The Carnival Is Over

What a week: what a wonderful week…

We came over to Tiree a seven days ago to revisit a special place where I kickstarted the 200 mile weeks a year ago. I came here with overused muscles, overused tendons and a spirit that was in need of a rest.  I’ve been building up for this week for three months, openly cramming in more and more miles knowing that the holiday was just around the corner. By the end it was a bit of a struggle.

Tiree is a flat place, a windy place but a tranquil place. A complete lap of the island is only 20 miles  and I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully resisted the temptation to circumnavigate the island in under an hour, something which I tried and narrowly failed to do on my folding bike a year ago. This week was always going to be about recovery: turn a few wheels with the kids and take in the odd longer ride to remind the legs of the challenge that remains, starting again next week. Fortunately, I’m not back to work until Tuesday so I get to slot back into my normal regime on a four day week. That’ll be good, followed by a couple of 200 mile weeks and the 8,000 milestone before I’m off on my travels again.

I’ve been invited to join up with the cyclists of the Celtic FC Foundation in support of SIMBA, the Scottish charity which honours babies who have died, been stillborn or miscarried. In all honesty, since I decided do it, I’ve been agonizing over how to balance LifeCycle with the SIMBA event. It kind of feels that I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul. I can’t support both but the dealmaker is that in any case I’ll not be at work so I won’t be bagging any LifeCycle commute miles. So for that week, I will ask my supporters to switch sides to SIMBA, even if that means that the LifeCycle account misses out just this once.  I’m indebted to the people who have faith in me, supporting me month after month, and I hope they will follow me again this one special time. At the end of the day I’m just a bloke on a bike who wants to raise money to help people as best I can.

So what’s the Celtic Foundation plan? The challenge is to visit every SPL ground over the course of a week. I know that the suits re-branded it, but the Premiership is an English thing and no amount of bullshit from Neil Doncaster will convince me otherwise. This is an SPL jolly. The date for the ride was fixed before the fixtures came out, and the route likewise, so it was in the stars that Inverness would be playing Celtic on the weekend that we set off. The route is roughly thus: Ross County to Inverness to Aberdeen to Dundee (and United) to St Johnstone to Partick Thistle to St Mirren to Kilmarnock to Hamilton to Motherwell to Celtic Park. When I look at the schedule, 350 odd miles, I’m really, really glad that Terry Butcher got Hibs relegated because that’s 50 miles off the agenda!

Another thing that’s weighting heavily on my mind just now is the winter. I can’t overstate how much I’ve enjoyed these long, warm days but I know in my heart of hearts that they aren’t the days that define what this is about. The essence, the kernel, the very spirit of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is a dark, cold, windy wet night in December on the Fenwick Muir. It’s that moment when, for an instant, you question why you are doing  this, and ask whether it would be easier just to give up and wait for things to get better. It’s in that instant that I ask myself “what would Stephen and Leona have done: what would Oscar have done” and the answer is always the same. You put your head down, you grimace, you find a gear that will get you through, and you get through. Somehow.  I read all these fluffy articles about nice it is to ride around Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games, and I ask myself the question “but what about the winter: what about when the going gets tough”? In all truth, you don’t see much lycra in the winter.

I can’t leave this short resume of our summer holiday without a rant. The commute cyclist in me is still there, sharp as a tack and ready to pounce on anything and everything that annoys me out on the road. Tiree is a wee island with a loop road that circumnavigates the island, and a couple of intersecting roads across the middle. With the exception of a couple of short sections of two way carriageway, the norm is single track roads with passing places. Maybe it’s because a lot of English people from the south come here I don’t know, but they sure as hell don’t know how to use passing places when a bike is coming the other way.  In my experience, 60% of motorists think it’s just fine to drive straight through a passing place at speed and expect the bike to get out of the way. I’m sorry sunshine but that’s not the way it works. I will wait for you by regulating my speed to arrive at roughly speaking the same time as you and I expect you to do the same. If you choose to fly straight through, I reserve the right to utter expletives under my breath and invite you to put two wheels off the road. On the subject of roads, another thing that amused me this week was the commentators slagging off the road surface for the Commonwealth Games time trial. I think they were being outwardly diplomatic when they continually described the course as bumpy and it prompted me to once again remind East Renfrewshire Council that they were lucky that the Games organisers chose not to include the A77 bike lane as part of the course. It remains a shambles and I fully expect it to be that way for as long I continue to ride it: fifteen years and still no investment…

So, as we contemplate packing our bags, cleaning the cottage and loading the bikes back on to the car, the only thing that remains to be said of our week on Tiree is that The Carnival Is Over.

