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

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…

OCTOBER 2017

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

Goldielooks And The Three Bears

See every time Lewis Hamilton wins a Grand Prix: the first thing he does is thank his team for all their hard work. Yeah, I know they probably get well paid for it but at the end of the day, he’s just the guy out there on the road putting in the miles. Back in the garage, and at Mercedes F1 HQ in Brackley, there are probably hundreds of guys who put in the hard miles to make his job easier.

I don’t have hundreds of guys: I have one: Neil Kinnaird. Neil is my technical designer, he’s my purchasing director, and he’s my man in the garage. He does the lot. Neil is the quiet man who keeps LCFN on the road. I had to look back at the log to find out when we first hooked up and it was in the summer of 2014 when I was on my third bike and sitting at around 8,000 miles.

We’ve been together for 27,000 miles!

Neil’s a thinker, and he’s always half a dozen steps ahead of me, or to put it another way, one bike ahead of me. I remember when we first got together, I was riding a still new Dawes Tourer. I got it for my birthday because I reckoned I needed something heavier duty than a mountain bike for the long haul over the Fenwick Muir in the winter. Heavier duty right enough: the Karakoum weighed in at about 35 pounds, and that was before I loaded it up with supplies every day. That bike was a workhorse.

But every time it was in his shed (as it was back then), he used to say to me “y’know, you could really do with something lighter. For the hills that you’re dealing with, this is way too heavy”. Neil wasn’t trying to sell me a new bike (although he does sell bikes), he was simply trying to tell me that as a mile muncher (I do love that term) I was making life hard for myself.

So the next birthday (back in those days y’see, new bikes only ever happened on birthdays – is that not a tradition anyway?) I took his advice and went for a road bike. Ultra light at 21lb, to me it felt like a Ferrari. I had a Flying Scot 25 years ago (mine was a replica – Jane had an original) and this gave me a similar kind of feeling on the open road: if you’ve never ridden a road bike (at speed), then you’ve not lived. Twitchy as fuck but exhilarating. Simple as that.

I broke that bike inside twelve months.

If going to Neil in the first place (to get bits replaced on a bike that was less than six months old) was a sign, then the failure of the road bike frame eleven months later was a real wake up call. But because the bike was still within warranty, Trek replaced the frame free of charge. The failure, and this is probably significant given the beating that LCFN gives its machinery, was that the screw hole where the derailleur hangs on the frame had wobbled loose. So many gear changes, so many potholes, so much shit coming up off the road: in less than twelve months, the (external) derailleur would no longer sit true.

The replacement frame has seen 12,000 miles of action, the longest served of all of the LCFN bikes. But the gears go out of true within a few weeks and then you have the choice of messing about with tools (and getting it wrong, putting the next day’s ride at risk) or living with it. By living with it, I mean clicking the rear shifter about three or four times and feeling it only shift once. Eff knows what gear I’m in half the time. It’s a serious issue if you’re halfway up a steep one and you go click, click, click and nothing happens, I can assure you.

That’s the downside of derailleurs. Cheap, easy to mess with, and even easier to go wrong.

Remember how I said that Neil was always a bike ahead of me?

He could see the rate at which I was going through components. New jockey wheels, new hangers, new chains, new complete drive chains. Been there, done that. That’s been the norm for about three years. Every time the bike goes in the workshop, it costs me a hundred quid. That’s the real life cost of LCFN: it’s not Neil’s problem: I’m a mile muncher and I break stuff.

Cue a conversation that he and I had around the turn of the year: ’16 going into ’17. “You need to consider going for hub gears. They’ll cost you upfront, but you’ve save a fortune in the long run”.

The only thing I know about hub gears is that my brother had a (new) bike with a three speed Sturmey Archer gear when I was a kid. Sturmey Archer were the name in gears back then: we’re talking 40 years ago. They had a three speed hub and five speed hub. I think our kid had a three.

The big advantage of a hub gear is that everything’s internal: everything sits inside the hub on the rear wheel and the shit cannae get at it. I’m led to believe that as long as you do an oil change every 3000 miles, the gear will run, free of failure, for 60,000 miles. I’ve only done 35K miles so you’ll get my drift.

So Neil and I bounced a few ideas around over a few months, but they were all expensive. I don’t do expensive. I do functional and get by: and in any case, I was still on a bike that that only twelve months old.

Then our mam died.

I was brought up to never ever buy anything unless you’d saved up for it. My folks never, ever bought anything on tick. If you don’t have the money, then you can’t have it. That was the message.

But our mam was a charitable old dear, and she would have approved of LCFN if she’d not lost her marbles to dementia. So I decided to invest the pennies that she’d earmarked in her will for her errant son in a bike that will see me through till I’m too old to do this anymore. Our mam was not a woman of means. Everything she earned, she’d worked for, and everything she’d earned, she put away for a rainy day. The day it started raining, she moved into a nursing home, and in a flash, all her money was gone. Except for the last few pennies that the Tories couldnae get at.

I’ve invested those pennies in the gold LCFN bike.

It was Neil’s idea. He suggested Rohloff. They’re a German company: a family run business: they make the Rolls Royce of hub gears. Guys who tour the world over extreme terrain in extreme conditions, thousands of miles from any kind of support, swear by Rohloff. Their marketing blurb says they’ve never had a failure out in the field. How Lewis Hamilton would love that, eh?

So my mind was set: a Rohloff speed hub it was. On a Gold cyclo cross frame that Neil had already got his eyes on. We were on our way. Again. But the Rohloff normally comes with a twist grip gear changer on flat handle bars and I wanted drop bars…

Cue another suggestion from the ideas man: there’s another company in Germany that do a traditional thumb shift changer for Rohloff gears: left shifter up and right shifter down. “I like that”. Let’s do it. So in the grand scheme of things, with Brexit supposedly just around the corner, we have:

  • Bike frame: Netherlands
  • Hub gears: Germany
  • Gear shifters: Germany
  • Everything else: probably China

I road tested the new bike today, albeit on mountain bike tyres. Neil offered it to me for the weekend but I didn’t want to get it dirty before he’s finished building it (we’re still waiting on bomb proof tyres and mudguards): how vain am I?

