Every Monday morning at 5am, I roll out of bed and like a scene from the Wrong Trousers, climb into gear that’s already laid out downstairs. Two layers of everything and protective gear where it’s needed most. Think about it: four hours a day, every day, on a bike. By twenty past I’m at work: I have two jobs: one I get paid for as a professional software developer, the other one I do because I love it: I ride my bike.
That Monday rollout is like starting afresh. Last week doesn’t matter anymore, it’s done, it’s history, it’s just a bunch of stats. Now it’s about this moment, this day, this week and this month. But it took the untimely passing of Philip Hughes to make me realise how every journey of LIfeCycleForNeuroblastoma is like a batsman trying to compile an innings: a score worthy of both the effort and the occasion. Nothing comes easy and everything comes at a price.
Phil Hughes was an opening batsman. He led from the front. He led from the front not just because he was first out the hutch, he led from the front because of the way he went about his business. He played hard but fair. He remains the youngest player to compile a century in each innings of a Test match, and he did it in only his second Test. He had a strike rate of 53 runs per hundred balls in Test cricket. That’s rapid. The current England captain, Alastair Cook, with over a hundred Tests to his name, can only muster 46. Phil Hughes was a gunner, a batsman who went after the ball to set things up for the guys coming in further down the order.
But it’s not just Phil Hughes’ family that I feel so sorry for tonight. I feel desperately for Sean Abbott who bowled the fateful delivery. Cricket is a tough sport. My middle son Finn was a leg spin bowler through his younger teenage years and despite having lightning sharp reflexes and wicked hand-eye co-ordination, Finn was always the first admit that cricket is no game for pussies. That ball is moving, and it was Sean Abbott’s professional job to get Phil Hughes’s wicket any way he could. By attempting to induce the hook shot, Sean was doing no more than hoping for a top edge or a misplaced shot. What happened was 100% not his fault but whether Sean is able to pick up a cricket ball again remains to be seen.
I look at Hughes’ stats and I can’t help but make a comparison in my mind of runs versus miles. It’s essentially the same game: make as much as you can as fast as you can while you can: while you still can. Occasionally it goes wrong but that’s life: dust yourself down, sort yourself out and go again the next time. Cricket versus LifeCycle: same mental game, different sport.
LifeCycle’s bagged 11,275 miles in a little over 15 months at an average of just under 40 a day. Phil Hughes had an awesome Test average of almost 47. I’ll never get there. The distance from Glasgow to Sydney, where Phil played his final innings, is 10,521 miles. That’s not an ass kick away from the 11K miles that I was sitting at when he went to the crease for the final time.
But there’s more, much more…
Phil Hughes was fronting up for South Australia whose home ground is the Adelaide Oval. The LifeCycle flag was at the Oval the day before he died. It was there because some hard working, hard living Aussie girls support LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, and the flag was on tour, their tour. It went out on Monday, arrived on Tuesday and got handed over on Wednesday. Then it went walkabout…
I asked the girls to get me iconic places and people. I especially wanted Jimmy Harrington and Anna Meares. Jimmy was kind of easy to get because we’ve been following each other for a while, ever since I realised he was even more endurance challenged than me. But in a nice way. However I expected Anna to be a problem. Olympic champion, five times World Champion, and Victoria Pendleton’s nemesis, the British press make a habit of painting Anna as the baddie, for no reason other than she’s the best of the best. Anna stays in Adelaide, which I didn’t know when I arranged for the flag to go out, but once I found out, she became my number target for the LifeCycle flag. To be honest I didn’t expect it to happen. But it did. I learnt a lot about her in a very short space of time, and it reinforces my belief that the British media just print rubbish that sells copy. Let me tell you this straight: Anna Meares is a gem. When she’s not on a bike, she’s an ambassador for the Little Heroes Foundation based in Adelaide, and in October she raised over $212K by having her head shaved so she could look like the kids that she’s trying to help. Let me say it again in case you missed it ten seconds ago: Anna Meares is a gem.
I knew nothing of that before I made contact but the more I read about her work, the more I realised that she’s Jimmy Harrington from further down the road. A charitable genius and I really admire that. Anna Meares isn’t just an Olympic Champion, she’s a People’s Champion, and you don’t get many of those to the pound.
It would probably be easier to list the places that the Flag hasn’t been than the ones that it has, but it’s most certainly been at the Cathedral, the main train station, the riverside, Mount Lofty, the lighthouse and Santa’s grotto. The girls did me proud and their efforts just emphasise what I’ve been saying for a while now: this is a team effort in which I just happen to be the bloke on the bike. Once you are able to see past the me, bike, miles thing, you start to understand that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is a movement about raising people’s consciousness that there’s a disease out there that has the devastating power to take kids’ lives away and it is our collective aim to prevent that from happening.
And so to November, the month that set the bar at Sergei Bubka levels of performance. Most miles in a week; most miles in a month; most miles in a rolling calendar year. And that’s just for starters. I wrote in the Holy Grail blog three weeks ago that I set out the first week after the clocks changed to lay a marker in the sand, something that I could use as a reference point in the dark: something that screamed “I can do this” when the winter storms set in. That was how week 1 delivered 251 miles before I tagged a further 51 on the back end with the Mark Beaumont challenge. Weeks two and three were planned as some kind of coming down to ease the pressure on my body but in reality, 231 and 235 these last two weeks offer precious little evidence of that being the case. You see if I hark back to Philip Hughes and his precocious strike rate, rattling off 986 miles in 26 days is no different from Phil going into bat in a One Day International and picking up three runs every four balls. It’s relentless. You do it because you have to and because you can.
For the record, the schedule says that if I keep going at the current rate, I’ll be through 12,000 miles this side of Christmas, and through halfway on 19th January. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago but it becomes ever more important as the miles tick by: the first half of LifeCycle was characterised by two winters and one summer. The second half is going to be the exact opposite: two summers and only one winter. I will only have to ride the 28th of November one more time before the job is done.
You see the way I look at it, there are no half measures, you either do it to the best of your ability, or you don’t do it at all. There’s nothing in between. You live every day like it’s your last.
Sadly, for Philip Hughes, it was. RIP.