LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma

 

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

https://heroix.everydayhero.com.au/event/NeuroblastomaAustraliaDonate/donate

to support laboratory research, or

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma

to support clinical research into the disease.

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…

JANUARY 2018

#IceIceBaby

In The Bleak Midwinter

Out Of The Traps

DECEMBER 2017

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall – LCFN 2017

The Great British Bike Off

Seven Up

Ticket To Ride

Goldielocked

NOVEMBER 2017

The Chain

Change Is Gonna Come

Destiny’s Child

Oi Mush!!!

OCTOBER 2017

A Change Is As Good As A Rest. Not…

Goldielooks And The Three Bears

Ultrasonic

King Puddles

SEPTEMBER 2017

Every Day’s A School Day

I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Stewarton Wednesday

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

Going For Gold

AUGUST 2017

We Are All Tommy Melly

Made My Bed

Could Do Better

JULY 2017

The Mirror Man

Imagine

Eileidh’s Legacy

Relight My Fire

#ForeverFive

Puddles Of Tears

JUNE 2017

The Lord’s My Shepherd

El n Hazz’s Big Bash

Two Weddings And A Funeral

The Longest Day

The Show Must Go On

MAY 2017

The Big Cup

Shock And Awe

The Road To Lisbon

Empty The Tank. Refuel. Repeat.

APRIL 2017

War Of Attrition

Eileidh’s Army

Spoke Too Soon

Clogging It

The Dirty Dozen

MARCH 2017

Eight Days A Week

Everest

Don’t Look Back In Anger

Eil’ Drink To That

Down Under

FEBRUARY 2017

Ode To Joy (Puddles Remix)

We Shall Overcome

After The Lord Mayor’s Show

The Bucket List

#ChooseLife

JANUARY 2017

When Tomorrow Comes

The Journey Fae Hell

It’s Now Or Never

The Next Time

DECEMBER 2016

Why

TCNGC17

If It Disney Work, Just Keep Trying…

A Stroke Of Luck

The 2016 LCFN Awards

NOVEMBER 2016

Wum Story

Frozen Puddles

Got My Mojo Workin’

The Italian Job

Flagless And Fancy Free

OCTOBER 2016

United In Adversity

Baby Dennis

How Long’s A Piece Of String?

Quad Bike

SEPTEMBER 2016

The Hardest Words

Living Puddlian

Beautiful, Beautiful Eileidh

113 and a miss

Goldfinger

AUGUST 2016

Frazzled

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

#IceIceBaby

I’m either focussed, or obsessed, or mix of the two: but at the end of the day I absolutely hate to let anyone down. Ever. I’ve been wracking my brains all week and with my hand on a golden heart, I can’t remember a week anything like this one.

I looked back in the archive and a year ago I was sat on a train in Preston station for two and a half hours going absolutely nowhere: the line was blocked an hour up the road. I’d been in Liverpool with my work and coupled with an icefest at the beginning of the week, it turned out to be seven days that registered just 42 miles on the Rickshaw Scale.

January ’17 registered just 485 in total: and February was worse at just 389.

Let me go off at a tangent for a minute: see the big freeze of 1963? It didn’t kick in until this very week and I remember my old man, who was something of a Villain, telling me that they’d been top six at Christmas before the wheels came off after the freeze. They played just TWO league games between Hogmanay and the 9th March and won just three of the next nineteen games after football resumed. If they hadn’t beaten Leicester and Liverpool in May, they’d have gone down. Shame…

I don’t know how January 2018 is shaping up in your neck of the woods (although my Aussie friends are telling me it’s currently 41C in Adelaide) but see at LCFN HQ, we’ve not managed 3C yet. Every day has been a repeat of the day before: baltic mercury, three layers of everything (including gloves and socks) and still it’s cold. See the people who design all this fancy bikeware that’s supposed to withstand the elements: they should come and spend three hours on LCFN in the middle of winter: it’s not a physical challenge, it’s never a physical challenge..

It’s a mental challenge: it’s like how many days in a row can you resist being smashed in the face by hail, sleet and show for three hours. Today I copped a hailstone right on my eyeball: it slipped by my glasses and whacked me a right sore one. For two hundred yards, I was struggling to see a thing as I hammered down this slush filled, single track country road.

It’s the nature of the beast.

Monday seems so long ago, I’ve almost forgotten how it was: I went to Ardrossan via a detour round the back of Kilwinning, I remember that bit: I just don’t remember when and where I got soaked. But I do remember having looked at the forecast for the week and thinking “shit, I need to get this week done early doors”. Do you know that phrase “you only had one job”? Well it fits this week to a tee…

Y’see I have this craving to smash 2017 to smithereens: I so wanted to bag 10,000 miles last year, I set my heart on it for Puddles, and it was taken from me by the weather. So I came into this year with a sense of never again: put the work in early, and keep the foot on the gas for as long as possible. That’s how momentum is gained…

And this shit weather just adds to the mix: I know that these freezing temperatures cannae go on forever, even if they did only kick in that week when I was just ten years old. I’m working on the assumption that every day that I can kick sand in the face of winter is a day nearer to when I can throws away the winter jacket (that’s full of holes from the times that I kept falling off on black ice in days gone by): the holes are held together by duct tape on the inside.

I missed 10K miles last year by just 469. Nineteen days into 2018, LCFN is just 102 miles behind the combined total for both January and February last year. Take the hit from the weather; take the pain; take the cold, even if it does take another three hours to get the feeling fully back into your feet after you climb off the bike. Draw strength from the fact that as you go to bed, knowing that tomorrow is gonna be Groundhog Day again, you know, you just know, that three hours survived today tells you that you can go through it all again tomorrow. It’s like your whole life’s on repeat. The shoes are on the radiator, drying out; the overshoes are on another radiator, drying out; all the gloves (three pairs) are on yet another radiator, drying out. And all of today’s kit’s in the tumble dryer ready for tomorrow…

The mentality is straightforward enough: never, ever allow yourself to be defeated by the weather: plan against it, plan around it, plan the route so you get blown home by it. Just never let the weather defeat you at this time of year. These are my days: these days are the closest that I will ever come to feeling the pain of wanting this to be over, knowing deep down that it probably never will be.

I went up to the shop tonight to buy blog beer. We had around three inches of snow late afternoon then the motors turned it to hard packed slush. By six o’clock, you couldn’t get into or out of the town: all roads were blocked by stricken vehicles. And tonight the mercury’s to plummet. So there will be no bike ride from LCFN HQ tomorrow: rutted ice is a recipe for disaster and broken bones…

Instead, the mountain bike will be getting loaded into the back of the big motor and taken off to the coast. I’m actually wondering if the Largs ferry to Millport will be running. I need somewhere flat, that’s been gritted, that will allow me to bag another thirty. Three laps of Cumbrae’ll deliver that. Of course getting to Largs will be no mean feat in itself. Maybe I should just dump the motor at what used to be the Magnum in Irvine and leg it down to Prestwick Airport and back. Chuck in a wee detour round the golf course at Troon and it’ll be job done.

