There wasn’t a blog last week, probably the first time that that’s happened while the journey has been active in as long as I can remember. My bad. My mind wasn’t in the right place and if I’d tried to lay some words down, I’d probably have made an arse of it: so I sat on it instead.
Yet it was a pivotal week and it wasn’t lost on me. It was the anniversary of Oscar’s passing. It was the anniversary of Eileidh’s diagnosis. It was the anniversary of the release of Puddles, still the most watched video on Eileidh’s Journey. I kicked a few messages back and forth with Amelie but somehow, because of the way things turned out, Puddles has taken on an altogether different significance for me. It was a project at a point in time, May 2016, and while it remains an epic piece of work, it’s now become a difficult watch.
As far as the missing blog is concerned, it feels like I’ve let myself down when I haven’t done a brain dump. The blog has become such a chronological document of history that it feels like I’m now missing a piece of the jigsaw. But it’s actually not difficult to work out where I was, how I was feeling and how that led to there being no weekly fairy story.
I was on the virtual Ring Of Kerry, a road of great scenic value, but a beast of a life on a bike. I’ve been there in real life and it’s as gorgeous as I found it challenging. On the Ring, the hills come thick and fast and I’m the first to admit that they left me drained. That in part explains why there was no blog. Last week was 300 miles plus, which although it wasn’t a first, far from it, came on the back of 30,000ft of climbing in two weeks – that’s Mount Everest on a bike – and it knocked me for six. I had feck all left to find a way of writing it all down in a way that made sense. So I parked it. It’s the cop out option, or if you prefer, the easy way out.
When I decided to take on the Tour Of Ireland, I was under no illusions how difficult this was going to be. I’ve done most of it on four wheels at one time or another. And unlike the easy way of of taking the direct line from city to city (viz Belfast-Dublin-Cork-Galway-Sligo-Donegal-Derry-Belfast) I elected to detour round all the wee coastal roads: where up means down and down means inevitably up. I’ve learned to my cost that 35mph downhill on a 5% gradient can translate into 3% uphill at 8mph in the blink of an eye. And when you’re reading the road from a virtual map, rather than watching a graphic illustration a la Google Maps, you’d better have your wits about you if you don’t want your legs to come to a complete stop. There are two benchmarks: roads heading inland are generally gonna give you ten minutes of grief: and keep a close lookout for streams because water flows downhill. If you can handle that in perpetuity, then you can survive this gig.
Last week’s knackeredness has carried on into this week. I can tell because I admin the ladder for the Irvine AFC boys running and cycling training and in for a penny, in for a pound, I elected to sign up to log my workouts. And when I look at my average speeds for the last three weeks, they’re going in the wrong direction.
So look, I’ve got to search for a positive outlook in all of this.
I’m loving Ireland. I always have. When Leona Knox emailed me out of the blue a very long time ago and sent me the poem “Don’t You Quit” I took it to heart. I’ve thought a lot these last few weeks how a charity as small as Solving Kids Cancer are surviving during this pandemic. Events are off the table – okay, this one isn’t – and everyone and anyone who’s been furloughed has 20% less disposable income, albeit that they’re not spending money on commuting etc (that’s probably going on beer and wine, right enough). So it’s critically important to keep this show on the road, for SKC and for kids who are still being diagnosed at the rate of a hundred a year in the UK, in spite of COVID-19.
I don’t know what the landscape looks like on the other side of this. Everywhere you look, the new normal is nothing like the life we’ve known before. I think when the Scottish Government finally release lockdown, I might allow myself out of the back garden (yes, I know I’m allowed out every day just now but when lockdown came in, I wasn’t prepared to chance going out for three hours and being outed by some jobsworth on Stewarton’s Voice on Facebook): I’ve built up too much of a legacy to let that go in an instant when I have an alternative source of miles.
So where am I?
Tonight, I’m (virtually) in Enniscrone heading east on the wild Atlantic coast. “East?” I hear you ask. “I thought you were heading north”. Well, on this part of the coastline, it’s necessary to head east, west and north just to keep to the coastline. So that’s how I’m effectively spending three days going nowhere in the northerly sense. But tomorrow I will finally make Sligo and a couple of days after that, Donegal. Donegal’s key because that’s level with Belfast, albeit on the other side of the country, but that will signal just the bit over the top to finish the job. If I was a betting man just now, I reckon the whole Tour D’Ireland will be done in about 45 days.
One of the things that I’ve learned through lockdown is that it’s absolutely essential for your day to have a structure. As a software developer, I have to be working on stuff. My SNOMED-CT Storyboard is now close to becoming a useful application so now I have to think about the next thing to get me up in the morning. I can’t imagine, as a self employed person, just slouching into a can’t be arsed mentality. I’m fighting that by trying to maintain some kind of timetable. Fortunately, having Dennis stomping about on my person at half six every morning, Mr Singing Happy Face wanting his breakfast, is a cue to get up and at least make the first coffee of the day. I’ve kind of morphed into coffee, phone scrabble, breakfast, bike then work. Sometimes, if I’m up super early, work slots in before the bike. But the bike always happens. Every day.
Ride2Cure2, the overriding forerunner to the Virtual Tour, is currently sitting at 321 stages. On the spin. At an average of 35 miles a day. When lockdown came in, that 35 was only 33.3. It takes an awful lot of miles to increase the average when the whole is over such a long period of time.
Lockdown mileage stands at 2,334. Lockdown climbing is at 72,000ft. Lockdown days are at 54. It’s 43 miles a day and Ben Nevis every third day. No feckin wonder I’m tired.
But we are where we are.
The life we left behind may never again be normal. So we will adapt. I will adapt. Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma will adapt. And hopefully Solving Kids Cancer will adapt in order to keep research and family support on the road.
I apologise for missing a week: it basically became a case of when is a blog not a blog?