LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma

LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma Brand

Welcome to LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, the home of the LifeCycle challenge in aid of Solving Kids Cancer.

I’m Steve Taylor, aka Von Schiehallion, the LifeCycle man.

Solving Kids Cancer helps families affected by the childhood cancer, neuroblastoma. In most cases neuroblastoma is only diagnosed when it has already progressed to a late ‘high risk’ stage.  Even when children are tested clear of neuroblastoma after initial hospital treatment, a high percentage of children with high risk neuroblastoma will relapse and some children will not respond to therapy.

LifeCycle is an extraordinarily difficult challenge meeting an extraordinarily difficult disease head on.

Here’s the deal: The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,902 miles. The LifeCycle target was 25,000 miles of commuting to and from work in 4 years. That’s the same as cycling from London to Manchester every week: but there’s also a thousand feet of climbing in each direction. That’s equivalent to climbing Ben Nevis twice a week on a bike. The route passes by Europe’s biggest onshore windfarm at Whitelee. There’s a windfarm on the Eaglesham Moor for a very good reason… And as if all that wasn’t enough, I was 60 when I started, and just over four years from retirement. The only way to complete this challenge was to never give up. I didn’t: I completed it in six weeks short of three years, then just kept going. Think “Forest Gump on two wheels“.

This is LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

The full ongoing story is here in the blog. You can become a supporter and get involved, at either

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma

or

http://www.justgiving.com/SteveTaylor-60

If you’re on Facebook, then please have a look at the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma group. It’s full of the latest news, photos and various bits and pieces from the LifeCycle Twitter feed.

Here are the LifeCycle miles

And here’s the story so far…

AUGUST 2016

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

On The Road Again

Out And About In Puddleshire

JULY 2016

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

The Oven Bucket Challenge

Timeout

JUNE 2016

About A Girl

My Way

Reflections

Freewheelin’

To Puddles With Love

MAY 2016

Around The World In (500 and) 80 Days

24 Carat Gold Cake

Oscar 2 Eileidh

APRIL 2016

Relentless

The Fightback

To Infinity And Beyond

The Land Of Make BELIEVE

The Times They Are A Changin’

MARCH 2016

When I’m Back On My Feet Again

Slange Var!

The 39 Steps

FEBRUARY 2016

1999

No Pain, No Gain

Buy One, Get One Free

Black Ice Ops

Hoo Ha Henry

JANUARY 2016

Gertrude, Sister Of Bawbag

Shirley Knott

Ice Station Yompa

Wee Kian Do It

DECEMBER 2015

The LCFN Awards 2015

The Very Best Of 2015

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

The Wheels On The Bus

It Never Rains But It Pours

NOVEMBER 2015

Something Inside, So Strong

When The Going Gets Tough…

The Princess And The Magic Garden

When You’re Going Through Hell, Just Keep Going…

OCTOBER 2015

LCFN Goes Platinum In October For Children With Neuroblastoma

The Hundred Days Of Hell

A Question Of Semantics

Because I Can

When September Ends

SEPTEMBER 2015

New Gold Dream

The Sky’s The Limit

Never Give Up

Going For Gold

AUGUST 2015

Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

Planting Seeds In Fallow Ground

Bad Things Come In Threes

Our Father

One Day At A Time

JULY 2015

Here We Go, Ten In A Row

I’m On A Train / London Calling

Double Puddles

Puddlemania Hits The States

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Kids In America

JUNE 2015

Fire Tiger

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Super In Love

Puddlemania

MAY 2015

How A Walk Became A Cancer Crusade

The Anniversary Waltz

Forres Gump

I’d Ride A Million Miles For One Of Your Smiles

Take It To The Limit

APRIL 2015

C’mon Eileidh

Ecstasy, Passion And Pain

Monday The 13th

The Spirit Of Walfrid

It’s All Downhill From Here

MARCH 2015

Halfway To Paradise

Sugar Sugar

Boom And Bust

Gimme Closure

FEBRUARY 2015

Patience Is A Virtue

Cause Or Just Impingement

Off The Cuff

A Retirement Home

JANUARY 2015

King Commute

Just Another Day

The English Patient

Rainspotting

On The Road Again

DECEMBER 2014

2014’s Greatest Hits

12,000 Miles – A Christmas Song

Riders On The Storm

Sometimes, Words Are Not Enough

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

NOVEMBER 2014

Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last

Everything In Perspective

Back From The Grail

The Holy Grail

OCTOBER 2014

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Whole Lotta Love

I Don’t Like Mondays (Except This One)

The Bucking Bronco

Frauday Morning

SEPTEMBER 2014

Give ‘Em Both Barrels

Back To The Future

My Body Is Revolting

Ma Wee Sair Knee

AUGUST 2014

Rest If You Must But…

The Third Man

The Bike Hospital

King Of The Mountains

The Carnival Is Over

JULY 2014

End Of Term Report

The Three Seasons

Advance To Glasgow – 200 Days Since Passing Go

The Lesser Spotted Pot-Bellied Lycra Man

JUNE 2014

And I Would Bike 500 More…

Getting Yer Angles Right

Playing Injury Time…The Wizard Of Oz

MAY 2014

Mega May

Vastus Medialis – Injurus Crampus

One Undred An Eighty…. Two

Keep Right On To The End Of The Road

It Might As Well Rain Until September

APRIL 2014

The Long And Winding Road

Magical Mystery Tour

A Case Of Pineau De Re

Permalactic Legs

MARCH 2014

Wanted – A Magician

Bonus Track – Hey Paula

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Chugger/Gone With The Wind

Under Pressure

Fuel For Sport

FEBRUARY 2014

The Ten Commandments Of LifeCycle

Ultrasound and Intervals

Hail Hail, the Spring Is Here!

A Lighter Shade Of Pale

JANUARY 2014

No Regrets

They Think It’s All Over – It Will Be In July 2017

The Impossible Dream

LifeCycling – The Movement

Into The Groove

DECEMBER 2013

Groundhog Day

The Battle Of Wounded Knee

That Darned Competitive Dawg

Paul McConville

NOVEMBER 2013

Fuel For Thought

Bonus Miles

Kick Off

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

Three years ago today, on the 19th August 2013, I set out on my folding mountain bike just before 6am to cycle the five miles to Fenwick. Although it was a trip that I’d done many times since I got my bus pass, this trip was different: and it changed my life forever.

Since that day, around three hundred children in the UK have been diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, and around half of them have succumbed to the disease. It isn’t a rare disease. Nor is it an outpatient job as Coronation Street would have you believe.

So as we count down the days to Go Gold For September, it’s perhaps as good a time as any to reflect once again on the perilous state of funding for paediatric cancer in this country. Although I was already aware of the numbers, I read today that Cancer Research UK allocated £5.4m of their annual research budget to child cancer in 2015/16. It sounds a lot, but not when you consider that their total research budget was £404m. Childhood cancer got just 1.33% of the pot.

Excuse me, but kids who succumb to cancer don’t have a lifestyle choice. They haven’t even had a life: yet. Children are the future of our society and they deserve a far, far better deal than that. I think it’s fair to say, and I said it before in the LCFN blog, but CRUK, who pride themselves on being the brand leader in the UK, use images of sick kids to suck people in, then allocate that money on a corporate basis: the kids and their families can effectively fend for themselves.

That is why charities like Solving Kids Cancer are such key players in the marketplace. The money goes where it says on the tin.

While we’re on the corporate charity business hobby horse, let me expose another sleight of hand by a brand leader. Just Giving have been the go to online page for as long as I can remember: indeed I went with them three years ago. What I didn’t know then is that Just Giving cream off three times as much money in admin fees as other online charity vendors. That explains why I have two online pages: I always try to steer people towards my Virgin Money LCFN page because more of the money actually finds its way to the charity.

So when you’re thinking of doing an event, my advice is shop around: don’t just go with a big brand.

Anyway, back to the anniversary…

I didn’t want to just head out at lunchtime as I do every working day these days. I wanted to make this feel special: I wanted it to feel different. Except it didn’t feel much different at all because I elected to cycle to my old work in Glasgow. Back in the day, I used to set out on that trip at 5am: today is was 7am and what a dangerous difference those two hours made. Fast drivers; mad overtaking; traffic queued back at junctions; fumes: this morning had it all.

I posted a photo on Facebook when I got home of White Van Man overtaking my bike on the double white line section of the A77 in Newton Mearns. I’ve been on record for a while now with my assertion that I will clock video footage of a head on smash one of these days. Today was almost that day. The video is on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-VZmtLe7hI.

No doubt someone will notice that there are two cyclists on the pavement on my left as the white van attempts to take out the car coming the other way and people might question why bikes use the road at that point. The answer is simple: I was brought up not to ride a bike on the pavement, and I certainly wouldn’t do it at 30mph. That stretch of the A77 is poorly marked for bikes. At no point, where it morphs from cycle lane to pavement and back to cycle lane, does it say that bikes are allowed on the short pavement stretch. I use it coming the other way because it’s uphill and into the wind and at 10mph on a single lane carriageway with double white lines, it’s asking for trouble to be on the road. But going down the hill with the wind is a different kettle of fish. 25mph is the norm, 30’s not uncommon and 35’s giving it welly. Today I was in the high twenties when WVM swung onto the other side of the road with a car driving straight at him 50 yards away at a combined closing speed of around 80mph. Had it not been for an emergency braking manoeuvre by the car driver, this would have been a serious one.

