Frazzled

Brain frazzled. Thank f**k for the legs. It’s been that sort of a week.

Pressure.

It comes in one of two forms: internal or external. The stuff that comes from the outside you can do very little about, except weather the storm as best you can and hope that it will pass: or that you just get better at dealing with it. For me, dealing with it means getting on the bike and smashing some miles.

But my pressure this week has been a slow burner: a fuse lit 200 miles away but burning intensely bright within. When the bossman said in a late night phone call that he wished everyone had my passion, I just said “it’s the way I am”. You give me something interesting to do, something with an intellectual challenge off the scale, then I’m like a dog with a bone. But this one has been a slow burner. The stuff I’ve been working on this week has been months in the making. Ever since I started working with the team in Liverpool back in March, I’ve known that this was on the cards. This is what I do.

But before I spill the beans, let me turn the clock back five months. I’ve worked in IT for over 41 years and never had a day out of work despite being made redundant three times. I may have a narrow skill base, but I know that within my area of expertise, I’m helluva good at what I do. So at the age of 63, there was a momentary lapse of concentration back in March when I thought I might never work in IT again. I’d just been tapped on the shoulder and told I wasn’t needed anymore. They dressed it up as corporate restructuring but no matter what, you are left asking yourself “what did I do wrong”? The answer is nothing. Five hours and a few text messages later, I was headhunted by the bossman in Liverpool. I haven’t looked back…

Imagine having not just a boss, but a whole team around you, who appreciate you for what you can do. Imagine being in a working environment that you know, instinctively, is right because of what they do. But imagine being in that environment when you know that the stuff that you’re good at can transform the business. I realised that back around April time, once I’d got my feet under the table.

So why is this relevant to the bike story? Because the bike provides both the imagination and the recreation for what I do. If you’re reading this and you don’t go a bike, then my advice would be to give it an hour a day for a couple of months and see how it transforms your thinking. Biking time is thinking time, and thinking time promotes business time. When I get off the bike, that business time is on speed, and the bossman knows it.

So what’s the fuss all about?

The company I’m contracted to work in detecting disease in the general population. That’s their mission. I specialise in data, business rules and knowledge engineering. It was always going to be a match made in heaven after a whirlwind courtship.

Imagine being in a job where the people you work with acknowledge and accept that you’ll take two, maybe three hours for lunch, because it’s ultimately going to make their life easier and more productive.

Imagine being in a job where your exposure to ideas just stimulates more of the same.

And imagine being surrounded by people in your bubble who are supportive of not just who you are, but the way you are?

It’s fantastic. In 41 years, I’ve never felt an opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives like I do right now.

Why?

Because after contemplating how it could be done for four of the past five months, this past week I’ve developed an application that detects disease. You name the disease, my app, in the right hands, will find it. I am a data man not a doctor. My job is to make it easier for people more skilled than me to do theirs more effectively. Simple.

Every person who goes to the doctor gets something recorded on their record. It’s all coded. Codes can be interpreted and used in rules. Rules breed rules. Rules turn raw data into useful information. And the LCFN bike, courtesy of those two hour lunch breaks, turns that information into ideas. Lots of them…

Today that break was delayed until almost four o’clock after a particularly intense eight hour non-stop shift. The stuff that we’re working on just now is so ground breaking that the development work and the conference call screen sharing demanded 100% flat out effort. When I set foot out the door, I could so easily not gone out at all: my brain was fried. By the time I got back, an hour and forty five minutes later, the stress had melted away: all of it.

There are two other major stories this week: the first one is great and I’m so proud of my friend Amelie in Adelaide. For our new readers, and I know there are a few this week, it goes like this: I got to know Amelie through a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook. Amelie is great. She’s a singer/songwriter who I gatecrashed not long after we’d ‘met’ to write a song for Eileidh. That wasn’t my motive for being her friend I might add: I plucked up the courage to ask her after about a week… J So Amelie wrote the song, she stressed about getting it recorded because she was working on a new album at the time, and now it’s had 20,000 hits. I mean, can you actually believe that? Some random bloke from 10,000 miles away asks you to do a song for a child who’s fighting cancer, you create the most perfect tearjerker in the history of contemporary music and it boosts Kleenex sales around the world. Ammie, you should be sponsored by hankie pankie.

But I’ve saved the best for last…

You know all about the LCFN Million Mile Challenge. I couldn’t just walk away when I reached 25,000 miles so I had this idea, while I was out on the bike strangely enough, to up the target and go for it, really go for it, across the globe.

The Million Mile Challenge is a club on Strava that’s trying to ride a million miles to raise awareness of neuroblastoma.

Do you think that sounds daft? We started in May with just myself and Stevie Mcluskey from my old work: and for weeks we were just a few punters with a dream. Five hundred miles was good week and it was gonna take us a thousand weeks.

Aye right…

Now we have some serious big hitters onboard…

We have Steve Abraham in the team. Steve has cycled 100,000 miles since 2012 and is arguably the number one endurance cyclist in the UK. At the start of September Steve is going to attempt to break the world record for the most miles cycled in 30 consecutive days. The record stands at just over 6,800. Steve’s donating those miles to LCFN.

We have Anita Gordon in Tasmania. Anita is me, albeit 10,000 miles removed. For all the time that I’ve been riding LCFN, Anita’s been riding in support of kids’ cancer in Australia. Anita’s donating her miles to LCFN.

We have Zuzanna Ciszewska who set out to break the women’s world record for the most miles ridden in twelve months, only to be wiped out by a car two weeks into her record attempt. Suzie and her bike are still recovering and she’s currently climbing the walls. Suzie is donating her mies to LCFN.

The game has changed, completely changed. At long, long last, the pressure is off. I checked the leaderboard on Strava tonight and I only just crept into the top ten despite being out for ninety minutes plus every day this week.

The Million Mile Challenge is now the domain of the big boys and girls. Or to put it another way, a whole host of high profile endurance cyclists now know about neuroblastoma, which was my objective all along. And people who follow them will think “what’s this malarkey”, and hopefully they’ll sign up too. A week ago, we were 21 cyclists looking at 1200 miles in a good week: now we’re 32 cyclists looking at twice that. So what I would say to you, as you’re reading this, is dig your bike out of the garage and bag a few miles. Every mile counts. This is a global team effort to make people aware of neuroblastoma: and we are going to win. We are going to ride a million miles, and I suspect it’s not going to take us very long.

It’s been some week. Strong legs have saved a brain that’s been totally frazzled.

Author: Von Schiehallion

I'm an old endurance athlete who's pulled a few tricks in his time. I ran my first marathon at 19 round a grass athletics track, ran/hobbled 100 miles in a day at 30, cycled from Manchester to Glasgow in a day at 40, kickstarted the Highland March at 50 and now, at 60, I'm doing LifeCycle. Life's too short to sit still for long. I like doing stuff that just seems impossible...

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