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…

JUNE 2017

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

El n Hazz’s Big Bash

Pretend is good. Pretend is very good: Eileidh and Harrison just broke the internet. Fact. Sorry, fake news, but you know what I mean…

We thought they were doing well with a piece in the Press and Journal until the story turned up in the Record, the Mirror, the Sun (don’t buy the Sun!), the Mail (one rag I absolutely don’t read on principle) and the (London) Times. Throw in the Metro, which probably means the story floated on buses and trains all over the UK, a wee piece on the ITV News site, quickly followed by the BBC website, and the happy couple were indeed the hottest thing since Posh n Becks.

So I’m gonna get this in first: El and Hazz.

But that’s not all: I’ve seen the story in Hebrew on an Israeli news feed, I’ve seen it in India, and the story has also gone out on the Australian news wires: oh if only they’d known that one of their own (and our own), Frank Loves Joan, aka oor Ammie performed a set semi live on the big screen. Amelie waited up until the wee small hours just so she could be awake while El n Haz were bethrothing Best Friend Forever on each other.

It was fantastic.

But then today it just got even better: America got hold of the story, and let’s face it, if anyone’s gonna love a love story, it’s the States. On the off chance that you haven’t seen the clip yet, watch this:

https://content.jwplatform.com/videos/mICXjRoD-Kvp5pHRn.mp4

I’ve thought a lot about wee Harrison this week. He clearly likes Eileidh an awful lot and the parents have said that the first time they met, they pretty much clicked. Harrison could have chosen lots of other pals to spend time with, especially when Puddles was in hospital for long periods. But he didn’t. He decided that one day, when he was all grown up, he wanted to marry Eileidh. But that day won’t come because Eileidh is terminally ill. So he got the next best thing: he got the opportunity to be her best friend.

Forever.

Can I be reflective for a moment…

Wee Oscar started me on this bike ride. Oscar was terminal in August 2013 when I first rode my folding bike to the bus at Fenwick. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would lead to this. Eileidh was diagnosed the day after Oscar passed away in May 2014: I was on a 165 mile ride that day. You will never convince me that LCFN and Eileidh Paterson were not meant to be. But I’m no longer just the bloke on the bike. Haven’t been for a while if the truth be told. That role changed a long time ago. Now I just think of myself as a middle man, enabling everyone else to do their bit. LCFN has become the glue that holds a whole load of stuff together and I’m just proud that we got this far…

Last weekend, indeed on the very day of the wedding, my mate Tom Pilcher, a journalist in Manchester, cycled from Manchester to Edinburgh with a few of his mates: 220 miles in a day. They made their train at Waverley with ten minutes to spare. Hey, they’ll be thankful that they didn’t have an old man slowing them down otherwise they’d have missed it. Imagine cycling 220 miles just to catch the train home. Rumour has it they got pished on the return journey. But their epic adventure also chucked two hundred quick into the LCFN pot, and that in turn goes straight to Solving Kids Cancer. See next year lads: we’ll leave at 3am just so I can join you.

As I mentioned earlier, Amelie performed her new song on the big screen at El n Haz’s big bash. If you haven’t seen it yet, or just fancy another grizzle, then grab the hankies and watch this. It’s outstanding:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/i9vvuzbvuwtptaz/take%20my%20hand.mp4?dl=0

Then I started adding up what everyone associated with LCFN has done for Eileidh. Mouldy’s incessant tweeting in the lead up to The Highland Bike ride in 2015, coupled with the fundraising at the Inverness Caley end, raked in four and half grand: that helped to get Eileidh to America for specialist treatment. And since then we’ve had the wristbands. I was trying to remember in the week where the wristbands have gone to but I know for a fact that outside of the UK, we have around sixty in Australia, a dozen in Italy, some in America, and one, wait for it…. In New Zealand. I’m just guessing here, but I reckon the wristbands have lobbed another fifteen hundred into Eileidh’s pot.

That’s why I’m now just a middle man. Stuff is happening all around LCFN, both directly to aid Solving Kids Cancer, and also to grant Eileidh her every last wish, and it’s just fantastic. I love it to bits.

But I have another wish, and I haven’t a clue right now how this one’s gonna play out. We may need to crowdfund it…

I found out at the wedding that Zara, the Fairy Godmother who held Hazza’s hand all the way to his Princess, is Strayan. I didn’t know that then: but I do now.

One day soon (real soon), I’m gonna have to start planning my ride from Brisbane to Adelaide next year. The procrastinator in me kept telling me that it was ages away so I haven’t sorted anything yet. But I will. I’m thinking that a higher authority was just holding me back because Hazza’s Fairy Godmother hails fae the Gold Coast.

She does!

So, here’s the deal: this is what I’m thinking. I haven’t a clue how we’re gonna fund this but we’ll worry about that later. For now this is just a dream…

El n Hazza’s big bash happened because of Love Rara. Who are Love Rara? Check this:

http://zarawilke.wixsite.com/love-rara-limited

Love Rara, or to be more precise, Zara, who runs the show, sorted Eileidh n Harrison’s wedding. Zara project managed the whole gig from end to end. In one month. Venue, guests, photography and video, food, disco, you name it, Zara sorted it.

And she’s Strayan fae the Gold Coast.

Love Rara take kids characters to the kids: and the kids love it. Many a time the whole crew turned up at Eileidh’s bedside when she was desperately ill, just to make her smile. Eileidh always manages a smile, even in the darkest days. It’s just another reason why we love her.

So if you’ve watched the videos (of the wedding) and seen all the characters, you’ll understand that they make quite a troupe. The kids just Love Rara.

So I have a dream: when I ride into Gold Coast City next year, I’d love to stop off at the kids’ hospital (is there one?) and see Love Rara doing for the Strayan kids what they do so wonderfully well for kids in the north east of Scotland. I’d like Zara to be able to take her team on a trip back home and show what Love can do for Strayan kids who are sick: just as they did for Eileidh. Fabulous people, fabulous team, fabulous fun.

The spirit is willing, it just needs funding.

And so to the other stuff…

My head’s all over the place and I’ve got an image of Big Wullie over my shoulder telling me that I need to take a timeout. The problem is, big man, I’m trying to work through it. If only the NHS would agree to postpone the ‘go live’ date of SNOMED-CT by a couple of months because our mam died, I’d do it. But I have to have all of my software converted and tickety boo by Q1 next year so the foot has to stay firmly to the floor.