The major fun factor of the week has been a whistlestop visit by the Gablonskis, our Facebook friends from Australia. I’ve known Paul for years, because of his love for Caley Thistle. Paul’s from Brisbane so his allegiance to the Inverness crew is pretty much in keeping with my own: he married an Invernesian. The first time we met, I didn’t even know he was over but he recognised me from a photo while we were both enjoying a pre match swally in Diggers: and since then, we’ve pretty much kept in touch and Paul stayed with us when he was over for the Cup Final last year. Janice’s visit lasted all of 5 minutes on that occasion because she was running late and had a plane to catch to head back to Straya without him.

I mention all of this because Paul and Janice are taking the Aussie LCFN flag back to Australia when they head home at the start of September. That’s the Vanessa flag, the one that she and I held at Celtic Park: it’s not the one that she and I held at Yorkhill – that’s the one that’s been to America twice, Poland and Spain. Australia has been good to LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma and it feels kinda right that the Aussie flag, that’s spent fifteen months of its life over there, should be going back for more. I am really, really looking forward to seeing the photos of the flag on tour in Queensland. And by the way, Jimmy Harrington has moved to Brisbane from Adelaide, so I would wager a fiver that Jimmy will be reunited with the flag at some point in the coming Aussie summer. This is the same flag that Jimbo signed at PBA FM is Adelaide, live on air in JJ’s British Beat programme; it’s also the flag that he held aloft with Anna Meares at the Velodrome.

Talking of Anna, I really felt for her at the Olympics in Rio this week. To go out in the quarter final repechage as reigning Olympic Champion is a hard one to take. Anna has been a great champion, and with the Commonwealth Games on her spiritual Gold Coast doorstep in two years time, she has a big decision to make. If it helps, Anna, I took a King Of The Mountains crown this week at the age of 63: top of the pile, going uphill, against 220 other punters. But I do recognise that a short bumpy hill in Kilmaurs doesn’t exactly equate to the boards. I would like to see Anna bow on home turf as it were, but I also thinks it’s important that she goes out on top of her game and not amongst the also rans. It’s a tough call.

I mentioned that KOM.  I was vaguely aware, when I came through the roundabout by Walkers’ Cycles on Monday, that I shared a minute and forty seconds with Chris Riddle on that segment. I didn’t know it was for 125th place until later. I was halfway up the hill when I decided to give it some. What I wasn’t expecting, indeed it came as a bit of a shock when I got home and uploaded the ride to Strava, was to find that that ‘some’ had taken me up to second on the leaderboard. That was astonishing, and guaranteed that I’d be back the next day for a proper shot. The tricky thing about these short sharp hills is that is takes a good few attempts to find the best gear. Too low a gear and your legs are spinning furiously and you don’t go very fast: too high a gear and you cannae get any momentum and you don’t go very fast. Either way, it takes a fair amount of trial and error. Anyway, I did go back the next day and I got four seconds off, leaving me on top of the pile by two seconds. But that just meant that the previous King would get an email informing him of his unfortunate abdication, and I reckoned that that would just bring him back out to play to reclaim his crown, So I went back again on Wednesday, that’s three days in a row now, chose a slightly bigger gear and went another four seconds faster again. The gap to second is now six seconds, or 10% of the total time. Now that’s a challenge!

So, at the end of a week that’s seen the Queen of the track lose her crown, and the King of Kilmaurs bag his, the flag has set off on its travels once again.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie….

On The Road Again

Two weeks on the road, the wrong sort of road, and I could use a rest. Inverness for four days last week has been followed by three days in Liverpool this week. You know how it is, a different bed, not a proper sleep, later than normal nights, earlier than normal mornings, and this week lots of trains, twelve of them in total.

I’m tired.

I think my poor brain is still partially frazzled from the intensity of the heart failure work I was doing last week: Thursday and Friday were particularly intense on account of searching for nearly 2,400 separate five character codes (of unique upper and lower case letter plus numbers) in a list of 180,000 in order to improve the performance of a data search. It’s probably significant therefore that the first two paragraphs of this week’s blog are about work and not about the bike. The bike has definitely taken a back seat these past two weeks.

However there is a big story to report on the cycling front, but it doesn’t concern anything that I’ve done.

You’ll be aware that LCFN has moved on from the original 25,000 mile challenge and is now focused on a global team effort to ride a million miles: the self styled LCFN Million Mile Challenge. There are now 21 riders in the team on Strava, but one in particular is deserving of a special mention…

Zuzanna Ciszewska signed up with LCFN in the same week that she set out to break the official Guinness World Record for the most miles cycled by a woman in twelve months. Suzie’s challenge began on August 1st and if things go according to plan, we’ll benefit from around 30,000 of Suzie’s miles over the next twelve months. You can be sure that the LCFN blog will be featuring her progress on a regular basis. Last week, for example, she notched up 326 miles: an introductory week. Be advised that that was actually a lightweight week and we can actually look forward to 500’s on a regular basis. Crikey, back in the day when I was starting out, I was only doing 500 in a month. Suzie makes me feel like I didn’t try hard enough! Like me, she’s also attempting her challenge around a full time job, which involves her riding from her home on one side of London, to her work way across the other side of the city. I guess she has the benefit of flat roads as opposed to my thousand feet of climbing in each direction, and probably much less wind to deal with, but the traffic must be horrendous. That said, I think I’d take my remote but difficult journey to her congested but flat one any day of the week. The difference, I suspect, lies in the fact that I got my weekends off whereas Suzie can expect to be out there seven days a week.

How did a girl going for a world record end up on LCFN?

Ah… mark that one down to Mouldy: good old Mouldy. Exactly how he signed her up for a couple of legs of the Road To Lisbon cycle next May I don’t know, but one thing led to another and once she was on the Celtic Big Cup gig, she broadened her horizons and jumped onto our challenge too. It’s great when the LCFN message grows like that.  We absolutely need people out there, telling the story, and coming onboard: this is no longer my journey, this is our journey and we need as many messengers as we can get. If you’re reading this and you don’t ride a bike yourself, then maybe your husband or wife does and they could donate some miles. That’s exactly how a lot of people get started and once you’re onboard, the thought that your wee bit is helping the team might be just the incentive to get you out the door. I publish the weekly miles and the overall total on the LCFN Facebook page every Sunday night so you can track our progress on there. It’s also the place to be for everything LCFN: articles, stories and loads of other stuff. To date, we’re just through 8,000 miles between the lot of us. I count of your miles from the week that you sign up.

The other recent ongoing LCFN story is about the wristbands. For a long, long time during the initial bike ride, I toyed with the idea of doing wristbands but didn’t have the confidence that people would actually buy them. But once I joined forces with Eileidh’s Journey, I found both the need and the market. The wristbands are a joint EJ/LCFN enterprise to raise money for future treatment that Eileidh is going to need abroad. Her first round of DFMO treatment in America last year cost #100K, much of which was raised through public subscription. Now that she has relapsed and the NHS has decided that the drug best suited to treating neuroblastoma in the USA and Europe won’t be made available in the UK, Eileidh is once again looking at hugely expensive treatment overseas in order to improve her chances of a long term outcome. This time around, Gail, her mum, is unlikely to get much change out of half a million pounds. It’s a big ask, but LCFN has always been a big challenge anyway so the wristbands are a good fit if you’ll pardon the pun.

Gail is in the process of developing the creatively named Eileidh’s Pop Up Shop idea and the stuff on there will go some way to benefitting Eileidh’s fund. The way the wristbands work is that we are selling them for five pounds each. I paid for the manufacture of the initial batch of 225 and we need to ensure that we keep enough cash back from those to fund the purchase of the next batch. Once we have enough money set aside to keep the ball rolling, everything else goes on Eileidh’s Just Giving page. My hope is that the bands will attract enough interest to make a considerable dent in Eileidh’s need.

On my own account, next Friday marks the third anniversary since I set out to do that very first mile. It seems much, much longer: it seems like I’ve been up and down the A77 for ever. But it being a Friday, I might just allow myself a wee glass of something nice to celebrate the fact that I didn’t give up, I kept the ball rolling when I got to the end, and the fact that wee Eileidh shows no sign right now of giving up in her fight either. If you wanna fight with a smile on your face, look no further than Princess Puddles. I may have started out with Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie in my thoughts, but these days Princess Puddles in my main focus. The Puddles video, that has featured regularly in the blog since it was released three months ago, this week went through 19,000 views: that’s not people who’ve gone back and looked at it multiple times: that’s 19,000 different people who have seen it on Facebook. I know Gail’s delighted: I know Amelie’s delighted. I’m just delighted for the two of them. It’s lovely when nice things happen to brighten up other people’s lives. What I need to do now is get cracking on trying to arrange for Lisa Hannigan to cover the song when she performs at the Oran Mor gig in Glasgow in October. Lisa is Amelie’s self confessed favourite artist of all time, and when you listen to the two of them sing, you can appreciate why. The influence of Amelie’s work as Frank Loves Joan is considerable. I suspect that if I can fix it for Lisa to perform Puddles in Glasgow, and we are able to get a decent video of it, then Amelie might be made up for all time. I’m working on the basis that Lisa can only blank me or say no. But then she might say yes: OMG, what if she does?