I had been hoping to have the wheels in the house at the start of the week because…

Gail, Callum and Cerys came for their tea!!!

When Finn (who’s a chef) found out the night before, he asked what I was making: “Spag Bol of course”. I always make Spag Bol. I’ve probably made Spag Bol two hundred times and never made the same one twice. “Dad, you need to use a recipe”. “Fuck that, I just make it the way I make it: every one different”.

Cerys and Callum went back for seconds: that’s all I’m saying. 😊

But before I started cooking, we all walked up to Neil’s bike shop (Cerys walked on the wall by the way – I think every kid in Stewarton has done that, on that wall), with Eileidh Bear riding piggy back on Cerys’s shoulders. Eileidh Bear has two sister bears, and each has some of Eileidh’s ashes in a wee pouch. And if you squeeze their toes, then Eileidh starts giggling. It’s as adorable as it is gorgeous.

So Eiliedh Bear went up to the bike shop and got to ride the Gold bike before the LifeCycle Man. Totally apt: Eileidh and I have been together for 25,000 miles, the same number that I set out to achieve when I started.

Y’see the future of LCFN is a gold bike: a bike of hope for kids with cancer everywhere…

Goldielooks and the three bears.

Ultrasonic

I’m going into my fifth winter: #ForeverFive

I actually had to work it out while I was on the bike today because I was convinced it was four. Nope: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. Let’s do that that again: 17, 16, 15, 14, 13. Hell, it is actually five. Just two weeks until the Hundred Days Of Hell kick in for the fifth time, except these days they’re nowhere near as hellish as they used to be. If you’re new to the blog, or new to LCFN, the Hundred Days Of Hell relates back to the period between the two clock changes in the UK when I used to ride to and from work in Glasgow (for five months) without seeing daylight. Four thousand miles in the dark, in the cold, and quite often in lashing rain. Those were the days that gave me the mental strength to deal with days like today.

Wild, wet and windy: that was today. The kind of day when sane folk would ask why the hell are you going out on a bike. Because. There were a load of Stewarton Academy schoolkids heading down the main street when I went out and it was only when I got home that I discovered that my Joe was one of them. I didn’t bother asking whether he said “ooft, there’s my dad”. I think I know the answer.

Joe’s events been a bit of a theme this week. Last Saturday, he had an open day to go to at Edinburgh University ahead of deciding what he wants to do next year. Knowing how much I hate coming back from somewhere and having to go out and do miles, I went out at breakfast time instead. Hee haw on the road, just go out there and smash it was the plan. And I also had the added pressure of my flu jab up at the health centre to look forward to before we went out: you get that on the NHS when you’re my age. So I only had a couple of hours and I clogged it. I’ll let you into a secret, shall I? Clogging it at breakfast time is not a good idea. All your working muscles go on strike as soon as you get home.

Now because there were three of us heading out east, we decided to take the motor and do a park n ride job from Hermiston Gait. It worked out well, except for the fact that the bus got stuck in traffic – whatever happened to bus lanes?) and we were late getting into the city. We sent Joe on ahead of us old folk to get to the first lecture… If you know Edinburgh, you’ll know that there are some pretty steep hills heading up towards the Royal Mile from Waverley. I felt my calf go: shit! I know it was only a little yelp, but I have previous with that exact injury. Turn the clock back almost 35 years to the build up to the Balloch to Clydebank road race…

I should never have been a runner in the first place: slightly pigeon toed and an extreme over pronator, my running style is most ungainly. But once upon a time that gait was relatively fast over long distances. The Balloch to Clydebank race that I speak of used to be twelve and half miles back then: I think they’ve upped it to a half marathon since because that’s the fad with these things: 13.1 miles attracts more punters than 12.5.

But in the lead up to that race, because I wanted a good time (in the running sense, not the social scene) I was training hard and running 70-80 miles a week. At pace. I’d had a niggling achilles injury that had cost me the Glasgow Marathon the year before and when the pain from that made its way up into the base of my calf I was struggling. Back then I had a season ticket at the Sports Injuries Clinic at the Tryst Sports Centre in Cumbernauld (you think I’m joking?) and it was only the skill and care of the resident physio that got me to the start line of that race. I know that burning pain only too well, like someone holding a lighted match to the back of the bottom of your calf every tenth step (or tenth revolution if you’re on a bike).

I know the treatment that got me to the start line in Balloch too. So I knew the treatment that was going to keep me on the bike last Sunday going into Monday. For the record, that Saturday of the Balloch to Clydebank race was every bit as horrible as the weather was today. Wind, rain and as miserable as sin. But I always ran my best races in conditions like that: it just gave you something extra to run against. I was a decent runner back then: 67 minutes did the job: and injured. Afterwards, I took a timeout.

But timeouts are frowned upon in LCFN so by hook or by crook I was not for taking one last Sunday. On a bike, there are ways of dealing with these things: pedalling with your toes (clipped onto the bike) pointing down for starters. That reduces the strain on both the calf and the achilles at a stroke. It feels funny, but it gets the job done.

And one other thing: the key thing: the thing I learned from those physios every Monday and Thursday after the running club: ultrasound keeps dedicated athletes on the road. Why would you stop when you don’t really have to?

I should never have been a runner in the first place. I can still remember the intense pain of getting off the bus on a Wednesday afternoon after cross country. No specialist running shoes back in those days: pumps probably. I could barely walk: massive calf tension. Those problems have stayed with me for nigh on fifty years. But they didn’t stop me running 10K’s in 31 minutes and half marathons in 71 minutes back in the day.

My running career petered out in the mid 90’s when the calf injuries just wouldn’t leave me alone. But what I did do, to at least keep me going as an erstwhile jogger, was buy a mobile ultrasound machine. Okay so it’s not quite the same piece of kit that they used back at Cumbernauld, but think laptop to their desktop. This wee beastie still packs the same punch as the kit that they had back then, and at the first sign of a niggle since I’ve been on the bike, the ultrasound machine comes out.