The emotional challenge has been, is, and continues to be immense. I can’t deny that I’m struggling. I’m not a doctor, I’m a software guy trying to learn doctor speak at age 64, just so I can take my ideas forward to save lives. That’s my job. That’s my goal. That’s my dream. But the learning comes at such a pace, at such an intensity, that I feel completely overwhelmed. Six modules, at one a month, and I only scraped past module B by the skin of my teeth this week. I think our mam secretly marked my paper. I’m really not sure I can make it through module C: it’s bigger, harder, more complicated, and the holidays are coming up, not to mention a major software release of some stuff that I’ve written that’s about to go out on trial.

And Monday is our mam’s funeral. See on Monday morning at 10am: think of our mam: a 91 year old version of wee Eileidh. Only 4’10” but possessing the fighting spirit of a true warrior. She beat cancer at 70, she was a widow for 45 years, she left school at 13 to work in a factory for the war effort. And she lived in an air raid shelter for ten hours most nights throughout the blitz.

Our mam would have loved Eileidh like one of her own. Just like Harrison.

Move aside Posh n Becks, there are a pair of new kids of the block…

El n Haz.

Two Weddings And A Funeral

Back to last weekend…

Our mam’s passing wasn’t the worst bit, sad and emotional as it was. Because Ross, Rob and I sat talking to her through to the end, and we could just sense a wee flickering of her eyes from time to time, we took comfort from the fact that she knew she we were there: she didn’t die alone, and that really, really, really matters. I can think of nothing worse.

No, the worst bit was when everyone went home on the Sunday and I was left on my own to reflect on the events of the previous few days. That was when it hit me. Rob and I had sorted a load of procedural stuff on the Friday but that still left a lot of loose ends to tie up, not the least of which was the involvement of the coroner. That, at a stroke, had the potential to derail our best laid plans and lead to a whole load more grief. But fortunately I was liaising with a woman at the coroner’s office who was simply superb in the calm, reassuring way that she went about her job. I came away from that experience thinking that if ever someone was in the right job, it was this lady.

I was down in Congleton with two laptops, my bike and my phone: two laptops so I could do the personal stuff on one, and God forbid, try and deliver on the work front on the other. Those moments were fleeting, not particularly productive, and best left till another day (which is ultimately what happened).

By Monday I was a bit of a mess: not sleeping properly, in a sleeping bag on a strange bed and waking up frequently. I was mentally and physically shattered. What saved me, emotionally, was brain dumping the events of Thursday in the blog that ultimately became The Longest Day. Published around 9:30pm on Monday night, I was stunned when I woke on Tuesday morning to find that it had been read by over 1200 people. “Where did they all come from?” I thought. The answer of course, is simple: they came from the LCFN community, the same people who love Eileidh, love all the other kids, and whose default setting is to care about people. I want to thank everyone one of you for reading about our mam. I know it was personal; I know it was raw, but telling that story made a huge, huge difference to the way I felt. I wanted to share the burden, I needed to share the burden, and it was you, reading this just now, that helped to make a difference to that way I felt from Tuesday onwards. It was like you put some of the pieces of me back together. Thank you.

The bike was also my saviour. I said on Facebook earlier in the week that the only way I was getting through this was by keeping busy, and what better way than to be out there on the road.

The Friday and Saturday rides were difficult, the former because it was squashed in between a trip to the hospital to tie up some loose ends, and a meeting at the funeral director to kickstart the process. I used to run those rural roads down in Congleton back in the day (when I was a runner) so I know where all the local routes go. But to achieve anything of LCFN standard, you need to go further afield so there was a fair amount of making it up as I went along, and that necessarily involved a few wrong turns and some short stretches on roads I’d much rather not have been on…

I’ll say this once: Cheshire roads are typically twisty and a 50m straight is something of a rarity. But the roads are flat so you can absolutely tank it on a road bike: and that’s why I’m utterly disgusted at the standard of driving. I personally didn’t feel particularly threatened at any time because I ride defensively, but why oh why did that arsehole decide to overtake, wholly on the other side of the road, on double white lines when there was an artic bearing down not 50m away with a combined closing speed of 90mph. And why did another artic driver do exactly the same thing on double white lines going round a bend with traffic coming the other way? Cheshire drivers have a death wish and if ever traffic cameras were needed for public safety, it’s on those roads: if it was up to me, I’d put cameras on every stretch that have double white lines: it would solve the national debt at a stroke.

On Saturday I just drove my body into the ground (no pun intended). I’d sussed out a quiet, flattish 5 mile country circuit of single track and unmarked roads and absolutely hammered it. I just felt like doing it. I needed to do it. By the time I was round the second circuit, it became an exercise in how long my legs could hang on at that pace. I managed five before I (wisely) called it a day, and when I got back to base, I made a Strava segment out of that loop and named it after the Brummie “Oil Give It Foive” catchphrase of Janice Nicholls on Thank Your Lucky Stars when we were kids. The locals will never know it, but that circuit is in memory of our mam, and until one of them spots it, I’ll have the King Of The Mountains. KOTM??? I think there are only about two hundred feet of climbing in the whole circuit!!!

The rest of my week down there was a case of piling in the miles so I didn’t have to think about our mam: so much so that I stand here tonight needing only 29 miles this weekend to bank the 77th two hundred miler since the off. That cherished dream of a ton of double hunnerds edges ever closer.

And so to happier times…

On Sunday, I’ll be out on my bike just after dawn because I’ve got an important date in Aberdeen early in the afternoon: Eileidh’s getting ‘married’. Eileidh and her sweetheart Harrison decided some time back that they wanted this to happen, and when Gail put together Eileidh’s bucket list, the ‘wedding’ was top of the pile. So many people have come together to put this on for the kids, it’s truly remarkable. I know it’s only make believe, but businesses and people right across the north east of Scotland have come together and donated their time and their skills free of charge just so that this can happen. I know that Gail was offered a castle just outside Aberdeen, but the need to have Eileidh in close proximity to the hospital would have made that an inopportune venue. So instead, 300 invited guests are all piling into the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre where the ceremony will take place in a wee room, live streamed out onto big screens in the main arena. It promises to be a truly magical event.