The LCFN blog itself hasn’t done badly this last wee while. Before June, the most views in a single calendar month was 551, achieved in May 2014 following wee Oscar’s passing. Then the views kind of bumbled along at a consistent 250 to 300 for the next two years, with the odd blip here or there, before June went mad with a 600 plus posting. But that was only a temporary climax because July eclipsed June’s total at the first time of asking and as things stand, the 2014 annual total of just over three thousand views will have been topped before August is out. 2015’s total was bigger by three hundred but that stands to fall too when September ends: a real Green Day moment when it comes…

And so now, back from Liverpool, LCFN will be on it again tomorrow…

Back on the road again.

Out And About In Puddleshire

Every week, by about Tuesday, I get ever so slightly worried that I’m going to get to Friday and have nothing to write about. That’s especially true when I’m out of my routine, which I have been this week and will be next week too.

The headlines this week are that I’ve been in Inverness since Tuesday, done no miles on the bike since arriving, despite having brought the folding bike that kickstarted LCFN with me, and I’ve been to see Princess Puddles. Those are the bones: here’s some meat to go on them…

I’ve been incredibly challenged in my work these last couple of weeks and I’ve allowed it to take priority over everything else. For my sins, I’m developing a module that detects heart failure in Primary Care (that’s a GP practice to you and I) and the demands of that challenge, both analytically and technically, have been immense. My poor wee brain has been bursting, not just with ideas of how I was going to deliver this, but with add-ons that the boss man hasn’t even thought about yet. As with everything I do, I like to deliver more than was expected of me. As ever, competitive dad.

So whereas I’ve become accustomed to lying in until half seven and starting work a minute later, this past couple of weeks it’s been six thirty to seven. On Tuesday, I was already on the keyboard, coffee at my side at 5:30am. Needs must. The boss man was on holiday, due back on Thursday (yesterday), and I had a solution to deliver.

I mention all of this because I approach my job with precisely the same commitment that I gave to all of those days spent fighting with the elements on the Fenwick Muir. I know from experience that there comes a point when the amount of effort that you’ve invested overcomes all of the tiredness and of the obstacles, and you kind of reach a plateau where the results flow, despite you being in a constant state of virtual tiredness. Physical tiredness I can deal with: sleep more, push less hard, all that kind of stuff, but when the demands are mental, then you enter a different arena. Creativity is very demanding, and delivering high quality, inventive solutions straight out of the box can be very draining at times. Waking at six still tired from finishing at nine the night before is a routine that can only ever be temporary on a keyboard. But I love my job, I like to think I’m good at it, and I will keep searching for the balance of work versus play that works best for me.

Inverness was a threefold trip, although when I made the arrangement, it was only twofold. I haven’t been up to see Jane’s parents for any length of time for many, many months, and certainly not this year. The boys had planned to go during Joe’s school holidays but Finn’s working pattern knocked that joint plan on the head. So I suggested to Jane last weekend that Joe and I should go up this week: after all, as long as I have the laptop and a second monitor, I can pretty much work from anywhere. I’d been holding off from going, if I’m honest, because Eileidh has been in hospital in Aberdeen and there’s no way I could take a day out of the current schedule for that round trip.

So on Monday night, I messaged Gail, who was bound to realise from my Facebook posts that I was up the road, to apologise for missing out on a visit during the current trip. When a child is battling cancer as Eileidh is just now, every visit is an important visit and you absolutely want to make every opportunity count. If I’m honest I kind of felt I was letting her down because I got the timing wrong.

Within two minutes, back came Gail’s response: “we got out an hour ago. We’re going home and we’re not back in till Thursday”. My riposte: “So are you free on Wednesday”? “Yup”…

So then I messaged Laura. I need to stop calling her wee Laura but I’ve known her for so long that that’s the way I think of her: a friend brimming with simple homespun goodness, spiced with a passion for doing things that are right and community spirited.  “Laura, what are you doing on Wednesday. Do you have a couple of hours free to go and see Eileidh: she’s home for two days”.  It was a done deal. Laura goes back to the days of the Tartan March when she and two of her pals from their teenage years walked from Oslo to Glasgow between two Scotland World Cup qualifiers (okay, they took a plane from Bergen to Aberdeen but they still walked hunners n hunners n hunners of miles: not as many as Jimmy mind). Another bloke claimed he’d walked the lot but he was a spammer: an imposter. Never claim what you haven’t done, that’s my motto: the truth is always the truth, and if someone other than yourself knows it, you’re in trouble. And beyond that I remember her coming out of Livvy in tears after a particularly cruel Inverness League Cup exit (AET) eleven years ago. As an aside to that game for a moment, for anyone reading this who likes football, Ian Black got booked that night: no surprise there then. And whilst we started the game with Craig Dargo and Graham Bayne up front, we finished it with Dennis Wyness and Rory McAllister. Why did we lose? Well Mike McCurry being on the whistle probably had something to do with it. By the way, Robert Snodgrass was in the horrible custard yellow strip that night: and he kept his shorts clean.

So, back to Eileidh. Laura and I were discussing on the way from the train station how she might be. We’d both seen the upsetting images last week when she was clearly in great pain so we were kind of prepared for the worst. But I said to Laura “I’ve never seen her anything but boisterous, so don’t be surprised if she’s full of beans…

She was.

It was Eileidh who opened the front door to us. It was Eileidh who introduced us to the kittens. And it was Eileidh who was so enjoying being the wee sister with Cerys in tow.

Eileidh has grown up. I haven’t seen her since February and so much has happened in that time. But the hallmark of her growing maturity, for me, came in the shape of the medical box that she carried about with her. She may have been out of hospital but the hospital was not out of her. Her wee box of tricks, to which she was attached by a tube, went everywhere with her. Not once did she even look remotely like whizzing off and leaving it forgetfully behind. It was just part of her routine to pick it up and take it with her. I was mightily impressed. So was Laura.

You know that thing where you do something and it makes you realise just how lucky you are with the mundane life that you lead. Well that hit the spot for both of us on Wednesday. Eileidh is unwell, most unwell, but in typical Eileidh like fashion, she just accepts what’s happening in her wee life, puts on a brave smile and gets on with it. It’s really not difficult to appreciate why so many people across the globe love this wee girl.

And while all of this was happening, my road bike has been in the bike hospital. I’ve thrashed it hard since I came back with sore hands back in March. I might not do as many miles now as I did back then, but I do them faster, and with loads and loads of hills in half the distance so I’m up and down the gears all the time. The latest casualty list includes a new chain, a new rear mech, three new cables and a load of TLC for the bottom bracket: not to mention a seizing back brake. LCFN is only as good as its equipment and I knew that this was the chance to get lots of little niggles sorted while I was away: it’s just a pity I never found the time to go out on the bike that I started the adventure on.

Next week it’s Liverpool. I need to go and see the boss man and discuss strategy on the work front. But if I get down the road early doors tomorrow, I’ll still manage three days on two wheels before the Virgin Express comes calling.

These are busy, busy days: so much going on; so many ventures to explore and fulfil; so much money and awareness still to raise for kids with neuroblastoma. But I’ll remember this week for a day out in Puddleshire.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

Just about everybody knows the punchline to the Proclaimers classic hit single “I’m Gonna Be” and that song got me off my backside this week to be able to write this blog, featuring that song, tonight. On July 1st, I completed the 25,000 miles that I set out to do almost three years ago. Today, as we home on in the end of the month, I’ve done 500 more.

But that’s not really the point. The point is that the journey goes on, a bit like it never ended and by this time next month, any total with 25 on the front will be history.

And talking of the fight going on, today our charitable beneficiary, Solving Kids Cancer, put out a press release concerning a decision taken by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) with regard to the anti-GD2 antibody therapy dinutuximab. Here is the relevant text of the press release:

The decision to deny potentially life-saving treatment from children with a rare form of cancer could condemn many children to outdated treatment options and a reduced chance of survival.

As a charity representing families affected by neuroblastoma, the announcement that NICE has decided to deny dinutuximab, the only treatment approved specifically for neuroblastoma, to children with this aggressive childhood cancer has profound implications. This is not an issue of seeking to buy extra time for children with neuroblastoma. Whilst dinutuximab is not a cure for all, it has been shown to significantly increase the chance of survival and many children are alive today and living a full life because of this medication. The decision to refuse this drug for children in the UK is at odds with the many countries in Europe and North America where this therapy is the standard treatment for neuroblastoma and risks pushing back advances in treatment to 2009 in the UK.

