Experience Is Everything

Experience is a wonderful thing. I think back to the Country Club at North Star, where the locals made Paul and I so welcome at the end of the second stage of Ride2Cure, and we were discussing the weather with some local farmers.

The reason that this is relevant is because the past few days have been hot: and with heat comes the wind and that’s what takes us back to North Star. That second stage of R2C was plagued with strong cross/headwinds and I was bemoaning the fact that it made life in the saddle so tiresome hour after hour.

“The wind picks up at 10am” we were told. If you want to go long, and the forecast is for a warm day, then you need to get out early: do your work (when it’s cold) before ten. We tried it out the next morning and the old farmer was right. And the day after that. And so on.

This week, the UK has been blasted by warm air from Africa. Even Scotland has basked in temperatures in the high 70’s (my Hammerhead Karoo seems to be hard coded in Fahrenheit – maybe that’s because it knows I’m a 50’s child). And with that airflow has come a rollicking southerly blast of air that picks up bigtime once the temperature picks up. It’s seriously affected my strategic thinking. As a mile muncher, my primary objective is to get as far as I can as simply as I can: and that usually means heading out into the wind to get an easy ride on the way home, but 20 miles into 20mph is no fun, especially when you throw into the mix that every quiet road heading out of Stewarton goes uphill.

So this week I started going out early again. Almost like the old days, but not as extreme. The trick in this hot weather appears to be heading south west at the back of 8am, when the breeze is waking from it’s slumber, then surfing the hot gale on the way home. Timing is everything.

But today called for something a little more extreme. Today was the annual Maress football tournament in Irvine and your R2C2 scribe is the fitness coach to the host team: the requirement was to oversee the first warmup of the day at 9:15am. And as if that wasn’t enough, the weather forecast was shit: rain by mid morning and hosing it down by mid afternoon. Now after you’ve been standing around on a football park for four or five hours, the last thing you want to do is head out for three hours on the bike, even more so in the rain. So I opted for a 5am start: and believe me, it was just like the old days.

I’d forgotten how much fun you can have at that hour of the day: for a start you can ride roads that are a no-no at any other time of the day: and that opens up new route opportunities in the sense that you can join bits and pieces of different routes together to make a custom ride, based simply on road conditions, weather conditions, and how the legs feel. That was this morning’s adventure in a nutshell: totally made up on the fly, in the moment. Three hours of leg burning, courtesy of trying to wring every last mile out of the time available before I had to switch into fitness coach mode.

Jane suggested I take a day off but there was, and is, a good reason for not doing so. For folk who have come onboard Ride2Cure2 for the first time, its long term predecessor was LIfeCycleForNeuroblastoma and it ran for 245 weeks, clocking up 44,444 miles in the process. The underlying story of LCFN was that that journey became increasingly more difficult and increasing more challenging as the weeks went by. I made it so in order to try and experience on two wheels the commitment of neuroblastoma families in their increasingly difficult journey. And watching on from the sidelines just now is my good friend, fellow cyclist, yellow R2C jersey wearer and long time colleague Jak who has been thrust into his own cancer battle first hand. Jak, you are never far from my thoughts on every one of these tough rides.

LCFN delivered eleven 1000 mile months in just over five years. Prior to R2C2, which started on July 1st, I’d been off the bike for nine months since Seymour College in Adelaide: not done a tap in anger.

Tomorrow, the 28th day of the month, will bring up the first 1000 mile month of Ride2Cure2: the target is once again 25,000 miles so four weeks in, we’re already talking 4% of the entire journey.

But hey, there are still three more days of July to go after that: we’re talking 1100 mile territory, and there were only three of those in the whole of LCFN, so the aim now (as it has been (secretly for a couple of weeks) is to wipe one of those off the podium of my life.

I set up a Ride2Cure2 Just Giving page this week in support of Solving Kids Cancer:


I actually wanted to set up two pages so that my Aussie friends could support Neuroblastoma Australia under the same banner but alas, Just Giving don’t have NA on their list, so for my Auusie pals, your support is (still) in here:


In other news, you’ll probably be aware that I fell seriously in love with the Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma jersey that Neil and I designed a year ago: I still think it’s the most gorgeous charitable advertising garment on the planet. Well now it’s going to have a wee brother or sister (depending on who buys into it).

Neil (my bike man) and I, who designed the original shirt, are taking the R2C template and making a Ride2Cure2 derivative of it in support of Solving Kids Cancer. For me it’s a no brainer. Riding a strikingly attractive jersey in traffic turns heads, and the whole point of taking on this challenge is to do just that. I was out bagging Walk2Cure miles one day this week (I’m actually [still] bagging them every day…) and as I overtook a lady walking two dogs, she asked me why I wasn’t out on my bike…. I wasn’t wearing the jersey at the time, but she’s seen it (and me I guess) out on the road.

And talking of jerseys, Irvine AFC, the aforementioned bunch of guys that I put through their paces on a Monday night, will be proudly promoting Solving Kids Cancer on the back of their shirts this season and next: I reckoned that’s a good way of taking the message out across Ayrshire – Vanessa’s home county – would be to whack it on the back of some football strips and get people talking.

It’s been a good week; it’s been a hard week: but in truth every week’s a hard week: but thanks to those pesky farmers out in North Star, experience is one hell of a good way of dealing with it.

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