End Of Term Report

I apologise in advance if this reads a bit like an end of year School report, but that’s basically what it is. The family’s back on Tiree, just as we were a year ago when I bagged 202 miles on a folding bike. I didn’t know it at the time but those miles were destined to have a profound impact on the following 11 months…

So much has happened: Wee Oscar, Vanessa and MacKenzie were in there from the start but now you can add the amazing Jimmy Harrington and the fighting spirit of Nathalie Traller to the mix. LifeCycle has become so much more than just a bloke on a bike. I kind of feel that there are people out there who ‘get it’ and I share their inspiration and motivation. What I’ve really come to realise is that there are people all over the world, a community if you like, all doing the same things, sharing the same vision and fighting the same battles in the name of children’s cancer. I am not alone.

What is truly remarkable however is the way this holiday, this time off from the 5am starts and all the big hills, has crept up on me. In this game, experience and reflection are everything. I still vividly remember setting off from Motherwell with Dunkant at 10:15pm on a Wednesday night at the start of May and thinking “next stop Carrbridge, 165 miles away”. Scary? Yeah, sort of. Daunting? Most definitely. But you don’t get anywhere in life by looking at those challenges and thinking “Nah, I think I’ll give that one a miss”. Not only was Motherwell to Carrbridge a celebration of mind over body over logic, it was the springboard for everything that has happened since.

I read on Twitter this morning that Graham Spiers, sports journalist for the Herald newspaper, and a virtual next door neighbour in that he lives in a farmhouse just a few miles away outside Dunlop, had cycled back from a stint at the Commonwealth Games yesterday. “It nearly killed me” were his exact words. Graham, Neuroblastoma kills children every day of the year , not just in this country but across the globe. Nathalie Traller is desperately seeking therapy in the United States, denied to her only because she’s only 15, yet that same therapy is available over the age of 18. Nathalie doesn’t have three years. And over in Australia, Jimmy Harrington, fresh from his 11,000 mile walk round the entire coastline of that vast country, is now planning to host a music festival in Adelaide in October in aid of Brainchild. These people are my new inspiration, the people who refuse to just sit back and let the world just pass them by. So Graham, I invite you to get on your bike and join me for a week of LifeCycle: then return to your newspaper and put the experience into words: and I’ll eat my hat if you take me up on the offer…

We bought the bikes to Tiree but I promised myself that this would be a proper holiday and that there would be no repeat of last year’s daily laps of the island. For a start this is a chance to let the body recover for a few days. I’ve been carrying a few different injuries for the past few weeks and because of the schedule that’s coming up in a few weeks’ (more of which nearer the time…), time off the bike is really important.

It’s kind of ironic that we came away from Glasgow just as the Commonwealth Games were ramping up. I watched the Marathon this morning and marvelled not just at the scenery but at the way the people of Glasgow came out in huge numbers to cheer on the athletes. In the Women’s race, Scotland was represented by Hayley Haining. Watching Hayley took me back to the Carluke Highland Games in what must have been 1985 or 86. We had a bunch of our Cumbernauld kids entered in the middle distance (800m) races and our Junior Girls were literally blown away by a wee 13 year old from Nith Valley AC. In a two lap race, that wee girl won by the length of the home straight. That was the first time I saw Hayley Haining. Because Nith Valley were a Division 1 club at the time while we were Division 4, I only got to watch wee Hayley at championships and Highland Games but 20 years later, I caught up with her again at the Great Scottish Run. She’d just finished first Scot in the women’s race and I reminded her of that day at Carluke. She smiled and remembered fondly of her upbringing in the grass roots of the sport. Hayley Haining is a true legend and a great ambassador for Scottish Athletics. It was also nice to reflect on that race and that day at Carluke with John Morrison, the best of our young crop at Cumbernauld back in those days. Morrison, as he was known back then, was a decent 800m runner in his own right, a sub 2 minute youth in his prime, and it was great craic to reminisce over the old days on Facebook while the Marathon was in progress. Morrison, you’re a legend too mate, but a whole host of different reasons…

So what of the future?