Fewer than 100 children are diagnosed in the UK each year, of which only a third would benefit from this antibody therapy. The cost to the NHS of giving children a greater chance of survival and a normal life is therefore very small, but British children diagnosed with this cancer in future would only be able to access specialised treatment by taking part in a clinical trial. This is wholly unethical when an effective drug is approved.  The only other option open to parents will be to raise in excess of £500,000 to take their child abroad for treatment.

The term ‘a matter of life and death’ is overused, but the denial of this therapy for NHS patients will have very significant implications for children diagnosed with this disease. We are committed to working closely with families, health bodies, clinicians and other childhood cancer charities to address the implications of this decision and will continue to fight for access to the best possible care for children affected by neuroblastoma in the UK.

I am not a medical person, although I interact with the NICE guidelines on a daily basis across a range of disease areas in my data research work. I am merely an activist and a fundraiser. But what I am reading is that this is a drug that is licensed in the USA and licensed in much of Europe. Therefore, the decision to bar its use on the NHS in the United Kingdom seems bizarre in the extreme. Indeed, if I may paraphrase what one commentator said today over the Government’s decision to procrastinate further on the Hinkley Point nuclear project, the NICE announcement is anything but nice: it’s plainly bonkers.

So instead of dangerously ill kids getting state of the art treatment on the NHS in this country, families are going to have to continue going cap in hand to the general public in order to raise enormous sums of money in order to displace their families abroad. Bonkers indeed.

And so to matters on two wheels. I’ve kind of settled into my new regime of twenty miles (and a bit) a day, which basically means I can blast it, eyeballs out, for about an hour and a half every day. One fifty a week’s a decent return for an old guy retired from the big stuff and it still looks like I can turn in a thousand feet of climbing every day too. Round these parts, yer cannae move without climbing the hills so the only major decision to be made when I leave the house is which direction? It might seem a bit odd, but I never ever leave the house with a route 100% fixed in my mind: it’s 60% at best. Everything is made up as I go along. The only thing that matters is fighting the wind by the easiest route (ie coming home with it at my back) and bagging twenty miles. Everything else is suck it and see, taking each wee country lane on its merits. But today was ridiculous: 27 miles in a big circuit yet the wind appeared to be in my face for at least 25 of them. How the hell does that work? Wasnae happy.

The global club on Strava gained an old Highland March mate of mine this week: SatNav from Landan, except that he lives in Manchester these days, and no longer works for Reuters. He bagged 363 miles last week, which included a 172 in one go. His adventures meant that we bagged a grand between us on the week and our team total now exceeds 6K. People may say we’re never gonna do this. So what? We’re out there, turning those wheels, and once we start banging in a thousand miles a week, week in and week out, it’s only gonna take us a thousand weeks to get the job done. Actually we’ll do it in half that time, you wait and see.

The only other major thing of note that’s happened this week is the arrival of the LCFN / Eileidh’s Journey wristbands. I ordered them just over a week ago from a company down south (for our overseas readers, that means somewhere down in England) and I got an email on Monday morning advising me that the bands had just left the factory: in China. Because I had a tracking number, I was like a kid on the Santa site every few hours: are they here yet, are they here yet? Well just over 48 hours later, they were here. TNT did a fabulous job. Already the consignment has been split up and fifty are currently sitting up the road, 200 miles away at a top secret location in Elgin awaiting collection on Gail’s behalf. I’ve also sold two myself, so including the one I’m wearing, I’ve trousered some cash and as soon as this blog is up on the LCFN site, that money will be going into Eileidh’s Just Giving fund. I’ve decided that the best way of keeping track of everything is to create a spreadsheet with one row for every wristband. Then I can comment on who’s holding what stock, who’s donated what against each band, and critically, has the money been Just Gived yet. It’s my intention that every row on the spreadsheet should tally to an entry in Eileidh’s audit trail. At the same time, we need to hold enough of the kitty back to buy the next batch. At the end of the day, someone has got to pick up the tab. I paid for the first batch from my own pocket but it’s my intention that they should be self financing thereafter, if there’s a demand, that is. If it turns out that we cannae shift the whole of the first batch, then every last penny will go to Eileidh and the bands will become collectors’ items.

What I really need is have people act as agents on my behalf: say someone took ten, then they could sell those just like people sell books of raffle tickets at Christmas. It’s important that the bands sell because on the back of the not nice NICE decision today, kids like Eileidh are going to continue having to go abroad to maximise their chances of long term survival.

But I’ll leave you this week with some slightly re-arranged lyrics: have a right good sing song…

When I make it, well, I know I’m gonna be

I’m gonna be the man who makes it just for you

When I go out, yeah, I know I’m gonna be

I’m gonna be the man who rides along for you

If I get drunk, well, I know I’m gonna be

I’m gonna be the man who gets drunk honouring you

And if I haver, hey, I know I’m gonna be

I’m gonna be the man who’s havering for you

But I would ride five hundred miles

And I would ride five hundred more

Just to be the man who rode many thousand miles

To fall off at your door

The Oven Bucket Challenge

A week like no other of late.

I needed something to kick my mojo back into gear and hey, I certainly found it on Tuesday. For a very, very long time, certainly a lot longer than since I’ve been doing LCFN, I’ve wondered about doing Arran from the house. As the crow files, it’s 15 miles to the boat, but crows dinnae fly round these parts: the detour is King.

Arran from oor hoose is intimidating: that’s why I’ve never done it before. Arran is a windy place. Ayrshire is a windy place. The wind is no cyclist’s friend, not unless he’s being chased by a lion and it’s behind you (the wind, not just the lion). The mere thought of tackling Arran on a windy day gives me the creeps.

People will be reading this and wondering what the hell I’m on about, particularly my Strayan friends. On the south west side of the island, there’s no flat road for 25 miles, bar the half mile straight in each of Lamlash and Whiting Bay. Back in the day when I was a runner at Cumbernauld, we used to take a crew over to Arran for the Round Arran Relay. The race used to start at Blackwaterfoot and ended at Corrie, just south of the pub at Sannox.

Arran is 56 miles all the way round. And it climbs 3,600ft back to the start.

Back then, first leg north was up a bit then basically flat. Second leg north was as flat as it gets on the island, which basically means up and down a bit. Third leg north is a massive climb out of Lochranza followed by a long descent to Corrie.

North is the easy side: south is a pig. First leg south out of Blackwaterfoot is flat for a bit, then it climbs, then there’s a longish descent before the fun starts. Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down… before the end of that leg goes up, up, and up some more. Second leg south is even more more of a pig. From the top of that hill to Whiting Bay, the hills are utterly relentless. And don’t even start me on the hill out of Lamlash up past the golf course before the long descent into Brodick.

The chat up line for any cyclist heading over on the boat is this: “are you going left or right”? Excuse the pun, but I’ve been both ways. As things stand after this week’s adventure, I’ve done both ways twice. Right off the boat, ie anticlockwise, gives you a nice six mile warm up before you hit the Lochranza hill from the easy side. Halfway down the hill heading north, there’s a wee S bend at a stone bridge but you cannae be sure what’s round the corner so you can’t afford to take the direct line and take the whole of the road at speed. The first time I went that way, 18 years ago, I bottled it at the bridge and peaked out at 47mph.

Right off the boat is fine if you like storing up trouble. Y’see all those nasty, nasty hills that I just talked about on first, second and third legs south on the Round Arran Relay are lying in wait at the end: when yer knackered. Right off the boat is the choice of a masochist. But you need to do it just once in your life so as to experience the pain of the hill out of Lamlash.

Left off the boat means you hit all of those hills right at the start, and you’re guaranteed to suffer like hell for the first two hours, which is never ideal with a bit boat fry-up in yer belly. But needs must. Left off the boat is definitely the way to go.

So why haven’t I done this before?

Fear and trepidation. That’s why.

But isn’t that exactly why people have bucket lists? Things to do, things to achieve that are so random, so off the scale, that sometimes, just thinking about it scares the shit out of you. That was the relationship that I had with LCFN HQ to the boat, round Arran and back again…

90 miles with 4,600ft of climbing.

I knew, deep down, that if I didn’t do it this summer, when my fitness was at its peak, then likely as not it would never happen. But I was only prepared to take it on in favourable conditions: left off the boat in even a prevailing south westerly would be insane.

Cue Monday evening.

I work for myself: that’s important in this regard. I work silly hours to get the job done when need be, but essentially I work whatever hours I want and I need. 6am starts are not uncommon, nor are 10pm finishes, but when the weather’s in my favour, nor is a four hour timeout in the middle of the day.

Delivering the result is the only thing that matters.

So… Monday afternoon, I checked the weather forecast. I already had an inkling, cos Windguru is the boss, that Tuesday was gonna be good: I just didn’t know at that point how good. Light winds were key: whatever the temperature decided to throw at me I planned to deal with.

It turned out to be the hottest day of 2016 in Scotland by a country mile.

