Out Of The Traps

New year is good. Apart from all the rubbish weather, which five years down the road I’ve learned you can use to renew your mental strength, it gives you an opportunity to set goals that hopefully will keep you on the straight and narrow in the months ahead.

Five years ago, of course, I hadn’t a clue what was possible and to that extent I kind of made it all up as I went along. The very first objective was 20,000 miles by March ’18 but that soon went up to 25,000 once my legs got the hang of what we were up to. You can tell I’ve been a project manager half my working life: I was (literally) miles out with that estimate. It’s gonna be 39K plus.

Anyway, back to the new year. I’ve come close, but never managed it, to bag 10,000 miles in a calendar year. So that’s number one on the bucket list. Number two is another new, ultra challenging goal: half a million feet of climbing. That’s equivalent to doing Ben Nevis 113 times between now and Hogmanay. As a challenge, it comes free of charge as long as the routes that deliver the miles are sufficiently testing. So flat is bad…

With those goals set in stone, you’ll start to see a new set of metrics appearing on the LCFN Facebook page: percentages versus target. Each day counts for 0.274% of the year (1/365) so whatever that number is, the other two numbers have to match it, or be higher, to remain on target. At the end of the day, the challenge is to get both the mileage metric and the climbing metric to 100 before the days get there.

Five days in, both the miles (1.77) and the climbing (1.58) are ahead of the calendar (1.37). The Wacky Races are off and running….

I tell you what though, the weather at this time of the year can make you or break you. When I was cycle commuting to work in Glasgow, the gig was 20 miles every twelve hours, Monday to Friday, with weekends off. That morphed into 20 to 25 once a day after I started working from home. But looking back, those mornings and nights spent on the Fenwick Muir were worth their weight in gold. When you’ve resisted the worst that the elements can throw at you, you can adapt to pretty much anything. We’ve had two named storms in the last seven days, Dylan and Eleanor, and between them they’d dumped a payload of strong winds and heavy, heavy rain on Western Scotland: but over those same seven days, LCFN has turned in 223 miles: winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Now, before we leave metrics for this week, I said last May that I wanted to crack a hundred 200 mile weeks in the week of my pension, which is coming up in March. When I said it (Shock And Awe blog) it was my intention to try and deliver the century in the actual week of my birthday. I was on 73 at the time, so the asking rate was 27 from 42, with most of those coming in the winter or course. I knew when I said it that it was going to be a tall order, not least because I hadn’t delivered a single double hundred in the previous ten weeks: it wasn’t just a physical challenge, it was more the mental side that presented all the difficulty.

Well I’ll let you into a secret: when I get back from tomorrow’s adventure, I’ll be up to 97. For 27 from 42 required, read 24 out of 33 actual. I’ve said it before: show me a challenge, and I’ll show you LCFN.

The whole point of doing this is because it’s difficult. It’s nowhere near as difficult as a five year old battling cancer, but in terms of being there, every day, thinking about it 24×7, being tired a lot of the time, it’s as good as I can make it. I sincerely hope I’m not being flippant in equating the journeys, but on the off chance that you think I am, then please accept my invitation to put yourself out there at the mercy of the elements for three hours every day, in temperatures hovering just above freezing, when you’re soaked through to the skin. I get my inner strength from seeing how the kids just refuse to give up: even on the darkest of days, they still manage to smile. That’s my thing for 2018: no matter how bad it gets, look for the positives, look how far you’ve come, and smile.

I mentioned on the LCFN Facebook page yesterday that you (only) get about half a dozen days a year when you get to truly test yourself, and they are never about the physical stuff. Yesterday was 1C with heavy rain all the way round the country lanes of Ayrshire. Light winds were a saviour but the real problem with heavy rain is water filled potholes. When you’re flying along at 20mph and you happen upon 30m of floodwater, you’ve no way of knowing where the potholes are. Believe me, it’s a serious, serious issue on some of those backroads. Riding them in the dry and sensing where the problems lie is one thing, but the tarmac breaks up in an instant at this time of year and the councils just don’t have the money to effect a proper repair: a patch this week will a hole again this time next week.

There’s a load of stuff going on behind the scenes right now about the LCFN bike ride across Australia. No, we haven’t booked the flights yet, but we pretty much know what we’re doing. The bike ride will start at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane on either the 24th or the 25th of August. LCFN will be in Sydney on September 1st in the hope that the Opera House will once again go gold. The whole trip is scheduled around being in Sydney on 1st September. If you’re reading this and you live in Australia, then please consider jumping on a plane and joining us on that special day: the Gold bike, on a Golden adventure that will have been along the Gold Coast (on day two) working for kids everywhere battling cancer.

Brisbane to Sydney is around 600 miles. We’re reckoning on seven days, maybe eight.

Sydney to Adelaide is 900 miles. We’re reckoning on ten, maybe eleven days.

A picnic? I don’t think so. 80 to 90 miles a day is the schedule: make up a few miles here, lose a few miles there. But you know the story: be there at the end, no matter what it takes…

One of the challenges in going to Oz will be getting the Gold bike there: I’ve approached a few airlines in the hope of getting it onboard a plane as a charitable extra piece of cargo but y’know what they say: nothing personal, but business is business. So the bike, weighing in at 21kg inside a protective bike bag, leaves me with 14kg for everything else. Cue the scene at airport security: “excuse me, madam, did you pack this case yourself”? “Yes, and these are my husband’s trousers…”. Basically, the only stuff I’ll need when Jane heads for home is cycling kit, joggies and a pair of trainers.

The Gold bike continues to be fantastic. These last two days, with lashing rain, loads of shit and spray on the roads, with loose stones everywhere from broken tarmac and potholes, have been the real proving ground for the Rohloff Speedhub. Those are exactly the conditions that wrecked the drive chain on my previous derailleur configured road bikes, but the Rohloff just keeps on Rohling along. Yes, it was expensive upfront, but that piece of kit is gonna pay for itself big time in the long run. I know I’ve said it before but I’m gonna say it again: I love that Rohloff Speedhub to bits: I don’t care that the bike weighs 4lb more than my old one. It works the same in shitty conditions as it does on dry sunny days, and that, my friends, is what you call a result. See the next time you buy a new bike: save up just a wee bit longer and get yersel’ a Rohloff. You won’t regret it, believe me.

And so, finally, back to where it all started: the numbers. Week one of 2017 served up 158 miles, and I remember being distinctly chuffed on New Year’s Day when I clocked 28 because it was an upgrade on the stuff I’d been delivering in the back end of ’16. There hasn’t been a single day anywhere near 28 this week: they’ve all be 30+. That’s not just a physical difference: that’s a mental difference. That’s a sea change in attitude from twelve months ago.

It’s a mental thing: work hard and smile at the end of it (said the man who got off the bike four hours ago and still hasn’t defrosted yet).

2018 is well and truly out of the traps and round the first corner ahead of the game.

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