When I set out on August 19th last year, I had a notional idea that I might manage 20,000 miles at a push. But through a long, dark, cold, wet winter, push came to shove and I upped the target to 25K. And egged on by Wullie Broon and a host of Bampots, I started dreaming of greater things. The week leading up to the first anniversary is going to bring up 8,000 miles and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that 8,000 x 4 years is way in excess of 25K miles. At the current rate of progress, LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is going to be done in the late summer of 2016, eighteen months ahead of schedule. Then what?

Suggestions via comments on the blog, for this is just a wee End Of Term report….

The Three Seasons

I was going to call this week’s blog The Four Seasons but as we haven’t had any snow or ice, on reflection I thought that might have been a bit rich. So The Three Seasons it is.

Now that the nights are drawing in (and the mornings out), you can really sense a difference in the air at half five in the morning: a couple of days this week, I’ve had to resort to lights to stay on the safe side of bonkers, but in actual fact that’s no great hardship because my lights are right up there with anything you’ll see in the lead up to Christmas. If you’re breaking the speed limit on the A77 and you see me in the far distance, I am the polis!

And the way this challenge develops, the days kind of merge one into another so forgive me if I interchange Tuesday for Wednesday or Wednesday for Thursday: I’m getting old and the default position is always windy with hot rain and bunches of sun.

Let’s start with summer, because that’s where we’re meant to be. 20C doesn’t need bright sunshine to top up the T shirt tan. But I’ve been so aware of the change from medium dark brown to pinky white that I decided to go for the Neopolitan look: get those sleeves rolled up on the home runs and add three inches of strawberry to the chocolate and vanilla. And you know what: it’s working!

The mornings continue to be a challenge. We’re heading for that time of year when you have to carry two loads of stuff: one to wear on the way into work and one to wear on the way out, except that if the weather turns, you sometimes have to wear the in stuff out, or at least part way as it proved earlier this week. There was one night, I can’t remember whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday, when I left work in the rain, hot rain, and settled into a steady rhythm to get up the hill to the Malletsheugh. It’s not a steep climb, but it just goes on and on for about 3 miles and it’s into the wind. Add some rain to that mix and it’s a tad unpleasant but nevertheless challenging. Beyond the Malletsheugh lies the Fenwick Muir: it’s about 8 miles to Fenwick…

The first thing you notice is the strengthening wind. You can just about double whatever you’ve endured thus far. I normally keep a peaked cap in my bag for wearing under my helmet on these occasions but this time I forgot: I left it at home. Big mistake!

The rain was sheeting down, stinging my face and merging with the sweat to irritate my eyes. But you just find a gear that does the business and turn the pedals. This isn’t winter so the rain isn’t cold: it’s merely an annoyance.

Then, as I came down the descent from Floak to Kingswells where the Eaglesham Moor Road meets the A77, I realised that the sky was actually full of fog. It was hammering down with rain so hard that the sky was fog! It was utterly surreal. I wasn’t cold but I was soaked right through to the skin (remember how I said that sometimes you have to carry two sets of stuff: well here was I wearing a rain jacket that didn’t do what it said on the tin – fortunately I have a heavier one for the winter).

And then there was yesterday morning: you can be sure that if the sun’s out and it’s glove cold, there’ll be fog up on the Muir. And so it proved. I know I keep labouring the point that the Fenwick Muir has a climate all of its own but you can leave the house in bright sunshine, only to find that two miles up the road visibility is 50 yards and it’s freezing cold. These are the things you learn doing LifeCycle, and you learn them very quickly.

One of things I look forward to every day is the Fabby Challenge: one of my best supporters at work, both morally and financially, is Fabiana. Most days she passes me going up the Ayr Road and gives me a toot on the horn. When she’s driving the wee sporty number that’s fine because the horn is  kind of weak: but when she’s in the Mini, your pedals skip a rotation believe me! So all of this time I’ve been looking for revenge, and it doesn’t come any sweeter than a wee wave and a see you later look as she’s stuck in traffic at a set of lights while I zoom up the inside on the bike lane. And this week, for the first time in 11 months, I managed it! That may have been the night it rained, I can’t remember. But it didn’t matter: result!