Nic Naish, one of LCFN’s most precious supporters, came up with the bright idea of us flying Amelie over from Australia to perform Puddles at the ‘wedding’. Nic started selling EJ/LCFN wristbands like they were going out of fashion, and it was only when her donations were approaching £400 that I had the unenviable task of telling her that logistical issues in Adelaide meant that Amelie was unable to make the trip. The money raised has instead gone into Eileidh’s bucket list fund. Cue plan B: Distraught from not being able to make the trip, Amelie wrote a new song to follow the immortal Puddles, specially for the ‘wedding’. You can watch her spine tingling performance here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/i9vvuzbvuwtptaz/take%20my%20hand.mp4?dl=0

With a bit of luck, Take My Hand will also go on the big screen on Sunday, and Aberdeen will be flooded with tears.

But that’s not the end of the wedding bells…

In three weeks time, our Ross, the eldest of our tribe, will be marrying his sweetheart Stacey. What a fabulous couple they make. Ross prides himself on being a bit of a lad, even at 27, but I tell you what, I know who wears the trousers in that relationship. Stacey is one totally switched on young lady and she’s going to be a great addition to our family. Ironically, the Taylor tribe get together so infrequently because we’re spread out all over the country, that the summer of ’17 will go down for all the right and wrong reasons. A wake last weekend, a funeral next weekend and a wedding two weeks after that: or as they say out Hollywood way…

Two weddings and a funeral.

The Longest Day

Apologies upfront for this being a Monday blog – I think that’s a first – but the back end of last week was sad, emotional and manic beyond words.

If you’ve been up to speed with the blog over the last couple of weeks, you’ll be aware that my mother, who was 91 not out at the time, took a bad fall in her nursing home three weeks ago today, and suffered a triple fracture of her right femur near its joint at the hip. For any medics amongst you, I think it’s an injury commonly referred to a neck of femur fracture.

Our mam survived the four hour operation to pin the bone back together but within a week, our initial optimism for a happy outcome started to recede, and rapidly so. To complicate matters, my brother and sister in law, who stay just a couple of miles from the care home down in Congleton in Cheshire, were already booked and scheduled to fly to Canada to visit our mam’s similarly frail, elderly brother during the same timeframe. You may recall that when I was down here two weeks ago, I did say that I thought it likely that I’d be back sooner rather than later: that’s exactly how it transpired.

After a family scrum down, it was decided that Bro and SisLaw would go ahead with their trip. That was on the basis that if our mam was somehow able to bounce back, then she would still be here when they returned. If, on the other hand, things took a turn for the worse, then I would pick up the pieces at this end, while they would be on hand in Canada to deliver the news in person rather than it coming second hand through messaging. We were agreed that that plan covered all bases as best we could manage in the circumstances.

Then throw into the mix the General Election. The timing of our mam’s decline was such that I hadn’t had time to register for a postal vote, and as my folks brought me up with the mantra that if you don’t vote then you’ve absolutely no right to moan afterwards, I desperately wanted to get my vote in before I came down. So as far back as the weekend before the election, I had Polling Day, June 8th, pencilled in as the day I would come down (in any case). Clearly, a phone call from the hospital before that date would have changed everything but the default was always to travel down last Thursday. I should also add that I was on six hours notice at any time of the day or night, so I was basically sat with a bag half packed, waiting on the call.

It came at 7am on Thursday morning, just as the polls were opening. Through some miscommunication, the hospital spent the first half hour of the dayshift trying to get hold of my brother but of course he was 3,000 miles away. And when my phone went, I was 25 miles into an LCFN thirty miler. I’d left the house at the back of five (am), just like the old days, in order that I could be on the road straight after the rush hour. As it turned out, I found myself in it.

All the sister would say was “your mum’s not too well this morning”…

“I’m on my way. I will be there by lunchtime. Is that enough time”?

“I can’t honestly say” came the reply. “Her breathing isn’t good and everyone is different. I’d get here as quickly as you can…”

It’s only 250 miles.

Yeah, but this is our mam. She’s a Taylor and Taylors are fighters. We pride ourselves on having the spirit that you don’t find in yer average family.

So as soon as I was off the phone to the hospital, I phoned Ross. At 27, he’s my eldest and he’s probably seen more of Grandma than any of my tribe. Indeed, I remember a game of football he played in the lounge of her flat when he would have been about four. Being a sewing machinist par excellence, our mam had made a wee football with black hexagons sown into it, just like the real thing. She was defending the kitchen door while Ross was defending the fireplace. Classic Taylors: make it up on hoof and just run with it. So Ross phoned into school (he’s a teacher, not a kept down for the last nine years pupil) and got two days of compassionate leave. We decided it best (because it was simply the most flexible solution) to take two cars. That way, if I had to stay down more than a couple of days, Ross could get back up the road before Monday.

Good call guys.

We set off around 8:30am but I had a head start because Stewarton’s nearer the motorway than Irvine. We both needed fuel so we agreed to meet up at Morrisons in East Kilbride: cheap fuel y’see. Pit stop complete (slightly longer than the 3.2 seconds that they take in F1) we set off down the road.

The conditions were dreadful. Heavy driving rain, lots of juggers on the road and loadsa spray made for an eyes on stalks experience. I’d already said that I was planning to stick to the speed limits because my motor doesn’t go well in the wet. On more than one occasion, the electrics have thrown a wobbly in heavy rain and the engine has packed up. Couldn’t risk that, not this time…

And all the time, I was waiting on that dreaded call (that I wasn’t going to answer by the way) from the hospital. It was like counting down the runs in a run chase. First we got to the border, only 150 miles away; then we got to within a hundred miles; then we got to within an hour; and finally we got to the hospital. Half past one and nay lunch. Cue an unbroken supply of NHS tea, coffee and biscuits.

I’d seen our mam only the previous week so I knew what to expect. For Ross, I knew this was going to be a hard one to take. But the person who was shocked was me. This was not the frail old lady of seven days previous. Her breathing was shallow, it was often laboured, at times almost snoring like, and she was taking long rests between breaths every fifteen to twenty. We timed those gaps at twenty seconds and they were to become our defining metric as the day wore on.

I should be upfront at this point and say that the story does not have a happy ending and you don’t have to read on if you feel that it may upset you. However I can allay your fears by confirming that properly managed through palliative care, end of life can itself be a beautiful, peaceful but albeit desperately sad experience. I had not witnessed the end before, least of all in my own family and to have been there was a privilege beyond comparison.

