I think I must have irked the weather gods.
Michael Fisherman’s friends (see what I did there?) are saying that Ciara was the worst storm to hit the UK since Bawbag, nine years ago. That makes it the worst storm in the whole of LCFN, R2C and R2C2. It was indeed an absolute belter and it went on for days, plural, as in four if you were counting woohoo Saturday as day one. But in fact, Wednesday, which would have been day five if it had still been blowing like billyo, was actually the most treacherous of all from my perspective because that was the day the hailstorms dropped an inch of whitestuff in five minutes, potentially leaving the bike stranded on the wrong side of where I needed to be.
And after all that, following a day of respite, Storm Dennis is now in town!
But let’s roll the clock back a week to last Friday…
I’d known Ciara was coming and that it was going to blow – for days on end. Windguru saw to that: it’s been my go to weather app since I first got on the bike seven years ago. But strangely, while it had Saturday down for a raging gale, it was predicting virtually no wind between 11pm and 3am Sunday morning. Cue my other weather app of choice: Windy. What Windy was showing was that Saturday’s raging southerly was the advancing front edge of the storm, the eye of which was due to pass over central Scotland on Saturday night: and of course, in the eye of a storm, there’s rain but very little wind. Behind the eye, there were ferocious winds. So as the Speaker has so often proclaimed in the House Of Commons, the eyes have it (sic).
That meant staying off the beer on Saturday evening, ticking down the minutes until midnight, when just like Cinderella, I headed out to have a ball: in the rain. But by God it was cold. The Karoo said it was 1C but by the time I got over to Irvine, fully intending at that point to head on down to Troon for a night visit to Vanessa’s seafront bench, the mercury was down to zero and as I still haven’t mastered waterproof gloves, I couldn’t feel my hands and that was making changing gear a problem. So reluctantly, I turned for home and bagged a miserly two dozen, the lowest since black ice day a couple of weeks ago. But at least Stage 224 was in the can, and as the storm picked up after I’d parked up at HQ, I was able to reflect on the evening’s entertainment with the dregs of a bottle of Laphroaig.
When there’s a storm in town, you (ie me) absolutely have to be mentally on top of your game. Anything less than 100% commitment and positivity, and it will consume you. You are fighting, not just for yourself, today, but you are fighting to demonstrate to kids who are having a far rougher time than you than there is a way out of this thing if you just keep on fighting.
I was asked in the week what the mantra is behind Ride2Cure2. After all, LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma proved that mankind could survive tens of thousands of miles on a bike all year round, so what’s the point of going through it all over again, just for the sake of it?
Ride2Cure2 is uniquely different because it’s about a journey that you hope will not take forever, even though you know in the back of your mind that there’s currently no end game. This journey is about going to work every day mirroring the effort that’s going in at Solving Kids Cancer and Neuroblastoma Australia to effect a cure. I see Leona’s posts on Facebook about the wonderful work that she’s involved in at SKC, and I see the posts from Australia about the groundbreaking research that’s going on at the Children’s Cancer Institute in Sydney, part funded by Neuroblastoma Australia. I’m just a foot soldier. My job, this time around, is to show up every day and hope that off the back of it, society will chip in and lob a few bob into the research bucket. At the end of the day it’s a team effort: I just happen to be the bloke wearing the team jersey out of the road, holding up the traffic.
You’ve probably heard the term bobbing and weaving employed in boxing: it’s when you’re trying not to get hit. Well that’s precisely what I have to do to keep this show on the road when storms are in town. There’s feck all point is saying “I go out at midday every day, because that’s when it’s warmest” when the windspeed at midday is 60mph. It’s pointless saying “I go out at midday every day” if at midday it’s absolutely lashing with rain compared to 6 hours either side. Ride2Cure goes out at what ever hour of the day is best for achieving the desired result, ie bagging a load of miles and getting back to HQ in one piece.
I face exactly that dilemma tonight: dry and lighter winds at midnight, or a howling gale and a soaking at 8am tomorrow morning. The jury’s still out on that one as it’s Friday night…
Joe Public won’t notice the difference between one storm and the next: as in it’s windy, and it’s wet. But there is a difference, and recognising it is hugely important in (a) staying upright (b) saving energy.
Ciara was a westerly storm, ie the wind was a straight westerly, albeit whizzing along at 50mph.
Dennis, which is getting frisky as I’m writing this, is a southerly storm.
Different wind direction means a different route. The Irvine-Killie bike path (an old railway line) runs west to east. It’s useless in a westerly storm. The Glengarnock-Johnstone bike path (another old railway line) runs south west to north east. It’s useless in a southerly gale. Now do you see where I’m coming from? The trick is to look at the meteorological payload then decide what route offers the best shelter. On Monday and Wednesday, both Ciara days, it was Glengarnock. Today, a Dennis day, it was Irvine to Killie. I survived the lot with interest: 192 miles since midnight on Saturday, and a 17th consecutive 200 mile week virtually assured sometime tomorrow.
The gold Rohloff bike has been in the pits this week. The wee sprocket wheel that’s attached to the Rohloff hub was so worn that you risked cutting your fingers on the teeth: they’re meant to be flat along the top of each tooth. 15,000 miles of wear has caused that. And talking of wear, the brake pads were also gubbed: they’ve only been on since the middle of December so they’ve gone from brand new to bare metal in just 2,000 miles: that’s shitty roads and the Scottish winter for you. Another bill to keep the bank manager happy: but the Rohloff Speedhub just keeps on doing what it does. That’s now 7,500 miles since the start of Ride2Cure2 and not a single missed gear change. I reckon the Rohloff’s saving me a least two hundred quid a winter in parts and (Neil’s) labour.
So where do we stand?
The R2C2 miles are at 7599 with fifteen days of the month remaining. See when I said a couple of weeks ago that 7000 miles in 7 months wouldn’t last long as an outright record? 8000 in 8 months requires less than 27 a day, and 27 is Wum: I’m not going there. It should be done before all you single ladies get to pop the question on the 29th.
Ascent is closing in on 300,000ft and that will happen sometime next week. That’s equivalent to riding the gold bike up Ben Nevis twice a week from the shore at Fort Bill on top of doing the miles.
And here’s a wee date for the diary in a couple of weeks time: on February 25th the Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma trilogy, which includes LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, Ride2Cure across Australia, and Ride2Cure2 back in Scotland, will clock up 1500 days on the road. That’s a hit rate of 72% of days on offer, going back seven years (excluding when I sat on my arse writing the book then going Walk2Cure walkabout) at an average of 35 miles a day. If you’d warned me about that back in 2013, I’d have sent for the men in white coats.
But we are where we are.
The book that I wrote at the end of the Australian adventure is currently the ONLY book at 140,435 in the Amazon Kindle book charts, and as we have over a hundred members of the Facebook group and only 55 book sales, there’s plenty of room for growth. If you need convincing, the review score is sitting at a healthy 4.6/5 and all of the royalties go to research via Neuroblastoma Australia.
Here’s the link while you’ve got your credit card handy. It’s a bargain: 250 pages for only £1.99.
And so to next week and what looks like Storm Ellen….