body stays willing (or more importantly perhaps, assuming my crocked knee remains willing), I can expect to keep knocking in 125 miles a week for a wee while yet. That’s going to give me just shy of 20,000 miles on top of the 2,100 that are already in the bank. But now that competitive dog in my head has started barking again and wants fed. If I want 25,000 miles, which is more that the circumference of the earth around the equator, then I’m going to need to bag 23,000 miles between now and March 2018, and that works out at just under 150 a week. That’s steep, very steep. But just like in a limited overs match where you just keep the asking rate ticking along until late on, maybe the answer is to just keep on doing what I’m doing and see where I’m placed in a couple of years’ time. There’s another old saying that’s particularly relevant right now and it’s this: I sure as hell can’t finish those miles this week, this month or this year, but I sure as hell could finish my body if I can’t tame that darned competitive dawg.

So tomorrow morning, I can be thankful that I’ll have a tailwind and be able to tap into as little effort as possible to climb the six hills out of Stewarton up to the 77 and onward to Glasgow. 17 more miles and 17 less to do. Then on the return trip, I’ll just take my meteorological medicine, select a lower gear than normal and just keep turning those pedals.

At least I won’t see the rain.