My eldest nephew arrived from London at 6pm, and to be honest, when he phoned me at 2:30pm offering to come up, it was far from conclusive whether his journey would be worth it (in time). In reality, it was probably the most important, poignant train journey Rob’s ever made. Rob, Ross and myself were there at our mam’s bedside at the end. Paula, Rob’s sister, came in around 9 and stayed until 1am but our mam was fighting such a great rearguard action that dawn was looking a distinct possibility and Paula had two wee babies to attend to at that time. So we bade Paula a tearful farewell in the wee small hours and the three of us continued our vigil.

In reality, we thought we’d lost our mam shortly after midnight when she failed to breathe for well over a minute. I went to fetch the nurse, only to find on my return that she’d rebooted herself and returned to factory settings. Indeed she was back on it with a vengeance. I was gobsmacked as much as I was in bits. The nurse then asked to have a word outside and she explained that it is quite common for an ailing patient to seem to be at the end, only for there to a strong resurgence of physical signs. But that, she added, is merely a precursor to a rapid and terminal decline.

However for our mam it wasn’t especially rapid, not that she was in any pain: she wasn’t. And even though she wasn’t able to move any part of her frail body, the flickering of her eyes told us that she knew that we were there and that she could hear us. The staff confirmed that hearing is the last sense to go. So we contented ourselves, if that is the right word to use, in the knowledge that our mam knew that she wasn’t alone, that she had family with her to hold her hand and talk to her. It might sound cruel, but some of the tales we recounted about our mam, within earshot, were simply outstanding. She so deserved that hearty send off.

Ross and I told her stories for fourteen hours. Rob for over nine. Try to imagine sitting at a hospital bed for that length of time, screens around the bed, with just yourselves and your loved one for company, except of course that your loved one isn’t able to respond, and you know full well what the outcome is going to be.

Nothing can prepare you for the end. But as I mentioned earlier, our mam’s final breath, at 3:18am was as peaceful as peaceful could be. We cried, we all cried, but somehow it was a beautiful moment knowing that finally she was at peace.

We left the hospital shortly after and indeed the dawn was breaking as we drove the ten miles back to my brother and sister in law’s gaff for a final reflection before hitting the hay. For me, it had been a 25 hour day, a tearful, emotional roller coaster of a day…

The longest day.

 

 

The Show Must Go On

This one’s kind of complicated. Episode 194 since I started documenting the journey back in November 2013, it’s laced with stuff that defines who I am, how I am, why I am and I guess, ultimately, what I am.

Me? I’m a husband, a father, a computer programmer, a cyclist, a socialist and something of a free spirit.

And a son.

I’ve lived 300 miles away from my mother for over 40 years and visits have usually been a mixture of family occasions and dedicated trips one way or the other. The thing is right, you get used to the way it is, especially when you live so far away. You notice differences, perhaps more so than those who are always on hand, but you notice them all the same. Sadly, my mother has been in decline for a number of years now and has been in a nursing home for the past twelve months. As a matter of record, a nursing home is usually your last place of residence.

Two weeks ago, my mother had a fall and suffered a triple fracture of the femur. That would be a significant injury in any individual but in a frail old woman of 91, it’s life threatening. Much of last week was spent wondering whether I should be jumping in the car and rushing down the road to be at her bedside. But as she suffers from advanced dementia of exactly the form that’s been in the news in the lead up to the general election, having used her home to pay for her care, it wasn’t a straightforward decision. While there was no point in panicking, the signs have been unmistakeable since her operation. I was already scheduled to be down south this week in any case, with my work, so my fervent desire was to combine that trip with family time. And that’s how basically how it worked out.

But I was without my bike, as I usually am on these trips: more on that later.

While I was going through the procedural stuff with my brother should events take a turn for the worse, he handed me a letter that my mother wrote just over ten years ago. I hadn’t seen it before, and he explained that she wrote it one day at the Methodist Church during a session of reminiscence with her friends. The minister had encouraged the ladies to write a short story about their early formative years. This is my mother’s account, and it only serves to make me thankful and proud of everything she has provided for me, that has allowed be to become the person that I am today. But in many respects, this is a hard read: it’s powerful stuff.

“I was 13 years of age when war broke out in September 1939 and all the schools closed and children were evacuated. I was the eldest of three children and my mother didn’t want us to be evacuated so we stayed behind with our parents and schooling finished for me at that stage”.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

Losing your kids overnight to the relative safety of the country: except that my grandmother, my mother’s mother, a right old battle axe, was clearly having none of it. That decision defined much of what was to follow, and certainly my mother’s life. Incidentally, those were my mother’s words at 80 about an education that itself ended almost 80 years ago. Her command of the language even then was better than many kids of today.

“I was 14 in the December and started work in January 1940, and trained to be a sewing machinist. I started to make blouses out of my father’s old shirts, and skirts out of his trousers for my sister and myself, as fabric was scarce and clothes were rationed”.

The letter goes on…

“My father came home from work one day with a nylon parachute, which I unpicked carefully and made us special blouses and petticoats”. Not any old blouses notice: special blouses. Imagine your daughter doing that today.

“I was sent to the GEC where I assembled parts for ships and boats until the end of the war. We lived in Aston, just off Newtown Row at the start of the war, with lots of factories around us, and a lot of bombing took place. The night raids lasted ten to twelve hours so we never went to bed. In 1942, a bomb hit a factory near our house, which was badly damaged, so we moved to another house in Kingstanding”.

For the record, that house in Oundle Road was the one I remember visiting as a child whenever we went to my nan’s.

But then my mum goes on “the new house had a garden and a bathroom, which was real luxury for us. We had been used to having a bath in front of the fire in a tin bath that we kept in the yard”.

Therein lies a woman made of strong stuff. Therein lies a person who lived through events as a young person that shaped the rest of her life. Today, my mother lies in a hospital bed, very, very ill, and none of us knows, including the medical people, whether she’s going to pull through. But she’s a Taylor, and to the best of my knowledge, none of us have ever done stuff the easy way…

Which brings me to this week and these particular miles.

