For every fun week, when the magic happens, there are a dozen when it doesn’t. But see at the end of the day, it’s those weeks of slog that make the good times worthwhile. This has been a good week, and I haven’t been able to say that for a while.
The rot set in back in September, when, after a Firpitz Bonzo kind of a start, my motivation fell of the edge of a cliff. We were only on holiday for a week, but consecutive weeks of 137, 191 and 152 left Ride2Cure2 gulping for air. Quite simply, it was haemorrhaging motivation faster than a Man U fan looking at Liverpool and City romping away with the league.
The key in trying to turn things around, if there was one, came towards the end of October. By then I was already through a ton of consecutive stages and subconsciously my focus had shifted from banging out big miles to just keeping the show on the road day after day. Our Ross was contesting the British Bodybuilding Championships down in Bedworth near Coventry on the Sunday, and our youngest two were with Irvine AFC at Gartcosh on the Saturday. What would have been a welcome 200 that week was knocked on the head by me scratching a few miles at 6am on the Saturday morning, then bagging a #ForeverFive on Gringo’s bike round the streets on Coventry on the Sunday morning.
That weekend was basically a “needs must” adventure just to keep the run going. After the show, which the wee man won, we drove straight back up the road in the pishing rain and I’d be the first to admit that I was struggling by the time we crossed the border at midnight. The next day, tootling round the country lanes, I picked every excuse under the sun to avoid committing to a proper shift. That in itself was the sign of a man on the wane.
But that moment of weakness must have triggered something because by the end of that week, I was looking in the crosshairs at the very target that has kept me motivated for most of the last six years: a 200 mile week. If you get a sniff of one, you don’t give it up. I’ve mentioned this in a blog story before, but I remember being knackered, and I mean absolutely knackered, at the beginning of June 2014. LCFN wasn’t even a year old and I was adjusting to 200 mile weeks, having just done three in four. Angela made me promise that I wouldn’t do another one the following week, so I cut it short at 199. That story’s important because the next six were all 200’s and I never looked back.
When I wrote the Out Of Form blog three weeks ago, I wasn’t so much physically tired as just mentally drained. Jane asked me why I wanted to ride 40 miles a day and my response wasn’t that I wanted to, but that I wanted to feel able to. I’d developed a mental block and there was seemingly no way of shifting it. Then Ross won the World Bodybuilding title and it made me realise that you only get out of life what you’re prepared to put in. He told me that he’d only missed one scheduled training day in four years since he (only) got 3rd at the British in 2015 and that was the day that my mother died and he came down south with me to be at her bedside.
That put everything in perspective. It was basically the kick up the arse that I needed. It’s funny because kids are supposed to be inspired by their parents, but here was I, at a low point and in need of something at the start of winter, being inspired by my own son. He may not know it, but that boy re-lit my fire.
It was on the back of that that I went back and looked again at the Ride2Cure2 numbers. I’d let things slip right enough, but not so far that 5000 miles in the first five months was beyond me. I just needed to up my game.
424 in twelve days became 260 in eight before I let on that I was back on the wagon of chasing stuff. Those first four days were my insurance policy in case it didn’t work out. But to be honest, once I got my mojo back, it was never really in doubt. Sure, I drove down to West Bromwich on Wednesday, and drove back again yesterday, but those two days still got me 66 miles despite me not even taking the bike. Even as recently as last weekend, I thought I might bag only half of that, but dark cold starts and dark cold finishes were part and parcel of this game for so long that I love the special feeling that you get under lights.
I mentioned on the R2CN Facebook page in the week that I liken this current run to a batsman’s innings in a Test Match. The key thing is to get in. By getting in, I mean stringing a decent run together. If a batsman reaches 30, he’s done the hard work and he should be starting to see the ball a little easier. By 50 or 60, he should be seeing it like a football. If 30 is getting in, then 60 is definitely getting out if that’s all you’re making.
Now convert those Test Match runs to consecutive R2CN stages. When I got to 30, I was pleasantly surprised that my body was still intact. By 60 I was starting to dream about a ton, which I’d never ever accomplished in the old days: there was (and is) always something on the schedule to get in the way…
But not this time.
We went on holiday to Ireland and the bike went as well.
We went to watch Ross in the Bodybuilding qualifier and I went out early doors before the drive down, then late doors when we got back. I went to Liverpool with my work and didn’t get back home until 9pm. I went straight out on the bike. Road miles before and after Ross’s British title show. Road miles before and after this week’s trip to the Baggies. That’s what makes a difference. I will not let anything get in the way of what needs to be done. The very same spirit that allowed Ross only one scheduled day off in four years is present in his old man. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
Anyway, the point is this: cricket commentators make a point about a batsman going big, and by that they mean reaching a century then carrying on in the same vein. Big starts at 150. Wednesday, the day I went out in the freezing fog at 6am (I only realised it was foggy when the darkness lifted!) was Stage 150. Today was 152. Tomorrow is an Irvine AFC away day in the Scottish Cup: one of those days when I have to be out the door at 10am, returning pished off the bus after the game. Stage 153 will be another 6am job, maybe 7am seeing as it’s a bit of a free hit on the last day of the month.
But Sunday I go again. December 1st. Our mam’s birthday. She would have been 94: I’ll be 154, and I’m already thinking of ways that I can turn that into a double ton if work or the weather plays a joker. I’ve turned the corner: I haven’t come this far to chuck it now.
Next week, next Thursday to be precise, I have a school gig. Nether Robertland Primary in Stewarton is the very school that our youngest two went to, and because it’s local, I plan on taking three bikes with me for the kids to look at: the folder that kickstarted this adventure six years ago; the black bike that I used to ride across Oz; and the Rohloff that’s currently doing the donkey work. All three need a deep clean but the meths’ll be out before the middle of the week: gotta be looking their best on the day.
I’m actually quite excited about this gig. Home town, I know some of the teachers from parents’ night (really!!!) and I’ve been on the receiving end in that hall for numerous Nativity Plays and summer concerts. I still chuckle at Finn’s stand-up as a Steve Irwin lookalike armed with a crocodile puppet back in P7. The place was rocking with laughter… “Look’s like it’s bitten a Sheila!”.
Nether Robertland… bring it on!