The Corona Man

I kicked off last week with “Where to start?” so obviously I can’t use that line again.

Where to begin?

COVID-19 continues to go exponential across the globe.

I’ve had a birthday: 67 this time around.

The UK is locked down in all but name.

And my turbo broke.

But despite all of that, the show goes on.

It’s actually hard to remember where we were at just seven days ago: so much has happened since then. It would be easy, very easy in fact, to use the coronavirus as an excuse to call it day. With so many people dying all around the world, with tens of thousands expected to die in the UK, there is a temptation to say “You know what, this isn’t worth it anymore: financially, strategically or emotionally.”

But do you know what message that would send?

It would say that Oscar’s life, Eileidh’s life and Vanessa’s life counted for nothing in the grand scheme of things, because something more dramatic came along.

I can’t, and I don’t subscribe to that.

Of course coronavirus is the biggest thing in the world right now, but the work that Solving Kids Cancer and Neuroblastoma Australia are doing still needs supporting, and that’s why I have no intention of quitting.

I’ve just changed direction…

The UK government, in my opinion, has been way too lax in its management of this virus. Because of the airy fairy message coming from the top, people have, in the large, just been carrying on with their day to day business. Very little has changed: apart from panic buying, and there’s an irony there because all we did was buy an extra one of this, and two of that, six months ago when Brexit was imminent. There’s been no panic buying as a result of the coronavirus in this house.

But what has happened is that slowly but surely, the UK government has begun to strangle social interaction. Now whilst it’s true that riding a bike doesn’t actually align to social irresponsibility in the current climate of social distancing, if I were to get knocked off my bike, then it does. I take risks virtually every day of the week by virtue of the routes I take, just to get the Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma jersey out there in the traffic, but right now, the NHS doesn’t need an auld cyclist as an unnecessary burden just because some twat couldn’t be arsed to wait ten seconds.

That’s why I pulled the plug on Ride2Cure2 being out on the roads a week ago. I need to keep me a whole load safer than I normally allow myself to be.

So Plan A was to whack the Aussie bike on rollers and just keep the miles ticking over.

I announced it two days before my birthday. It was my way of (not) saying “I’m ahead of the game here”. If lockdown is coming, then when a polis jumps out from the side of the road and shouts ‘Oi, where the feck are you going?” when I’m cycling through town, I thought, “I can do without that”. I don’t want to feel like the freak who’s allegedly breaking the rules.

So I decided to take myself offline, just as I did back in 2018 when a knee injury threatened to wreck my preparations for Ride2Cure in Australia. And there’s another thing: being on rollers is a constant thing. You can manage yourself a whole lot better than when you’re charging up and down hills. If you get injured – and I’m nursing a sore hamstring tonight, as I have been doing for about a month – then it’s down to something that you’ve been doing.

My birthday – numero 67 – seemed like the opportune moment so that was why I set it to happen on Tuesday. But when I loaded the Oz bike onto the turbo, none of the metrics were working. So I changed the batteries. Still nothing. So then I thought “Feck this. I know I’ve lovingly used and abused this bit of kit over the last 28 years, but I need a turbo that’s working today, as in right now.”

So I went online and within 5 minutes, I’d ordered a replacement, to be picked up in Kilmarnock within the hour. I loaded the old one into the back of the motor and with a heavy heart, waved it cheerio at the dump. That turbo had done 30,000 miles. Virtually all of the heavy duty training I did for Manchester to Glasgow in a day back in ’94 was done on that turbo. But needs must. I have a need and a passion to get this thing done. Now.

Once I’d built the new kit – that took a couple of hours because the instructions were in six languages and the diagrams were rubbish – I twigged how much fun my new self-isolated life was going to be.

You can program planned routes into this thing, then ride them like you’re following SatNav in your motor. I was only ten miles into Stage 261 when I thought “I could do Ride2Cure – the Oz ride from Brisbane to Adelaide – all over again. In my back garden. Okay, so by now you’re thinking “He’s feckin mad” but with a nice zoom in and out map to follow, on which I can (almost) remember where I was , what the wind was doing, and when the rain was coming, with the added bonus of a great playlist, this is sound, believe me. I’ve got it covered.

But I’m not going mad. I was only 65 back then: I’m 67 now. 40 miles a day is pretty much my limit. Every day.

So after three days, I’m a hundred miles down the road. Only 1300 to go. And I’ve done the big climb over the Cunningham Gap in south Queensland. On the R2C day two, that was the biggest climb in the whole of Ride2Cure. Today was 40 miles downhill at thirty miles an hour average. But my hamstring is sore, really quite sore, so tomorrow, another 40 odd miles to Inglewood, I’ll be taking it easy: ish within limits.

It’s going to take me about three weeks to reach Adelaide, and when I get there – virtually – I’m going to set myself a route around the North, West, East, South Terrace, a route that’s as flat as a pancake, and absolutely smash it. Forty miles round the city streets, lap after lap: I can do this. And I will. And because it’s all virtual riding, it’s as safe as houses. And Ride2CureNeuroblastoma has so many friends there. Utterly surreal.

But while my self imposed lockdown is on the go these next few months, I’ve got other (virtual) ideas up my sleeve:

The Oscar to Eileidh ride than I never did back in 2016 because I got made redundant.

The North Coast 500

Lands End to John O’Groats

Can you see the potential?

Coronavirus has changed all of our lives in a heartbeat. And because I’ve been tracking the stats from Italy since it all kicked off over there, I’m not in the slightest bit surprised that it’s come to a state of virtual lockdown in the UK. I’m just shocked that it took us so long.

But as an auld person who’s allegedly at increased risk, I plan on keeping myself to myself and battering on regardless, albeit in the back garden.

But before I finish this week, perhaps my best bit of work this week wasn’t on the bike at all. When I qualified as a SNOMED-CT developer just over two years ago, I built a virtual GP Practice whose 10K fictitious patients matched the age/gender profile of the UK population down to one decimal place. Then I seeded the database with disease codes – the very same disease codes which are now being quoted as underlying health conditions with COVID-19. So on Wednesday, because I have the source data that supports it, I generated an estimate of the number of patients with each of the underlying COVID-19 health conditions for every GP Practice in Wales. I actually have the data to be able to do that for every GP Practice in the UK but no one has asked for it yet.

There’s a moral to this story: think positively, think creatively, and we will get through this crisis.

So will Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma.

Till Tomorrow…

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