That run of thirty mile days, which had reached 46 out of 47 by the time I headed south on Tuesday, had set me up with a sniff of 31,000 miles this coming weekend. But it was not going to happen without an injection of miles down the road. So I blagged a bike, well two actually, off my sister in law. Both she and my brother got new Specialized bikes last year and they keep Auntie Carol’s old bike as a family spare. 19 years old with knobbly tyres, it’s as clunky as hell but yer know what: it’s still a bike. I used to run those country lanes around Congleton when I was an endurance runner thirty years ago so I know the routes pretty much like the back of my hand: distances, junctions, and even where the hills are. Groundhog stuff. The danger these days is that mad drivers use those same lanes as rat runs. But hey, miles are miles, and a combination of a Caley shirt and a high viz vest got me both noticed and back in one piece. I think AC was impressed with my commitment to the cause on Tuesday cos she let me take her new bike on Wednesday and Thursday. It weighs a ton by the way.

I know the miles weren’t much, 11, 5 and 12, but the symbolism is worth more, much more than the distance. Those were three days when I could have expected to bag a duck; but I didn’t. And now, penning this at a hundred miles an hour in the Lake District, I can look forward with knowing confidence that I only need to blag another 75 miles for 31K.

That’s gonna happen this weekend.

I guess it’s the same spirit that had my mother unpicking a parachute to make clothes at the age of 13. It’s the same Churchillian spirit that took her to work every day at 14 when she hadn’t been to bed the night before. Now I appreciate where my capacity for blagging LCFN (and before that Highland March) all-nighters comes from.

It continues to be hard and the schedule is unrelenting. The decision to only take days off when I’m away is slowly but surely increasing the percentage of days on the bike since August 2013. It’s now up to 62% (which would be much, much higher without a cumulative six months lost to injury), and each day, 851 of them and counting, averaging out at 36 miles. It’s a stat that inspires and scares the sh!t out of me in equal measure. Okay, so I was cycling twice a day until roughly this time last year, and that accounted for more miles, but I totally get what thirty miles does to your body and the mental stuff is every bit as hard, maybe even harder, than the physical.

Depending what happens, I might be back down the road again as early as next week: or it might be a month away. There’s not a lot of joy in travelling two hundred miles to watch your own kin gently sleeping: still fighting, but sleeping. Meaningful communication ceased a long time ago and now all that’s left is her spirit and her downright determination to keep going. So for now…

The show must go on.

 

The Big Cup

Y’know that saying “it takes one to know one”?

Well here’s its big brother: “it takes one to know thirty”.

I make no apology for headlining Team Mouldy for the third week in a row because no bunch of guys n gals deserves it more than this lot.

1200 miles, 50K+ feet of climbing and all done and dusted in two weeks.

Easy?

Nothing about that entire bike ride was easy…

Getting riders onboard: guys of varying abilities, and few of them anything other than yer average bloke on a mountain bike.

Getting sponsors onboard to help create a brand and swell the coffers of the three charities.

Getting a specialist operator to plan the whole thing from end to end.

Getting branded kit in a style that befits the journey.

Getting publicity material, including one humoungous banner, to help spread the word.

And then there’s the training…

You don’t need to tell me about the training. I spent three years, five days a week all year round, leaving the house at 5am to cycle to work, coming home into the wind by the same hilly unlit route, six months without daylight: I know, possibly better than anyone what Mouldy’s team have put themselves through. And that was just to make the start line.

I’m the first to admit that when I saw that the cyclists were heading down the spine of England, through the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales, I was concerned. That’s some seriously hilly terrain, especially when there’s a fast, flatter, albeit busier route through Lancashire. I watched some of Sean’s early video diaries and I really felt for those guys. It reminded me so much of some of my worst days on LCFN in the middle of winter: but here’s the deal: you signed up to do this beast, so this beast you will do. You survived yesterday, you survived today so tomorrow you go again. That was always my mantra.

Just like a kid fighting cancer.

The journey is as relentless as you make it (or it makes of you).

I look at the photos of these guys and I just think “for the love of Celtic”. Imagine loving your football club so much that you are prepared to punish yourself through whatever winter can throw at you you, just so you can go and top it all come the summer: because by the time these guys got to Portugal, the mercury was screaming summer!!! Just like back home as it turned out, but that’s another story…

I look at the team and I only know two of the cyclists. Mouldy and I go back two and a half years to Cycling Santas, and wee Zuzanna and I met very briefly at Euston Station last year when I was on a work jolly down south. She has an EJ/LCFN wristband: ‘nuff said. In two weeks time, Zuzie leaves these shores to start a new life in New Zealand: hey, what a way to leave the mother continent? If you get to read this Zuzie, I want you on the final miles on the LCFN journey across Australia next year. Brisbane to Adelaide: you’ve proved that you can do 1200 miles in your sleep… 😉

But back to the big man for a minute….

“Football is nothing without fans”. The words of the immortal Jock Stein. Mouldy just proved that that’s true. Four hundred Celtic fans turned up at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon to welcome Mouldy’s cyclists because he made it so. In the sacred place where their heroes made history, so did Mouldy’s cyclists. They opened it up to the fans because of Mouldy. No other reason. Mouldy got to stand on the same ledge where Caesar stood fifty years ago to the day, and he lifted a replica cup to the multitudes who’d made the pilgrimage. Let that sink in for a minute.

Mouldy made all of that possible. The journey of thirty people’s lives suddenly became the journey of four hundred: for they were there to witness their own flesh and blood conquering everything that Europe could throw at them. Respect doesn’t even come close to describing what I feel for those guys.

And see next week, Mouldy’s gonna have to come home and go back to the day job. Bhoy, is that gonna be hard…

A lot of my friends, especially the Inverness contingent, don’t quite get that I ‘get’ the whole Celtic thing. I get it big style. You don’t surround yourself with the most warm, charitable people in the world without understanding what it is that makes them tic (see what I did there?)

And in a sense, while I had a wee tear in my eye watching the Rachel’s Facebook live (all twenty five minutes of it) video of the team cycling into the stadium, I could never have imagined myself celebrating as they did. I’m Inverness. Respect yes. Deep respect yes. But that’s as far as it goes. I yearn for the day when Scottish football has been cleansed of corruption and I can start going again.

And so to matters LCFN…

I’m sad.

I’m sad because the nation was led to believe by Corrie that neuroblastoma could be cured by six weeks of outpatient appointments: and then came wee Bradley Lowery.

Bradley first appeared on my radar when Sunderland played host to Everton about six months ago and Bradley was the home mascot. That night, Everton presented a cheque for £200K for Bradley’s fighting fund.