There’s another reason that all of these 30 milers matter: 98 two hundred mile weeks. I’m sitting here tonight, surrounded by snow and black ice, twenty five miles short of a 99th. In the history of LCFN, there has never been a double hundred to rival this one. Smashed in the face by hail, sleet and snow four days in a row: favourite routes off limits (through attempted experience) because they’re just too downright dangerous. Potholes everywhere (and there’s nothing quite as dangerous as a pothole filled with water or snow). Black road today, pothole tomorrow is pretty much the way it goes: you get helluva used to looking for chucky stones scattered all over the road… danger!

And the backdrop to all of this intense difficulty is that next Thursday, it’s wee Layla’s funeral. I’m gonna go. I followed her journey, even though I was still struggling to come to terms with Puddles’ angel wings, but Layla’s mum has followed the bike ride so it’s absolutely the right thing to do. I might take the Gold bike and make sure it’s locked securely: it is after all the bond that ties all of these sad events together. Louise, Layla’s mum, has asked for lots of colour: a celebration of her wee daughter’s short life. I have plenty of colour: out on the road, my life depends on it: be seen or be wiped out is very much the way it is.

Which brings me finally to the summer, and to Australia: I need to get custom kit sorted: LCFN in Australian gold livery bearing the logo of Neuroblastoma Australia. There are no sponsors of LCFN: never have been and probably never will be. I fund everything: even this blog is close on a hundred quid a year. Too many players in too small a market, and in any case I’ve never been a marketing guy. I’m a doer, a techie, a worker ant amongst the millions of other branded ants.

Sometimes I kid myself on that this will get easier, but it never does. And this week has been extra, extra difficult: four consecutive days of hail, sleet and snow…

#IceIceBaby

In The Bleak Midwinter

There was some dross on the telly the other night where people who’d been married for donkeys years were renewing their vows in cringweworthy fashion, reading off cue cards on live TV. Truly, truly awful television.

Well in contrast, I’ve just spent forty eight hours renewing my vows to the bike ride, and on occasions like this, the best place to start is the beginning. Are you sitting comfortably?

I was invited to Lindsay Gunn’s surprise 30th bash on Friday night, in the town, in the Merchant City, and it gave me the chance to catch up once again with my good friend Snuffs, who I haven’t seen for far too long, and the immortal Iain McGovern and his good lady Jack, who these days is his his fiancé. They all have history: Snuffs created the LCFN collage of images, borrowed from the Facebook group, as a surprise present late in 2015. I will forever treasure that work.

Then I got the full chapter and verse of Iain and Jack’s Hogmanay night out overlooking the river and the fireworks, and the ring in Iain’s pocket episode. I particularly loved the “what if she says no” deal back at the ring shop. I don’t think it was ever in doubt mind. See Iain McGovern: if ever you have the need, or indeed the opportunity to recharge your batteries for a good cause, there is no better reboot process than time spent in Iain McGovern’s company. I first met Iain when I ambushed his solo charity walk from Celtic Park to Anfield for The Celtic Foundation in May 2014. Then, through Mouldy, Iain fixed up the support driver for our Cycling Santas day in Belfast in December ’14 before taking time off his own work to drive the support vehicle (our motor) for Eileidh’s bike ride to Celtic Park the following May. Time spent in Iain’s company is good for the soul.

So that was Friday night taken care of, albeit that the rustiness of the old body made yesterday’s LCFN outing a little more challenging than it might otherwise have been. I should have gone out earlier than I did but some software technical issues with my work (yes, I know it was Saturday, but the job comes first) meant that I didn’t get out of the door till nearly two o’clock, and by then the rain was on. 1C and miserable as sin. But as the Nike advert says “Just Do It”.

So last night Jane and I were back out again, this time in the company of some of the Team Oscar guys and it was just a total reboot of my desire to drive this thing to the max.

Then this morning happened.

I woke to the desperately sad news that wee Layla, a three year old tot from Renfrew near Glasgow, gained her angel wings late last night. I had followed her story from afar, but having been so attached to Eileidh’s Journey for so long, I felt unable to attach to another cause so soon. But it doesn’t ease the pain for anyone: another precious child lost to neuroblastoma, another family devastated by the disease. And as it was with Eileidh, it was the speed of Layla’s passing that struck me the most: Gail commented overnight that the situation was almost identical to Eileidh’s decline at the end. So sad. So, so sad. So today, despite having got to bed at 3am, and despite the wind blowing an absolute hoolie at 4C, I decided that the bike ride needed a right good kick up the arse, and there’s no better place to deliver that than the Fenwick Muir.

I’d to go and pick the motor up after last night. It was parked about seven miles away in Andy Fisher’s drive, but I thought it would be opportune to head from Stewarton to Andy’s gaff by going via Newton Mearns, the Eaglesham Moor and the back of Dunlop. That detour, most of it seemingly into an intolerable biting headwind, added nearly thirty miles onto what should otherwise have been a stroll in the park. Then throw 2,800ft of climbing into the mix. That was one nasty, nasty outing: but the job is done, the miles delivered and the spirit is intact. The first two weeks of January have delivered five hundred miles (and I would ride five hundred more), way way more than any comparative period in the previous four years. Actually five hundred’s a fib: it’s only 496.9 but my legs are claiming the other 3.1 so that’s near enough for me.

You might remember that last week I introduced some new metrics for 2018 to help me keep a focus:

Percentage of days elapsed v percentage of miles towards 10,000 v percentage of climbing towards 500,000ft. The climbing’s in there for one reason: to stop me chasing flat miles at speed. Two weeks in, and the numbers are good:

D: 3.83 v M: 4.97 v C: 5.12

That climbing stat is especially pleasing: 25,000ft in a fortnight when the mercury has barely risen above 2C. Climbing may be hard but descending is absolutely freezing in those conditions. It’s almost three hours since I got off the bike today, and still I’m chilled to the bone, fingers and toes just plain cold, despite the heating being on.

In other news, the Aussie flights are booked, which basically means we now have dates for the bike ride across Australia. The Gold bike will leave the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane on 24th August. The interim target is to be in Sydney, six hundred miles down the road, eight days later: do the maths, it’s 75 a day. That’s the warmup act. The second half will kick off from Sydney on 2nd September, dangling a challenging one thousand further miles to be knocked off before the show arrives in Adelaide on or around the 13th. The asking rate for the second half is up nearer 90 a day which even I know will be a bit of a task: it’s actually one of the reasons I’m keeping my foot hard on the gas just now: endurance, both physical and mental, built up in a Scottish winter, will be worth its weight in gold come the Aussie equivalent in seven months time.

Staying on the Aussie theme, Jimmy Harrington is planning on heading over to Europe in the autumn, and I sincerely hope that Jimbo will be able to find a couple of days to spend north of the border at LCFN HQ. Gonna take him on the Glasgow Central Station tour if it comes off: we’ve never actually done it but people I’ve spoken to say it’s the best tourist attraction in the city.

But finally, this week, back to what this has been about for the last four and a half years. David Begg, he of the ‘greatest football commentator of all time’ tag, asked me about eighteen months ago whether I was going for a second circumnavigation of the earth, having originally set my stall out to try and achieve one. Well yesterday, I was finally able to appraise the great man that I had crossed the rubicon: LCFN is now nearer to 50,000 miles than it is to the original target of 25K.