If left off the boat felt like a good idea before I set off, left off the boat became a necessity by the time we docked at Brodick. Those nasty, nasty climbs on the south side had to be done in the cool of 8 to 9am. I left the house before five. I even had to use lights which was novel: I haven’t done that for months.

18 degrees round the south side was sound. It was a bit blowy around Whiting Bay but that’s Whiting Bay: it faces south west.

I counted 15 cyclists on the 7am boat from Ardrossan and a dozen of them passed me and shot out of sight before we reached Lamlash three miles down the road. Y’see I’m not a pack animal. I’m just a workhorse that keeps going all day and every day.

Delivering the result is the only thing that matters.

The personal challenge for me was to make it round the island in time to get the 12:30 boat back to Ardrossan. Back in the day when I were a lad, the challenge was to do it between docking boats, which is three hours, but I’m not that bloke anymore. Four and a half is enough to catch my interest. In order to achieve that, the average speed needed to be 13.2mph. Faster is fine but slower meant sitting about, cramping up, for another ninety minutes. I wasn’t for doing that.

My interim goal was to reach Lochranza at 41 miles by 11am: that would leave me the last 15 miles, up and over the killer hill, in about 80 minutes, and ten minutes contingency to close the bow doors.

I got to Lochranza at 14.2mph and took a timeout. I needed fluid, fuel and motivation in order to tackle that hill. I got all three but perhaps the timing was flawed. No sooner had I come over the top of the climb than my right quad muscles went on strike. Ever had cramp? Ever had cramp in a muscle that you need to use? Ever had cramp in a muscle that you need to use for the next seven miles? Ever had cramp in a muscle that you need to use for the next seven miles in order to get on a boat before it leaves without you?

I cycled left legged in a lower gear.

And I made the boat by about four minutes.

The temperature at the boat was 26C.

Dehydration had set in.

I hit the Lucozade Sport bigtime on the boat, knowing that I’d only got 15 miles (aye right: King Detour) to get home but when I went to stand up, I couldn’t. My right leg from the knee up was concrete. I actually think that people thought I had taken a funny turn, as in bloke on bike is doubled up. And I was. But I know the routine and I hobbled down to the car deck. Back on the wheels and select a lower gear just to get home: detouriously.

The cycle route back from Ardrossan heads along the coast by Saltcoats, and after the beach bit, it passes alongside the railway line. My Garmin is full of gadgets, one of which is a temperature monitor.

The Garmin peaked at 33.1C. I got a photo of 32.3 but you cannae keep stopping to get a foati every time it goes up a notch.

So the job was done. I got home, safe but parched, and then proceeded to down seven pints of water before I needed a pish. I feel for those poor guys selected for a drug test at the 2022 World Cup.

But I tell you what: LCFN has plenty of energy left in those legs, and once the sun sets on this week, it will become the 68th since the ride started that has clocked up 200 miles.

Fun in the sun…

The Oven Bucket Challenge.

Timeout

I guess there was always going to be timeout at some point once the original target had been knocked on the head, and I’m in it. Holiday and work have conspired together to rob the challenge of all but 17 miles so far this week, and I look forward longingly to returning to some sort of new normality by this time next week.

The back end of last week and the first part of this week made up a truncated family summer holiday to Barcelona. Five days: that was it. Summer hols 2016 done and dusted in the blink of an eye. That has a lot to do with the fact that since I got my redundancy jotters back in March, every day that I’m not working is a day that I don’t get paid. I have work, good work, but I need to keep at it to keep the money rolling in. That, realistically, is the name of the game. Working for yourself is about being responsible, putting in the hours and paying the bills. The modern day LCFN, stretching out way into the future, is about using the miles as relaxation to refuel the brain and the creative thought processes.

Barca is a great cycling city. Glasgow is not. But as a self confessed responsible cyclist, I’m gonna stick my neck out and say that there are more irresponsible cyclists in Barcelona than there are total cyclists in Glasgow. Theory and quite possibly fact. The problem, and it’s a big one, is cycling at speed on pavements. I know back home that cycling on pavements gets our profession a bad name: well that’s nothing compared to the scale of the problem over there. It’s rude, it’s dangerous and it needs to stop. It’s not even that they don’t have a good cycle network: they do. It’s down to attitudes and education. Simple. Maybe Brussels can hand down a Eurowide edict before we clear off: thou shalt not cycle on the pavement, anywhere in the European Union: and if you do, we’ll add your wheels to the burgeoning bike mountain.

Back home, I’ve become addicted to my onboard camera in much the same way as big kids and little kids appear to have gone overboard with Pokemon Go. But instead of collecting wee creatures, I collect footage of dangerous driving. The three or four clips that I’ve published online on the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma channel on YouTube are case studies of head on collisions waiting to happen. I’ll state categorically that my justification in keeping the camera rolling when I’m out and about is 100% my insurance in case I get wiped out by a manic motor: believe me, there are many, and in my opinion, the standard of driving is getting worse.

I focus on dangerous overtaking, because if I’m going to get taken out, it’ll be because some ejit has taken a risk too many. On my channel, there are examples of overtaking on the inside of blind bends (you basically cannae see what’s coming round the corner because of the  six foot hedge). I know your doing at least forty because you didnae realise that I’m already doing twenty. I demonstrated that to a polis the other night because my speed is logged on Strava (more of that later). Some people will risk everything to be where they want to be five seconds earlier than they might otherwise be, but safely.

But the coup de gras, the gold medal, the Victpr Ludorum of idiotic driving occurred on Wednesday, and I captured it on film. It’s on the LCFN You Tube channel. The hint is in the title: Blind Summit (Double White Lines). The road in question is dead straight over a distance of a mile or so. But it undulates towards a summit before dropping back down on the other side. At the three quarter mile mark on that straight, wanna be racetrack is a blind summit. Because it’s blind both sides, it’s protected by double white lines for a distance of a hundred yards either side of the summit. I was halfway along the upside, rattling along at 16mph (according to Strava) when a car came over the brow of the hill towards me: no bother, no danger. But as soon as it was past, a car passed me, say forty yards from the blind spot, doing about 50. This motor was wholly on the other side of the road, a good foot beyond the double white lines. I was incredulous. This car is about two seconds from the summit and wholly on the wrong side of the road: driving of such stupidity that I’d rate it a ten on the loony scale. On second thoughts, take the full twelve points and just get off the road. Save a life.

But that dude was only the warm up act. Ten yards behind him was another punter who’d clearly decided that his time was up. He went past me, again with a clear foot of tarmac between his nearside wheels and the double white lines, right on the summit. There was zero chance that this guy knew that the road was clear. He took the ultimate chance, even moreso that the first guy, and got away with it. Both of these guys come from a breed of driver that takes extreme, dangerous risks, and is prepared to take that chance to save a few seconds. Based on the footage that I’ve posted to the LCFN channel these last few weeks, I’m convinced that one of these days, I’ll witness a frightening head-on collision.

But there’s a corollary to this story: while we were in Barcelona, a cyclist was deliberately taken out by a motorist who did a U turn to execute the collision, just a mile from that very same spot. And I knew from reading the paper after my tea on Wednesday that the police were looking for a red Seat in connection with that hit and run incident. But it was the bit at the bottom of the newspaper report that switched on my light. The last line said that the police had no CCTV footage of the incident: well of course they don’t: this is out in the country.

But I do…

My mind immediately flashed back to that car that came over the brow of the hill just before the danger men flashed by. I thought “Hang on a minute”…

I fired up the computer, went back into that 30 second clip, and ran it through frame by frame. That car coming the other way, heading for the junction a mile away where the hit and run occurred, was a red Seat.

The police have seen the video, and the still frames, and they have the registration numbers of all three vehicles. Two will be getting a knock on the door because they risked life and limb. The other guy will be getting a visit in order to eliminate him from an enquiry. Or not as the case may be.

On the miles front, the million mile challenge is through 4,000 miles and we’re up to sixteen riders. I would ask everyone reading this to say to anyone you know who rides a bike: get on Strava and join LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

Talking of the miles, one thing I really, really miss from the 25K challenge are the fabulous sunrises. One of my mates was up at the crack o’dawn midweek and took the dog out. Straight on Facebook, he was, reporting on the fabulousity of the dawn. I remember those days. I loved those days. I used to love the thrill of getting into work and choosing which sunrise pics I was going to upload. Those were my mornings. Of course there’s nothing to stop me doing it just now, except that I choose not to: I take the extra two hours in bed instead. Semi retired, that’s me: one twenty mile trip a day instead of two. It’s an age thing as much as anything else.

Before I finish, it’s worth documenting how much UK PLC has changed in the few weeks since the 25K challenge finished. There has been the significant matter of the Brexit vote and the changing of the guard at the top table of UK politics. Never before in the history of domestic politics has so much damage been caused by so few (cue Churchill). And to top it all off, they go and give the important job of Foreign Secretary to the bumbling buffoon who fancied losing the Brexit vote, albeit narrowly, so he could turn round and witter away his frustrations. But his side went and won so he did walking away instead, only to be brought back to do a job he’s wholly unsuited for. It’s as bad an appointment as giving the live Tour De France gig to Jeremy Clarkston. Incomprehensible.