But neuroblastoma makes its own rules. It’s a family lottery ticket, and I don’t mean that to sound harsh. Sadly, excruciatingly sadly, the images of Jermaine Defoe leading Bradley out at Wembley, then carrying him out at the final game of the season at the Stadium of Light, will remain the defining public lights of Bradley’s fight with the disease. I hope when it’s over that someone remembers what Jermaine Defoe meant to the wee man.

My quest, as ever, is go go where I’ve never been before, metaphorically if not geographically.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: the prevailing wind in the west of Scotland is a right b*****d. Well last Saturday, I set out to keep this run of thirty milers going but despite it being warm and sunny, the wind was something else. As always on these occasions, I headed out west, straight into it, then bagged masel’ a wee detour this side of Irvine to gain some respite and a couple of extra miles. That brought me out into Perceton (pronounced Perce tun, as opposed to Pierce tun which is what the locals call it – another story) and not half a mile from where my Ross stays (note – I should say Ross n Stacey but I’ll leave Stacey out of this: this is a Ross story…)

Where Ross stays, there’s a 1.25 mile rectangular circuit with roundabouts at each corner. And it’s well sheltered which is what took me there. After one lap, I thought to myself “hmm, I could do a few of these, get out of the wind then leg it home on a tail gale”. So one lap became two, two became three and so on: Not really pushing it, just burning fuel like a plane ahead of an emergency landing.

Cue the 9th lap: right, “I’ve got enough miles in the bank, let’s give this one some welly”.

Got home, uploaded the data to Strava then made a segment out of those four roundabouts. Think Monaco. Think Montreal. Think Melbourne. Think street circuit. Mark my words, once the fast guys get a sniff of what I’ve done, this will become a blue riband segment. But for now it’s mine and it’s named after ma boy: The Tour De Taffy: one mile of pure pain.

So I posted 4m22s, screenshotted it and sent it to Ross…

But I haven’t got a bike”.

Understand one thing: Ross is a Taylor and he’s a former Scottish drug free bodybuilding champion. He’s 27, I’m 64. You think I’m competitive? You ain’t seen Ross.

Ninety minutes later, he’s back on… “4m17s, round ye, old man”.

Music to my ears.

He’d blagged a bike and did one searing lap: I was 22 miles and nine laps into mine. Game on…

Sunday morning, the rain was coming. It was cold (6C) and by the time I got over to Irvine, it was already hosing down. But as it was early and my legs were fresh (???) I was going for this. It’s an uphill start with a downhill finish, which basically means you can wreck your legs on the first half then hope to hang on in the second half: oh, and if a motor appears from your right on any of the four roundabouts, you’re fucked. You basically have to hit each roundabout at 20mph: any slowing down and it’s Goodnight Vienna

I tried as best I could to hit the rolling start with the Garmin just clicking over a minute so I could judge the pace. Next time, I’ll make sure that average speed it on the display cos that’s the ultimate guide. But this was a rookie attempt so just fucking go for it. By halfway, at the top of the course, the legs were still feeling remarkably good so as long as I could get round the last corner without traffic, I thought “hmm, this is in the bag”. So I buried masel’.

3m45s.

Ross is gonna beat my time. No doubt. I’m expecting a three thirty five fae the wee man but I haven’t touched the big chain ring yet. That’s my turbo and DRS rolled into one. This one’s gonna roll all summer: a teacher, he’ll be finishing for the holidays soon and I fully expect him out there every day, testing, testing, and burning those legs. You only get one shot at this circuit, then you’ve gotta come back themorra.

There’s no prize for winning the Tour De Taffy.

But there was for being jubilant in Lisbon…

The Big Cup!

 

 

Shock And Awe

Envy (noun): a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

Nope, that doesn’t do it.

Envy (verb): desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable thing belonging to (someone else)

Closer, but still no cigar….

Respect (noun): a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements

Bingo!!!

#TheRoadToLisbon

Look, I need to say this and get it out of the way. I wish, I really, really wish, I could have been on the Road To Lisbon. But I explained last week a couple of the reasons why it didn’t happen: c’est la vie, I love what they’re doing just the same.

Forget the Tour De France, that’s not for another six weeks. Forget EastEnders, that’s a soap chiselled out of solid stone depression. And don’t even start me on Corrie. Mouldy’s R2L has made for some riveting reading these past seven days. I might not be on the road with those guys but I’m there 100% in spirit.

I would have been at the send off but I was 300 miles away on a work jolly (otherwise known as a rest from those 30 mile days on the bike). I read a couple of the early Facebook posts and I fell about laughing when I discovered that the big man copped a puncture in the middle of Larkhall. There’s only one bloke on the planet that that could happen to and it’s big Mouldy.

Now I know that in the early days the Facebook updates were a bit sketchy but the guys were just getting to grips with the enormity of the challenge. Look, these aren’t pro cyclists: these are just ordinary punters like you and me who, maybe twelve months ago if yer lucky, signed up to cycle a hundred miles a day for two weeks. A hunnerd miles a day!!!!! Now lob around 8,000ft feet of climbing into the mix every day. That’s four times what I’m doing and I’m tired. Maybe I’m perennially tired but 8,000ft of climbing, day in day out, is gonna take its toll.

Now chuck in an all day headwind and a dose of the wet stuff and you have a heady brew that I totally get. I buy into what Mouldy’s team are doing 100%. Indeed, while I’ve been out on the road this week, I’ve reflected on some of the shittiest, most challenging days of LCFN…

The winter’s day it was scheduled to blow at 70mph with lashing by early afternoon, so I left the house at 3am to cycle into Glasgow to pick up the laptop (in a dry sack inside my rucksack) so I could work at home that day and not lose any miles. Sixty minutes to get into work: two and a half hours to get home. The only light I had on the A77 was my wee bike light, and I got blown over on the way home. That trip stands out.

Then there was the time on the way home, again in the middle of winter, on the hill up past the Red House, when the wind and rain was so lashingly strong that even standing on the pedals in the lowest gear and giving it every last ounce of energy that I could muster, I was struggling to make 5mph. The intensity fades, but you never ever forget the solitude and the commitment that you made in those moments.