On top of that, this week has confirmed 98 double hundred weeks and all sorts of things are now on my mind, a thousand miles in January for a start (last January only delivered 458). The weather this coming week is looking horrendous, with snow forecast for Tuesday followed by plummeting temperatures which inevitably means rutted ice everywhere. It would be lovely to carry on bagging the mega miles but needs must where safety is concerned. The most miles in January sits at 960, which happened back in 2016 towards the end of that epic 36 week run of double hundreds before I crashed on black ice and wrecked my thumb. Whatever I can pillage from the next seven days will at least set up the opportunity to attack that total in the following week. Show me a challenge and I’ll show you LCFN.

The weather’s been rubbish, the weather continues to be rubbish and no doubt the weather will be rubbish for weeks to come.

In the bleak midwinter… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0aL9rKJPr4

 

Out Of The Traps

New year is good. Apart from all the rubbish weather, which five years down the road I’ve learned you can use to renew your mental strength, it gives you an opportunity to set goals that hopefully will keep you on the straight and narrow in the months ahead.

Five years ago, of course, I hadn’t a clue what was possible and to that extent I kind of made it all up as I went along. The very first objective was 20,000 miles by March ’18 but that soon went up to 25,000 once my legs got the hang of what we were up to. You can tell I’ve been a project manager half my working life: I was (literally) miles out with that estimate. It’s gonna be 39K plus.

Anyway, back to the new year. I’ve come close, but never managed it, to bag 10,000 miles in a calendar year. So that’s number one on the bucket list. Number two is another new, ultra challenging goal: half a million feet of climbing. That’s equivalent to doing Ben Nevis 113 times between now and Hogmanay. As a challenge, it comes free of charge as long as the routes that deliver the miles are sufficiently testing. So flat is bad…

With those goals set in stone, you’ll start to see a new set of metrics appearing on the LCFN Facebook page: percentages versus target. Each day counts for 0.274% of the year (1/365) so whatever that number is, the other two numbers have to match it, or be higher, to remain on target. At the end of the day, the challenge is to get both the mileage metric and the climbing metric to 100 before the days get there.

Five days in, both the miles (1.77) and the climbing (1.58) are ahead of the calendar (1.37). The Wacky Races are off and running….

I tell you what though, the weather at this time of the year can make you or break you. When I was cycle commuting to work in Glasgow, the gig was 20 miles every twelve hours, Monday to Friday, with weekends off. That morphed into 20 to 25 once a day after I started working from home. But looking back, those mornings and nights spent on the Fenwick Muir were worth their weight in gold. When you’ve resisted the worst that the elements can throw at you, you can adapt to pretty much anything. We’ve had two named storms in the last seven days, Dylan and Eleanor, and between them they’d dumped a payload of strong winds and heavy, heavy rain on Western Scotland: but over those same seven days, LCFN has turned in 223 miles: winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Now, before we leave metrics for this week, I said last May that I wanted to crack a hundred 200 mile weeks in the week of my pension, which is coming up in March. When I said it (Shock And Awe blog) it was my intention to try and deliver the century in the actual week of my birthday. I was on 73 at the time, so the asking rate was 27 from 42, with most of those coming in the winter or course. I knew when I said it that it was going to be a tall order, not least because I hadn’t delivered a single double hundred in the previous ten weeks: it wasn’t just a physical challenge, it was more the mental side that presented all the difficulty.

Well I’ll let you into a secret: when I get back from tomorrow’s adventure, I’ll be up to 97. For 27 from 42 required, read 24 out of 33 actual. I’ve said it before: show me a challenge, and I’ll show you LCFN.

The whole point of doing this is because it’s difficult. It’s nowhere near as difficult as a five year old battling cancer, but in terms of being there, every day, thinking about it 24×7, being tired a lot of the time, it’s as good as I can make it. I sincerely hope I’m not being flippant in equating the journeys, but on the off chance that you think I am, then please accept my invitation to put yourself out there at the mercy of the elements for three hours every day, in temperatures hovering just above freezing, when you’re soaked through to the skin. I get my inner strength from seeing how the kids just refuse to give up: even on the darkest of days, they still manage to smile. That’s my thing for 2018: no matter how bad it gets, look for the positives, look how far you’ve come, and smile.

I mentioned on the LCFN Facebook page yesterday that you (only) get about half a dozen days a year when you get to truly test yourself, and they are never about the physical stuff. Yesterday was 1C with heavy rain all the way round the country lanes of Ayrshire. Light winds were a saviour but the real problem with heavy rain is water filled potholes. When you’re flying along at 20mph and you happen upon 30m of floodwater, you’ve no way of knowing where the potholes are. Believe me, it’s a serious, serious issue on some of those backroads. Riding them in the dry and sensing where the problems lie is one thing, but the tarmac breaks up in an instant at this time of year and the councils just don’t have the money to effect a proper repair: a patch this week will a hole again this time next week.

There’s a load of stuff going on behind the scenes right now about the LCFN bike ride across Australia. No, we haven’t booked the flights yet, but we pretty much know what we’re doing. The bike ride will start at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane on either the 24th or the 25th of August. LCFN will be in Sydney on September 1st in the hope that the Opera House will once again go gold. The whole trip is scheduled around being in Sydney on 1st September. If you’re reading this and you live in Australia, then please consider jumping on a plane and joining us on that special day: the Gold bike, on a Golden adventure that will have been along the Gold Coast (on day two) working for kids everywhere battling cancer.

Brisbane to Sydney is around 600 miles. We’re reckoning on seven days, maybe eight.

Sydney to Adelaide is 900 miles. We’re reckoning on ten, maybe eleven days.

A picnic? I don’t think so. 80 to 90 miles a day is the schedule: make up a few miles here, lose a few miles there. But you know the story: be there at the end, no matter what it takes…

One of the challenges in going to Oz will be getting the Gold bike there: I’ve approached a few airlines in the hope of getting it onboard a plane as a charitable extra piece of cargo but y’know what they say: nothing personal, but business is business. So the bike, weighing in at 21kg inside a protective bike bag, leaves me with 14kg for everything else. Cue the scene at airport security: “excuse me, madam, did you pack this case yourself”? “Yes, and these are my husband’s trousers…”. Basically, the only stuff I’ll need when Jane heads for home is cycling kit, joggies and a pair of trainers.

The Gold bike continues to be fantastic. These last two days, with lashing rain, loads of shit and spray on the roads, with loose stones everywhere from broken tarmac and potholes, have been the real proving ground for the Rohloff Speedhub. Those are exactly the conditions that wrecked the drive chain on my previous derailleur configured road bikes, but the Rohloff just keeps on Rohling along. Yes, it was expensive upfront, but that piece of kit is gonna pay for itself big time in the long run. I know I’ve said it before but I’m gonna say it again: I love that Rohloff Speedhub to bits: I don’t care that the bike weighs 4lb more than my old one. It works the same in shitty conditions as it does on dry sunny days, and that, my friends, is what you call a result. See the next time you buy a new bike: save up just a wee bit longer and get yersel’ a Rohloff. You won’t regret it, believe me.

