If At First You Don’t Succeed

Two weeks ago, when I penned the Out Of Form blog, Ride2Cure2 was in as dark a place as at any time in the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma gig that preceded it. My mojo had been posted missing and I’d completely lost the thread of how I got to that point. After she’d read it, Jane asked me “Do you need to ride 40 miles a day?” to which I replied “No, but I’d like to be able to.”

And therein lay the problem.

I’d gorged myself for two months on a diet of shite distances coupled with decreasing performances, and it was ripping the soul out of the bike ride. I’m not in this, and never have been, to have an easy time. That’s for the next guy. The thing that has always set this bike ride apart, for over six years, is that it’s fucking difficult to do, day after day after day.

But before I address that problem head on, let me pick up the same theme in a different arena.

In last week’s New York New York blog, I told the story of our eldest, Ross, and his long time obsession with natural bodybuilding: that’s the variant where you binge on chicken rice and broccoli instead of steriods. Ross has been at that game, on and off, for twelve years, but it’s the last four years that I want to reflect on. Back in 2015, he entered, and won, the Caledonian Classic at his first attempt. He’s a lightweight, which means he has to come in at around 170kg. That got him a shot at the British title, where he finished third. Not bad for a newcomer you may think, but Ross had other ideas. Unbeknown to us, he’d taken the Taylor “Second is nowhere” line somewhat to heart, and vowed to make amends at some point in the future. By some point, read 2019.

He literally blitzed his qualifier for the British, and went back down south a month later to claim the prize that simultaneously eluded and tortured him four years ago. That got him a shot at the World Championship which took place last weekend in New York. Despite the attraction of the Big Apple and the glitz of it being the Worlds, I was thinking “so that’s another four weeks of binging on chicken and broccoli then.” We felt quite sorry for him that the regime was so strict and so tortuous. Even on his 30th birthday, which fell the week before the Worlds, he had to pass on the cake while we all stuffed our faces.

The competition was last Saturday, and it went on for 17 hours. Imagine being an athlete, and there were over 300 of them, in competition mode for that length of time. 8am Saturday morning until the wee small hours of Sunday. And all the time, those of us back home were trying desperately to find out when he was going to be on so we tune into the live stream. 5:30am on Sunday morning, UK time, was the answer. I gave up trying to stay awake at 3:30am after Ross messaged me to say it would be a while yet, and set the alarm for 5am. That worked well, albeit that I felt like death warmed up after only an hour’s sleep.

Anyway, it was worth it. I had the laptop HDMI’d up to the big telly and various bits of furniture laid out in front of the telly so that I could video his performances. At 5:30am, they called the top five back to the stage, and awarded the gongs in reverse order.

He wasn’t fifth. And I’m thinking “The boy’s done well.”

He wasn’t fourth. And I’m thinking “Feck me, he’s top three in the world!

He wasn’t third. And I’m thinking “Please don’t be second. Whatever you do, don’t be second.

He wasn’t second. And I’m watching Ross walking about at the back of the stage, and trying to imagine his pride in that moment.

He was first! World Bantamweight Champion.

It took a few moments to sink in. Apart from Stacey, who’d just come off a night shift on the ward at Crosshouse Hospital, everyone else was asleep: there was no one to tell, no one to share it with.

Except Joe. He was comatose upstairs and fair game for a bursting with pride “he’s fucking won!” kind of an entrance.

Then I phoned Stacey, and that was ridiculously surreal. “What just happened” we kind of felt as one. “Your husband, my son, just became the World Champion.” I said. As in two minutes ago, three thousand miles away. That was as much Stacey’s crown as it was Ross’s. They met at the gym, he woo’d her at the gym, they got engaged from the gym and they got married from the gym. No one knows more than Stacey what this means to Ross. And no one knows more than Ross what this means to Stacey.

Now they can take some time out, together, and get themselves back to something approaching normality, except that the new normal is that Ross is the World Champion and a (new) professional natural body builder.

My week pales into insignificance by comparison, but the buzz of the weekend has certainly helped breathe a little life back into Ride2Cure2. That was further fuelled by a gig back in HMP Shotts on Wednesday to receive a cheque on behalf of Solving Kids Cancer for the 2222km cycle challenge that the prisoners et moi did back in October. Until I walked in the door, I didn’t know how much had been raised. I came away from the event thinking it was in the hundreds, then I got an email saying it was over a grand. Little did I know that it was actually a whopping £1,898. Wow! Wow! Wow! This isn’t any old money. This is money that the prisoners have earned through their tasks inside, and which they have used to sponsor themselves and their mates. About twenty of them came to the presentation, and it’s an indication of what it meant to every single one of them that they asked to have their own photo taken with the big ceremonial cheque.

The goodwill from Wednesday, coupled with Ross’s success, has somehow given me a springboard to attack a milestone that to be honest I thought was gone: 5000 miles in five months. But for a guy coming off the back of a string of sub-standard weeks, the challenge demands a complete turnaround in attitude and performance. I’m sat here tonight needing 260 in eight days. Under normal circumstances, that would be a piece of piss, even bearing in mind where I am just now, but two of those eight days are Irvine AFC football days, one of which, the very final day, when I’ll already know what’s left to do, is an away day in the Scottish Cup. If that’s not to be a 5am out the door gig, then somewhere along the line next week, I’m either gonna have to bang in a couple of double sessions, or put in a 50 mile day. Whilst both are daunting prospects in winter, it actually shows how far my form has slipped that I’m actually fazed by the prospect.

However, as a way of getting my arse into gear for an attack on that milestone, which would be some achievement given that it took me eight months to crack 5,000 miles back in LCFN, I went out yesterday to try and bag masel’ an R2C2 Quadruple. It’s a variation on the theme of the Triple Crown that people refer to in Formula One: pole position, win the race and fastest lap. Mine is above average distance, above average time on the road, above average feet of climbing, and the killer, above average speed. Knocking out two of those four is relatively easy, three’s not uncommon, but all four’s a rarity.

The cross hairs are a moving target because the average goes back to the start of Ride2Cure2 145 days ago: I haven’t missed a day yet. So when I went out yesterday, the targets were 32.8 miles, 2h 39m, 1252ft and 12.3mph. I thought I had it in the bag when I headed back into the wind along the relatively sheltered bike path from Irvine with half a mph in hand, but the climbs out of Kilmarnock, Kilmaurs and Chapeltoun blew that away. The best I could do, with my legs running on fumes, was only level best at 12.3mph and that’s a fail.

What I should have done, of course, was take a recovery day today and recharge my batteries. But I didn’t. The wind was the same, strong and off the east, and I went out the same, heading west with the wind behind, but tweaked the route to include a couple of challenging climbs early doors that I didn’t do yesterday, whilst throwing in the fast, recently resurfaced descent from Torranyard down to Lawthorn. I smashed my PB on that and whacked half an mph onto the average. I’d already decided that Killie was a no-no because that’s where I lost it yesterday, so those contingent miles converted into raw power coming up out of Kilmaurs. The end up was that the Quadruple was delivered with something to spare. And tomorrow, a football day, will be a recovery day, albeit at 8am.

You see the thing is, as I discovered today, and Ross discovered a month ago, sometimes in life, if you don’t succeed, you just have to re-energise yourself and go again. Of course it so happens that he did that so well in the four weeks between the British and the Worlds that he didn’t need a second chance on the World stage. The boy’s a Taylor: but unlike the rest of us, he’s also a World Champion.

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