Another favourite was cycling into work at 5am and watching the mercury plummet on the Garmin to a bone chilling -9.2C. Two hours of hard cycling in temperatures as low as that, independent of any black ice on the road, leave you in danger of not feeling exposed digits by the time you get to the other end. I remember standing outside in the cold when I got to work sometimes, simply because I couldn’t allow my fingers to warm up too quickly.

Mouldy, I get every last second of the pain and the exhilaration that you guys have felt these last eight days. Stick in there mate: you are doing one fabulous job, not just for the Celtic Foundation, not just for Children in Crossfire, not just for Solving Kids Cancer, but for everyone who believes in the human spirit, and in never giving up.

Chapeau to the whole friggin’ lotta ya.

Now, I’ve been racking my brains today trying to work out why the sudden upsurge in LCFN miles. It’s becoming a bit pandemic. What started out as a creeping out from under the covers of winter into an emerging spring is now showing signs of blossoming into a full scale growth spurt of Japanese Knotweed proportions (by the way, I know where there is some, growing prodigiously at the side of the road on one of my routes: that stuff is the cancer of the plant world).

I want to put this into perspective before I spill the beans. Before I started LCFN, I’d only ever cycled over a hundred miles in a week on the open road a handful of times in my life. I cycled 237 miles in a day from Manchester to Glasgow in 1994 but all of the training for that was done on rollers in the house because I was a single parent. Ditto when I cycled 170 miles from Aberdeen to Glasgow in a day two years later. My first 200 mile week on a bike on an open road was on Tiree in 2013, just a month before I started LCFN, and that, curiously enough, was on the same folding bike that I started this great adventure on…

Since then, I’ve done 71 of them. This week will be 72. It would have been 73 but I promised my friend Angela that I’d take a rest back in June 2014 because I was so tired: I declared that week on 199 just so she wouldn’t give me a row.

I’m turned on by ridiculous stats. When I was a kid, I remember Geoff Boycott scoring his 100th first class century, ironically enough in a Test Match at Headingley, his home ground. A hundred hundreds, I’ve always thought that had a special ring to it. Well I’ll let you into a wee secret…

I dream of a hunnerd two hunnerds..

I kinda like the thought of doing the hundredth one in the week of my 65th birthday next March. That means I need 27, ooft that’s a Wum of double tons: cannae give up now. The next few weeks are gonna be barren: next week’s okay (74) but the week after that I’m down south with work (a rest!!!!) and following that we’re into the holiday season with odd days away here, there and everywhere. All it takes is one day off and that week’s a gonner. So let’s break it down: let’s make it 80 two hundred mile weeks by August. That’ll give me something to get my teeth into when the weather turns rubbish again (cue a 270 mile week in the middle of winter, total darkness with lots of rain – now that’s an LCFN week n a half: been there, done that, read the book, seen the film and got the video – this really has been a shitty bike ride at times).

But before I finish this week, I need to brain dump an episode from yesterday so it’s on record, for I’ve never been as scared for a split second in my life. I was motoring down a wee country road about two miles from Dunlop. It runs parallel with both the A735 Dunlop to Stewarton road and the A736 Barrhead to Irvine road, but sort of sits parallel in the middle. It’s slightly downhill for about two miles, it’s configured with more than a few potholes (what roads don’t round here?) and it’s fast. Actually it’s great fun, and certainly one of my favourites in close proximity to Stewarton. It’s a single track job and in the six or seven minutes that it takes to get from one end to the other, you rarely, if ever, meet a vehicle.

So cue yesterday…

I’m flying down this lane, doing 15, maybe 20 into the wind, and I can hear a tractor some way behind me in the distance. “It’s no big deal” thinks I, because I reckon I might be able to outrun it. Well I didn’t. About a mile down the road, it was coming up behind me so now I’m looking for the next driveway (there are few and they are far between) to let it past.

Except Famer Giles wasn’t for waiting.

Without bothering to put his offside wheels on the opposite verge, Giles’s front wheels gave me about a foot of clearance: meanwhile I’m staring 20 yards down the road scanning for potholes (an aside – if you’ve ever been fell running and descended fast, you’ll be aware that you don’t have a clue what your feet are doing because your brain is constantly and repeatedly scanning five yards further down the hill to where you might break your ankle: brain and feet are barely in communication). And so it is on a bike. Pothole watch is the only game in town.

His front wheels have given me a foot. So in an instant I knew what was coming. The big fat back wheels, whose tyres were as high as I was, were no more than six inches from my right shoulder as they edged past at 20mph. I nearly shat masel’. Scariest moment on a bike bar none. But y’know, I survived, and by my reckoning, I’ve still got another five lives left. They must be worth 20,000 miles Shirley.

But I want to end this week back where I started…

As an outsider looking in, I had no idea what Mouldy’s route was until it unfolded. When I saw them cycling down the spine of England, up and down all of those hills, I was in shock. But they got there. And from there the guys just got stronger, and you could tell, day on day, that were were gonna do this. A bunch of guys, most of them born within 35 miles of Glasgow, destined to make it a day of pure celebration in Lisbon on the 25th of May.

Fae the LifeCycle Man: Shock and Awe.

The Road To Lisbon

The whole shebang started with Oscar Knox. Oscar was (sadly) the catalyst for both LCFN and The Road To Lisbon.

It was wee Oscar who fired up Mouldy back in 2012 and he was a key player in the mass cycle by Celtic fans from Parkhead to Belfast in 2012.

It was Mouldy who spearheaded a ride from Sligo to Celtic Park, also in 2012, to commemorate the charitable status of Brother Walfrid who created Celtic Football Club for the benefit of the underprivileged in the east end of Glasgow.

And it was also Mouldy who phoned me up back in late 2014 and asked me if I’d cycle to Belfast with him at the end of Cycling Santas as a mark of respect for the wee man.

Then it was my turn to ask Mouldy if he’d come with me on the Eileidh cycle from Forres to Celtic Park the following May.

Cycling got to Mouldy in a big way: and it was always for a charitable cause. Even when he was cycling 135 miles stuck in a big gear on the road from Inverness, the legend never complained. Mouldy just gets on with it.

After that Eileidh gig, which spawned the Princess Puddles tag, the big man told me of his plan to ride from Celtic Park to Lisbon in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his beloved bhoys becoming the first British club to lift the European Cup. The mainstream media can fawn all they like about the likes of Man United and Liverpool: Celtic did it first. That can never be taken away from them. There’s a saying in our house: second is nowhere.