So cue last Sunday: Jane poked about with my calf before I went out but that was just to get me out of the door. When I got home, thirty odd miles later, the machine came out. Twice: double dose. And again on Monday: before and after the bike ride. Thirty one miles. Tuesday: the same routine: thirty two miles. Wednesday: no pain: no ultrasound and everything was kind of back to normal. Same ever since.

Last Saturday was a close, close call. I could have lost a week, maybe two, and that translates immediately into five hundred miles, plus whatever you lose when you have to start again at half speed.

Let no one tell you that LCFN is a fit man’s game. It’s only a fit man’s game because you have to listen to your body at every turn, then give it a good talking to whenever it steps out of line. This one was a close call, but I got away with it. LCFN will always come first: I won’t go and play five a side (at age 64) even though I’d love to. Priorities, priorities, priorities!

But I can’t finish this week without looking forward to next…

On Tuesday, we are playing host to Gail, Callum and Cerys, albeit for a short while as they take a pit stop on their way to Blackpool. You never know guys, you might even get to sample some of my legendary Spag Bol if we can get the timing right. Jane will be working from home and Angela’s coming over too so you don’t score many bonus points for guessing how excited we all are. Also, I booked my place on the Solving Kids Cancer annual conference today: just the Saturday mind as the expense of a full weekend away is just a little too much to bear. I’m going there to listen and learn in the hope that I can turn the current research into some sort of advance screening tool in primary care: it’s like SNOMED-CT meets my passion for a cure. It’s a long shot, I know, but something tells me I’m on this journey for a reason (other than just being on the bike).

As ever, the pace quickens. It might not be supersonic (I’m far too old for that) but it is most certainly ultrasonic!

King Puddles

A Friday morning blog is as rare as a Scotland win in pink. Almost as rare, in fact, as three Scotland World Cup qualifier victories in a row. Some allege that you have to go back to 1970 to find the last time that that happened. Sadly, I don’t have to go back any further than the last few days to find the last time I got soaked three days in a row.

What happened to summer, or if I may rephrase that, what happened to our Indian summer cum autumn? These last few days, we seem to have shifted straight from summer to winter and skipped the middle bit. It’s been wet, it’s been cold, and it’s been windy. Very windy. I don’t care much for the rain but I hate the wind: detest it. I detest the wind even more than I detest the farmers at this time of year. There’s barely a route of mine that’s currently untouched by the dreaded hedge cutting machines. Tidy up after themselves? Not likely. The country roads are littered with thorns, just waiting to trip up the unwary life cyclist. To date, I’ve been lucky and fallen foul of only one, but it’s only a matter of time, and you just know that it’s gonna happen on a day when the rain is lashing down and I’m in the middle of nowhere! Grrr…

How quickly one’s mood has changed. From chasing records and bagging loadsa miles, I’ve reverted to winter type almost overnight and I’m finding the motivation a real strain once again. The weather does that to you. I was never going to keep those 300 mile weeks going, but I did at least think I’d get back into a 30 mile a day groove for the remainder of this year: nothing of the sort. Soaked and cold on Monday: did a runner at 22 miles. Soaked and cold again on Tuesday on a similar course: same runner for the same result. On Wednesday, I dusted myself down and hit the route in the opposite direction, hoping for some inspiration. I found it (sic) in the shape of a 29 inch deep puddle that must have been 40m long, under the railway bridge going down into KIlmaurs. “I ain’t going back: I’ll just get off and wade through it”. The water was over the top of my wheels. In a sense it didn’t matter because I was already wet from the rain, but there’s a difference between rain wet and wading wet: heavy, cold, wet shoes for a start. And feet like blocks of ice. 6C it was on Wednesday afternoon.

The interim result from that lot read like an England scorecard on a good day in an Ashes Test down under: 71-3. Absolutely not good enough, particularly when the innings has been delivering upwards of 300 of late. This one, sad to say, was destined for a paltry 150 and an inevitable follow-on when the heavens flooded the pitch on Wednesday.

Time for a team talk, one of the Fergie hairdryer variety. “LifeCycle Man, you haven’t come through 7,200 miles this year to chuck in the towel now. This team is better than that”. So yesterday I went out with a fragile resolve to do better. But it was so friggin’ windy! And those pesky thorns were getting blown all over the place. I encountered not one, not two, but three of those damned tractors yesterday on what I had assumed was a safe route, safe as in the official Sustrans bike route 7 out to Ardrossan. The wind was so bad that when I reached the turn out by West Kilbride, the Garmin was reporting an average speed of 11.8mph. I did that same route two Saturdays ago at 8am on a still day and recorded 15+. When the wind’s that strong, it saps your energy, both mentally and physically. Indeed, I’d clearly struggled so much heading out into it that I barely managed to claw 1mph back on the average on the return leg. But 43 miles stabilised the innings: for now. 71-3 has become 114-4 which is still pretty rubbish in the grand scheme of things. Geoffery would not be amused.

So now I have to go out and achieve something similar today. It’s bright, which is good, and the wind is much lighter, so therein lies an ample opportunity to make hay. Forty will get the innings up to and over 150-5, and an all out target in excess of 200 then seems more likely than not come Sunday: however tonight I’m out on the lash, and tomorrow I’m in Edinburgh all day so tomorrow morning at 7am, the LCFN wicket may well be taking some turn. Anything short of 25 at breakfast time tomorrow will leave the last batsman looking at substantial tail end score on Sunday to avoid an otherwise inevitable embarrassing outcome.

So what of other things?

Well assuming that one can avoid the follow-on, then Sunday will mark a quiet milestone: 35,000 miles. Should it come about, with the Japanese Grand Prix and the final round of World Cup qualifiers to look forward to, I’m sure a wee libation will be on the cards. 35K is not a total to be sniffed at. Next stop will be 40K somewhere around the time of my retirement birthday in the spring (except I’m not planning on retiring). There was a time when I thought that 40K would happen in Australia next year but a good hard working summer put paid to that notion.

