I’m Not Like Everybody Else

I barely know where to start this week. I don’t quite know how, or even why, I got to this point, but I am here, I am living in this moment and I’m just trying to hang onto every single day of September like it was the last.

But first, in order to set the scene, let me turn the clock back 21 days. I wrote this as I was sat on a train heading back from England…

“August was good. August was very good. August could have been spectacularly good but all good things must come to an end when something altogether more important is lying in wait. For today is September 1st, and the start of childhood cancer awareness month. Go gold with pride and a passion. While I was sat in a meeting in Manchester this morning, outlining my dream of GP practices being able to screen for clustered symptoms of cancer in small children, the Sydney Opera House was being lit up in Gold ten thousand miles away. It feels like this is an unstoppable journey, one that was always destined to happen in one form or another. On September 1st next year, I plan on being in Sydney, on my gold bike, in support of Neuroblastoma Australia”.

I didn’t cycle on that Friday. I’d missed our wedding anniversary by being away on the Thursday so Jane and I went out for dinner when I got home. In hindsight, that missed day was the catalyst, the fuse if you like, that set a bonfire under September 2017.

Further down that blog, this appeared:

“LCFN is not about being in a cosy warm place: LCFN is about putting your body on the line where it hurts, when it hurts, and just keeping on doing it. LCFN is for every waking day of your life, not just for Christmas. Because that’s what a kid with cancer has to endure and as today is the start of awareness month, it’s worth restating the vow.

My yardstick is what you manage to do with the days when you’re on it. I just managed 42 thirty milers in a row”.

You see I wanted to bag a thousand miles in September and I’d got off to the worst possible start by getting none on day one. And as September is a short month, that just ratchets up the pressure, something that traditionally I’ve not dealt well with. Basically, I hate playing catchup: I’m an ahead of the game sort of a bloke, a do your chores before playtime sort of a bloke. Chasing the game does not sit well with me.

The Saturday and Sunday of that week were meant to be just a launchpad to limit the damage.

Roll it forward seven days and the sore of missing out on the first was clearly festering:

“The loss of Friday, became the driving force behind #GoGoldSeptember. I touted it as a desire to bag only the fifth golden month, in memory of Eileidh as #ForeverFive, but that doesn’t tell half the story. A thousand miles was never going to be a problem, assuming I don’t get sent away with work at short notice. My focus is not on a thousand, not even on eleven hundred. It’s on the top step: 1112 miles posted at the end of the hat trick of golds back in November ’15. To be honest, no matter what I clock this month, I can take nothing away from that monumental month. I remember the hundred days of hell only too well. November is a dark, cold, wet and wild month. It’s when the storms kick in. And you see not one minute of daylight. Every one of those eleven hundred miles was done in the dark. You never forget those days”.

Right now, I can say with some degree of certainty that I will never forget this month. September 2017 will shine forevermore as the month when I was on it. And like never before. Missing out on the first merely lit the fuse: then this appeared…

“But 1112 is in the crosshairs. You get a lot of time to think strategy and routes when you’re out for three and four hours a day, and in my mind I’ve been toying with something that’s basically been tantalisingly off limits all along: I called it a titanium month a couple of years ago because relatively speaking, it’s off the scale and unreachable: 1200 miles.

Is it achievable? In a 31 day month, with a tailwind of motivation, I think it is. But it’s on top of a full time job remember. In a 30 day month, it demands 40 miles day. The most I’ve ever done of those in a row is six. That’s precisely why 1200 is titanium: it’s basically impenetrable. So take a day off that and challenge yersel’ to do it in 29: that makes the asking rate 41 miles a day. Every day. That’s two and a half thousand calories burnt up on the bike and a whole load of tiredness to boot. And still the day job to do.

Oooft, game on…”

Game on indeed.

The first full week of September returned 311 miles, bettering a 294 that I’d ended August with, and sitting comfortably at number two on the all-time list after four years on the road.

Ironically, that blog a fortnight ago was named I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Oooft, how times change. That 311 lasted only a week…

I wiped it last week with a 319, a ridiculous effort of seven forty something days, the minimum of which was a 44.

A perfect storm was definitely brewing. From Stewarton Wednesday last week:

“The run up to Wednesday lies in the fact that I’m trying to smash just about every LCFN record in the book in the #GoGold month of September. When I say I every record, I’m probably exaggerating just a wee bit because I think top spot for miles in a week is safe until I get to Australia next year. But the others are all going: and therein lies the problem…

From being a guy who just went out to enjoy the ride, wherever it may take me, I became, for one month only, a guy for whom every last mile counts. And when the LCFN records as they currently stand define me at my limits, then something’s gonna have to give: it’s either me, or it’s them”.

I knew at the end of last week that something truly special was in sight. But in order to claim it, to grasp it, and behold it, I had to up my game one more time. Merely working out at 45 miles a day for the remaining two weeks was not going to get the job done.

Cue overdrive…

I’ve had to let my professional working hours slip a little this week (only 29 by close of play tonight) because for this week only, LCFN changed from being a miles based adventure to a time based one. No longer was it “x number of miles”: it morphed into “x number of hours”, where x is never less than3.5.

I’m talking about that top spot, those 340.9 miles that were racked up courtesy of cycling from Eileidh’s home town of Forres to Celtic Park in May 2015, and that on top of a normal woking week, with Mouldy, Kev and Robert. One offs are efforts to behold. Treasure them.

For the past three months, I’ve been majoring on 30 mile days, every day.

For practically the whole of the past month, I’ve been majoring on 40’s.

Add another ten.

This week has majored on 50’s.

The last time I managed to put four 50’s together in a row was November ’15 and that was the very week that notched top spot with 1112 miles. I’m sitting on four 50’s tonight: and tomorrow’s another new day, albeit that there’s a Sevco-Celtic match kicking off at noon that I’d rather like to peruse as an outsider.

The week’s sitting on 251.9 miles. I need another 91 to do the unthinkable. On tired legs. This is not (yet) a done deal. The month is sitting on 964 so tomorrow, for sure, September will go #Gold. Only the fifth month ever that I’ve managed it and a fitting tribute to Eileidh. Forever Five.

Tuesday should see the fall of the 1112 that currently occupies top spot then that leaves four days to scale the summit of Mount Titanium.

Nothing is impossible. That’s the message I’ll take away from this month. I’ll remember it long after it’s over, not because of the miles, ridiculous as they are, but because of the mental strength that it has taken to chip away at that target. No one day has been a game changer: it’s just been a constant winding up of the effort, day after day after day. Repeat. Tuesday was the second longest run of the year at 50.7. Wednesday was the longest run of the year. That lasted one day: Thursday topped it. Thursday last 24 hours: today topped it.

I don’t know where September will end. I’m sufficiently tired to know that once 1200 is pretty much assured, I won’t care anymore and I’ll throttle back the miles to where they started the month. It’s just a shame that I only posted a 36 on the 3rd because every other day has been 40+. C’est la vie.

I guess not many guys would have taken this on. I guess even fewer guys aged 64 would have taken this on. But that’s me…

I’m not like everybody else.

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