When The Going Gets Tough

You know that Billy Ocean song “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going”? I think I need to give that a spin because right now I’m struggling big time. It might not seem like it when you look at the miles, but if ever I needed reminding why I hate November, I need look no further back than this week. Or I could check back to last week, which was equally grim, albeit less cold.

So I decided to find out if it was a seasonal thing: maybe I’m SAD and in need of some sunlight. Hell, I’ve seen precious little of that this past wee while. I look out of the window at work and all I seem to see is rain hammering down on the factory roof.

However I figured that if the weather really is getting me down, then maybe it’s cyclical thing, so I had a look at the blog from the corresponding week last year: and in it, I found this:

The difference is entirely down to learning and experience. The story That Darned Competitive Dawg introduced the prospect of the big target for the first time. It talked about how I’d settled on 125 miles a week and that if I upped my game and start producing 150’s, then 25K was possible. I can tell by the language that I was fearful and unsure. But how times have changed…

I deal with the winter by naming it The 100 Days Of Hell. That allows me to tick the days off, one by one, and every day that I can stay on the bike feels like a bonus: the lycra boys of summer are long gone. This feels evermore like me versus the world. Dark in the morning, dark at night. Cold in the morning, cold at night. Windy in the morning, windy at night. Wet in the morning (half the time), wet at night (the other half). But the strength you gain by completing a winter: it just wraps you up in an extra layer of thick skinnedness, and what the weather throws at you (six inches of snow excepted), you just learn to deal with it. #NeverGiveUp”.

Let’s stop and consider that first paragraph for a moment. In it, it says that I’d settled on 125’s but by upping my game to 150’s, then 25,000 miles was possible: over four years. I’ve been averaging 250 a week for the past seven months. That’s why I’m tired; that’s why I’m finding the stormy weather a painful challenge; and that’s why I once again find myself questioning my ability to see this through in what is arguably the hardest month of the year. It’s the hardest because it comes straight after the clocks go back, so you’re engulfed in darkness morning and night, it’s traditionally the month when the storms kick in, and it’s so, so, soooo far from the other side of winter. Everything about November is grim. I’d go so far as to say that it’s my least favourite month of the year. At least when January and February are rubbish, you know you’re over halfway: with November, you know that winter has barely dipped it’s toe in the water and it’s already horrible.

But there’s another reason why this November is proving more difficult than either of the last two: pressure, the kind of pressure that can only come from within. Here’s why: these are the miles for the complete weeks in November:

2013:     130, 162, 134, 138

2014:     302, 219, 231, 234

2015:     268, 257, 264 and next week.

Quite apart from the fact that 2013 had only half the miles, November 2015 has already delivered three consecutive 250’s (on top of two to see out October) and no calendar month has ever turned in four. Weather, bike and health permitting, I intend to change that.

But let’s not dwell on the difficulty of the task: let’s focus instead on what really gets me through. My inspirations in year one were Oscar Knox, Vanessa Riddle and Mackenzie Furniss. After Vanessa had her picture taken with the flag, not once but twice, the focus shifted, as if drawn by fate and fortune, to Eileidh Paterson. Eileidh was diagnosed the day after Oscar died: it was a Friday. Much has happened since in Eileidh’s short life, but she has dealt with it in her unique inimitable style: with a smile and a ferocious attitude to be free. Eileidh is a free spirit, and a determined one at that. I am also a free spirit and I do not take fools gladly where halfhearted effort is concerned: for me it’s all or nothing.

I have followed Eileidh’s journey ever more closely since the beginning of the year: ever since I first twigged that it was her that Mouldy and I met in the pub on Byres Road last December, just after she’d finished a course of treatment in Yorkhill. We met up again May when a concerted fundraising effort by the Highland Marchers and Highland Bikers brought in over four grand for the Eileidh appeal. So it was a natural choice, for me anyway, that Eileidh should be the face of 20,000 miles, just as Vanessa had been the face of 10,000 just over a year ago.

And so it was that Mouldy and I set sail early last Saturday morning, trainward bound via Perth, destination Inverness. We’d arranged to meet Gail (that’s Eileidh’s mum) and Cerys (her big sister) at the Floral Hall, better known as the Botanic Gardens. After a bit of lunch, we let Eileidh loose in the Tropical House, the rest of us in tow and me in particular looking for the perfect backdrop to the 20,000 mile image. We found it in a scene reminiscent of “I’m A Princess, Get Me Out Of Here”, rather apt really given that the real TV reality programme kicked off again with a new series this week. Thank you Gail for making the effort, thank you to Cerys and Eileidh for being Cerys and Eileidh, and thank you to Laura, whose friendship goes back about a dozen years to a time when Inverness were still plying their trade in the old second division.

The joy of Saturday’s visit was however tinged with great sadness late in the afternoon when news came through that wee Hamish Dear, who stayed just up the road from Eileidh and was almost a year behind in his treatment programme, had lost his battle with neuroblastoma on Saturday morning. We’d only been talking about Hamish at lunchtime so it came as a great shock to learn of his passing.

20,000 mile week will conclude tomorrow night (Friday) when a group of us plan to set foot in the town (Glasgow) to sample the atmosphere and the delights of the new Bavarian themed Brau Haus. It promises to be a highly entertaining evening and as ever with these things, I just hope I’m not left with my own company because no one else has turned up.

But I really can’t finish this week without going back to those November numbers. September was a Gold month (1000 miles) whilst October went Platinum (1100 miles).November is well on course to make it three Gold’s in a row, and if that happens by next Friday, with a day to spare, then a second consecutive Platinum may not be out of sight either. The pressure is totally self motivating. The kids have it so hard going through the treatment process that I choose to make my life on two wheels equally challenging and equally draining, and I’d say that right now I’m just about winning on both fronts.

But I’m not about to give up. I haven’t survived two winters, and especially two Novembers, without recognising that if you can get by this month then see it out to Christmas, the lighter nights are ultimately just around the corner. As Bill Ocean said in the song:

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going”.

That’s me.

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