The Next Time

I don’t read a lot of books (can you tell?) but there’s one I got for Christmas that’s gonna take me a very long time to read. It’s called LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, and was written by a previously unpublished author by the name of Steve Taylor. Ah… that’ll be me then!

I should explain that I didn’t set out to write a book, certainly not this one, and most definitely not one with hunnerds and hunnerds of pages (and no pictures). It’s a collection of around 160 LCFN blogs dating from the very first one in November ’13, to November of last year. The very final chapter features TT’s trip to Italy with the wristbands, which is quite fitting really because Theresa’s a published author herself, not once but twice over.

The book was a surprise Christmas present from Ross (my eldest). Now as the lead in to what’s coming next, I want to quote you this from The Impossible Dream which appeared in January 2014:

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”.

My response was equally forthright: “Son, watch me”.

It was basically the only incentive I needed….

So, when I open the front cover, I find this:

“You know what, dad, you’re not gonna do this”

I’ve learned many important things in life from you. Perhaps the most poignant though… never write off your father.

I’ve never been prouder to be proved wrong.

Merry Christmas

Love from Ross.

There you have it: the best present that any dad ever got from a son. A World Record Christmas Present, right there. We like records in our house: we have a saying “second is nowhere”: no one ever remembers who comes second, unless you’re The Rangers, for whom second will apparently be bigger than actually winning the league if the Level Five fed sports hacks are to be believed. Sorry guys, the only way to create history is to put your whole self on the line and make it. Second is actually nowhere: second is to start again from square one and try to become number one.

Now that brings me, rather conveniently, to a couple of phrases that I’ve come across regularly down the years:

“You’re only as good as your last result” (good for winding up Chelski glory hunters the noo)

And “it’s not what you say you’re gonna do, it’s what you actually do that counts”.

I kinda like both of them but I have a new one to add to the list, and its mine: I’m claiming it.

“You’re most important effort is the next one”.

That phrase came to mind while I was dragging my broken body round the country lanes of Ayrshire on Thursday afternoon, on a bike that felt like it was riding through treacle. I swear to God that I was having to put an extra 50% effort in to maintain a pitfully rubbish pace. I called in at Neil’s bike shop on the way home and left the toiling machine with him. “Summat not right somewhere” I said.

My current LCFN bike, the 5th of the journey, is just 8 months old. I got it last April after I broke the previous one inside twelve months. LCFN is as hard on my machinery as it is on my body. The damage, if you can call it that, was both sets of headset bearings (top and bottom) seized (that would explain the bike resembling a Geiger counter over the holiday period then), new cables to both the rear gears and brakes (the rear brake was intermittently sticking on the wheel because of road grime, causing the treacle effect), new brakes were called for front and back, and a significant amount of work was needed to re-true the gears: oh, and a new derailleur hanger – that’s the third in eight months. The roads round these parts, in the main, are shit: very rough, rutted, potholed and very undulating. No matter what route you take out of Stewarton, you can reckon on coming back having averaged 60ft of climbing for every mile you’ve ridden: 20 mile ride = 1200ft feet of climbing, that’s par for the course.

The downside of the bike being off the road for 24 hours was what to do about yesterday’s ride. You’ll recall that I went on record at 27,000 miles that I planned on not missing a day before 28,000. That’s a difficult task at the best of times, especially in winter. What’s made it even harder is that I took a fresh look at the overall stats this week and decided to recalculate every ride that I have on Strava, to the nearest 0.1 of a mile. All the way through LCFN, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve round under half a mile down, and above half a mile up. Given that around 75% of the LCFN rides are on Strava, going all the way back to the start in August 2013, I had to put aside six hours to recalibrate the lot. Where the rides aren’t on Strava, estimates are good enough because I wasn’t into riding here, there and everywhere back then. The result was that I ended up having to do two days of community service this week, in that the total that I previously claimed was about 40 miles higher than the recalculated figure so for a couple of days, my figures literally stood still. But now I’m happy because the stats stand up to auditing.

While I was at it, I grabbed the ascent from every ride too (all 1,057 of them). Fortunately spreadsheets make mincemeat of adding stuff up so all I had to do was transcribe the feet of climbing onto each daily row. The total to this morning stands at 1,346,730ft, or Mount Everest 46 times from sea level if you prefer (that’s Everest every month, having cycled 700 miles to sea level base camp). Yeah, that’s a shift and a half.

There was a slight hint from moi on the LCFN Facebook page yesterday of being a bit down. I’ll let you into a secret: I was, and JJ spotted it. A few minutes later, I got a nice message from the other side of the world asking me if I was okay. Thank you, Julian. At the end of the day, I am only human, and almost sixty four to boot. On days like yesterday, I feel it. But JJ’s message cheered me up no end, and was possibly the difference between me not going out at all (a sore leg and cold rain is a demoralising combo) and heading out the door at 8:30pm in unlit black fog. I chose the latter: record attempt intact and to compound the effect, I was back out again this morning before 7am because Jane was up early to head out to her sports massage course and I was awake anyway. All I needed to do was punt Dennis off my lap on the bed.

Now after all that, the 27,000 to 28,000 without a break gig isn’t going to happen because I’m off to Liverpool with my job in ten days time and I cannae make up the remaining miles in the time that’s left (a) because I’m still nursing the thigh injury that cost me seven weeks out in September and October, and (b) we’re scheduled to cop a dollop of snow from Thursday of this coming week. I’m happy to dig the mountain bike out for the snow, cos it’s still got knobbly tyres on it for that very reason from last winter, but I sure as hell cannae push an injured leg through day after day of 35 milers in snowy conditions: I’ll pay big time if I do that. So I’ve just shifted the goalposts to keep the pot boiling: can I manage a thousand miles straight without taking a day off? I’ve never done that in my life. That run started 41 days ago on 26,816 miles and I’m currently sitting on 27,669. 147’s achievable before I head down south, but the snow will be the deciding factor for sure. I suspect I might just take a leisurely 30 miler down the coast to Troon tomorrow before the weather breaks. We’ll call it insurance.

I am tired, I’ll admit to that. When I was scanning back through the Strava log, recalcing the miles, I couldn’t believe how much climbing I was doing every day: twice as much as I’m doing right now, and twice as many daily miles too. But I took weekends off back then: this is different: this is hard. 41 days and counting: no rest. Where I’m at just now, the only time on the bike that counts is….

The next time.