Forever Five – Special Stage

Three weeks ago, I had this notion that R2C2 was some kind of wacky cricket match on wheels. I fully intended to brain dump that idea on the Friday night, but I clean forgot that we had Rose Reilly – This Is Your Life on the Friday, and work got in the way on the Friday afternoon. So that blog never happened, but given that the weather’s been pish pretty much ever since, we’ll just mark it down as rain stopped play.

Anyway, here we are three weeks on, and I can still remember what it was all about.

What is R2C2?

Is it T20?

Is it Big Bash?

Is it a Test Match?

Just what is it?

The question arose because I was so desperate to lay down a marker before the winter that I broke the bank, and my poor wee leggie muscles, in pursuit of a fast start. Think Greenidge, Hayden, Gayle and Roy: bludgeoning openers who could take the opposition apart in the blink of an eye. That was Ride2Cure2 for the first ten weeks. Ten weeks, each of 250 miles. I knew full well that it couldn’t carry on at that rate, but it was fun while it lasted.

Then Jane and I went on holiday to Ireland, I cut back on the miles because we were away, and we both got ill on our return to HQ. I thought I could outrun that lurgi, but it wouldn’t let go. The miles stayed low for three weeks while I tried to get my old self back, before I whacked my foot back on the accelerator. That was two weeks ago.

Those first ten weeks were pure T20 Big Bash miles. And I can’t keep that up. That’s what prompted the comparison with cricket in the first place. R2C2 is a test match compared with the Big Bash of those early weeks. And with winter just around the corner, it prompted a complete review in my head over what’s actually achievable. I was going to say comfortable but R2C2 and comfortable don’t sit well together in the same sentence.

At one extreme, I was defending a record of having been out for over three hours a day, delivering over 35 miles day. At the other extreme, the mere thought of fighting wind and rain for three hours a day in temperatures approaching zero degrees fills me with dread. I’ve done it for five years and I know. I’m also older than I was back then, and I guess that’s also taking its toll. While I’ve still got way more gas in the tank than Joe Public, time is probably not on my side. But that’s fine, because I never set out the first time for this to be an easy ride, and the difficulty has always equated with the struggle of families whose lives has been decimated by cancer. I may think I’m tired right now, but I’m pretty certain that my tiredness isn’t even fit to lace their boots.


R2C2 is at 108 stages and counting. I’ve not missed one. Yet.

But this weekend presents the prospect of falling English timber on 111. It’s a mythical thing that English wickets fall on any multiple of 111. Aussie wickets fall on anything to do with 87.

Saturday will be the 111th stage of R2C2. Getting to 111 is not a problem. Getting past it is. Let me explain…

Our Ross, Mr Creosote, has qualified for the final of the 70kg lightweight division of the British Drug Free Bodybuilding Championship. The difference in our lifestyles could not be more contrasting. While I eat like a pig and hoover up anything that’s left out on the worktop (and more), Ross has been living on a cube of chicken breast, a few grains of rice and a sprig of broccoli seven times a day for months: and doing double sessions at the gym to boot. He not only has my inner drive but he’s also got my calf muscles.

The final’s on Sunday at Bedworth near Coventry, 333 miles from R2C2 HQ. On Saturday, I’ve got football duty with Irvine AFC, who incidentally are 12 games unbeaten with on the back of their shirts. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

So we can’t be away until teatime. Plan A is to leg it down the road as far as Preston, take an overnighter, then drive the remaining three hours on Sunday morning.

After the gig, we’re driving straight back up the road: with roadworks on the M6 all the way to J15 of the M6 at Stoke, we’re probably talking seven hours.

So where the hell do the R2C2 miles fit into this manic schedule?

Cue Gringo…..Gringo, a keen supporter of every daft thing I’ve done going back over 15 years, lives in Coventry Nil, ten miles from Bedworth, and he’s got a bike. Not only that, but he’s made me a 5 mile route from his house. He’s even thrown in some hills, the swine!

This is going to be symbolic.

Gringo was at the Forrest Mechanics FC ground at the start of the Highland Bike from Forres to Celtic Park for Puddles, and it was Gringo who snapped my second favourite photo of Eiliedh, the one where I got a wee hug before we set off on our adventure. For the record, my favourite is wee Laura, soon (hopefully) to be Laura Mitchell MP, gazing lovingly into Eileidh’s eyes the day Mouldy and I trained it up to Inverness to mark 20,000 LCFN miles.

I reserve #Forever5 gigs for special events: I laid one down in Stewarton two days after Eileidh’s passing (and I haven’t ridden it since, but it is on Strava as a memorial segment), I rode one on the Atlantic coast in Ireland on the final day of our holiday, and the Gringo Five will be the third. Special miles for a special wee person.

And talking of special, next week will bring about an eight hour ride with the prisoners at HMP Shotts. I haven’t been on a spin bike for five years, but I plan on riding the whole of the dayshift and engaging with as many of the guys who came to my (two) presentations as possible. Each of them is supporting Solving Kids Cancer through personal sponsorship, and I sincerely hope that this can be first of many visits to engage with the inmates and give their daily routine a purposeful goal. I want them to realise that just so long as they are prepared to bag their daily miles, then I’ll be doing likewise on the outside. This will be a team effort.

But back to where this story started…

I still have the desire, and I have the (Rohloff) bike, I’m just not so sure that I have the legs right now. Today marked the 300thhour that I’ve been riding R2C2 and when I checked back, every one of those hours carries with it a payload of 455 feet of climbing. And that’s why I’m tired: 108 consecutive stages at an average of nearly three hours, 1300ft of climbing a day and a burn rate of 75% of everything I can eat, day on day.

I knew this wouldn’t be easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Till tomorrow…

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