The new bike is coming together, in bits…

The gold frame’s been in Neil’s capable hands for the past four or five weeks, and we’ve spent much of the time since then swithering over the revolutionary hub gear that’s going on it. To recap, I go through spare parts on the drive chain (that’s the front chain rings, the rear derallieurs and the chain itself) on a semi-regular basis, so Neil suggested going for an internal hub gear: that’s where all of the gears are nice and cosy, inside the hub itself. The fun part is getting the configuration right, because once it’s on, it’s on: there’s no going back. My current road bike has three front chain rings, just like a mountain bike, and a ten speed cassette on the back. So that’s thirty gears to play with, except you never run the chain big ring to little cassette, or little ring to big cassette. You’re always somewhere in the middle that doesn’t knacker the chain or the components.

The new bike has a single ring on the front, a bit like a fixed wheel bike, and a range of gears in the hub that will simulate most of the lower and middle gears on my current bike, with some of the bigger ones thrown in for fun. But the emphasis is very much on the lower end of the spectrum as I’m getting older (and speed is less important). The hub is in, and I’ve actually had my grubby mitts on it. It’s beautiful in a metallic red casing. The theme is going to be gold, silver and red. The frame itself and the front chain ring are both gold. Both hubs and the handlebar tape are going to be in red, with everything else in silver. I haven’t decided yet on the tyres: they’ll either be red or yellow: and solid tyres so I can ignore those pesky farmers. It will be a (custom) bike like no other. Oh, and part of the silver spec includes disc brakes in place of the traditional V brakes that you normally get on a road bike. I can get through a set of rear brake blocks in a fortnight so this is another ruse pinched from the mountain bike scene to try and cut down on the wear and tear of components.

On the work front, it’s been another SNOMED-CT study week. After sitting through 54 presentations, five web conferences, three homeworks and five exams, there are now just two presentations, two exams and a final webinar with my tutor in Denmark to go: and that’s scheduled for Halloween (!!!) with the exams to follow on soon after. SNOMED has been a long road, one that at times has been as hard, emotionally and mentally, as the bike ride. But one feeds off the other and as just long as you can keep turning those cogs in your brain, you’ll keep moving forward.

But I’ll leave you this week with the banterous, encouraging words of Gail. It was while whe were discussing the depth of the lake under the railway bridge in Kilmaurs, that she said that Eileidh would’ve been in there like a shot. “But she’d have needed a life jacket” said I. “That wouldn’t have stopped her” said Gail. “She’d have gone in, then called on you to come and get her out”…

It was at that point that Gail crowned me King Puddles.

Every Day’s A School Day

There’s been a bit of a theme running through this week. It started when I got a LinkedIn message from the Deputy Director of Sport at my old school: I think that was on Monday. I’d liked an article he’d shared and I guess he’s looked up my profile and thought “who’s this character”? Anyway, we got talking (well, I use the term loosely: we started messaging) and he’s asked me if I’d like to go back and address a special assembly about LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. OMFG!!!

I went to Bishop Vesey in Sutton Coldfield. The school is 490 years old. It’s part of the fabric of society. At that age, you go where your parents send you. My folks didn’t have two halfpennies to rub together but my old man had it in his head that his kids were going to get the education that he never got. His mother died when he was 12 so his dad took him out of Moseley Grammar. The regret of that never left him, and as a waif, he turned his angst into wanting the best for his tribe. So he and our mam jumped over the boundary from Birmingham into Sutton Coldfield, just so we could get a better chance in life. People still do that to this day.

The problem for me was that although I passed the Eleven Plus, I was something of a dunce once I got to the grammar school. In a class of 30 kids, I found myself perennially fighting relegation in every subject. Not for me the A’s and B’s of the high flyers: my report card was strewn with B’s, C’s and the odd D. Standards were high and down in 23rd place, where I usually ended up, it was often difficult to keep my head above water. The problem with the grammar school, you see, was that the pace was fast: the pace was electric. We were doing differentiation and integration in Maths in 3rd year. These days, in Scotland at least, I think they teach that two years down the road. It was hard. I never, ever felt comfortable and turned my attention to football and trainspotting. Oh, and snooker and soul music. I was and still am a black American 60’s soul addict. You can knock me out with some Otis Redding.

Anyway, I digress: it was while I was at Vesey that I fell in love…

With cross country.

I was a tiny kid. I didn’t get to 5 foot till I was 15 (but Hazlegrove was smaller so I avoided the worst of the taunting) but hell I could run. Not well enough to get into any teams or anything, because I was so small, but once my folks put manure in my boots and I sprouted, so recognition followed. Mike Dann, about whom I wrote on Facebook recently, gave me my chance in 6th year and our team won the league. I was on my way.

The following year, after I’d left school, I wrote to the headmaster and asked if I could go back, for one day, and borrow the (grass) athletics track. I’d done the 25 mile Oxfam Walk round the Sutton boundary the previous year and I fancied running it this time around: they said no, so I went back to Vesey and ran 21 miles round the track instead. I was 19. That was my first introduction to fuck you, I’ll find a different way, a better way….

But see down in the relegation zone of class: those kids didn’t go to Uni. I scraped a C in Physics (after taking the O level three times) and a E in Maths, and that got me a place at North Staffs Poly in Stafford. That was where I found myself. That was where I found I could work for hours and hours on my own, reading this, studying that, and slowly making sense of it all. I emerged from Stafford with a 2.1 in Computer Science and I haven’t missed a day’s work since: 42 years and counting in IT. It was paper tape when I started, before the industry moved up market to punched cards then to dumb terminals on mainframes. I was getting somewhere at last…

Ten years in software engineering taught me loads: my formative software design years.

Three years as a consultant out on the road taught me survival. I wrote the Daily Record’s very first advertising IT system, the one that brought in the revenue that kept the paper afloat.

Both of those jobs ended in redundancy, the first because Burroughs merged with Sperry and forfeited our factory to pay for it: the second because the software house ran out of money. I spent three months earning a living on short term deals before I eventually found sanctuary at Weir Pumps. I was still a runner in those days so I used to get a lift into work then run back into town to catch the train. Get this: I would leave my desk to get changed at twenty to five and leg it the three plus miles to Queen Street to catch the train to Croy. The train left at 5:03pm: I rarely missed it.