And so, finally, back to where it all started: the numbers. Week one of 2017 served up 158 miles, and I remember being distinctly chuffed on New Year’s Day when I clocked 28 because it was an upgrade on the stuff I’d been delivering in the back end of ’16. There hasn’t been a single day anywhere near 28 this week: they’ve all be 30+. That’s not just a physical difference: that’s a mental difference. That’s a sea change in attitude from twelve months ago.

It’s a mental thing: work hard and smile at the end of it (said the man who got off the bike four hours ago and still hasn’t defrosted yet).

2018 is well and truly out of the traps and round the first corner ahead of the game.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall – LCFN 2017

Was it a premonition that stopped me writing this final blog of 2017 on Friday night? Or was it the fact that there was still a whole stack of drama still to unfold, that not only took this LCFN year right to the wire, but ultimately left it remembering its hero.

This is the story of 2017, but before we look back, it’s worth noting how this final week unfolded. But in order to do this bit of the story justice, we need to wind the clock back thirteen days to Monday Dec 18th. It was at five o’clock on that Monday afternoon that I got a text from Neil at Fast Rider Cycles, to say that the Gold bike was good to go again. The total mileage for the year at that point sat at 9,071, LCFN having just lost seventeen of the previous twenty six days to a combination of mechanical issues and ice.

Not only was the dream of the first 10,000 mile calendar year out of the window, second prize, in terms of bagging the most miles in an LCFN year, was also slipping away at a rate of knots. I needed to beat 9,525: 35 miles a day average for thirteen days, including Christmas Day. Show me a challenge and I’ll show you LCFN…

In my old age, I’ve adopted an unwritten rule that I won’t ride on ice because of the inherent risks. But I’ve had to kick that self imposed constraint into the long grass on a few occasions these last two weeks because of an idea that I had when I set out on the Gold bike on the 19th: what if I could match that 2014 total, then add five miles to it? As I set out on that Tuesday, I just felt re-energised: the Gold bike, which Eileidh Bear sat on before I did, and an objective in the most depressing, miserable depths of mid-winter that could ultimately lead to a lasting memory of Puddles’ short life.

But first let’s turn the clock back to some of my personal highlights: the wee things that got me through, and other moments that will stay with me forever.

From January, and the blog The Next Time

There was a slight hint from moi on the LCFN Facebook page yesterday of being a bit down. I’ll let you into a secret: I was, and JJ spotted it. A few minutes later, I got a nice message from the other side of the world asking me if I was okay. Thank you, Julian. At the end of the day, I am only human, and almost sixty four to boot. On days like yesterday, I feel it. But JJ’s message cheered me up no end, and was possibly the difference between me not going out at all (a sore leg and cold rain is a demoralising combo) and heading out the door at 8:30pm in unlit black fog.

The very next week, in It’s Now Or Never, this appeared:

My wee friend Tara, who co-ordinates the foodbanks across the north east of Glasgow, posted an image of a bloke pulling another bloke out of a hole with a snappy caption. Simple but right to the point:

“Helping one person might not change the world but it could change the world for one person”.

That’s what I was missing. I needed that line to join the stuff that’s been happening on the road to the stuff that’s been happening in Puddles’ world two hundred miles away. So let me rephrase Tara’s wee slogan:

“Helping Puddles might not change the world for all kids battling cancer but it could change the world for Puddles”.

And the final blog of January, When Tomorrow Comes, carried this line that continued to bind LCFN and Eileidh’s Journey together:

Tough weeks come, and tough weeks go, and as every tough week is cast aside onto the scrapheap of failed failures, the next trip out the door becomes the most important. Ever.

It’s taken 745 LCFN cycling days to get to this point. And every one of them has been as important as any of the 995 days since wee Princess Puddles was diagnosed. Next Wednesday, February 1s,t will be Eileidh’s 1000th day of fighting the disease. We’re both still hanging in there.

For the Princess, and for me, every single day is a bonus.

At the start of February, Jane and I went to see Trainspotting 2 and that prompted this outburst of hashtags in the blog Choose Life:

#ChooseProgrammingAt6am

#ChooseProgrammingInWaitingRooms

#ChooseProgrammingOnTrains

#ChooseProgrammingInAMedicalPractice

Little did I know back then that I would have my own virtual medical practice before the end of the year. And so to the end of February and this week gem from We Shall Overcome:

“Eileidh, you look like the bravest little girl in the world to me. I live in Italy, a place that, just in case you didn’t know, looks like a boot. It’s a beautiful place and it’s surrounded by the sea side. Well, I’m quite distant from where you are now but I’m still quite sure you are getting all the love I’m sending you. I check to see how you are doing everyday. A big bacio from Italy”.

And in that same week, as if we needed any additional proof that LCFN had become an international gig, the flag was in Fiji.

In March, JJ kicked off this story…

Eileidh’s following is international, and she has a small, loyal band of supporters in South Australia, led admirably by JJ. I’ve known Julian for most of the time that I’ve been doing LCFN, and we even caught up briefly at the back end of last year when he was over for a couple of weeks. JJ hosts a weekly show on Radio KSA in Adelaide and for over two years, he’s been punting LCFN on the airwaves.

Anyway, JJ took it upon himself to reach out to Neuroblastoma Australia, the Strayan equivalent of Solving Kids Cancer (which is a joint venture between the USA and the UK). A couple of emails went backwards and forwards before this week, one headed my way: Would I be interested in going out to Australia to do a bike ride to help promote Neuroblastoma Australia?

I said yes.

And that, of course, will be the focus of next year…

One of the key features of this LCFN year has been the fuel tank. As I’ve pushed longer in search of miles, so the fuel tank has become a pivotal feature of the bike ride. Mine holds 1825 calories or thereabouts. And one of the things that’s been interesting, experimental and educational is finding how far I can push it before the tank runs dry: today, tomorrow and maybe the day after: it becomes a cumulative thing if you’re not careful. Eighteen hundred calories at six hundred an hour (my bike burn rate) is three hours. If I time it right and scoff beforehand, then maybe I can stretch that to four. But it’s always borderline and I know it. Coming home on fumes has been a feature of the back end of the year.

The middle of the year was both inspirational and a sledgehammer. Our mam died the day after election day, then three weeks later, on July 1st, Eileidh passed away. If you’re reading this on Hogmanay, then please spare a thought for Gail’s family tomorrow. And if you’re reading it after the bells, then stop and feel for them also. The first of any month is difficult for the family: the first of the new year especially so.

But Eileidh’s passing galvanised LCFN. For a while I couldn’t find the motivation to push hard anymore, but by the end of July, after we’d been away for a short break, I went back to basics and set my stall out to celebrate the back end of the year in Eileidh’s memory. Little did I know that a week of five mile routes round Stewarton in the first week of July would be mirrored in the final stat of the year.

The numbers have been good: 29 two hundred mile weeks. The Go Gold month of September returned 1,353 miles, easily the most in a month since this gig began. Cue the I’m Not Like Everybody Else blog at the end of the second week:

Right now, I can say with some degree of certainty that I will never forget this month. September 2017 will shine forevermore as the month when I was on it. And like never before. Missing out on the first merely lit the fuse.

