A week ago, I declared that I would no longer be chasing the elusive 250 miles in a working week because my tired old body is not up to 50 miles a day on top of a full shift at work. So it was with a heavy heart that I set out on Monday morning having seen the weather forecast for this week. Okay, it’s been a bit breezy on the way home these last few days, but when the sun’s beating down and it’s a balmy 70F, you really aren’t in a position to complain. So Monday thru Thursday, I stayed firmly on the leash, adding only the extra two miles I’ve discovered around the perimeter of Newton Mearns in order to escape the treacherous slalom that East Renfrewshire Council still refer to as a cycle lane down the A77 from Mearns Cross to Eastwood Toll roundabout.
The grand plan was to keep up a steady but unspectacular low forties mileage and see how I felt on Thursday night: that’s a daft question if ever there was one. I was chomping at the bit, raring to add something special to celebrate not just the end of another week, but the 199th day on the bike.
The forecast for Friday on Thursday was pretty spectacular. With a miserable Saturday in prospect, today was billed as Walter Wall-Sunshine with a temperature to match. Well I wasn’t going to give that up, was I? But I wasn’t prepared to get up any earlier on the basis that a 5:05 alarm is enough to defeat the most intrepid of commuting explorers, day after day. That meant I was confined to my normal route in, with the possibility of a wee bit extra if I clogged it: I did. I hung a right at Mearns Castle High School and hot-footed it down to Waterfoot before heading back through Clarkston Toll and onward to rejoin my normal route at Eastwood Toll. Two extra miles for no loss of time: nice.
The Fenwick Muir this morning was a wicked place: visibility was down to 50 yards in places with a chill light easterly breeze biting into the right side of my face. Compare that with the beating sunshine of the return trip just a few hours later.
22 miles into work left me with a tantalising prospect for the return trip. I’d suggested to Mrs LifeCycle that she should join me for the second half of my journey and we hatched a plot to meet up near Fenwick. I had 15 miles to do to get to the rendezvous point, and she was delayed by ten minutes because of phone calls so had to leg it up the six hills that separate our house from the A77. She got there 200m before I did. That’s great planning. We then made our way down through Fenwick and onward to Kilmarnock before joining the cycle route to Irvine that was once the railway line. That is one glorious section of the National cycle route. We called in briefly to see LifeCycle Junior and his fiancé (who incidentally is one of the hardest working, most dedicated people you’ll ever meet) before embarking on our final leg. Mrs LifeCycle had an appointment to keep so she had to leg it back to Stewarton the short way from Torranyard but a quick check on the speedo told me that going that way was only going to be 35 back from work, and 57 on the day. The LifeCycle record is 58…
Feck that, the Cote De Dunlop it is then. There’s a big climb from the crossroads where the Crossgates road meets the Dalry Road and only the most determined cyclist takes on the challenge in the afternoon sun. However I needed the miles so there was basically no decision to be made: onward and upward.
Dunlop to Stewarton and before you could say “a Baggies shirt without the stripes is not a Baggies shirt”, I was home. Job done, 38 miles in the bag and the bar has now been raised a couple of notches to 60 miles in a working day. You just know, before this thing is over, probably in the summer of 2016, that I’m going to bang in a hundred miler after work, just because I want to…
I mentioned at the top of the show that today was the 199th day of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. Monday will be the 200th. In all honesty, it seems a lot longer than that. When I started out on August 19th last year, there were many things that I could not have expected. Not missing a single scheduled day on the bike through the winter was a source of huge inspiration, but I know that was primarily because I got lucky with the weather. Precious little frost, balanced by raging storms week after week, gave me great strength. Riding into a raging gale across the Fenwick Muir in the dark on an unlit road, with only your only lights for comfort, and surviving, is a great motivator. The summer has been a period for pushing my old body to its limits. I blame Dunco for that. It was he who first suggested that we do The Highland Bike (although the idea had been kicked about between Kant and myself in the pub before Inverness played at Rugby Park near the end of last season).
Let me put this into some kind of perspective, because it’s important to do so. A year ago, I was using my folding (26”) mountain bike for commuting, with some bus pass use thrown in to overcome the curse of the Fenwick Muir. I was probably doing 50 miles a week tops. We then went on holiday to Tiree and I took that same bike on the road: while the family slept in, I banged in miles, 202 of them by the time we got to Friday night. I was ecstatic. I hadn’t done 200 miles in a week on the road for 20 years so I felt I’d really achieved something….
But since Dunco and I did the Highland Bike at the start of May, I’ve done EIGHT 200 mile weeks: the other two were 199 (because I’d promised Angela that I’d take a rest) and 182. The average is over 220. These are incredible days.
Full time job, 61 years old and averaging 220 miles a week on very hilly terrain in windy conditions. This is not what I expected and certainly not what I thought I was capable of. I have re-found a new me. The pipe and slippers are going to have to wait. I’m on a mission…
These days, I find myself constantly asking the question “in Jimmy Harrington’s Walk For Cancer, was there ever a point when Jimmy thought to himself ‘this is more awesome that I ever believed possible’”?
These are extraordinary days on LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. In a week when I kept asking myself (over and over again) whether Chris Froome bottled the Tour De France simply because he knew he couldn’t win (after his second crash on Wednesday), I am just waiting to get through a full twelve months without missing a single scheduled day over the Fenwick Muir… then I’ll know that all I’ve got to go is stay on the bike…
Never Give Up…
It’s what wee Oscar would have loved.
Advance to Glasgow: 200 Days Since Passing Go