It was at Weirs that I crafted my SQL skills: 20 years of working with Oracle came to an end when the company was facing closure and Jim McColl rode into town on his white horse and rescued the site. Reprieved. But his team had zero faith in our hand crafted, custom engineered software and they binned the lot. Everything that I’d invested 55 hours a week in (unpaid overtime and some) gone in the stroke of a pen. They brought in SAP: I re-invented myself in Excel: not the front end but the back end. Programming in VBA: the clever stuff: making the numbers work wonders through coding.

Then eighteen months ago this week, I got an instant message from the Head of African Game Reserve Photography, inviting me up to the thick pile carpet end of the floor. I was out the door ten minutes later. They called it corporate restructuring. It was the day before my 63rd birthday. Happy birthday, old man: here’s some money, now clear off. Devastated doesn’t even come close. I cycled home dreaming of shelf stacking…

Six hours later, I had a new job. On the phone, we talked about what I could do, not what I couldn’t. Imagine accepting a job without discussing the salary. I did it because I wanted the challenge…

I went in on a three month deal, which reverted to twelve months after two weeks.

That was eighteen months ago.

In April of next year, the NHS will revert from the clinical coding system that has served it well for the past 25 years, to a new, all singing and all dancing system: SNOMED-CT, the international standard. I saw this juggernaut coming down the tracks a year ago and I knew back then that it had the power to demolish our fledgling enterprise. So I asked to go back to the classroom.

I did the SNOMED-CT Foundation course in Q1 of this year and survived. So I enrolled on the advanced implementation course the day after. I thought to myself “I bet this is where the big boys and girls hang out”. I wasn’t wrong. Six modules, each longer and harder than its predecessor, with an assignment (homework) and an assessment (exam) in each: 70%+ required in each in order to progress to the next round. SNOMED-CT is a clinical system. I am a software guy. I struggled early doors. I really, really struggled the month our mam died and I only survived by 0.23% in the exam. But I survived.

This week, I sat the module E exam: subject matter Development. Tools of said development: SQL. Come to daddy! I will never, ever be a doctor but give me five million rows of medical data to play with and I’ll write you a system.

But see the best bit about SNOMED-CT? It employs a design so similar to the eClipse system that I designed at Weirs back in 2000 it’s untrue. The future of global healthcare is based on a data model that Jim McColl and his horse saw fit to lob in the bin. Sorry chaps but we were bang on the money: it wasn’t our problem that our futuristic design wasn’t appreciated.

I enquired of SNOMED International how many people have graduated from the implementation course in the UK in the three years that it’s been running: 37. Yes, you read that right: it’s not a typo: 37. And in Scotland it’s 2: hopefully I’ll be the third. Pause and think about that for a minute…

Y’see it’s all about believing in yourself, investing in yourself, and never giving up. The only person who knows what you are capable of is you. And that’s even before you get out of your comfort zone and start pushing the boundaries…

Talking of which: I’ve made a big play these last three weeks about attacking the LCFN records across the board:

The most miles in a week went last Sunday. The new mark is 361 miles.

The most miles in a calendar month went on Monday. The old mark was 1112 miles.

1200 miles went on Wednesday.

1300 miles went today.

55,000ft of climbing is the most in any LCFN month.

Tomorrow is the last day of Go Gold September: except that I’ve renamed it Go Puddlium.

My legs have given me everything. My body has given me everything. For the past three weeks, I’ve been on the road for four hours a day. I have learned so much about what my old body is capable of.

But hey…

Every day’s a school day.

I’m Not Like Everybody Else

I barely know where to start this week. I don’t quite know how, or even why, I got to this point, but I am here, I am living in this moment and I’m just trying to hang onto every single day of September like it was the last.

But first, in order to set the scene, let me turn the clock back 21 days. I wrote this as I was sat on a train heading back from England…

“August was good. August was very good. August could have been spectacularly good but all good things must come to an end when something altogether more important is lying in wait. For today is September 1st, and the start of childhood cancer awareness month. Go gold with pride and a passion. While I was sat in a meeting in Manchester this morning, outlining my dream of GP practices being able to screen for clustered symptoms of cancer in small children, the Sydney Opera House was being lit up in Gold ten thousand miles away. It feels like this is an unstoppable journey, one that was always destined to happen in one form or another. On September 1st next year, I plan on being in Sydney, on my gold bike, in support of Neuroblastoma Australia”.

I didn’t cycle on that Friday. I’d missed our wedding anniversary by being away on the Thursday so Jane and I went out for dinner when I got home. In hindsight, that missed day was the catalyst, the fuse if you like, that set a bonfire under September 2017.

Further down that blog, this appeared:

“LCFN is not about being in a cosy warm place: LCFN is about putting your body on the line where it hurts, when it hurts, and just keeping on doing it. LCFN is for every waking day of your life, not just for Christmas. Because that’s what a kid with cancer has to endure and as today is the start of awareness month, it’s worth restating the vow.

My yardstick is what you manage to do with the days when you’re on it. I just managed 42 thirty milers in a row”.

You see I wanted to bag a thousand miles in September and I’d got off to the worst possible start by getting none on day one. And as September is a short month, that just ratchets up the pressure, something that traditionally I’ve not dealt well with. Basically, I hate playing catchup: I’m an ahead of the game sort of a bloke, a do your chores before playtime sort of a bloke. Chasing the game does not sit well with me.

The Saturday and Sunday of that week were meant to be just a launchpad to limit the damage.

Roll it forward seven days and the sore of missing out on the first was clearly festering:

“The loss of Friday, became the driving force behind #GoGoldSeptember. I touted it as a desire to bag only the fifth golden month, in memory of Eileidh as #ForeverFive, but that doesn’t tell half the story. A thousand miles was never going to be a problem, assuming I don’t get sent away with work at short notice. My focus is not on a thousand, not even on eleven hundred. It’s on the top step: 1112 miles posted at the end of the hat trick of golds back in November ’15. To be honest, no matter what I clock this month, I can take nothing away from that monumental month. I remember the hundred days of hell only too well. November is a dark, cold, wet and wild month. It’s when the storms kick in. And you see not one minute of daylight. Every one of those eleven hundred miles was done in the dark. You never forget those days”.

