Empty The Tank, Refuel, Repeat

Legs shot to pieces.

A couple of weeks ago I touched upon how LCFN has evolved into an experiment to find out just how far you can push your body. Tonight it feels like if I haven’t already found out, then I’m about to.

It’s the combination of climbing, distance and strong winds that are doing the damage. The run of consecutive 30 milers has now moved on to 23, and 13 of the last 14 days have also included over 2000 feet of climbing: and that would have been a full house if I’d not had to take the heavy spare bike out last Sunday when my road bike developed a mechanical failure. Sunday fell 400 feet short.

Now throw the cutting easterly wind into the mix. There are no routes out of Stewarton where you can get shelter from an easterly. You can get some respite coming from the other direction but that means heading out west and driving into the wind when you’re already knackered. Alternatively, you can just bite the bullet and head uphill and straight into it when you head out the door. Neither option is appealing, and I’ve tried both, twice, this week.

My bad knee’s sore. My hernia’s sore. My strained thigh muscle’s sore. Everything feels sore. This is the edge I talked about two weeks ago. This is that place when you either drive on, or you don’t go out. I’ve been here before, but somehow each new episode seems more in yer face than the one before. I’m sat here typing, yawning my head off, and it’s only 8 o’clock. It’s a fuel and blood sugar thing. Today was an absolutely brutal ride, in distance, in ascent and in effort. Biggest miles, biggest climbs and fastest average speed of the week: and the most fuel burnt. I have much more faith in my Garmin that I ever have in Strava, so when Garmin says it was a 2200 calorie outing, I concur. My aching body is in total agreement. How do you actually manage to consume all of your glycogen stores in a little of two hours? My tank is empty. Yet tomorrow I go again.

The whole week seems to have been that way. Starting from Monday, the calorie burns have been 1960, 1937, 2029, 2084 and finally 2221. My fuel tank holds 1825, maybe fifty more because I’m up almost half a stone just now. But every one of those rides has had me coming home on fumes. The climbs have been no better: 2034ft, 2156ft, 2454ft, 2379ft and today 2510ft. Climbing into the wind is a killer: that’s where the calories have gone. I’m writing this on empty.

But there’s a thing about the climbing and why I chose last week and this week to torture myself. It’s because of next week.

Two years ago this weekend, Mouldy, Robert, Kev and myself rode from Forres to Glasgow for Eileidh. That ride brought up 17,000ft of climbing for the week and it remains the most in any LCFN week. But I’ll tell you now: I’ve got my eye on that total. I closed today on 11,533 and there are still two days to go to close out the week. It’s going to take two near 3,000ft days in the saddle to topple it but it’s in my sights, even on empty. The reason is simple…

Monday will be the third anniversary of Oscar’s passing.

Tuesday will be the third anniversary of Eileidh’s diagnosis.

And nor is it lost on me that Tuesday is also the first anniversary of the release of the Puddles video on Facebook.

If there is one week in the year that demands something extra, it is this week.

And talking of something extra, I want to wish Mouldy and his team good luck and a bon voyage on their epic cycle from Celtic Park to Lisbon, in commemoration of Celtic becoming the first British team to lift the European Cup fifty years ago this month. If all goes according to plan, they will arrive in the stadium where Billy McNeill lifted the trophy, on the day of the anniversary, and in doing so they will raise tens of thousands of pounds for charity, one of which is Solving Kids Cancer.

Mouldy, if you get a chance to read this before the off, I salute you sir. You are a living legend. I know second hand just how much emotional and physical effort you have put into organising this epic journey, a journey that for you, started five years ago with wee Oscar. It’s entirely fitting that you’re taking this on in the week of his anniversary. He would be so proud of you, and even when it rains, you can kid on that he’s playing with his watering can again.

I would have come to see you off but unfortunately I will be 300 miles away at Donnington on a work jolly. Actually, it’s not really a jolly, not in the true sense of the word. At age 64, I’m embarking on a new career of study in relation to SNOMED-CT, the international standard in clinical coding in healthcare, and it’s coming to a GP practice near you this time next year. I passed the foundation course a couple of months ago and now I’ve been let loose with the big boys and girls. I honestly don’t know whether I’ll pass this advanced course, because my background is in software, not medicine, but I need to understand the concepts that underpin the methodology in order to further my research into software tools in my day job, the one that I do when I’m not on my bike. I used to think of myself as a bloke with a full time job who cycled: these ways, I prefer to think of myself as a cyclist who has a part time job doing something I love. It works both ways: one feeds off the other. You’d be surprised how smashing your legs frees up your mind, and that’s when the good ideas start to flow.

Next week’s trip down south will bring to an end the current run of thirty milers – good riddance say my tired wee leggies – but the summer is still young and with a run a good weather, there’s no reason why a target as high as 25 or 26 can’t be run down with a bit of dedication and hard work. Maybe I’ll park it at 27 so as to really annoy myself. I just need to keep a focus and avoid being away from home.

On the awareness front, I batched up 50 EJ/LCFN wristbands this week and sent them off to the south coast of England. Nic Naish, cancer survivor, former primary school teacher, now re-invented as a wellbeing and nutritional guru, is an Eileidh fundraiser and Nic’s gonna be signing people up in Worthing in support of our Princess. Also on the awarenss front, the LCFN Million Mile Challenge on Strava gained two new riders in Brazil this week. This is the way word spreads, you see. Out there, in cyber space, people are randomly catching on to what we’re doing, signing up, donating their miles and spreading the word further still. I’ll bet a pound to a penny that one of them joined the LCFN challenge then told his mate. Organic growth: the best kind: keep it low key and people will come in their own time, when they are ready. We’re now 53 riders in 13 countries.

But talking of being ready, I feel anything but ready to take on thirty miler number 24 tomorrow. The only thing that will get me out the door is the knowledge that I survived each of the previous 23. This one might just have to be a straight out and back, because once you’re 15 miles from home, there’s only one way back and that’s gonna chalk another one on the leader board. The other thing about out and back courses is that you can kid on you’re only doing half the distance: that’s okay, of course, till your legs give up. Then what’s left feels like twice as much.

It was never easy.

It isn’t easy.

It will never be easy.

Empty the tank. Refuel. Repeat….

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