300 Not Out

There have been 31 test match innings over 300, all but five of them in my lifetime. Right now, albeit in a different sport and in in different era, Ride2Cure2 is sitting at number 32. No one in the history of test cricket has ever been dismissed on 300. But that’s where I parked the bike tonight.

I’m indebted to Anna Meares for suggesting that I get back on my bike. The message that Anna sent me home from Australia with just eleven months ago is burning even brighter today than it was when I boarded the plane at Adelaide. If you’d said to me last July that I’d make it through to the end of April 2020 without missing a day, I’d have suggested men in white coats. But that’s precisely where we are.

By this time next week, as we head into May, five more batsmen will have succumbed to the R2C2 juggernaut, including one of Don Bradman’s finest innings, but not his best. That has to wait until 29th May, which incidentally, was the date on which Manchester United beat Benfica 4-1 in the 1968 European Cup Final. I just thought I’d throw that in there.

I know that as I’m virtual touring round the coast of Ireland just now, that should take pride of place, but we’ll come to that later. Three hundred days in a row is beyond anything I ever dreamed possible. All it takes is an injury, a business trip, a distant family gathering, or, in these uncertain times, an illness. Or a storm. Ride2Cure2 survived four named storms back in the winter and if I’m honest, heading out at 2am, 3am and 4am was a signal (to myself) that this thing is a real deal. And now that we’re in lockdown, it really does feel like the sky’s the limit in terms of miles and stages, just so long as I can avoid COVID-19.

300 stages on the spin at 34.5 miles (55km).

372,000ft of climbing at an average of 1240.

833 hours at an average of 2 hours 45 minutes.

480,000 calories at an average of 1600.

Those are the raw numbers. But it’s that 300, that tomorrow will become 301, and the day after 302, that’s the driver. With a 3 now finally in front of the digits, it really feels like it’s possible to get to 366 (yeah, let’s do this in a leap year, just for good measure). I ain’t planning on going anywhere significant anytime soon, so once we’ve got May out of the way, a full calendar year of 35 mile bike rides will be firmly in the crosshairs.

And so to Ireland.

It seems a very long time ago, albeit that it was only a week back, that I was virtual cycling round the cross hatched streets of Adelaide. I would love to go back there and do that for real, as the whole city centre lives within a one mile square grid, but I doubt that’s going to happen. So to do it on the turbo in virtual mode was definitely a good second prize. I never realised Adelaide was so hilly!

Then I boarded my magic carpet and arrived in Belfast the very next day. It felt a bit surreal to be leaving the Outback behind after four weeks virtual riding across Australia, but I absolutely needed something different to keep me motivated in the next phase of lockdown. I’d been thinking for a very long time what fun it would be to cycle round Ireland – a place I love in any case – so this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss on the back of the virtual Oz gig.

Belfast was the obvious place to start because of Oscar. Then it was a case of clockwise or anticlockwise. That was a no brainer. I absolutely wanted to do the Atlantic coast with a virtual following wind, and not just that, I wanted to explore all the wee nooks and crannies along the coastline without the thought of completing the gig by the relatively populated eastern coastline. If I was ever going to do this for real, that’s the way I’d do it. The Atlantic coast and Donegal are absolutely what this adventure’s gonna be about. You might this a bit obscure, but what I’m trying to do when I set the course for the following day’s stage is take the route as close to the coastline as I can. Sure, I’m not going to ride down any cul-de-sacs, but if I can keep the route within half a mile of the coast, then I’m a happy bunny. On the odd occasion that I’ve checked the route on Google Maps, there are an awful lot of tall hedgerows on this route.

While I was in the north (Ulster) I reported the distances in miles. But the moment I crossed into the Republic by Freddaloing across Carlingford Lough, I reverted to the local lingo and ever since I landed in Haggardstown, the currency has been kilometres. I even waved my purple EU passport as I virtually rode ashore.

What has been noticeable of late have been the distances: up 20% from what went before. While I was out on the local roads around Stewarton, I was definitely (mentally) rusty. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The same old routes every day, out into the prevailing wind, left me feeling constrained. I can totally appreciate that now. And on the back of it, when I got on the turbo, I was seriously concerned that I’d be struggling – mentally – to cope with twenty miles a session, which itself is 20% down on my constrained life on the open road. But the opposite has been true, just like it was in that second week of Ride2Cure in Australia. Sometimes you surprise yourself: The last time I cycled 40 miles a day, six days in a row, was back in May 2018 when I was trying to make sure I didn’t end up with egg on my face in Australia. Strangely enough, that run of ten 40’s was on a turbo as well because I’d knackered my knee back in March trying to ride on solid tyres (because I was sick of fixing punctures).

In terms of sponsorship, I gave up chasing people for money a long time ago: I realised back in about 2015 that never giving up is bad for sponsorship by individuals. And corporates are near on impossible to get because I’m not a celeb. So I choose to be flexible and concentrate on getting the message out there about Solving Kids Cancer and neuroblastoma by just sticking it in people’s faces. I’m doing a bit of what I term ‘a Mouldy’ just now by hashtagging places that I’m either starting a stage in, finishing a stage in, or taking a pitstop in. And occasionally it gets a result. For instance today, on Twitter, I got a like from Real Jobs Wexford and a follow from Fahy Plumbing Supply who are based in Wexford. In a joined up virtual world, sometimes you just have to put your head above the parapet and try something a little different. And right now it seems to be working.

Seven stages into the Virtual Tour D’Ireland, I’m sinking the Guinness in Wexford tonight: 462 kms after leaving Belfast. Portaferry, Newcastle, Carlingford, Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin, Wicklow and Arklow have all fallen in the first week. Tomorrow’s it’s onward to Waterford, and if all things go according to plan, Cork by Wednesday: I went to Alan and Mary Rockall’s wedding in Cork in 1985 and their virtual house lies in store when the journey gets to Galway in a couple of months time. After Cork it’s my favourite part of the whole island: the wild, remote south west corner. I feel like a pig in muck. I’m lucky to be doing this: I’m lucky to be able to be doing this. I just hope that somewhere along the way, Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma can emerge from lockdown better positioned to support Solving Kids Cancer than it went into it.

Till tomorrow, and #Waterford.

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