That fuse lit the bonfire under four consecutive three hundred mile weeks. If being away with my work on the first of the month was milking a rest, then averaging 46 a day for the remaining 29 days, on top of a full working week, was the cream.

But the Gold bike is the (permanent) feature that I will remember most from this year. It was a long time in the planning and our mam’s hard life, both as a teenager in the war years and latterly as a widow of 45 years, lives on through the Gold bike: the pennies that were left in her estate for her errant son were re-invested in the symbol of kids’ cancer awareness. There are very, very few gold bikes on the road: but this journey has one.

And so, finally this year, back to this week, and ultimately back to today. Storm Dylan dropped its payload through the early hours, and as a result, on safety grounds as much as anything else, the last run of the year was delayed until the wind had died down. It was certainly one of the coldest, wettest outings of the year. But if five LCFN winters teaches you one thing, it teaches you this: you can get through this: there’s always a way of getting through this…

I needed ten miles today to knock 2014 off top spot: my mind was made up before I even left the house: with the rain sheeting down, the wind howling and 2C registering on the mercury, just ride 7.5 miles then turn for home.

But why fifteen miles instead of ten, I hear you ask…

Because Eileidh will be #ForeverFive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great British Bike Off

If I’ve said it once, then I’ve said it a dozen times: you get an awful lot of time to think on the LCFN bike. Occasionally, those thoughts are negative and you have to flatten them before they flatten you. But for the most part, the LCFN thought process is nothing but positive, and in the main, the shittier the weather, the stronger I manage to respond.

This week has been a long time coming…

It’s Christmas and I’ve been thinking on and off all week about Eileidh Paterson and Bradley Lowery. Those are two households that should have been entertaining hyper kids at 3am on Christmas morning, ripping open presents from the main man, then piling into their parents’ bed to show off Santa’s wares. In truth I’ve thought about Gail and her family a lot of late because I know them. Gemma I met at the Solving Kids Cancer conference six weeks ago and I was completely taken by her passion to see an end to this eternal pain in other families.

That passion was evident for all to see last Sunday night at the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year awards. There had been a suggestion some weeks ago that we could all vote for Jermaine Defoe, and as he was a 20-1 outsider at the time, it represented a great opportunity to rob Peter to pay Paul and get the bookies to fund neuroblastoma research. But alas, the establishment channel saw fit to ignore Jermaine’s candidacy. But fear not for the wee man was up for the Helen Rollason award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity. To be honest, any one of a hundred kids who succumbed to cancer in 2017 could have been nominated, but Bradley was without doubt the figurehead, the warrior’s warrior. And that is all down to his connection with Jermaine Defoe.

I don’t even know whether BT have a version of iPlayer but if you are ever able to seek it out, I highly recommend that you watch Jermaine Defoe on the Claire Balding Show that was broadcast on 14th December. It kicked off by demonstrating what a really grounded sort of a guy Defoe is, even touching on the time he stopped his motor when he was playing with Tottenham, to play football with a bunch of kicks kicking a ball about in the street. One of those kids, it later turned out, was Harry Kane.

Anyway, I digress: Jermaine Defoe did more to raise awareness of neuroblastoma in 2017 than any sports personality in this country, ever. Bradley Lowery was Jermaine’s erstwhile Roker boy, his radium of light. If Jermaine was barred from winning it, then Bradley was my SPOTY.

And so to other stuff….

Regular readers will know that the gig has been plagued by ice and mechanical problems for a month. I won’t ride on black ice anymore. I’ve had enough offs to last me a lifetime and whereas in the old days of being employed I got sick pay, working for myself I get none. I simply cannae afford a broken arm (or worse). My rule of thumb is simple: go outside into the street and have a wander about: if there’s any chance of ending up on my arse, then then bike stays in the shed. I don’t actually care whether the main roads have or haven’t been gritted: my roads are not the main roads: my roads are wee country lanes with rivers running across from one field to the next. Arrive at one of those, frozen and you’re off in an instant. Been there, done it, read the book, got the video (it’s on YouTube) and I don’t need that anymore.

The problems with the bike(s) have been well documented, but if I may do a bike off for our new viewers, the Golden bike that’s going to see LCFN through to the end has been off the road for a month courtesy of a gearbox issue. “Gearbox” I hear you say. Yeah, it’s a road bike and it’s got a gearbox. Neil, who sorts all things mechanical for me, spent much of the first half of the year egging me on to get hub gears (because I was spending a small fortune on derailleur components) but it wasn’t until our mam died that I took the plunge. I invested the little that was left of her estate, divided multiple ways, in the Golden bike, the centrepiece of which was the Rohloff Speedhub.

The reason that Goldie’s been off the road has nothing to do with the Rohloff hub itself. The wee spring loaded box of tricks that sits adjacent to it was jammed in the top end position: fine for flying down hills at 30mph but hee haw use for getting back up them again. The cause, I suspect, was because Neil and I were still tweaking the configuration through November and the downshift had always been sticky as we played with the angle of the drop bars, putting the cable under increasing tension.

The spring loaded changer had to go back to Germany but Santa, aka the postie, delivered it back on Monday. By teatime, Goldie was roadworthy again, albeit that I’d already bagged Monday’s miles on the old bike with its jumping gears.

So on Tuesday morning, I was a mix of excited cum trepidation. “What if the changer fails again” was all that was on my mind. In my heart, I knew there was only one way to dispel that concern and that was to rack up an enormous number of miles. This is the bike that’s going to Australia so I need it to prove to me that it’s up to the job.

If the last four days are anything to go by, I needn’t have worried: I’ve fallen back in love with my bike.

This is hard to put into words in a way that non-bike people will understand. But suppose you drive a twenty grand motor: and suppose you do actually have a bike habit. Just suppose: hear me out…

What I’m telling you, not just suggesting, is that you should shave a grand off that motor next time around and invest it instead in a Rohloff Speedhub. Brexiteers will hate me for saying this but the Rohloff is a brilliant piece of kit: made in Germany.

For the cyclists amongst you, you will instinctively know the sad tale of your gears playing up: out of true, clicking, bent derailleurs if you hit something or fall off: the list is endless. And those bits wear out: shit happens, and that shit comes up off the road. I have learned the hard way that derailleurs are the Poundstretcher of gears. On LCFN I pay for everything: no corporate sponsorship on this gig. Even if you leave aside new pieces of kit, I would put my maintenance bill at two grand since 2013: most of that has gone on consumables in the drive chain, plus labour of course. A Rohloff Speedhub costs only half of that and is reckoned to go 60K miles on just an oil change every 3K miles. As I said to a mate of mine only last night, look upon it as a long term investment. Assuming the shifter behaves itself from heronin, I fully expect the Rohloff to see me through the rest of my days.

And see the best bit, when you’re out on the road, you change gear and it just works: no thinking about it, no clicking, no jumping, no unforeseen surprises halfway up a hill: it just works. And I love it. I love it to bits. I now need to convince Jane to make the switch too…

Right, to the miles…

I’m parking the revue of 2017 until next week seeing as there’s still one week left, but it’s on a knife edge. The miles to date have been:

2013: 2,514 (I didn’t start until August)

2014: 9,525 (inspired largely by Oscar Knox)

2015: 9,120 (probably would’ve been a 10K job but I lost most of Q1 to a hernia operation)

2016: 6,363 (got made redundant and had to re-invent my spirit)

2017: 9,240 and counting

Do you see the challenge?