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: then this appeared…

“But 1112 is in the crosshairs. You get a lot of time to think strategy and routes when you’re out for three and four hours a day, and in my mind I’ve been toying with something that’s basically been tantalisingly off limits all along: I called it a titanium month a couple of years ago because relatively speaking, it’s off the scale and unreachable: 1200 miles.

Is it achievable? In a 31 day month, with a tailwind of motivation, I think it is. But it’s on top of a full time job remember. In a 30 day month, it demands 40 miles day. The most I’ve ever done of those in a row is six. That’s precisely why 1200 is titanium: it’s basically impenetrable. So take a day off that and challenge yersel’ to do it in 29: that makes the asking rate 41 miles a day. Every day. That’s two and a half thousand calories burnt up on the bike and a whole load of tiredness to boot. And still the day job to do.

Oooft, game on…”

Game on indeed.

The first full week of September returned 311 miles, bettering a 294 that I’d ended August with, and sitting comfortably at number two on the all-time list after four years on the road.

Ironically, that blog a fortnight ago was named I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Oooft, how times change. That 311 lasted only a week…

I wiped it last week with a 319, a ridiculous effort of seven forty something days, the minimum of which was a 44.

A perfect storm was definitely brewing. From Stewarton Wednesday last week:

“The run up to Wednesday lies in the fact that I’m trying to smash just about every LCFN record in the book in the #GoGold month of September. When I say I every record, I’m probably exaggerating just a wee bit because I think top spot for miles in a week is safe until I get to Australia next year. But the others are all going: and therein lies the problem…

From being a guy who just went out to enjoy the ride, wherever it may take me, I became, for one month only, a guy for whom every last mile counts. And when the LCFN records as they currently stand define me at my limits, then something’s gonna have to give: it’s either me, or it’s them”.

I knew at the end of last week that something truly special was in sight. But in order to claim it, to grasp it, and behold it, I had to up my game one more time. Merely working out at 45 miles a day for the remaining two weeks was not going to get the job done.

Cue overdrive…

I’ve had to let my professional working hours slip a little this week (only 29 by close of play tonight) because for this week only, LCFN changed from being a miles based adventure to a time based one. No longer was it “x number of miles”: it morphed into “x number of hours”, where x is never less than3.5.

I’m talking about that top spot, those 340.9 miles that were racked up courtesy of cycling from Eileidh’s home town of Forres to Celtic Park in May 2015, and that on top of a normal woking week, with Mouldy, Kev and Robert. One offs are efforts to behold. Treasure them.

For the past three months, I’ve been majoring on 30 mile days, every day.

For practically the whole of the past month, I’ve been majoring on 40’s.

Add another ten.

This week has majored on 50’s.

The last time I managed to put four 50’s together in a row was November ’15 and that was the very week that notched top spot with 1112 miles. I’m sitting on four 50’s tonight: and tomorrow’s another new day, albeit that there’s a Sevco-Celtic match kicking off at noon that I’d rather like to peruse as an outsider.

The week’s sitting on 251.9 miles. I need another 91 to do the unthinkable. On tired legs. This is not (yet) a done deal. The month is sitting on 964 so tomorrow, for sure, September will go #Gold. Only the fifth month ever that I’ve managed it and a fitting tribute to Eileidh. Forever Five.

Tuesday should see the fall of the 1112 that currently occupies top spot then that leaves four days to scale the summit of Mount Titanium.

Nothing is impossible. That’s the message I’ll take away from this month. I’ll remember it long after it’s over, not because of the miles, ridiculous as they are, but because of the mental strength that it has taken to chip away at that target. No one day has been a game changer: it’s just been a constant winding up of the effort, day after day after day. Repeat. Tuesday was the second longest run of the year at 50.7. Wednesday was the longest run of the year. That lasted one day: Thursday topped it. Thursday last 24 hours: today topped it.

I don’t know where September will end. I’m sufficiently tired to know that once 1200 is pretty much assured, I won’t care anymore and I’ll throttle back the miles to where they started the month. It’s just a shame that I only posted a 36 on the 3rd because every other day has been 40+. C’est la vie.

I guess not many guys would have taken this on. I guess even fewer guys aged 64 would have taken this on. But that’s me…

I’m not like everybody else.

Stewarton Wednesday

I walked ten Inverness Caley Thistle Highland Marches before I knew my time was up. There comes a point, in everything you do in life, when you know, you instinctively know, that you’re looking down the barrel at a decision…

Do I keep going?

Or do I just let it go?

That day was Wednesday.

But back to the Highland March…

When you set out to walk 200 miles in a week (seven marathons in seven days, and then some), and you’ve done it before, there’s ample opportunity to know what lies ahead, and to let it get to you. When that happens, if the spirit ain’t strong, then any dream you have is history.

I’ve been there many times on the HM, faced those demons, and beaten them every time. When you’re in the middle of nowhere, with 25 miles ahead of you, on terrain that that is unforgiving and your legs gave up days ago, your mind has to be strong. It’s never the body that wins: it’s always the mind: and when your mind has gone, it’s game over.

Sometimes the body prompts the mind for long enough that it just gives in. Maybe that’s what happened to me towards the end of HM10, after I’d walked 70 miles on the worst blister you’re ever likely to see. As I hobbled towards the end of that HM, I thought “do I need to do this anymore”? And merely asking the question was enough…

The next year I drove the support bus.

The HM was fantastic. For a week, every year for ten years, I had the time of my life pushing my ageing body up and down hills, along stretches of open country road, over open moorland, over old drovers’ tracks, and even over the odd posh golf course. The highlight was probably walking 135 miles from Inverness to Dunfermline in 48 hours back in 2006, solo with one of my mates for support. A 75 mile first leg included an ‘in the dark, over the mountains, through the night’ expedition for a 7:30am breakfast rendezvous (I was fifteen minutes late in Kincraig for the bacon butties). I think I was awake for about 40 hours. Stuff like that teaches you a lot: particularly when the going gets tough…

When you set out to do something that’s 100% under your control, then every decision along the way, that ultimately leads to success or failure, is yours.

And all of that brings me back to Wednesday…

I’ve got favourite routes, I’ve got routes that I keep in reserve for bad weather (invariably from the west) and I’ve got routes that I hold back for “fuck it, let’s just make it hurt today”. I don’t do those routes very often.

