Friday The 13th

I was about sixteen when I discovered running: not ‘being sent out to run round the playing field in gym’ type running, but running for the sense of freedom, achievement and wellbeing that came with it. But in those formative days, half a life ago, running taught me a basic life skill: every day cannae be a good day. What I found out, to my dismay and often my frustration, was that without the bad days, you could never enjoy the real highs of the good ones.

I’m re-counting that story today because yesterday was a bad day. Actually it was worse than that: yesterday was one of the truly bad days: I got off the bike at 23 miles and thought to myself “I can’t do this anymore”. I’d hit rock bottom. All the miles, all the effort, all of the commitment counted for nothing in an instant. I was cold, the weather was utterly miserable, again, and I just wanted to be anywhere but riding that bike (and to make matters worse, it was the gold bike). The bike was on the turbo in the back garden and I was just rattling off the miles watching a Youtube video with the Bluetooth headphones on, something I’ve done hundreds of times before. But in an instant, it became different, the legs just stopped: my motivation just snapped. I prowled around for about half a minute, trying to buy myself some time. I tried to convince myself that this was the stress of being on rollers kicking in (it can get you that way, especially when you’re clogging a big gear) and that I only had another twenty minutes left to do. But another part of me wanted to just park the bike back in the shed and walk away from the session.

One of those two emotions was gonna be king for a day: one of those emotions was going to dominate the other with such power that the rest of the LCFN journey was likely to be decided in the next sixty seconds…

I sat on the wall, looking at the gold bike. I’d disengaged the turbo but the back wheel was still spinning freely (that’s 12th gear for you), when for some reason, I homed in on a calculation: how many days have I cycled this year? But see when you’re mentally and physically drained, simple wee calculations like that ain’t so easy. It’s a simple case of adding 31, 28 and 31 then trying to remember today’s date and adding that onto the total. I’d forgotten it was Friday 13th. Anyway, I did the sum forwards then backwards (I often do that to rule out an assumptive error in my addition) and came out with 103. Then I recalled having missed a day to snow back in January, then refusing to lose another by bagging a Forever Five gig at ten o’clock one Sunday night after I’d got back from a trustees’ meeting in Aberdeen for Eileidh’s charity.

One hundred and two days cycled out of a hundred and three: a hundred and one of them over thirty miles: and you want to give up now, like this? “

And therein lies the problem with training on rollers at home: you have a choice. You always have a choice. And sometimes that choice turns on you and bites you on the bum. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. So I guess you want to know what happened next. I have a playlist that I put together for my seven hour drive down to Landan last November for the Solving Kids Cancer parents’ conference. I stuck that on instead, homed in on Teenage Kicks then got back on the bike. Yeah I was hanging on for dear life to a degree but those last twenty minutes were way more important than just turning the wheels: they were symbolic of this whole journey: where it’s been and where’s it’s going.

And that feeds rather aptly into Australia. A bit of me feels guilty about the Australian gig yet at the same time a large part of me is whispering over and over that the cause is absolutely, 100% justified. There are a lot of good people out there doing amazing things to raise money that enables kids to enjoy the time that they have left. But that’s plastering over the cracks. It does nothing to prevent the next child, and the one after that, and the one after that from treading the same pain-ridden path. The only answer is to understand why neuroblastoma occurs, to understand what are the triggers, and to understand how to formulate a treatment plan that promotes some form of active recovery. On my watch nothing else matters.

Solving Kids Cancer has been a good fit with that philososphy throughout LCFN because they fund kids through expensive treatment that somehow feels to the families like it offers hope that doesn’t exist in this country. Clinical research is critical because it proves or disproves that a specified treatment works: and often it offers hope where otherwise none exists.

Neuroblastoma Australia is different. Neuroblastoma Australia feeds straight into laboratory research whose objective is to discover new treatments that can then feed into the food chain of clinical research. I’m a data analyst: so-called big data is my life. It was just invented thirty years too late for me.

This week I published the route for the Ride 2 Cure: it’s 2,222km and there are a lot of 2’s in there for a reason: be grateful when your child reaches the age of three unscathed because two is the most common age of diagnosis.

Go on Google Maps and check it out: and have a wee swatch at Pilliga because it’s an interesting place, or at least it will be for about ten miles or so. You can even grab the wee Googly man and drop him in the middle of nowhere to see how imposing this is. Long flat straights, allegedly nae traffic and hopefully nae rampant kangaroos:

Day 1: Aug 24 Brisbane to Lake Moogerah (100km)

Day 2: Aug 25 Lake Moogerah to Inglewood (170km)

Day 3: Aug 26 Inglewood to Boggabilla (95km)

Day 4: Aug 27 Boggabilla to Gurley (160km)

Day 5: Aug 28 Gurley to Pilliga (140km)

Day 6: Aug 29 Pilliga to Gulargambone (135km)

Day 7: Aug 30 Gulargambone to Narromine (140km)

Day 8: Aug 31 drive to Sydney (Neuroblastoma Australia PR)

Day 9: Sep 1 Sydney (am) then drive back to Narromine

Day 10: Sep 2 Narromine to Forbes (160km)

Day 11: Sep 3 Forbes to West Wyalong (130km)

Day 12: Sep 4 West Wyalong to Yenda (130km)

Day 13: Sep 5 Yenda to Hay (152km)

Day 14: Sep 6 Hay to Balranald (148km)

Day 15: Sep 7 Balranald to Managatang (105km)

Day 16: Sep 8 Managatang to Walpeup (90km)

Day 17: Sep 9 Walpeup to Murrayville (90km)

Day 18: Sep 10: Murrayville to Lameroo (70km)

Day 19: Sep 11 Lameroo to Sherlock Rest Area (70km)

Day 20: Sep 12 Sherlock Rest area to Murray Bridge (65km)

Day 21: Sep 13 Murray Bridge to Mount Barker (45km)

Day 22: Sep 14 Mount Barker to Adelaide (30km)

You’ll note straight off that the workload is skewed. The homework that I’ve done on prevailing winds suggests that the first half is likely to be way more favourable that the second half. So I’m reckoning on bagging some big ones while my legs are fresh then hanging on for dear life if need be once the headwinds assume Groundhog Day proportions.

With every passing day, the Ride 2 Cure assumes ever more importance: this ain’t gonna be no ride in the park. The focus has definitely shifted: it’s no longer a case of banging in every last mile in the hope of hitting some distant target. The objective now is actually a balancing act of deciding when to call off the attack dogs of endurance in favour of the rather more tapered dogs of the home straight. The hammer is definitely staying down for the rest of April but I may give up on a fourth straight thousand mile month, despite the fact that I’ve never achieved that and despite the fact the weather finally looks set to relinquish its winter coat. I’ve a gammy knee to nurse to the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. My thinking is that taking my foot slightly off the gas at the end of May will somehow enable me to coast along through some sun baked days of the cricket season before we finally board the plane.

Yesterday was an absolutely crucial day, and every time that I hit upon one of those days, it takes the experience of everything that’s gone before to get me through it. Mainstream kids didn’t go cross country running for pleasure back in the late 60’s, but this one did. Pensioner’s don’t go for fourteen hundred mile bike rides on the other side of the world, but this one’s going to. And it will work because of the mindset of Friday the 13th.

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