On the miles front, it’s been a week of many milestones. Last year, I logged 4,950 miles from January to December (yes I know it would have been nice to bag 5,000 but I decided it would be better to leave that as an incentive for another time).  Well on Wednesday, 197 days into the year and after just 126 days of cycling, I cracked that 5,000 mile barrier. Five thousand miles in just over six months! I know the summer holidays are still to come but this is 9,000 miles a year pace. This is awesome.  This is the kind of pace that says that LifeCycle will be done in THREE years not four, and that I’ll then be faced with a decision over what to do with the remaining 18 months until I retire. But you know what? I’ll deal with that when it happens. Right now I still have 17,500 miles still to ride and winter is just around the corner. A lot can happen. A lot does happen on this challenge…

For a start, you can get three seasons in one day in the middle of summer.

The Lesser Spotted Pot-Bellied Lycra Man

Okay, I’ll be upfront: I do like a good rant. And when you spend as much time in the saddle as I do, you get plenty of time to think, and plenty of things to see things that can set off a rant.

So as it says on the side of the firework “light blue touch paper and retire a safe distance….”

This hasn’t exactly been an epic summer:  in fact May was a right damp squib, but June was quite jolly weatherwise: never hot, but pleasantly warm, and that brought out that endangered species the Lesser Spotted Pot-Bellied Lycra Man. If you look in the right places, the LSPBLM is not difficult to find. Probably sporting a full kit wanker Sky outfit (in support of the Murdoch funded, British passport holding Kenyan flag of convenience team), the LSPBLM huffs and puffs his way up and down the highways and byways, belly flopping as he goes, hence the name. He needs to be seen, so he will never be far from civilisation. The A77 south of Newton Mearns is prime LSPBLM territory.

Predominantly, the LSPBLM is a late riser. Rarely seen before 7am (but it does happen if you’re an obsessive spotter [like me]) they tend to venture out in the late afternoon and early evening, sporting their colours and their flash equipment. Wobble, wobble. Wobble, wobble, wobble…

Cometh the rain…

The LSPBLM is nowhere to be seen. Gone. In an instant! But where do they go? Do they take shelter under the nearest leafy tree, waiting for the rain to pass and the wind to drop? Or do they park the bike in the garage and parade about in the obligatory BMW, proof, as if ever you needed it, that these guys are only in it for the look. I have a theory about the LSPBLM: I think the fake tan washes off in the rain, for the Lesser Spotted Pot-Bellied Lycra Man is the full-kit wanker of the cycling world.

Y’know, in truth, I’m not sure how much more we’ll see of the LSPBLM this season. The weather has turned, the temperature has dropped off, the wind has picked up and the rain has returned. We are back to the normal West of Scotland climate. Fortunately however, my legs are waterproof so although I’m carting the heavy duty rain gear around with me on the back of the bike just in case, it’s staying exactly where it is pending a Fenwick Muir monsoon. Whereas Newton Mearns delivers posh drizzle, which barely qualifies as rain, although it’s still guaranteed to get you wet, its Fenwick Muir cousin is a different beast altogether. It’s 1/6 on to be lashing into your face as you struggle to maintain 9mph, and the waterproof gloves prove to be anything but. Ah yes, the Fenwick Muir on a dreich summer’s day… at least you can console yersel’ with the knowledge that it’s hot water, piped straight from the Lord’s own shower.

Next in the crosshairs of the week’s rantastic epic are East Renfrewshire Council, and they get it on three counts…

First up, the A77 cycle lane from Eastwood Toll to the Malletsheugh Inn  (now an Indian restaurant) is a disgrace: and it’s a disgrace in both directions! That three mile stretch is as good a slalom as you’ll find anywhere in Glasgow: potholes, ruts, glass, stones, sticks, gravel, leaves… and shopping trolleys. I emailed the council a month ago to complain that the cycle lane hasn’t been maintained in the 15 years that it’s been open, and to the best of my knowledge hasn’t seen a road sweeper in over six months (despite the fact that there’s one sitting idle every day up at the new half million pound housing scheme at the top of the hill, just in case a speck of mud makes it’s way out onto the carriageway – can’t have dirt on the BMW’s now, can we)?  I even have a reference number for my complaint: 862026. The official response said they would pass my email to the Roads department for their consideration: and you know what they’ve done? Re-painted the white lines for about a mile at the top end of the hill!!!! Swept the junk off  the road: nope. Fixed the ruts: nope. Fixed the potholes: nope. Just painted a few lines: here cyclists, risk life and limb over this nice white line. Utterly, utterly useless. And you wonder why people don’t use the facilities. For my sins, I’ve given up on the A77 cycle lane and moved across to the Mearns Road which runs parallel about half a mile away. Yes I hold up the traffic, particularly when I’m going uphill at 7mph, but the road surface does mean that I’m not risking my bike.

