It’s not even been three weeks – nineteen days to be precise – since I came across some research work by a lady called Liz Specht, a data scientist in San Francisco. She posted a long piece on Twitter on March 8th, which you can read here: https://twitter.com/LizSpecht/status/1236095180459003909
I was sat in bed with a coffee as I trawled through a story that unfolded over 31 tweets.
I parked the coffee, got up and logged on. And started trawling stats, first for the UK, then for Italy, France and Germany. Latterly I added the Netherlands and Australia. I couldn’t quite comprehend what the numbers were telling me. I know I’m a numbers guy, but when the projection was telling me that the UK was going to go from 273 cases on 8th March to 33,000 by the end of the month, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. I also knew we were in trouble. I remember saying at the time: April? You really don’t want to go there, and believe me you don’t.
Next up I made some rather hasty phone calls to my medical team down south and alerted them to the prospect of a rapidly changing work landscape over the coming days, weeks and months. I just can’t get my head round the fact that that was only nineteen days ago. The world in which we now live is so utterly surreal.
To a degree I’ve scaled back on the research, because the world’s media has not only caught up, but gone into overdrive in order to spin the pandemic in the best possible light, not that there is one right now. I’ve shifted my role in order to make available the ongoing current picture in a light that otherwise might not be seen. For example, if a government minister goes on television and promises that 20,000 coronavirus tests are going to be conducted daily with a week, then one week later, I want to see stats that show 20,000 tests, not an ongoing trend around 8,000, by which time Joe Public will have long forgotten that you promised X but have delivered Y. Government needs to be held to account, and if my data science helps to open people’s eyes to political spin and deceit with the truth, then so be it.
So where does all of this leave Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma?
Well first up, I’m expecting funding to both Solving Kids Cancer and Neuroblastoma Australia to take a hit, so sticking by my pledge to continue with this journey regardless is my number one priority. Indeed, getting on my bike, on a turbo in the garden shed, is now the focus of my daily life in lockdown.
In order to give this new existence some meaning, I’ve hooked up the turbo trainer to my phone using Bluetooth and I’m recreating the original Ride2Cure across the outback of Australia from Brisbane to Adelaide. I certainly had some fear and trepidation as I rolled out of town of Stage 1, simply because I knew that I would feel every bend in the road, every hill and every milestone like it was yesterday. Even though I’m riding that journey like I’m following SatNav in a motor, the memories are still so fresh in my mind. I remember how it was when I rode through that town; I remember how cold it was when I set off at 7am on that morning; I remember how I struggled up that hill; and perhaps most poignantly given where we are right now, I remembered the stench of death on the Cunningham Highway from Warwick to Inglewood for five long hours on Stage 2.
Today the bike rolled into Narrabri, 300 miles, and almost 25% of the way to Adelaide. The miles are almost irrelevant at this point, so much so that I’m better off just focussing on the next town up the road because this is going to take a while.
That night we holed up in Narrabri was the night big Lardy, 10,000 miles away back in the UK, was slavishly trying to source us a new track pump because the one I’d taken over from the UK – just a month old too – had packed in, hissing air out of the second valve whenever the first valve was connected to the wheel. A plug of damp compacted toilet roll and duct tape held it for a few hours but when that gave up too, I knew we were in trouble. The Ride2Cure2 stage that I rode today was the stage when I punctured repeatedly and ended up on my last inner tube and just the back pocket mini pump to inflate it with. We gave that a meagre 70 psi of air then limped the bike the remaining 10 miles into Narrabri whereupon we bought up a large amount of stock from a local sports store, including of course, a new pump, which I’m pleased to announce still works a treat to this day.
But let’s return to the coronavirus for a minute.
As the gloomy, doomy self styled strategist of the house, I’ve been very particular for a while about minimising personal contact with non-family members, and even within the family, I’m wanting to know who their contacts have been in contact with, and so on. At 67, I’m not afraid to admit that I’m afraid: none of us knows where this thing is heading.
So it was with some amount of fear and trepidation that in the early hours of Monday morning, I woke with a sore throat. There was hee haw point in self-denying that it was there because it was there. And into Monday, it persisted/got worse and I started with the cold as we call it in Scotland.
I got up at 5am on Monday morning, unannounced, and took myself off to watch football re-runs on Sky Sports. No point in risking Jane’s health, I thought. But as I lay there in the minutes after I first woke, I kept trying to think back: “Where have I been in the last week?” I picked up the turbo trainer from Halfords but only spoke to the lady on the service desk. But I did touch the door handle. The next day I nipped into Sainsbury’s to get some bits and pieces just after it opened and the day after that I repeated the deed at Lidl’s to get stuff that was oodles cheaper than Sainsbury sell it for. Both times I was in and out in ten minutes. Then finally, on Friday, I dropped the car off for a service and MOT. That was it: four trips out, but somewhere along the line I’d caught what felt like the cold. Even if it was just the cold, in the current climate it made me feel dirty, like I’d allowed myself into contact with the plague.
I took my temperature: 36.2C. That felt normal enough to me.
I took my resting pulse (sat watching Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney discussing his career, with clips of magical moments, with a cat on my lap): 51. That also felt normal enough to me. It probably would have been 48 or 49 but for a glass or two of red on Sunday night.
All week I’ve had the lurgy: but no persistent cough and no shortness of breath. Clearing the throat, yes, constantly. But I’d also say that the persistent swallowing on a dry throat has been inconsistent with what I would consider to be the cold, and when I got up this morning, after ten hours in bed, I felt absolutely drained. But once I was up and about, so my day improved, just as it had every day this week.
Coronavirus? I don’t know.
I haven’t been tested and I’m certainly not ill enough to require any kind of medical intervention. When I think back over the last seven years, there have certainly been plenty of times that I’ve cycled four hours a day when I’ve felt worse than I’ve felt at any point this week, so I’ve just carried on regardless. Tonight, the mileage stands at 181 for the week and 9034 for the 271 consecutive stages since July 1st last year. Tomorrow will bring up the 23rd consecutive week of 200 mile weeks, and Sunday or Monday will bring up another thousand mile month. 9000 miles in 9 months happened yesterday.
Because we can’t go anywhere for the next three months (or longer) all sorts of records are going to be smashed to smithereens: and primarily because all through the winter, while we had one storm after another, I just carried on regardless, even if it did mean heading out the door at 2am, 3am or 4am. Getting the job done means getting the job done by whatever means.
10,000 miles in 10 months should be a given. I’ve never done that before, ever.
But the one I really want is 12,500 miles in 12 months. That was never even on the cards until COVID-19 reared its ugly head. “Why 12,500 and not 12,000?” I hear you ask. Because 12,500 is halfway round the world at the equator. It’s also halfway to the 25,000 miles that I set myself last July when I got back on the wheels. And if the virus doesn’t get me, it looks like Ride2Cure2 will be a done deal by the end of 2021.
Let’s get lockdown done.