Look… Friday’s the best day of the week, because it heralds the weekend and football kicks in. But this particular Friday is special for all sorts of reasons, all to do with the bike.
Friday 23rd August 2013: the end of the very first week of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. I just remember thinking “what the hell have just I taken on?” There was no target back then – that came later, after my legs had got used to the idea that they were never getting a rest, ever again.
LCFN week 1: 116 miles.
Now roll the clock forward five years.Friday 24th August 2018: the first stage of Ride2Cure – Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane to Lake Moogerah, Queensland.
R2C Stage 1: 75 miles.Now move the clock forward another year.
Friday 23rd August 2019: the first 2000 miles of Ride2Cure2 complete. 54 days.
Tiredness is temporary, quitting is permanent: there’s always a way to negotiate your way around tired legs, you just need to find it. But first you need to overcome the excuse mentality. I well remember from the days when I was a runner at Cumbernauld and I used to train at lunchtime: I was lucky because I worked flexitime and I could take as long as I liked. I remember knocking out a 20 miler one lunchtime. Ten milers combining road with cross country up in the Campsies were commonplace. In fact I’d go so far as to say that they were the default.
But the problem with heading out the door at lunchtime, no matter what your objective, is that hour of pure negativity and self doubt before you head out the door. “Maybe I’m too tired today; maybe I should just do this; I just don’t fancy that….” I hate that hour, it’s an hour of pure denying what you’re trying to achieve. The reason LCFN worked was because I never had that choice: the alarm went off at 4:55am, my stuff was already laid out downstairs like a scene from The Wrong Trousers and I just fell out the door. Ditto coming home: stick the same stuff back on, doesn’t matter if it’s still wet, and just do it.
Having a choice changes all that, and in the three years that I worked for myself after the company sold my job to the dollar devil, delaying going out the door due to work commitments became an ongoing issue. It’s only now that I’ve freed myself of that burden that I’ve really come to understand how it was dragging me down. Semi retired, Ride2Cure2 is now my voluntary neuroblastoma research awareness raising job, and it comes before everything else: at 9am when I’m fully awake and fuelled, with coffee onboard. I just love rolling back in the door at lunchtime with another big bag of miles in my legs knowing that I don’t have to go out again (until tomorrow).
Even as I’m writing this tale, a story has appeared on my news feed regarding Marcel Kittel, the great German cycling sprinter: here was a guy who could give Mark Cavendish a serious run for his money…
“I’ve lost all motivation to keep torturing myself on a bike. The sport and the world you live in are defined by pain.”
That was me for five years culminating in Adelaide last September, albeit that Kittel’s a world class athlete whereas I’m just a bloke.
It was the combination of wee Isabella at Wagga Public School and Anna Meares who convinced me that actually, I’d just been through eight whole months of that hour of negativity that used to curse my running days, and it was time to get back on the bike. I’m actually dreading the winter, because I know what lies in store, but a wee part of me is already firing back at that prospect by having banged in 50% more miles between July 1st and August 23rd than in any of the previous six years. Bring it on is brewing…
Anyway, enough of that self-pity nonsense: onto life on the road…
What is it about Tuesdays?
Tuesday last week was the day I met the young German couple, and the bloke touring back to Lancaster. This Tuesday I had not one, not two but three interesting interventions.
The first one happened purely because it was meant to, and I mean that. A few weeks ago, on one of my mid morning adventures, I clocked this woman out running on the quiet road back into Stewarton from Torranyard. Two things struck me that day: she said hello to me before I got a chance to say hello to her, and she was absolutely motoring. Now I need to put that into perspective: she was on a short flat bit of road at the top of a 7% climb. And motoring. And she said hello. I was impressed. And over the course of the next two or three weeks, I saw her again, maybe three or four times. And every time she was motoring.
So on Tuesday morning, I was out earlier than normal but only four miles out of town, lost the ability to change gear. I’ve been such a big fan of the Rohloff Speedhub that I shouldn’t knock it now because it wasn’t the Rohloff’s fault. The wee box of tricks that sits next to it on the frame had become detached, leaving me with a fixed wheel bike at the start of a three hour ride. I wasn’t having that so I turned around and headed back to HQ to get it sorted.
And that’s when I saw this lady again. In actual fact, I was glad of the opportunity to rest my legs half way up the Chapeltoun hill with only a single (not small) gear to play with, so I stopped and flagged down our hero. I’ve got a great chat up line, me “excuse me, this is probably the third or fourth time that I’ve seen you out running, and every time you’ve been motoring. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your best for 10K?”
37 minutes. Thirty seven minutes!!!
In two words, intervention justified. Stewarton has a fantastic running talent. Chapeau!Anyway, problem sorted, I set off again, with a bonus of ten miles in my back pocket. The stock ride when there’s a prevailing westerly blowing is either Ardrossan or Troon, and that decision is always made on the fly once I see the flags at the Torranyard holiday park. Ardrossan won by a short head. So anyway, on my way back, I happened upon another couple on tourers, and enquired, as you do, “Where are you headed?”. “Liverpool”. A conversation ensued. Tash n Matt were on their way back to the south after a touring holiday in the Outer Hebrides and they were headed for a train to Glasgow Central and the Branson Express. For some silly reason, it never even entered my head to deliver them to Kilwinning, but as the route to Kilmarnock is actually quite fun, especially the old railway line from Dreghorn, I took them that way instead. And in any case, Killie station’s quite atmospheric on a nice day, it has that oldie worldy pre-Beeching feel to it, so we got to grab a fellow passenger and some pics. The real storyline here is that Matt’s a graphic designer from Cornwall now living in Liverpool, while Natasha’s an English teacher living in Madrid. And they hooked up in New Zealand while they were both travelling a couple of years ago! Lovely people.
But I still wasn’t finished…
Kilmarnock Station is home to the Active Travel Hub which promotes short journeys by walking and cycling, and as the Travel Hub follows Ride2Cure2, I popped in to say hello.
And that’s where I met Gillian. See when you’ve just met someone who does stuff because they passionately believe in it, you just know. That’s Gillian. We must have been gabbing for about half an hour, like we understood precisely where the other one was coming from. Three years ago, Gillian had a notion to create a website of walks in Scotland, and the rest, as they say, is history…
Go have a look and get inspired: get inspired because Gillian cared enough to document her passion to make a difference. Love it.