So little cycling I’m afraid and that’s it for another action packed week: it’s just that the action had very little to do with actually being on a bike.

But don’t worry, it’s just a timeout.

They Think It’s All Over…

The last time I penned the blog on a plane, we were heading back from the States a year ago after the flag had been a wander round New York. This time the flag’s headed for Barcelona and a trip round the Nou Camp (amongst other things).

We’re heading out five days after the original LCFN challenge ‘ended’, as if you can just stop riding because you’ve hit a brick wall that’s graffitti’d with ‘Stop Now’ in big gold letters. The challenge now is to come down from a life spent smashing my body, into something that’s altogether more pleasant and manageable. I don’t want to stop riding: that would self imposed purgatory. The aim now is to find the right mix between enough exercise to keep me sane and enough sitting about the place to rest my long term sore bits.

Last Friday I rode one solitary mile from our house to Angela and Gordon’s. Then the champagne came out, and the malt came out and the beer came out. Don’t despair, I pushed the bike home…

Stephanie, Angela’s daughter, videoed the arrival, and Angela and Jane did a great job with a proper finishing line like you get at the school sports, and a load of helium balloons. Thank you ladies, it was great. For my part, I had the Garmin camera running on my bike too so I had the onboard perspective of all the whooping and cheering. The original plan was to film the whole mile for posterity but a full set of red lights up at the Cross then a queue of traffic behind a parked bus kind of scuppered that idea.

So since then it’s been a case of keeping a lid on the miles. I absolutely don’t want to get embroiled in thirty mile days, day after day, ever again, but neither do I want to become a sloth. My body’s become so accustomed to burning up an extra two thousand calories a day that I risk becoming a wee roly poly man if I ain’t careful. So the show will go on, albeit at a reduced level. Had we not been going away today, then this would have been a 140 week and I can live with that.

On Sunday a wee gang of us headed over to Millport to celebrate the end of the journey. The original plan was to do the last mile there but the release of Amelie’s CD ‘About A Girl’ two days earlier changed all of that. I wanted to do a tootling about ten mile lap, which we kind of did in two groups, then I ‘went for it’ with a flying lap on my own. The wind was very strong and all of the gains headed up the back of the island were lost once I turned for home in the last four miles. Red zone and legs falling off pretty much sums it up. Ten miles in 31m37s will do for now but I sure as hell intend going back on a still day and posting a sub thirty. The spirit of the competitive LifeCycle Man is alive and well. Thank you to everyone who made the effort. We’ll do it again in five years when I get to 50,000. Only joking….

What’s really different, what’s really changed, between this week and last (and the one before that and the one before that…) is that I’m no longer a guy who’s riding 25,000 miles for kids’ cancer. So many times when I told that story in the past, I got the feeling that people were thinking “yeh well, he talks a good game but I bet he won’t actually finish it”. I’m not that guy anymore. In the space of a few days, I’ve morphed into the bloke who did it. My endurance CV now has the daddy of them all sitting alongside running/hobbling a hundred miles on foot in a day in 1983, and cycling from Manchester to Glasgow in a day in 1994.

With me parked up relatively speaking, the LCFN goal has shifted. One million miles is now the name of the game and I’m trying to recruit cyclists worldwide to join the LCFN club on Strava and donate their miles to the cause. Every great effort starts frim humble beginnings, I’ve become very accustomed to that over the past three years, so it’s just a case of taking each day, each week, each month and each rider as they come. Collectively, the Millport mob bagged a ton of miles last Sunday and as I’m writing this, we’re through 4,000 miles. There are fifteen of us signed up just now, but I’m expecting that to rise over the coming months.

On the horizon we have a sponsor lined up and we’re busy designing branded kit. The basic design is done: we just need to finalise a few things before we press the button on the production run. My hope, optimistic as ever, is that we’ll have the ‘must have’ shirt in the UK, and that folk will want to wear our kit because it looks great. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. The plan is for the proceeds of the kit sale to go to Solving Kids Cancer.

Right, complete change of tack: next day… the flag’s in Barca. I know we’ve got two flags but this one’s been to America twice, Poland, Spain, Scotland and England. And today it was at the Nou Camp, home of arguably the best team on the planet, with other people looking on, wondering what the fuss is all about. Cue handshakes. I keep saying it… awareness of the disease: 99% of people out there have never heard of neuroblastoma. And y’know, the flag looks so much better with all of the signatures on it: it’s like it’s had a life: and so it has. It’s the public side of what this is about.

The other flag, the one that went to Straya (I still refer to it as the Vanessa flag) still has just the signatures it had when L’Anja brought it back from Adelaide: JJ, Jimbo and Jackie.I want Anna Meares’s paw on that flag. Anna was so good to LCFN back in Dec ’14 and she’s so much of a sporting and kids’ cancer hero back home that she’ll be carrying the Australian flag at the Olympics, her fourth, in a few weeks time. How I hope she bags another gold medal.

Despite all the apparent jollification, I can’t let this week finish without reference to the kids, and in particular the two Scottish warriors that LCFN has featured this last wee while. Eileidh and Kian are currently both battling with everything they have to keep the disease at bay. The outcome is uncertain for both of them, so we keep hoping, we keep wishing, and we ask ourselves why any child should have to go through all of that at age three. And that’s before you pile the agony of the families on top. Lisa, Kian’s mum, has been living in the hospital for weeks and hasn’t seen her orher kids during hat time. Gail is backwards and forwards to Aberdeen just like it’s been for two years. Hard, hard, hard.

There’s a huge part of me that’s thinking I’m letting the kids down by taking a back seat. But it has to happen. Age 63; sore bits; tired bits; I need a rest.

They think it’s all over…

But it ain’t.

 

About A Girl

I’m basically lost for words.

I set out 605 days ago to ride loadsa of miles for children with neuroblastoma, not actually knowing anyone who had the disease, not actually knowing anyone personally who was affected by the disease…

I just wanted to do it because I’d read about Vanessa, about Knox and about Mackenzie, and I knew what a dreadful experience it was, not just for the kids, but for the families who live with the disease day to day.

I knew, away back then, that if I was going to do something meaningful, then it had to be hard. It had to be the hardest thing I’d ever done. It had to be so mindnumblingly difficult that giving up would have been the easier option.

That’s why I chose to cycle 25,000 miles around a full time job.

I gave myself four and a half years to do it in, although on the flag it says four. I thought the extra bit sounded a bit too Adrian Moleish. In reality, I did it in six weeks under three years: and that included 9 weeks off for a hernia repair and six weeks off after a kiss on the tarmac. My body repairs well: sadly it’s not always so with the wee ones.

I’ve kept a log of the miles since day one and it’s utterly surreal to look back now and trawl through those stats. I know I keep saying it, but I cannot overstate how important it was to do this while I was still working 37 hours a week. That was the monkey that I carried on my back for three years.

Miles:                                                                    25,000

Days:                                                                     606

Miles/Day:                                                          41 and a bit (cue Adrian Mole)

Hours on the bike:                                           2,000

Calories burnt:                                                  1,200,000

Feet of climbing:                                               1,212,000

Mountains:                                                         Everest 41 times from sea level or Ben Nevis 275 times

200 mile weeks:                                               67

200 mile weeks in a row:                              36

If I’m truly honest, the inspiration came from Oscar Knox. It came from a bunch of guys who follow Celtic who I now know formed an organising committee to try and save wee Oscar’s life. I didn’t know half of that back then (actually I knew none of it) but I was moved by what the Celtic support was doing for that wee bhoy. That’s what got me started. And today, as an Inverness supporter, I’m proud to call a lot of those guys my friends. What you did may not have changed my allegiance, but it sure as hell changed my life.

But on a journey of that length, of that duration, of that intensity, there was bound to be a bonding somewhere along the line. And it duly happened in the spring of 2015. Eileidh Paterson captured my heart. In political parlance, I think they call it collateral damage. As of now, I’m now officially in Eileidh’s team.

But the Eileidh connection doesn’t end with a simple statement of intent…

Through a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, I became Amelie’s friend. I like Amelie. We’re cat people which helps. But she’s also Frank Loves Joan through an alter ego and FLJ is a rock star. Hmm… not really. Amelie is a singer/songwriter from Adelaide and back in February, being the cheeky chappie that I am, I asked her if she’d write a wee song for Eileidh. The rest, as they say, is history. Tomorrow, 1st July, Amelie’s second album will be released.

In Adelaide, Australia.

The album is entitled “About A Girl”.

The girl is Eileidh.