Do you see the fightback from the boot in the baws that last year delivered?

Had it not been for those seventeen lost days at the back end of November going into December, this would have been a 10K year. Of that I have no doubt. But the best achievements in life don’t come from sustained success: they come from knowing hurt, knowing pain, and knowing how to resurrect yourself. For the resurrection of LCFN, cue August, cue the lasting memory and driving influence of Eileidh Rose Paterson. When Eileidh gained her wings, I was exactly halfway through the year: 4,291 miles. With her memory on my mind and her drive on my back wheel: 4,948 with a week still to go (and that includes the week when I did nothing other than ride #ForeverFive in her memory and honour). The equivalent back end of 2014, similarly inspired by the passing of Oscar Knox, piled up 5,050 miles. That mark is going next week.

The old road bike did me proud: it was the workhorse that took me through 12,500 LCFN miles and 650,000 feet of climbing. But Goldie’s gonna beat that. We may only just have started courting, but I’m telling you: this beautiful German machine is going to win The Great British Bike Off.

 

Seven Up

I’m not a particularly good patient, especially when the medicine is “sit on yer arse and stare out of the window” (wondering, every half an hour in the middle of the day, whether the ice has melted sufficiently to withstand a quick blast round the country lanes).

For seven days in a row, until yesterday, I knew the answer to that question, and it was always no. I could perhaps have risked it for a biscuit on Tuesday afternoon, on account of the thermometer that’s sitting on the garden wall having crept up to 2C, having been negative for days on end. But there again, it was half two in the afternoon when I clocked that, and the mercury was about to start plummeting again. So I chickened out: that’s one of the issues with taking a few days off in a row: one more doesn’t seem to make a difference. But it does: psychologically, it does. A year from now, the record will just show seven dot balls in a row in cricketing speak. But I’ll know, deep down inside, it could, and perhaps should, have been six.

There are implications with not being out there. For a start, you don’t get the miles done. I know that sounds obvious, but half the battle with LCFN is the routine. When going out at noon every day is the norm, then you need that fix. Not only are those hours from midday till mid afternoon my active time, but they’re also my thinking time. Most of my best creative ideas come when I’m on the bike and I’ve missed that these last seven days. I used to say back in the eClipse days when I worked at Weirs that the company should actually send me out on long walks in the afternoon, just to boost the ideas fest. The fact that I used to park the motor two miles away and walk those two miles morning and night counted for nothing in terms of my salary, but the sharp focus regarding new ideas was always heightened through those walks. And so it is with the bike.

While I’ve been sat on my arse, I’ve also been contemplating the fact that I was only 75 miles shy of 9,000 for the year when the ice came. It seems an age ago now that I was seriously thinking about an all out assault on 10,000 but it’s only by putting yourself in with a chance that you get the opportunity. I’ve never done 10K in a calendar year and to get so close then miss out makes me wonder whether the opportunity will ever come my way again. I’ve had fleeting thoughts of calling it a day at 50,000 miles and that really means I only have one more calendar year left to do it. It’s a kind of now or never carrot dangling over my new year resolutions I guess…

Talking of the new year, I finally roused myself last weekend to apply for Australian visitor visas for Jane and myself for next year. Jane has asked me on more than one occasion what the plan is and my answer is always the same: I need to be in Sydney on the night of September 1st to see the Opera House go Gold for kids’ cancer awareness. Everything else revolves around that date. The holiday part of the trip was always scheduled to happen at either the beginning or the end and as Jane has a strong desire to see the northern territory and the Great Barrier Reef, the holiday will kick off from Brisbane. Then when that’s over, Jane will fly home and I’ll set out from the Children’s hospital with Gabby riding shotgun in the wagon.

Next up we need to get flights booked. I’ve started looking, but I’ve baulked at return prices starting at a grand (each): I’m sure we be able to do it cheaper if we keep our eyes open for a deal: emails are landing every couple of days.

I’m 99% sure in my mind that I’m going to take Goldie over as my preferred bike. Yes, I’m a wee bit nervous about a mechanical issue with the Rohloff hub given that the shifter box had to be returned to Germany with only 800 miles on the clock, but there’s ample time to thrash another five thousand on it between now and when that decision needs to be made. I got word today that the shifter box is back in the UK after its European adventure and I’m hopeful that Neil will have it back on the bike by the weekend. I’ve been using the old road bike for the past two weeks but the gears are all over the place, the very reason why I gave up on derailleurs in the first place.

Cue 2018: the year of the hub!

Going back to that assault on 9,000 miles, there was a window of opportunity midweek to make some inroads into the remaining 75, but when you’ve been off the bike for a few days, your body kind of thinks “that’s it” and it goes into flabby mode. So yesterday, when I poked it in the eye with a sharp stick and knocked off 36 of them, it wasn’t very happy. Y’see there’s a definite theme to the fuelling that that drives this journey forward: on a typical thirty mile day, I’m out on the road for two and half hours and I’ll burn a minimum of 1500 calories. Faster, further or hillier and that burn will exceed 2,000. My personal glycogen fuel tank holds around 1800. It’s not a good idea to ‘go flabby’ for too long: it messes up the whole refuelling process: it’s not like turning on a tap: you have to work at it to get it right.

So in the seven days that I’ve been sat around the house, I haven’t been burning those 1500 calories a day. Instead 7×1500 has turned to fat at the rate of 3,500 calories per pound. Three pounds of lard, courtesy of the ice. That needs shot of, and I will do over the coming days and weeks. You’ll be amazed what you can shift, once you up the miles and keep a tight rein on the scoff. Christmas???

See the year of the hub?

It’s also scheduled to be the year of my pension. I hit 65 in three months time and for as long as I can remember, I dreamt of the day when I didn’t have to get up and go to work anymore. But I’ll let you into a secret: getting made redundant changed all that. The thought of not having a job was a big deal, but even bigger was the dawning realisation that the life that I have just now is just the most perfect thing imaginable.

The day starts when Dennis parks himself on my chest, starts his singing, and if that doesn’t get a reaction, the headbutting soon follows. That can happen anytime between six and seven o’clock. Depending how knackered I am, and Jane too, one of us will then wander downstairs and stick a brew on. As part of this deal, Dennis gets his breakfast, which is what the whole war dance thing was all about. I’ll then sit in bed, catching up with social media, the news, and scrabble, before deciding to get up. That can happen anytime between seven and eight. My commute is ten seconds: downstairs, fire up the laptop and log on. On it…

That’ll be me then until lunchtime, which itself is variable depending on work, weather and delivery men. I seem to have become the dropping off point of choice for half the street (which I don’t mind, by the way). Then the next three or four hours are mine: LCFN time. I’ll occasionally take a phone call out in the middle of nowhere but in the main, those hours are my play and thinking time. Then at four o’clock, just as regular workers are thinking of clocking off, I clock back on again. Then that’s me till the football starts, or later if there is none. Five, six days a week, that’s my routine. And I love it. Nae stress. If I wasn’t getting paid for what I do, I’d probably spend all day on my computer, programming stuff anyway: I think I decided a long time ago that that’s how my retirement would shape up, so now I have exactly that lifestyle except I get paid for it.