The run up to Wednesday lies in the fact that I’m trying to smash just about every LCFN record in the book in the #GoGold month of September. When I say I every record, I’m probably exaggerating just a wee bit because I think top spot for miles in a week is safe until I get to Australia next year. But the others are all going: and therein lies the problem…

From being a guy who just went out to enjoy the ride, wherever it may take me, I became, for one month only, a guy for whom every last mile counts. And when the LCFN records as they currently stand define me at my limits, then something’s gonna have to give: it’s either me, or it’s them.

Last week was a 311 mile week: and I still managed to work 35 hours. How I managed that I don’t know: a combination of starting early and finishing late I guess. Those 311 miles rank second on the all time list after 211 weeks of being on the bike. The top step, the one that I suspect is safe for now, is 341, but that included a 190 mile ride from Motherwell to Inverness after I ditched the Highland March to ride my bike through the night on Highland Bike 1. So in real terms, although it sits in gold just now, it’s sort of a bit false because it’s not like all of the other weeks. Back in the day when I was doing 50 miles a day backwards and forwards to my work in Glasgow, I took the weekends off because I needed to: those two days of doing nothing were the difference between strong legs and broken legs.

Now I don’t take any days off: because I only ride once a day, whatever I do is whatever I do. I get home and that’s me till tomorrow. Always.

But if you read last week’s blog, you’ll know that I have half an eye, not just on the top prize of 1112 miles in a month, done 100% in the dark in November 2015 (proud of that), but on something that I’ve always considered to be out of reach: 1200 miles. I labelled it titanium because I’ve always regarded it as a barrier that’s unbreakable. If I had no job (retired???) and had all the time in world to bang in the miles, then maybe, but around a full time job I’ve always regarded 1200 as unattainable: hence titanium.

This is Friday. The ascent to last week’s 311 was launched off 214 on Friday night. That 214 sits tonight on 229.

Because of Wednesday.

The 30 days of LCFN September were reduced to 29 because I was away with my work on the 1st: this is the 15th and September is sitting on 621. The boat is not in the harbour. For the last fourteen days, I’ve been rowing it, paddling and tugging it. And on Wednesday it felt like I was actually pushing it.

When you’ve learnt not to give up on a Highland March, you most definitely don’t give up on an LCFN bike ride.

The problem has been pushing these 45 mile days. It’s easy round these parts to find a 20 mile ride: yeah, it’s hilly, but at the end of the day it’s only 20 miles. 30’s more of a challenge because you put yourself on the limit of what possible in the time versus the available fuel. 35’s pushing my boundary as far as fuel goes.

Anything about 40 and I’m into the refuelling zone: but it’s not just that, it’s where to go. Today, for instance, was 45 miles and 2,650 feet of climbing. Add to that 2,569 calories burnt up on the road and you can see my problem: my wee fuel tank only holds 1850: and when you’re doing that day in and day out, something has to give: one day you’re gonna head out the door on empty…

That day was Wednesday.

I knew even before I set off that I was in trouble. Normally I’m all ready to go, to make up a route on the hoof once I get a feel for what the wind’s doing: I never set the course before I leave the house. Not on Wednesday: five miles in and I was already looking at the Garmin. Of course I knew it was only five miles but my legs were dead. “Have I really got to put them through another 35 miles of this” I thought…

So you know what I did?

I picked a route that I normally do the other way round (for no reason other than I prefer it that way), and I hated it all the way round. I stopped about three or four times to take pictures and break the monotony. And still the Garmin was only showing about 25 miles…

So I headed out away from home again: on a trajectory that I knew was going to mean that the only way I was going to get home was to achieve what was required. This was not enjoyment in any shape or form. It was endurement…

I even got overtaken on the road down to Troon by a bloke in trainers on a mountain bike. But yer know what? I cracked 47 miles on Wednesday. I felt like shit for the whole three and a half hours but the job got done. Sometimes it’s like that. The Highland March taught me that sometimes it’s like that.

Now roll the clock forward 48 hours…

At 17 miles today, I went through 200 miles in a week for the 86th time: I’m still on course for that ton of double hunnerds in the week of my 65th birthday. I’ve just got to spend the winter doing it.

At 24 miles, I cracked 600 miles for September (in only 14 days).

At 33 miles, LCFN eyeballed the 34,000 mile cake: 943 days it has taken, at 36 miles a day average. The ascent is now fast approaching 1.7 million feet: that’s 1,782 feet of climbing for every one of those 36 mile days.

But you know why all of this is worth it?

Because it’s hard.

It’s fucking hard.

Wednesday was the hardest day I’ve had to endure in a long, long time. Yes, there are going to be back to back 300 mile weeks for the first time ever: yes I’m gonna keep chasing that 1200 mile titanium month like my life depended on it: and yes, I’m gonna take a rest in October: but not until.

Some things just drive you on…

Stewarton Wednesday.

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

I’ll tell you now: I’m one stubborn old bugger. When something annoys me, you can expect a kickback. My emotional kickback is bigger than anything you’ll get off a cloven hoof, believe me.

So this tale is seeded in the fact that last Thursday, not yesterday but last week’s instantiation, I was due to come back from my latest sojourn down south. But at the eleventh hour, I remained down the road to go to a meeting in Manchester that may define my working life for the next wee while. It meant I missed our wedding anniversary: 21 years Jane and I have been hitched and I gave it up for a meeting. This had better end well…

The outcome, give a train delay or two, and a dinner date, meant that I copped zero miles last Friday. Check the date: September 1st. No miles on the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That did my nut in. In 2013, I was a rookie so I’m pleading ignorance. September returned 543 miles. I still remember being delighted with that like it was yesterday. Five hundred miles in a month seemed magical to an old fart on a folding bike.

Cue 2014 and I was really getting into it: 913 miles. That total was second only to the 941 that included a 165 mile cameo on the day that wee Oscar passed away. Ironically I took a rest day the very next day, the day that Eileidh was diagnosed. And to think I was only 25 miles from her house and emotionally wasted.

