I Don’t Like Mondays (Except This One)

This is a blog I’ve wanted to write for months. This is THE blog I’ve wanted to write for months. This is the 10,000 mile blog.

When I went to the Hope & Fear rally in Freedom Square last weekend, I was sitting on 9818 miles and 10K was scheduled for next Tuesday. But I’m not very good at being ruled by schedules; I like to beat the hell out of them. Basically I don’t like to be ruled by anyone or anything. But before I went back to work on Wednesday after taking Monday and Tuesday off to smash up a big shed that I’d built 14 years ago, I budgeted for 44, 44 ad 50 Wednesday through Friday to give me an outside chance of 10K miles on Monday. However in reality I managed to bag 46, 46 and 66 to set up 10,000 at the factory gate on Monday morning. That’s the way I am I’m afraid: target, challenge, beat.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about what this milestone means. 10,000 miles is a long way. And in just 14 months, it’s a very, very long way. But park that for a moment: park the distance and just concentrate on the time for this is how I see it. This is how I see LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. It hasn’t always been this way but I’ve come to understand over the past few weeks that for me, this is the best way I can handle it.

14 months isn’t that far removed from the time it takes for a child to get diagnosed and treated for neuroblastoma first time around, and at the end of that long arduous treatment, the family hope for a good outcome. That’s where I am just now. I feel like I’ve put my body through the biggest strain that it’s ever had to endure in its life, and I’ve come through it and I feel good. I feel like that child, and that family, who have received the good news that the cancer has gone away. And I plan to feel that way until Monday night. That is my remission. For 72 hours, I can relax, safe in the knowledge that I’ve done something that I’m really not sure was possible this time last year.

But on Tuesday morning at 5am, in a howling gale and driving rain, I will imagine that the cancer is back. This will be the second coming that Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie all had to face. The slate will have been wiped clean and nothing that has happened since August 2013 will be of any significance, except for one thing: I got through it. I beat the schedule, I beat the weather, I beat the injuries and I beat every last demon in my head that said I couldn’t do it.

10,000 miles may well be a long way, but it’s not even half way. But it is 40%, and from now until mid January, I’m going to focus on chipping away at that 40% and watch it grow. Like the 45ers who rose from the ashes of the Yes campaign on 19th September, I intend to nurture that percentage through the dark, wet, cold days of the coming winter until I can once again enjoy the warmth of the sun on my back and the tan on my arms. But that’s a long way off.

Next weekend the clocks go back and that will usher in the hundred days of hell. It runs until the middle of February when I will (one again) see a wee bit of daylight as I arrive in work in the morning, and enjoy a wee bit of daylight for half an hour after leaving work. That’s the time of year when the daylight creeps about two or three minutes a day at both ends. I’m sure I’ll return to those hundred days again and again between now and the end of the year, but for now it’s just a case of taking each day on its merits and dealing with it. I’ve already realised that I’ve got to start wearing a peaked cap under my helmet because 50% of the time when you’re on the unlit section of the A77 on the Fenwick Muir, motors don’t bother dipping their lights unless there’s a car behind you (which there rarely is at 6am) and quite literally can’t see where you’re going. It’s a case of slow right down and hope you don’t run off the road; scary, very scary!

Next Friday, there will be a belated celebration of those first 10,000 miles when two special friends will join up with me for the run home from work. One of these guys has been with me spiritually since the very start. First of all, I’m really grateful that two people are prepared to do me the honour of taking a half day off work to ride with me. And secondly, I’m really excited at the prospect of sharing my arduous route with two keen cyclists. I already know that the forecast isn’t good for next week and part of me really doesn’t mind if the Fenwick Muir lives up to its reputation and roars a wee bit. But I’d hate to scare my guests. Once it’s all over, we’ll all go out for a meal, have a few beers and and see what they really thought of the experience.

But before I leave this milestone and focus solely on what lies ahead, I want to pick out my most memorable moment from the past 14 months. It’s relevant, it’s poignant and ultimately it’s very sad.

The day in question was Friday 9th May when I planned to spend the second day of The Highland Bike touring around with the Caley Thistle Highland Marchers. But on waking that Friday morning, my intermittent O2 signal brought the news that wee Oscar, the guiding light on the front of my bike, had passed away the previous day. I remember trying to work out where I would have been on the 147 mile ride from Motherwell, and I figured that it was roughly the same spot where I’d learned of the passing of Tommy Burns during Highland March 6. That moment, that day and that memory are all I need to power the LifeCycle bike for remaining 15,000 miles. The spiritual bond between Oscar Knox and the LifeCycle Man will live on until this job is done.

So this is the deal: I know 10,000 miles is a long way, my tired body is telling me so, but already I’m focussing on the next 10,000 and the battle that will run alongside those children fighting neuroblastoma for the second time. Together, we’ve all beaten this monster once, and now we’re just going to have to do it all over again.

I don’t like Mondays, but I’m sure as hell going to enjoy this one before Tuesday kicks in!

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