So… I’m not retiring. That’s that sorted. For the foreseeable future, just so long as I’m enjoying the challenge of doing what I do, getting up when I want, working the hours that I want, creating new software tools that my team want, and getting paid for it, I’ll keep on doing it. And for the next twelve months at least, riding my bike for three hours a day.

Three hours bags me thirty miles: that’s not a kick off two hundred miles a week. I’ve bagged 27 of those this year: wum! Well I’ll let you into another wee secret: I’m not planning on finishing the year on wum. So if I get Goldie back on Saturday, the boat’s getting pushed out next week. The forecast is for it to be much warmer than of late, so there are no excuses. Excuses are for wums.

The sloth season is over: seven up…

Ticket To Ride

I’m sitting in the bar at Preston station with a pint of Newcastle Brown. I could have bought Aldi Brown at a fraction of the cost five minutes down the road and swigged it out on the platform in the freezing cold. But the bar offers the attraction of global warmth so I’m using that as justification. This’ll be the slowest pint I’ve downed in many a long day.
The tannoy is announcing delays on all manner of services: I just hope mine in ninety minutes time doesn’t join the list: my train did at least leave Euston on time half an hour ago.
I’ve been down south for the last twenty four hours, courtesy of my work Christmas night out: there can’t be many people who travel 200 miles for a team swally but that’s basically what happened yesterday. Our team is tight knit but widely spread; we work by screen sharing, conference calls and intermittent meetings: we call it agile. But Liverpool is our hub.
When yesterday’s storm acquired a name (Caroline) earlier in the week, I made a strategic decision to best guarantee my night out. My train ticket had me travelling on the local rattler from Stewarton to Car Loyal, then changing for a booked seat on the Virgin (Landan) train, exiting (as opposed to merely being excited) at Preston. That Car Loyal to Preston jaunt was the leg that defined the whole journey because all the other trains were any choo choo.
Our line out of Stewarton (going either way) is arguably the most unreliable in Scotland. Station skipping to make up lost time is an everyday occurrence, with full blown cancellations not that far behind, especially on the longer cross country route down to Car Loyal.
So it was with some trepidation that I planned my journey for yesterday morning. My natural train out of Stewarton was the 10:40, leaving a fifteen minute changeover at Car Loyal. However with the wind blowing at 50mph through the night, I wasn’t for chancing that. I briefly contemplated going for the nine o’clock but when I woke at 6am, I thought “sod it, let’s push the boat out and make it the 07:38”. Even it was late….
Halfway down the line to the border, I got first wind of trouble ahead. “Obstruction on the line between Penrith and Oxenholme: services suspended until at least noon”. This is the very definition of why you need a contingent mindset and be able to think on your feet. Cue old trainspotter mode. In the hour between Sanquhar and the border, I’d sussed that there were emergency replacement buses operating between Car Loyal and Preston. A more relevant question however was whether a ticket that stipulated a one o’clock booking would entitle me to a bus seat at 10am. I needn’t have worried….
Virgin staff were plentiful on arrival at Car Loyal and I quickly sussed that their only objective was to see people on their way: no questions asked about tickets. “Just follow those barriers, sir, and you’ll find a bus waiting”. Almost right… there were two! With no ticket checks on the buzz either, we were on our way within minutes, whizzing down the M6 with the West Coast Main Line silent. There was a moment of fleeting interest just after Penrith when we entered what appeared to be a rolling road block. I’d clocked a squad car on the hard shoulder five minutes earlier but thought nothing of it. What then transpired came straight out of Wacky Races meets the Sweeney. A motor flew down the outside lane doing about 80-90, hotly pursued by two polis ice cream motors: lights, sirens, the full works. The pursuee dived across two carriageways followed by the polis: one polis shot across the bow of the dude in the middle lane in front of us while the other polis took him by the stern: bet he near shat himself: scary stuff in a rolling roadblock. The last I saw of all three motors was the polis chasing the pursuee up the hard shoulder over Shap at a rate of knots.
After that, Liverpool was a gimme. I was there two hours ahead of schedule and just as today’s bottle of Newcastle tastes good, so did the pint of Exmas in ‘Spoons opposite Lime Street Station. From thereonin, the night took care of itself, as these things have a habit of doing, although I would like to mention that you couldn’t shut the bathroom door in my Travelodge dig with the toilet seat down. I guess the builder guy had just one job (see what I did there?) and fucked it up: there was a millimetre between the swinging door and the pan.
This trip has been my second epic jolly of the week. On Sunday I Megabussed it up to Aberdeen (and back) for the inaugural trustee meeting of the Eileidh Rose Rainbow Charity Trust. I guess I’m still coming to terms with having been asked, but it was nice to finally meet up with the other guys n gals who are helping Gail to create a lasting legacy for wee Puddles. As luck would have it, I travelled up the way on a City Link Gold coach which I’d previously read about but never experienced first hand. Padded leather seats and a table for every passenger: how’s that for starters? It’s a shame the WiFi didn’t work but I wasn’t expecting the free coffee (x2), scones (with butter and jam) and cookies that came as part of the deal. I hadn’t got the heart to tell the cookie man that I was travelling on my codger’s buzz pass. All that for a 50p booking fee was a remarkable deal indeed.
As you may have gathered, all this galavanting about on trains and buzzes has messed big time with the LCFN schedule. Two weeks of hee haw miles going into this week was all I needed to keep the intermittent nature of my current attitude intact. I did manage out on Monday and Tuesday, banking something akin to my normal workload, but Wednesday was a write off as I’d to wait in for a delivery man after some pressing work commitments.
I haven’t got back up the road yet (obviously) but I’m expecting some ultra low temperatures that might invariably keep me off the wheels in the coming days. Gone are the days when I was prepared to risk life and limb on ice. Almost two years on from the thumb incident that wrecked my calendar year of two hundred milers, I still have residual pain from that black ice crash. There is little incentive to repeat that going forward.
In any case, Goldie is still off the road, awaiting a new box of tricks for the gear changer that sits outside the hub. My old road bike (now the reserve) is back on the road but I’m loathe to report that the gears are all over the place: they’re jumping, the chain is ripping round the front chain ring if you give it too much welly and riding out of the saddle is a no-no for both of those reasons. In its current condition, hills are to be avoided (difficult round our way) and speed has to be kept in check. Frankly, riding the reserve bike has become a balancing act of effort versus output.
What is going to happen however, assuming I can get out the door a couple of times over the coming days, is 9,000 miles for 2017. It’s a shame that the 10K dream went swirling down the plughole but hey ho, I’m still in one piece, even if my machinery isn’t. I’m also only three or four outings shy of 1.8 million feet of climbing since the off: that equates to over 400 ascents of Ben Nevis, or one every two and a half days if you prefer it that way: that’s on top of the miles.
Going back to this trip for a moment, while I was legging it to the night out last night, I passed the Beatle Experience at Albert Dock. I stuck my nose in the Fab Four shop and thought for a nanosecond about doing all my Christmas shopping in a wanna. Did I? Ask yourself whether you would risk trailing a load of poly bags around while you were getting progressively more wrecked. That’ll be a no then. I guess I’ll never know whether Jane would have appreciated a pink tee shirt with The Beatles emblazoned across the front.