Those of you who’ve followed the LCFN story will know the connection I’m sure. Amelie loves Eileidh just as much as I’m sure Eileidh and her family appreciate what Ammie has done for them. Cue mutual love. Words alone cannot do justice to what Amelie has done. And not just Amelie… her partner in crime is Ben, a photographer and record producer of some repute. Excuse my French but what a fucking team they are. I still remember the morning that Amelie messaged me at 6am (our time) to say that Puddles was in the can and that Ben was mixing it right now: like 10,000 miles away. Half an hour later it was in my inbox. A minute after that it was in Gail’s inbox. Gail was all set up and ready to go. She put the song on a collage of Eileidh’s two year fight against neuroblastoma and to date the video’s had 13,000 hits. That’s the power of social media and the genius of Amelie Bottrill/Ben Abercrombie right there. Amelie Bottrill is humanity. And she’s surrounded by people of the same ilk. As Amelie’s reading this, I would love for Jane and I to be in the room full of her mates: I think they’d get on well: same ideals; same outlook on what’s right. It’s gonna happen a couple of years from now: our world tour.

I’ve only heard a couple of the tracks off the album but I know for sure that the world is in for a treat.

Check this out: I love this song. This was the video that Missy Fay shared on Facebook that ultimately led to Ammie and I becoming friends, and the album being about Eileidh. Missy, take a bow (or should that be a courtesy?).

Side one, track two…

Little Feet           https://youtu.be/ID3_Y6-5ZGw

And track three you’ll know by now…

Puddles https://www.facebook.com/eileidhsjourney/#

The rest of the album? I’m waiting, just like you, but I kinda know that I’m gonna love it. The voice, the groove, the sheer ingenuity of it all. And the humanity. Never, ever forget the humanity.

So I suppose now, aged 63, I should be hanging up my cycling helmet and my gloves and thinking to myself “job well done”. And retiring.

Not a chance.

Behind the scenes, things have been happening. The nearer I got to the finish line, the more I came to realise that I didn’t want this to end. Ever.

So I set up a club on Strava to carry on the work that I started. Strava is a running and cycling app on PC’s and Smartphones. But this is the link you need:

https://www.strava.com/clubs/LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma

Here’s the way it works: Strava allows you to track your miles using GPS. What LCFN wants, is for you to join Strava, join the club (neither of those things will cost you a penny… or a cent…) and donate your miles to LCFN (it happens by default as soon as you join). Together, as a worldwide co-operative, we’re trying to ride a million miles to raise awareness about neuroblastoma. It’s that simple. It’s that easy. We just want your commitment and your miles.

Now somewhere down the line, once you realise that you’re in with friends, you might wanna do some local fundraising. That’s what got me started: a penny a mile. Every penny counts. But right now, fundraising is secondary to raising awareness. The new LCFN is going after ONE MILLION miles by recruiting cyclists all over the world to click that Join button and donate their miles. It really is that simple.

Where are we at? Nine riders and 3,000 miles. You’re in at ground zero.

But I can’t leave this blog without an awful lot of thank you’s. There are people who made this possible; people who made it happen.

To Jane, my wife: for allowing me to do it in the first place, and always being there for me.

To Angela and Gordon, Stewarton’s number one fans of LCFN.

To Mouldy, for being Mouldy.

To Tommy Melly, Oscar’s wee pal (see what I did there?)

To Iain McGovern, the most extraordinary fundraiser I’ve ever met, and nicest bloke on the planet to boot.

To Stephen and Leona, for being Oscar’s brave parents.

To Andy Fisher, for being one of Oscar’s team.

To Marc Martin, who I only met briefly after you’d handed us a five nil drubbing: but I know what you did for the wee man.

To Eleanor McLaren, the most inspirational new fundraiser I know.

To Nic Naish, for beating cancer and gaining (further) inspiration by being on this journey.

To Tiff Alkouri and James Ramsey in LA, half of the Fire Tiger band, for being onboard these past twelve months.

To JJ and the crew out in Adelaide: Missy, Jimmy, Tara, Anita, Theonie and Sue. But especially Tara, JJ and Anita: you brought me the rest, and much, much more.

To Paul and Janice in Brisbane: and the cats.

To the Celtic Supporters Club guys in New York: we were there a year ago.

To Jackie Rehn Barreau, for being THE most influential supporter of LCFN on the planet (and you know why).

To Ann and Billy round the corner. Did you ever doubt your brother in law?

To Wullie Broon: the Wullie Broon. The driving force behind what we have coming up.

To Anna and Krys: the guys behind my team from Poland.

To Fabiana, who singlehandedly brought in £1500 of corporate sponsorship.

To Neil at Fast Rider Cycles in Stewarton who kept me on the road.

To Stephen Mullen and Brian McInally from my old work, who threw cash at LCFN like it was going outa business (sic).

To Shell Wright for doing the black n white collage.

To the whole of the Cumbernauld AAC crew from the 1980’s. Just cos.

To lots of people at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Celtic for standing by me.

To the team Solving Kids Cancer for “he’s not actually gonna do this, is he?”

And it seems kind of apt to end on SKC…

When I started out, you guys were the NCCA. Then when Jane I and were in New York last year, we walked in off the street just to say hello: with the flag: and the rest is history…

In the pipeline, LCFN has a (new) sponsor, a (new) website and (new) branded kit.

The future is bright: the future is LCFN… global.

But today is July 1st.

And it’s “About A Girl”.

Eileidh.

 

My Way

Just 86 miles remain between now and next Friday when the subject matter will unequivocally be About A Girl. Day after day after day; week after week after week; month after month after month have brought me to this point, a point in which I hardly dare to believe that it’s almost over. Except it’s not.

Two days ago, the people of England and Wales voted to leave the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. It’s somewhat ironic, therefore, that as an Englishman domiciled in Scotland for the past 39 years, I have voted to remain with LCFN at this time. There will be no LCFNexit. The future of this this project is about inclusion, not exclusion, and the only thing that’s going to happen in the future is that cyclists all over the world, not just in the United Kingdom and Europe, will donate their miles in pursuit of our collective New Gold Dream.

I set the bar at an initial 100,000 miles between the lot of us. That’s too low, way too low. By the time we get more riders onboard, we’ll be through that target in no time. Even people donating 30, 40, 50 miles a week are going to make a difference. The power is firmly with the people.

So, back to the final week…

86 miles, and six days to do it in. There are all sorts of ways of delivering it. A couple of 30’s, a 25 and a 1. There has to be a one. That’s Friday sorted already: and a couple of rest days. But I doubt that’ll happen. I like to be out every day because routine and repetition are the heartbeat of LCFN. The alternative is a bunch of high teens and the special one. That mile will be from our house to Angela and Gordon’s place just up the road. It seems such a long time ago now that I used to send my first few blogs up to Angela for proof reading to make sure I wasn’t offending anyone: these days I just dump my brain and put it out there in the hope that I got the feeling right.

My favourite blog was just two weeks ago: Freewheelin’, a remake of Bob Dylan’s classic album from ’62. Behind that, it was a tale penned on a wild, wet Tuesday afternoon after Mouldy and I got back from Belfast “Words Are Not Enough”. Y’see, no matter how far or how fast I ride my bike, the day I hugged Leona Knox outside the Sick Children’s Hospital in Belfast was a total game changer for me. I’d met Eileidh the day before, but didn’t know it. If Eileidh was the first tiny person that I’d met with neuroblastoma, then Vanessa was my first symbol of hope, whilst Stephen and Leona were (and still are) my first couple of the afterlife. Wee Oscar’s legacy is in everything that has happened since I set out on the morning of August 19th 2013, and the hug that lasted an eternity on that bleak December morning spoke volumes for the woman that Leona is. Our paths keep crossing, even now, and something tells me that this will be no five minute enterprise: More likely a long term effort to find a solution to childhood cancer.

Favourite moments? There have been many. Walking out at Celtic Park with Vanessa; the aforementioned huggle in Belfast, seeing, for the first time, the photo that Gringo took of the wee huglet with Eileidh at the Forres Mechanics football ground; surviving many a storm, including leaving the house at 3am one morning to ride to Glasgow to collect my laptop so that I could work from home that day in order to avoid 70 mile an hour winds: I got to ride in 40mph instead, in the dark, in lashing rain, in January.

Favourite people are almost too many to mention: the hallmark of LCFN has been its diverse following, so instead of naming names, let me give you roles that I know people perform in their day jobs, when they’re not following the bike ride:

I can give you at least two CEO’s, some company directors, a couple of lawyers, no, make that at least three, an outstanding interior designer, an equally outstanding web designer, nay, two…, teachers, nurses, casino dudettes, rock stars, including half of an acclaimed LA band, and solo artists in both New York and Adelaide. Y’all know the Adelaide connection: Puddle love. There’s a radio DJ, two other broadcasters, a couple of professional footballers, some newspaper hacks, both online and web based, some schoolkids, for whom this is important because LCFN is very much My Generation, a fair few IT people, predominantly because that’s my trade, some physios, three at the last count, and football fans from a whole host of clubs. LCFN crosses the divide between rivalries, just as cancer doesn’t discriminate based on what team you support.

