Waking From Home

The hardest part about lockdown, at least from my perspective, is in keeping a forward focus. Every day seems to have morphed into Flobberday, constituting the same old, same old routine: establishment propaganda, social media case studies, email, online Scrabble x 20 and a second Sports Direct mug of coffee all before 8am. As much as I despise Mike Ashley’s business process, the free mug still offers the best option in having some forward momentum when I finally crawl out of bed at half eight or nine o’clock, having earthquaked the cat from his slumberous state.

I’m a creature that has to have something to do. And by that I don’t mean decorating the whole house while everyone’s at home. I need to have something creative, something positive, something with a goal, to occupy my mind. The bike helps, because cycling time is thinking time: thinking time is ideas time and ideas translate directly, or sometimes indirectly, into projects: and at the end of the day, it’s projects that give life its meaning and its sense of fulfilment.

Of course Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma is one such project. It turns out that taking the decision myself to take the bike off the road and stick it on a turbo trainer was a masterstroke. It kept me in control of my own destiny; it kept me in control of setting the goals; and most importantly it gave me the opportunity to take this bike ride off in a direction that wasn’t even on the horizon just a few short weeks ago. I’m talking about “Where to next?

The decision to ride across Australia from Brisbane to Adelaide again on a turbo wasn’t taken lightly, because I get how far it is. But I also get how long this lockdown is going to last, either in its current form or in some recurring state once the second, and who knows the third wave of COVID-19 is upon us. The turbo trainer project is here for the long haul.

When Paul and I did the original Ride2Cure, Wagga was a turning point. It was a turning point not just because we turned right, aka west the next day on Stage 10, but because every day after Wagga was a day on the road to the end. It’s been well documented that contrary to expectations, my body got stronger and stronger during the second half of Ride2Cure, to the extent that the R2C bike rolled into Adelaide six days early having been only one day up at halfway: effectively five days gained in seven simply because I’d scheduled contingent tiredness into the second half of the schedule when in fact there was none. All of which brings me to now…

We’ve been in lockdown for 18 days, although I’ve been on the turbo for a week longer than that. I started the virtual Ride2Cure on my birthday. The average distance from R2C2 Stages 261 to  272 was 36.9 miles. Call it 37 as the very next stage, the middle one if you like, was 37 miles. The average distance from Stages 274 to 285 has been 44.7. And as today’s stage from Wakool to Swan Hill is tabled as a 54 miler, you can up that average to 45.

That has been the psychological boost in passing by Wagga. I wrote in the book “Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma – From A Bus Pass To The Outback” that I said to Paul at the end of Stage 11, the one in which I fell off the bike before I’d even turned a wheel in anger and damaged various bits of myself “It’s only 4x135km from here to Adelaide. We could be there by Sunday”. The fact that I could barely walk to the pub was immaterial. Just so long as I was on two wheels with a whole day in front of me, I became increasingly up for whatever challenge lay ahead as each day unfolded.

This is important right now because this coming Monday will host Ride2Cure2 Stage 288. Because today’s stage will take me over the virtual border from New South Wales into Victoria over the Murray River in Swan Hill, and tomorrow’s will take me north to the junction of the Mallee Highway and the B400 near Tooleybuc, Monday’s Stage 288 offers the potential to revisit Ride2Cure Stage 13 in its entirety. That was Boinka Day, the day that Deanna phoned Paul just before lunch and asked if we were anywhere near Boinka, because the Country Ladies Association wanted to make a donation to Neuroblastoma Australia. We were half an hour back down the road so Paul got on the case with Google Maps and the instruction that the ladies were holed up in the house on the right when you take the dirt road off the highway: there are only two houses in Boinka and they were sat outside one of them. And as my good friend Les has pointed out on more than one occasion, we got tea served in china cups with saucers that day, along with as much home baking as we could eat. And we got a sizeable cheque, or actually it was multiple cheques, for neuroblastoma research.

Stage 13 of Ride2Cure was 206km. Boinka was 40km from the end. Monday offers the opportunity to ride that stage in its entirety: because I can. Converting that back to miles, it’s 128. It’s going to be 5 hours on the turbo without the wind resistance that we endured on that Thursday. But it’s as appealing as anything else that I’ve done since I went in the shed. However the weather’s set fair for Monday so this will be a patio job, socially distanced from the neighbours of course.

I mentioned last week that I planned on building a SNOMED-CT development tool to enable research through clinical data into the relationship between COVID-19 and underlying health conditions. That project has moved on, albeit slowly, but the agile nature of its development has thrown up other obstacles that have to be overcome along the way.

The bit that I’ve got working is that I can throw any clinical concept at the tool – it doesn’t have a name yet, by the way – and it will rip up the family tree, finding and documenting every parent concept along the way. But as I mentioned last week, the SNOMED-CT data model allows for a child concept to have any number of parent concepts, so in order to fully define the tree going up the way, every one of those parents requires to be mapped too. That’s the bit where I’m at now. And when I’ve done that, I’ll reverse the mapping process to hunt down all of the children and document them too. Only when I’ve done all of that will I then be able to consider the relationships between health conditions.

But once this is working, it will be a tremendous resource for clinicians: my colleagues down south will be the first to road test it in anger. I tested it out with a broken leg, or fracture of tibia (id 31978002) to give it one of its acceptable names. The tree was extensive, going through injury of tibia, fracture of lower limb, fracture of bone, bone injury, injury of musculoskeletal system and so on and so on, before arriving at the top of the tree some 34 concepts later.

If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then neither is this going to be. Perhaps it’s just as well that lockdown’s going to be with us for a good few weeks yet.

But back to the miles…

242 by Friday night is the kind of territory I haven’t been in since Ride2Cure itself. A Ride2Cure2 week doesn’t end until Sunday so we’re looking at something close to 320 miles before Monday’s big tonner kicks in.

Today might be Flobberday, and tomorrow too for that matter, but for me, the trick to surviving from one Flobberday to the next lies in having something to get you out of bed in the morning. I have a name for it…

Waking from home.

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