Not to worry, despite that fact that I’m worn out and will probably sleep on the train back north (which is now due in a mere fifteen minutes), it was good to have a Ticket To Ride.
I’m sitting in the bar at Preston station with a pint of Newcastle Brown. I could have bought Aldi Brown at a fraction of the cost five minutes down the road and swigged it out on the platform in the freezing cold. But the bar offers the attraction of global warmth so I’m using that as justification. This’ll be the slowest pint I’ve downed in many a long day.
The tannoy is announcing delays on all manner of services: I just hope mine in ninety minutes time doesn’t join the list: my train did at least leave Euston on time half an hour ago.
I’ve been down south for the last twenty four hours, courtesy of my work Christmas night out: there can’t be many people who travel 200 miles for a team swally but that’s basically what happened yesterday. Our team is tight knit but widely spread; we work by screen sharing, conference calls and intermittent meetings: we call it agile. But Liverpool is our hub.
When yesterday’s storm acquired a name (Caroline) earlier in the week, I made a strategic decision to best guarantee my night out. My train ticket had me travelling on the local rattler from Stewarton to Car Loyal, then changing for a booked seat on the Virgin (Landan) train, exiting (as opposed to merely being excited) at Preston. That Car Loyal to Preston jaunt was the leg that defined the whole journey because all the other trains were any choo choo.
Our line out of Stewarton (going either way) is arguably the most unreliable in Scotland. Station skipping to make up lost time is an everyday occurrence, with full blown cancellations not that far behind, especially on the longer cross country route down to Car Loyal.
So it was with some trepidation that I planned my journey for yesterday morning. My natural train out of Stewarton was the 10:40, leaving a fifteen minute changeover at Car Loyal. However with the wind blowing at 50mph through the night, I wasn’t for chancing that. I briefly contemplated going for the nine o’clock but when I woke at 6am, I thought “sod it, let’s push the boat out and make it the 07:38”. Even it was late….
Halfway down the line to the border, I got first wind of trouble ahead. “Obstruction on the line between Penrith and Oxenholme: services suspended until at least noon”. This is the very definition of why you need a contingent mindset and be able to think on your feet. Cue old trainspotter mode. In the hour between Sanquhar and the border, I’d sussed that there were emergency replacement buses operating between Car Loyal and Preston. A more relevant question however was whether a ticket that stipulated a one o’clock booking would entitle me to a bus seat at 10am. I needn’t have worried….
Virgin staff were plentiful on arrival at Car Loyal and I quickly sussed that their only objective was to see people on their way: no questions asked about tickets. “Just follow those barriers, sir, and you’ll find a bus waiting”. Almost right… there were two! With no ticket checks on the buzz either, we were on our way within minutes, whizzing down the M6 with the West Coast Main Line silent. There was a moment of fleeting interest just after Penrith when we entered what appeared to be a rolling road block. I’d clocked a squad car on the hard shoulder five minutes earlier but thought nothing of it. What then transpired came straight out of Wacky Races meets the Sweeney. A motor flew down the outside lane doing about 80-90, hotly pursued by two polis ice cream motors: lights, sirens, the full works. The pursuee dived across two carriageways followed by the polis: one polis shot across the bow of the dude in the middle lane in front of us while the other polis took him by the stern: bet he near shat himself: scary stuff in a rolling roadblock. The last I saw of all three motors was the polis chasing the pursuee up the hard shoulder over Shap at a rate of knots.
After that, Liverpool was a gimme. I was there two hours ahead of schedule and just as today’s bottle of Newcastle tastes good, so did the pint of Exmas in ‘Spoons opposite Lime Street Station. From thereonin, the night took care of itself, as these things have a habit of doing, although I would like to mention that you couldn’t shut the bathroom door in my Travelodge dig with the toilet seat down. I guess the builder guy had just one job (see what I did there?) and fucked it up: there was a millimetre between the swinging door and the pan.
This trip has been my second epic jolly of the week. On Sunday I Megabussed it up to Aberdeen (and back) for the inaugural trustee meeting of the Eileidh Rose Rainbow Charity Trust. I guess I’m still coming to terms with having been asked, but it was nice to finally meet up with the other guys n gals who are helping Gail to create a lasting legacy for wee Puddles. As luck would have it, I travelled up the way on a City Link Gold coach which I’d previously read about but never experienced first hand. Padded leather seats and a table for every passenger: how’s that for starters? It’s a shame the WiFi didn’t work but I wasn’t expecting the free coffee (x2), scones (with butter and jam) and cookies that came as part of the deal. I hadn’t got the heart to tell the cookie man that I was travelling on my codger’s buzz pass. All that for a 50p booking fee was a remarkable deal indeed.
As you may have gathered, all this galavanting about on trains and buzzes has messed big time with the LCFN schedule. Two weeks of hee haw miles going into this week was all I needed to keep the intermittent nature of my current attitude intact. I did manage out on Monday and Tuesday, banking something akin to my normal workload, but Wednesday was a write off as I’d to wait in for a delivery man after some pressing work commitments.
I haven’t got back up the road yet (obviously) but I’m expecting some ultra low temperatures that might invariably keep me off the wheels in the coming days. Gone are the days when I was prepared to risk life and limb on ice. Almost two years on from the thumb incident that wrecked my calendar year of two hundred milers, I still have residual pain from that black ice crash. There is little incentive to repeat that going forward.
In any case, Goldie is still off the road, awaiting a new box of tricks for the gear changer that sits outside the hub. My old road bike (now the reserve) is back on the road but I’m loathe to report that the gears are all over the place: they’re jumping, the chain is ripping round the front chain ring if you give it too much welly and riding out of the saddle is a no-no for both of those reasons. In its current condition, hills are to be avoided (difficult round our way) and speed has to be kept in check. Frankly, riding the reserve bike has become a balancing act of effort versus output.
What is going to happen however, assuming I can get out the door a couple of times over the coming days, is 9,000 miles for 2017. It’s a shame that the 10K dream went swirling down the plughole but hey ho, I’m still in one piece, even if my machinery isn’t. I’m also only three or four outings shy of 1.8 million feet of climbing since the off: that equates to over 400 ascents of Ben Nevis, or one every two and a half days if you prefer it that way: that’s on top of the miles.
Going back to this trip for a moment, while I was legging it to the night out last night, I passed the Beatle Experience at Albert Dock. I stuck my nose in the Fab Four shop and thought for a nanosecond about doing all my Christmas shopping in a wanna. Did I? Ask yourself whether you would risk trailing a load of poly bags around while you were getting progressively more wrecked. That’ll be a no then. I guess I’ll never know whether Jane would have appreciated a pink tee shirt with The Beatles emblazoned across the front.
Not to worry, despite that fact that I’m worn out and will probably sleep on the train back north (which is now due in a mere fifteen minutes), it was good to have a Ticket To Ride.