When You’re Going Through Hell, Just Keep Going

This quote has been stuck in my head all week “when you’re going through hell, just keep going”, a quip that’s supposedly attributed to Winston Churchill. I mention it because the weather is on the turn and the fun rides of the last few weeks are migrating with unwelcome familiarity into traditional winter fare. The rainy season is here, and it’s about to turn nasty.

I mentioned at the end of last week’s episode of LCFN that if I manage to maintain the 50 miles a day average of the last six months throughout the rest of the trip, then 25,000 miles will be done and dusted in 112 days. I don’t see that happening. Banging in big miles in daylight in the summer is one thing: maintaining it in the dark in winter is something else altogether. This week provided a timely aperitif.

So let’s take the story back to Monday morning…

I wasn’t sure how my legs would be after last week’s epic 276 mile journey, coupled with the fact that I spent most of Sunday building a new bike store out the back, the second weekend in a row that I’d been contorted, drilling, screwing nuts and bolts and generally getting sore in places that I’m not normally.

But you’d be surprised how good that first half mile felt at 5am on Monday. Still (but cold), I love the flat rollout through Stewarton before the six hills kick in. But on Mondays, those hills never present a problem because the legs have been refuelled by a weekend of relative rest. Even so, Monday morning carries a heavy load with the food run: home made bread, mackerel, salmon, jam, oranges: it’s all heavy. So 25 miles in was acceptable without going overboard. A longer 26 mile run home, again in perfect conditions, brought up a nice 51 for the day and that in itself is something of a rarity: there have only been four 50+ Mondays all summer. Tuesday was a much lighter load (oatcake day) so Monday’s 25 in became 27. The same longer 26 mile route home brought up 104 by Tuesday night. Nice. All of a sudden, I’m thinking “two days into November and there are already 104 miles on the board”. Nice.

You’ll recall that September was a Gold month (1000 miles) and by pushing the boat out a little further, October went Platinum (1100 miles). Now there’s absolutely no chance, none whatsoever, that November will top that and go Titanium (1200 miles), nor will it stay Platinum. But Gold is once again a real possibility. The sums are simple: 21 cycling days to do a thousand miles: that’s 48 a day. So armed with 104, I thought “let’s see if I can keep this going till the end of the week”: there’s never been a week when the daily mileage has been above 50 every day. I’ve been on or above 50, but never all of them above. “Well that’s worth going for” thought I. So by screwing the nut and getting the head in gear, I was able to ignore the driving rain (was that Wednesday morning, I think) and concentrate on the job in hand. 51 and 52 meant I arrived home last night with 207 in the bank. I love it when the bread and butter 200 is in the bag by Thursday night: it gives you a sense of Friday being a freebie. That’s 23 consecutive two hundred mile weeks in a row.

By my legs were gone. That prompted the following exclamation on Facebook last night:

Been here so many times, it feels like an old friend: legs totally empty and one more day to focus the mind and the legs.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is what makes LCFN realistic in my eyes: take everything it can throw at you, then go back for more.

Just like the kids.

Yesterday, I read the most emotional and heartfelt piece, written by #TeamButterfield, Central Belt supporters in Chief for Princess Puddles. I shared it on the LCFN Facebook group with a hankie warning. It was gripping stuff; it was gruesome stuff but it was gallant stuff. From the outside of the inside, if you get my drift, it gave a blow by blow (summary) account of Eileidh’s fight for life. This particular paragraph knocked me out: imagine if this was your child.

It was November.  We still didn’t know if Eileidh would live or die so we decided to go over the top with a Christmas tree, decorations and presents for Eileidh and her siblings. We wanted her to have a good Christmas with us although it was only November”.

We didn’t know whether Eileidh would live or die. I hope Gail won’t mind me picking up on those words, but that’s how desperate it was for her. But Eileidh is a warrior amongst warriors, and she made it through November to be in the pub to greet the Cycling Santas when they arrived in Glasgow at the beginning of December. I’m terrible with names, and not much better with faces, so I’m assuming Gail was there: I just remember this wee tot getting carried about the place on her Grandpa’s shoulders and immersing herself in an iPad. Even as sick as she was back then, Eileidh was an Eingel (see what I did there)?

Eileidh remains my inspiration one year on.

It won’t surprise many of you to know that I have a spreadsheet where all the LCFN Miles are logged. It lives in the Cloud, which basically means I can access it anytime from anywhere. But the best bit is it allows me to do “what if” analysis. “What if I average 48 miles a day for the next two months, when will I hit x,000 miles”: that sort of thing. It also stores the current running average of miles per day on the bike, and that’s what I use for projecting the future.

At the end of 2013, the daily average was 32 miles, and at that rate of progress, 25,000 miles was scheduled for February 2017.

Now roll it forward twelve months to the end of 2014. The daily average was up to just under 40 which brought the end date back to October 2016. Five months knocked off the schedule by virtue of upping the distance every day. That came with improved fitness and an end to the nine day fortnight at work (hence an extra cycling day every two weeks).

And now we are where we are. The spreadsheet does not lie. It just tells the story in hard numbers. February 2017 represents just shy of 800 days on the bike. October ’16 is 700 days. In fact, it’s going to be completed in under 600. If I was a betting man, right now I’d wager a tenner on “Around The World in 580 Days”. Someone should make a film about that…

Going back to this week, it’s been interesting for a number of reasons, but one that stands out has similarities in F1. I’ve often heard Martin Brundle, on commentary, refer to “the tyres are coming back to the driver”. By that he means that all of the original mega grip has gone, and the driver went through a period where he felt a significant loss of control in high speed corners. But then once the wee marbles of rubber have worn off the outer shell of the tyre, the grip returns once more. But it’s short lived. The tyre is soon worn out…

Compare that scenario to this week. Great grip of the workload through Monday and Tuesday, there was a significant drop off in leg performance through Wednesday and Thursday to the point where I was a bit concerned this morning and actually threw away a couple of miles to keep the lactic acid at bay. But this afternoon, riding back over the Fenwick Muir into monsoon like rain and a stiffening headwind, once my legs got cold, they came back to me. For no obvious reason, they started working again, and for ten miles, I felt fantastic. Then, just as in F1, they went off the edge of the cliff about five miles from home and from thereonin, it was a case of just nursing the bike home.

268 miles. Lots of achy bits; lots of sore bits. But 268 miles nonetheless.

To Go Gold (again) in November, I need to average 46 for the rest of the month. The weather forecast for next week is treacherous so 46 might be optimistic, but hey, I haven’t come this far to give up now. One year ago this week, I clocked my first Holy Grail of 250 miles in a week. That goal had lain tantalisingly out of reach for months: there have been six Holy Grails in the last eight weeks, and the other two weeks would have been, except for having had holiday Mondays in them. That’s how far LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma has come in twelve months.

20,000 miles are just around the corner (seven cycling days away) and as the weather deteriorates, I have those calming words of Winston Churchill ringing in my ears…

“When you’re going through hell, just keep going”.

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