And so to the things that make me proud. Without doubt, the thing that I’m most proud of is what LCFN has become. For a long, long time, it was just me, my various bikes, my passion, my energy, and a dream. Now the dream is fast becoming a reality through the ongoing LCFN project on Strava, and some other ventures that I’ll be able to talk about publicly in due course. And then there’s the fact that I didn’t ever give up. I missed just one day in the whole of that first wild winter, banking miles on first a folding bike, then a clapped out old mountain bike. I broke that bike many times over, just as I did with each follow on machine. Five bikes in total, six if you include the couple of days that I had to use Jane’s tourer in an emergency.

Fourteen punctures. Ten crashes, the majority of which were ice related. A hernia, which necessitated six thousand miles of pain before surgery and a further five thousand after.

And at least twenty five cakes: One for each thousand mile stone. And Jane deserves huge credit not just for the milestone cakes, but for every other bit of LifeCycle fuel she’s left about the kitchen these last three years. If an army can’t march on an empty stomach, then it certainly can’t ride on one. Through some careful nutritional research and planning, only once or twice have I hit the wall on the way home (and never on the way into work, despite leaving the house on an empty stomach) and that knowledge, well documented in one or two of the early blogs, will stay with me forever. Little and often, my friends: little and often. It is both the key and the secret.

This time next week, it’ll be the eve of Millport, and the group ride that’s scheduled to bring the curtain down on LCFN phase one. In truth, Millport will kickstart phase two, and it’ll no longer be about how few miles I need on that Sunday, but how many of the new million I can encourage people to put it. 20, 30, 40, 50? Flat and at ten miles a lap, I fancy something at the upper end of that scale, but we’ll see.

As I sign off this, the 141st story in the blog, can I say what a privilege it has been to support so many wee ones. During the time I’ve been on the road, almost three hundred kids in the UK have been diagnosed with high risk stage 4 neuroblastoma and around half of them have lost the battle. For the remainder, just as it is with the bike ride, the fight goes on.

And, as ever, I’m doing it My Way…

And now, the end is near

And so I face the final curtain

My friends, I’ll say it clear

I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a Life Cycle that’s full

I’ve cycled each and every highway

And more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do

and saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course, each careful step, along the byway

And more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew

But through it all, when there was doubt

I ate it up and spat it out

I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried I’ve had my fill, my share of losing

And now, as tears subside, I find it all so bemusing

To think I did all that

And may I say, not in a shy way

Oh, no, oh, no, not me,

I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught

To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.

Yes, Life Cycle was my way.

 

Reflections…

I spent a lot of time thinking today: thinking about how on earth I took on this challenge almost three years ago; thinking about the people I’ve met; thinking about the kids I never got a chance to meet; and right now, thinking about the ones that I did, and who are still fighting to make every day a brand new adventure.

I took on the Glasgow ride today because (a) it kills yer legs within two miles of leaving the house (b) it blows like mad most of the time up on the Fenwick Muir [and today was no exception] (b) I’ve spent about 80% of my time on that blessed road. And for just one last time, I wanted to nail it: I wanted to show it who was boss, who had prevailed, who had overcome. LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma stands on the cusp of defeating the Fenwick Muir. And today was about proving it.

LCFN has prevailed.

People are joining LCFN all the time so forgive me if I’m repeating myself: but I think this is important.

Between the ages of 16 and 36, I didn’t ride a bike at all. Not once. I was a student, a computer programmer, a backgammon player and a runner. But never a cyclist. Interestingly enough, there was a 10K in Kilmarnock, just down the road, last Sunday, and had the LifeCycle Man of the mid 80’s been running in that race, he would have won it. Back in my day, 31 minutes something would have got me a top twenty placing, and I was always happy with that: I knew that my place was never at the top table of Scottish athletics: the good guys were running 28’s, 29’s and 30. How times, and lifestyles, have changed.

I was never fast, as in fast, but I could always go for a long time. If I may take a wee aside here for a moment, ten years ago, I coached a lovely young lady ahead of the Glasgow 10K, the big one they do in September. Together, we got 15 minutes off her PB: and we’ve been friends ever since. I haven’t seen her in ages and ages but that doesn’t matter. Last weekend, she took on the Caledonian Challenge which is a near 50 mile walk starting at the southern end of the Great Glen Way north of Fort William, and finishing at Tyndrum on the West Highland Way. Basically, it’s got ten flat miles of the GGW  bolted onto the best (interesting and challenging) bits of the WHW. Sophia finished it, having walked through the day and the night, and in her Facebook book post the next day, there was a hint of never again. I stamped on it. Trampled all over it. Next year, Sophia and I will walk that walk together, and reminisce how we came to know each other all those years ago: it was a chance meeting because of her perseverance. And she’s got ten years’ worth of living in Luxembourg and London before finally arriving back in Glasgow to tell me about.

So back to today. There was no holding back. Yesterday I pummelled my wee legs on as a flat a route as I could find heading out west towards Kilwinning and Irvine before paying the price into the wind coming home. Today I took the hills and the wind at the start and just hung on for dear life until I turned for home in Glasgow. You kind of need to know how horrible that road is at 6am on a dark, cold and wet winter’s morning to fully appreciate why I did that today. It was payback for all the bad times. And for all the times that the Fenwick Muir was a pig in the mornings, it was always ten times worse coming home at night: nearly always into a howling south westerly prevailing wind. I thought long and hard today about the times that I headed back over that Muir into driving wind and rain, in the pitch black, with just wee Oscar’s light to guide the way. 6mph was flat out on occasions, such was the ferocity of the weather.

But LCFN prevailed.

I want you to think about how tired you feel at the end of a working day: that’s mega important in relation to what’s coming, because with the exception of about ten excursion days, the remaining 590 LCFN days have been full on working days…

  • 40 days between 29 and 29 miles
  • 188 days between 30 and 39 miles
  • 256 days between 40 and 49 miles
  • 70 days between 50 and 59 miles
  • 21 days between 60 and 69 miles
  • And 7 days more than that.

Let that sink in for a minute. Bloke, aged 60, just got a bus pass, decides to take on the full force of nature, and the Fenwick Muir, for kids with cancer. And wins.

LCFN has prevailed.

And then there’s Puddles. People of a certain age will remember The Rise And Fall Of Reginald Perrin on council telly. Old Reggie used to have a catchphrase that he always managed to utter in vicinity of his boss, CJ, in every episode: “I didn’t get where I am today…” Well sitting where I am today, with calf muscles about the same size as my Ross, who’s the reigning Caledonian nae dodgy stuff bodybuilding champion, and thighs like tree trunks, I can truthfully say that “I didn’t get where I am today without kids like Vanessa and Oscar and Mackenzie and Alfie and Anya and Zakky and Kian and Luke. And Eileidh. The list is endless. One every three and a bit days: and counting.

LCFN prevails for the kids.

Tonight, there are only 182 miles left. The grand total is sitting on 24,818 and I’ve never been more motivated.

Talking of motivation, LCFN is about raising awareness about neuroblastoma, and nowhere is that more pertinent than in the blog. I started (three months late) because Wullie Broon told me to.

And because I like numbers, here’s LCFN StatsRUs: the on the road story of the journey…

In the first six months of 2014, the blog had 1,421 hits.

In the first six months of 2015, it had 1,810 hits

So far this year, and June isn’t finished yet, it has had 1,883 hits.

Awareness is winning: LCFN has prevailed.

And so to the future…

I’m going to bang the 25,000th mile on the head on the 1st July to coincide with the release of Amelie’s second CD “About A Girl” (that’s Eileidh by the way). I just wish we could get Messenger to do voice calls properly cos we could really do with saying “G’day” that day.

And you might be thinking that with only 182 miles to go and two weeks to do it in, I’m going to overshoot. No chance: I’m in Liverpool for most of next week., A rest is on the cards. We’ve a team day out at Chester Races next Friday and I can tell you right now that any nag who’s name even slightly resembles Vanessa, Oscar, Mackenzie, Alfie, Anya, Zakky, Kian, Luke or Eileidh is getting money invested on it. Or Puddles of course. Losses don’t count but all winnings will go to LCFN.

And so to Strava…

The LCFN club on Strava has gained another member and is up to 9. It might not sound like much but believe me, these are early days.

I set the first target at 100,000 miles but the team’s already through 2,000 and counting. Want to join? It’s easy: sign up for Strava, join the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma club then get on yer bike. And record the miles, of course.

And before I finish this week, a wee bit of news on perhaps the most exciting development since August 2013: LCFN is working on branded cycling shirts that will definitely stand out from the crowd. We have supporters worldwide and it’s only right that they should have the opportunity to wear the shirt with pride. I’m expecting a massive reaction when our guys go out on the road.

LCFN has grown organically. I was the old guy with a folding bike and a bus pass three years ago, but inspired by a collection of warriors, we are where we are.

LCFN has prevailed.

And it’s about to take off for the next generation of kids who’ve yet to be diagnosed.

I’m going nowhere. We’re going nowhere. Except on our bikes.

As I said to one of Princess Puddles’s supporters today: we ain’t doing bad for a scratch squad of helpers.

LCFN has prevailed…