2015 was a biggie: Eileidh was just back from America (for the first time) so I pushed the boat out: 1041 miles. That was the very first #Gold month of LCFN. I’ll repeat now what I felt back then: these one thousand miles months sap the life out of you. They are relentless. They are a slog. They are not some wee jolly that takes up your day. When you have a full time job, one thousand miles on a bike takes commitment, planning and more than a decent dose of fuck you, bad weather. In the west of Scotland, we get a lot of that.

2016 was the start of my ongoing injury nightmare. I tweaked a thigh muscle chasing a Strava King Of The Mountains up a hill and to this very day that injury remains a problem. It’s a big driving muscle, and it hurts. Every day. I chucked September ’16 on the 25th and was sidelined for seven of the longest weeks of my life. When I started back it was okay for a while then it just came back. Now I just manage it by how hard I try.

Cue 2017, and back to last Friday.

I didn’t get out, and that irked me. If there is one month in the calendar year when you want to try harder, for the kids, it’s September. The world is busy going gold and it’s an opportunity/obligation to pile on in. September is LCFN’s Christmas. It’s my annual opportunity to push the boundaries for the kids, as if to prove that collectively, we will not be defeated.

And so to last weekend. I was not only annoyed by not getting out on the first, my frustration was compounded by having missed an opportunity to blag top spot on the LCFN leaderboard in August. For Eileidh. I gave up the last three days to head off down south with my work but still managed to post #Gold. 1046 miles grabbed a podium step but I knew I’d missed out on the big one…

That miss, and the loss of Friday, became the driving force behind #GoGoldSeptember. I touted it as a desire to bag only the fifth golden month, in memory of Eileidh as #ForeverFive, but that doesn’t tell half the story. A thousand miles was never going to be a problem, assuming I don’t get sent away with work at short notice. My focus is not on a thousand, not even on eleven hundred. It’s on the top step: 1112 miles posted at the end of the hat trick of golds back in November ’15. To be honest, no matter what I clock this month, I can take nothing away from that monumental month. I remember the hundred days of hell only too well. November is a dark, cold, wet and wild month. It’s when the storms kick in.And you see not one minute of daylight. Every one of those eleven hundred miles was done in the dark. You never forget those days.

But 1112 is in the crosshairs. You get a lot of time to think strategy and routes when you’re out for three and four hours a day, and in my mind I’ve been toying with something that’s basically been tantalisingly off limits all along: I called it a titanium month a couple of years ago because relatively speaking, it’s off the scale and unreachable: 1200 miles.

Is it achievable? In a 31 day month, with a tailwind of motivation, I think it is. But it’s on top of a full time job remember. In a 30 day month, it demands 40 miles day. The most I’ve ever done of those in a row is six. That’s precisely why 1200 is titanium: it’s basically impenetrable. So take a day off that and challenge yersel’ to do it in 29: that makes the asking rate 41 miles a day. Every day. That’s two and a half thousand calories burnt up on the bike and a whole load of tiredness to boot. And still the day job to do.

Oooft, game on…

I bagged a 294 two weeks ago and mentioned in the blog that I’d elected to leave it there as a carrot: I just didn’t expect to be nibbling away at it this soon.

I’ll be brutally honest: I’m still hurting from Eileidh’s passing, and there isn’t a day when I don’t think about her smiling, fighting spirit about six, seven or eight times a day. No, cancel that: when I’m on the bike, I think about her constantly. Five more miles: #ForeverFive. Throughout September.

One of things I am really, really, grateful for is that the LCFN Facebook group is global. It means we get to see and share stuff from all over the world, like in an instant. I should never get blasé about this but it never ceases to amaze me the amount of good vibe stuff that is constantly coming out of Australia. Even when the vibe is bad, it’s good in a positive way, if you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Today, Australia and the world lost Connie Johnson to cancer, aged 40. Connie wore her cancer heart on her sleeve like possibly no other person ever. Check this…

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-10/canberras-big-silver-heart-for-connie-johnsons-final-hurrah/8514168

But Connie’s story goes way further than that. Her wee brother Sam, actor, radio presenter and philanthropist was cast from the same mould that later spawned Jimmy Harrington. Leaving aside all his professional awards, in 2003, Sam Johnson unicycled from Sydney to Melbourne to raise money for a children’s cancer charity. Then in 2013, he set out on a twelve month, 15,000km unicycle ride that raised $1.47m for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to help try and find a cure for breast cancer. In 2016, Sam was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to cancer research support.

Today, sadly, Sam lost his big sister. Big Man, keep up the fight. #NeverGiveUp mate.

Samuel Johnson is a hero of Jimmy Harrington and Jimmy is a hero of mine so I think that makes Big Sam the grand daddy of them all. Opportunity knocks this time next year, that’s all I’m saying…

There’s been stuff flying back and forth all week about the LCFN ride from Brisbane to Adelaide next year, the focal point of which will be the Sydney Opera House going #Gold on September 1st. Everything else is scheduled around that date. Roll into town on the 31st, take a rest day, look in awe at the golden spectacle then refocus on the rest of the trip.

When I set out on LCFN, I had no idea, absolutely no idea, what a hotbed Australia is for cancer research: not just punter support but state backing too. I cannot wait to get out there and pedal in support of those guys. There’s stuff going on behind the scenes that will maybe make LCFN 2013-2017 look like a support act but at the end of the day, the only currency is finding a cure to childhood cancer and Australia is trying really hard in that regard.

So back to #GoGold…

I made a flippant reference on Facebook in midweek about the cat being amongst 300 pigeons. It was a cryptic reference to my attempt to bag 300 miles. Feck, this is hard! What really scares me is that I thought I’d worked hard Monday thru Wednesday yet I hadn’t even culled 125 pigeons. And the weather was (pigeon) shit. It’s been shit all week. Even 45 pigeons yesterday still left me needing more in the last three days than I’d culled in the first three. This (pigeon) shit just got real: but I’m in it to win it. For Eileidh…

My Ross knows that I want the Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want played at my funeral. Well I reckon I’m gonna slap an extra condition in my will: I want my funeral extended by five minutes in order to take in my theme song, the song that defines me…

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