And so it was that Mouldy asked me whether I’d go on his trip of a lifetime. Back then, it was just a pipe dream, but knowing Mouldy as I do, knowing how he approaches every project with Prince 2 precision, I knew back then it would a major success. I was intrigued, and more than just a little bit interested. I could see the attraction: a major challenge with mega miles and even megarer hills (see what I did there?) and the chance to expose LCFN to a new audience. But there was a snag: actually there were two. First and foremost, this was a trip for Celtic supporters, and there’s no denying that I would have felt slightly awkward being an Inverness fan playing away with someone else’s team. Even a year ago, it still didn’t feel right. Admire, yes. Be in the huddle…? And then I lost my job. The clincher, if ever I needed one (please don’t make this feel like an excuse – ed) was that once I started working for myself, paid holidays became a thing of the past. If I don’t work I don’t get paid. Simple. So I did the sums: the cost of the trip, plus the loss of earnings, would have cost me more that I’ve spent on five LCFN bikes and all the servicing to keep this trip on the road. And that was it: I had to say no.

This is all relevant because Mouldy and his team of 26 riders left Celtic Park yesterday bound for Lisbon: 1300 miles in fourteen days and I’m in awe of every one of them. I love what they’re doing. I look on Strava and I check just about every segment to see how fast they went, then I ask myself whether I could have kept up. While I was clawing my way round another 30 miles and 2300ft of climbing today, I pondered their simultaneous challenge 200 miles down the road: 94 miles and 8800ft of climbing. And that on the back of 82 miles yesterday and 5000ft.

I repeat what I said above: I’m in awe of them.

I love the look of the difficulty. I love the passion with which they are approaching this mightiest of challenges. I love the reason they’re doing it: combining the challenge with three charities:

  • The Celtic Foundation
  • Children in Crossfire
  • Solving Kids Cancer

And there, in a nutshell, you have it. Not only has Mouldy chosen to honour the charitable work of the founder of his football team, not only has he chosen to support the rights and needs of young people caught in the crossfire of global poverty, he has chosen to honour his wee hero, and support the children who have unfortunately followed in Oscar’s footsteps.

Mouldy, excuse my French, but you are a fucking legend. Chapeau mate. Chapeau.

What those guys are taking on is just exhausting to look at, even on paper [wish I was there…].

And that, interestingly enough, brings me to last weekend….

Last Friday’s Empty The Tank, Refuel, Repeat story was a tale of personal exhaustion. I’d fallen asleep in the chair when I got off the bike, even before I penned it, and I knew I was on the edge. But this is LCFN and the edge has perennially been pushed further and further way by mocking the boundaries of endurance.

You might recall that I wrote last week’s blog with 11,533ft of climbing on the clock, and I was peering enviously at the LCFN summit of 17,564ft with some trepidation (of course now I look at Mouldy’s team and think I’m a lightweight). I wanted that record: I wanted it badly. But by Friday night, the legs were having none of it. Cue a few beers and an LCFN special brew Spag Bol.

There was only one gig in town on Saturday morning: 3000ft of climbing. Sorry, make that two: I craved another 30 miler to keep the run going. But I needed that 3K climb to give myself the smallest sniff of the 17K record, knowing full well that whatever I managed on Saturday, I was going to have to go out and do it all over again, and more, on Sunday. That’s kind of what this is all about: find the edge, find the falling over point, then get up again and go again.

But on Saturday morning I suspected two things: that the Spag Bol had refilled the tank to its max 1800 calories, but I was going to need at least 500 more to get this one home. 30 miles and 3K of climbing demands 2.5K calories. There’s the edge again, right there.

So what I did was head out straight after a big brekkie: I reckoned on that being the difference. And it worked…

There was little wind (for once) so I actually had a free choice of routes. Bonus! Just go for all the local hills lad: But keep an eye on all the metrics, including the internal fuel gauge (hence keeping it local). Ten miles: a thousand feet. 20 miles: two thousand feet. Still okay, in fact remarkably okay. Time to push the boat out: a ten mile push up the big Dunlop hill and round the back of the village before heading home. Now that record was really on: 30 miles and 3025ft left only another 3226ft of climbing to find on the Sunday.

This had now become mind versus body, nothing short. For two hours before I went out, I was playing with routes in my mind. The wind was light but easterly and there was some benefit to be had by heading up towards Glasgow. But that route didn’t have enough climbs for the distance involved, so Glasgow was out of the equation. I headed out that way anyway, just to bag 600ft in the first four miles. Then it was a case of threading the local hills in and out of the wind, bagging a hundred here and hundred there, never allowing myself to stay flat for more than half a mile. I labelled it The Hill Whisperer just out of badness. The brutal short climb over from Uplawmoor to Neilston followed by the three mile drag out of Neilston back towards Dunlop took the climbometer over 2000ft but I still needed more and I knew I was running out of gas. From where I was on the road, there was only one route that was going to deliver it, and it had three of the hardest climbs round here round it’s neck. Just gotta do it, son. If you really want it, you just gotta do it.

Time to go down the gears, turn a slower cadence and just get the head down. And deliver.

Half an hour of pain later, with cramp setting in, the job was done. 18000ft feet of climbing for the week, hard on the back of 15000ft the previous week, and back to back 200 mile weeks to boot, was nothing less than Eileidh and Oscar deserved. And for Vanessa and Mackenzie too for their long fights in childhood.

But there’s more…

Tuesday was both the third anniversary of Eileidh’s diagnosis and the first anniversary of the worldwide release of Puddles, the song about her fight. In recognition of both events, I reshared the Facebook video on LCFN on Tuesday morning. At that time, it had been viewed by almost 27,000 people across the world. I know it’s not a stat of One Direction proportions, but what happened next was truly remarkable. As I’m typing this, I just checked the numbers again. Puddles is now only 50 unique hits shy of 32,000 (stop press: as I’ve proof reading before publication, 50 has become 43). These are not 5000 people revisiting the video. These are 5000 new people reaching for the tissues for the first time. That…. is neuroblastoma awareness in action.

But nothing that I can do on my own comes close to what Mouldy and his team are achieving on the road to Lisbon. Today they crashed through £34000 in donations, and at a stroke that means over £11K for Solving Kids Cancer to help support the next wee Oscar and the next Princess Puddles.

Mouldy mate, you are amazing.

The road leads to Lisbon. And you did it first.