Going For Gold

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

I’ll just repeat that: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Gold is the symbolic colour.

I don’t remember being so pumped up this time last year as I feel this time around, but that’s maybe because #LCFN is going like an express train just now, and also the whole gig was operating on a much smaller scale this time last year. It’s hard to believe that just twelve months ago, there was no LifeCycle flag, no Aussie gang apart from Tara, Jimmy and JJ, the funds hadn’t even reached two grand and there was definitely no air of responsibility for having to up my game because it was month nine.

I definitely feel that because I do this all year round, I owe it to children with cancer to give it 10% more in this special month: it’s their month. I’m going to say upfront that despite this only being a 30 day month, and having a Scottish bank holiday in it, and possibly a parent outpatient appointment with LifeCycle Junior (which means no miles on those days), I’m shooting for a thousand miles, or as close as I can get to it. Positions 1, 2 and 3 on the all time list are 1010, 986 and 983 miles and while top spot is probably out of reach, 2 and 3 are in the crosshairs. Kiddies, if it gives you an incentive to feel good for just a few minutes each day, ask your folks to check the LifeCycle Miles on Facebook at the end of every day: it’s off to a crazy start… 201 after 4 days. There are a maximum of 21 LifeCycling days available in the month (20 if the outpatient appointment is unkind in its scheduling) so that means that to hit a grand, the daily average needs to be 47.6: it’s been 48 since the beginning of May. Game on…

Let’s put this another way: the odds of surviving neuroblastoma from first diagnosis at stage 4 are probably no better that 50%. I’d say my chances of #GoingForGold and returning a thousand miles are about the same. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of commitment but above all it’s going to require a serious amount of good luck, starting with the weather. The first week of September has been fantastic weatherwise, with lighter winds and temperatures that make you want to go “I love being on a bike when it’s like this”: and next week is set fair to be a repeat performance: Groundhog Day, Monday through till at least Thursday. Then there’s a wee blip before it looks like the settled stuff returns. Every day that it’s not windy and lashing is a day that I can make hay.
Another stat that’s really jumping out at me just now is 200 mile weeks in a row. That stat is a true measure of how well the adventure is going and before I went on my current run in what has been the worst summer I can ever remember, the most 200’s in a row was six. As of today, it’s fifteen and counting. It reminds me of those days back in the 80’s when I used to torture my body in the Cumbernauld Marathon Walk (it started off as 24 hour event before reverting latterly to 12 hours on safety grounds). I used to reckon that every consecutive victory made it harder for the next guy to come along and beat it. When you put yourself through hell, you kind of don’t want it to stop in a strange kind of way because you know you could never go back to the start and go through that again. That’s exactly where I am right now with these consecutive 200 mile weeks. Fifteen and counting is a place I never, ever envisioned when I started.

Junior’s outpatient appointment poses a real threat because that piles the pressure on the rest of the days in that week if it falls at an inconvenient time. But part of the carry on this week has been to prove that 200 is still possible in four days. I should probably point out, by the way, that Monday was also a decent return, albeit that it was still in August, and the week as a whole returned 248 miles. I did fleetingly consider shooting for a Holy Grail of 250 but that would have entailed breaking a rule I set only recently: not chasing 60’s on a Friday. I thought long and hard as I headed out of Kilmarnock bound for Irvine (yes, I had just come from Glasgow and overshot the target via the back road out of Fenwick) and calculated that the 58 I needed for 200 was reasonable without breaking the bank and hence the commitment. As it was I clocked 59 which made me chuckle as there was once a time I promised Angela that I wouldn’t do 200 the next week because I was tired: I called it a day at 199 instead. Call me stubborn if you like: I call it calculating…

Away from the miles, I’m looking forward to a right good sit down, and an indepth discussion on training methods, with Charline Joiner. I mentioned Charline last week after I’d spotted her wee yellow motor parked up on the south side of Glasgow. The thing is right, Charline is an international cyclist with a degree in sports science, and I know lots of stuff about anerobic threshold training in athletics. She doesn’t know (but she will when she reads this) that I once worked with an athlete who’d been running for 15 years, had a 10K PB of 46 minutes and was as frustrated as hell that she couldn’t get into the 45 minute zone. We worked together for two months leading up to the big women’s 10K in Glasgow in May (which meant, by that way, that she was doing her interval sessions in rubbish weather: how could I ever forget the day the sleet was horizontal?) and she returned 44m06s. She followed that up with 44m30s a month later on the hilly Rouken Glen course then we called it quits: job done, everybody happy. Charline is an endurance cyclist with a fantastic pedigree. I want to know how her coach measures her anaerobic threshold, and what sessions she does on the bike to improve it. For an endurance athlete in any sport, anaerobic threshold is king.

For the many people who will be reading this and going “WTF’s he talking about”, let me give you this wee example: imagine you fill a bath half full of water then pull the plug out while you leave the taps running. Then you adjust the taps so that the water level stays constant. What you’ve got is the rate of water in equalling the rate of water out. Now consider an athlete’s body when they’re working hard over a long period of time: say an hour. When you work hard, your muscles generate lactic acid, a by product of the muscles working without oxygen. That’s called anaerobic exercise. But your body’s clever and it flushes lactic acid back out of your muscles so that you can carry on doing what you’re doing. But if you work too hard for too long, the rate of production of lactic acid is greater than the rate at which your body can release it, your muscles get poisoned beyond short term repair and you end up all over the place. Watch a 400m runner in the home straight when they’ve gone off too fast: legs like jelly. Anaerobic threshold is the balancing point at which lactic acid is being flushed out at the same rate it’s being produced. It goes without saying that if you’re an endurance athlete in any sport, you want your anaerobic threshold (speed) to be as high as possible. For me to enjoy the remaining 7,500 miles of #LCFN at a decent rate of knots, I’d love to know how the real cycling people plan anaerobic threshold training. I know what works in athletics and I’m hoping that Charline knows what works in cycling. Watch this space.

September feels really special, really special. It feels like because I’m active and I’m doing stuff from the inside of the Kids Cancer bubble, I’m making a difference and that’s a very warm feeling to have. After this, maybe I’ll have to come out of retirement next year (and every year after that) to do it all again, albeit on a smaller scale.

The LifeCycle Man is giving it some.

He’s #GoingForGold.