East Renfrewshire’s next epic fail is to convert about 600m of public footpath on one side of the road from Eastwood Toll roundabout to the new traffic lights at Church Road into a dual use pedestrian/bike lane. It crosses two road junctions and has a bus shelter halfway along the route. And when you get to the lights, it disappears. What is the point? I say again: what is the point of abusing 600m of pavement when the highway is already two lanes in each direction. (Oh, and by the way, is there a law that says that cyclists are not supposed to ride on the pavement? Yes, except when it suits the council in a box ticking exercise. Total waste of time and money. Fix some feckin’ potholes!!!

And finally, saving the best for last, we have the magic bus stop. As you approach Eastwood Toll roundabout from Giffnock, the road bends round to the left past a long bus pull in and a signal controlled pedestrian crossing just a few yards short of the roundabout. The pull in means that buses (and it is a busy bus route by the way) can get off the main carriageway. So what have the council done? They’ve move the bus stop (and the shelter) 20 yards down the road past the pull in, thereby ensuring that buses stop on the main carriageway, just short of the pedestrian crossing. Now, when you overtake a stationary bus, you can’t actually see what the lights are doing just round the corner. The relocation of that bus stop is as class a piece of beaurocratic incompetence as I’ve seen in a long time.

And so to the miles…

It’s been a steady week of moderately heavy miles (223) without breaking the bank. I’ve given up on trying to smash 250 miles in a week because I know my legs won’t take it. As things stand, the hamstring tendons in both knees are creaking, and I’m managing to get by, by moderating my effort and listening to my body. That’s a first!

The week has seen a second successive 900 mile month (June) and on the back of it, I broke through the 7000 mile barrier on Wednesday. Nice. Those 7000 miles represent the distance between Glasgow and Singapore, with 10 ascents of Mount Everest thrown in for good measure. Ten Mount Everests in ten months: that’s got a nice ring to it. Also, the daily average miles continue to climb (up past 36.5 now) as I explore new routes in both directions on my way in and out of work. It’s been a fun summer.

Last week was a difficult one: this one has been less so, quite possibly because the onset of the rainy season has seen the migration of the Lesser Spotted Pot-Bellied Lycra Man back to their natural habitat.

But the LifeCycle mon ain’t for giving up anytime soon….

Getting Yer Angles Right

This is rapidly turning into Animal Farm. Last week it was a story about two dogs, one wanting mega miles while the other one wanted to play a cool head. This week we’re kicking off with the story about a bloke whose car breaks down on a country road next to a field with two horses. As the bloke lifts the bonnet, horse number one pipes up “have you run out of petrol”. “No” says the man. “Well in that case, I’d check the spark plugs if I were you” says the horse… Eventually the bloke does as the horse suggests, takes out the plugs, gives ‘em a clean and pops ‘em back in. He turns the key, the engine fires up and he’s off on his way again. Later that night, he’s telling this somewhat unlikely tale in the pub, whereupon the barman interjects “was it the field with the brown horse and the white horse”? “Yes” says the driver. “And was it the brown horse that told you to clean the plugs”. “It was” says the bloke. “Thank feck for that “ says the barman. “The white one knows nothing about cars”!

Now the reason that this story is relevant is because the weather has been glorious all week and I’d set my stall out to bag mega miles. The record stands at 241 and I wanted 250. So did dog number 1. I got off to a great start with 47 on Monday followed by 54 on Tuesday but by the time I was homeward on Wednesday night, the tendonitis in my right knee was so sore that I actually thought there was a chance it would go on strike. Time to abandon ship as far as record attempts go, I’m afraid. But it made me think: and it made me think hard. “What is causing the tendonitis”?

The route is hilly, a fact that’s well documented. And I’ve stepped up the mileage since moving to five day weeks. What was once a regular 160 became a 180, but since the Highland Bike at the beginning of May, those 180’s have stretched out again to become 200 plus. Indeed, whereas the average was 180 a week through February and March, the transition through April has led to an average of 220 a week through May and June. Those are big miles, and I naturally thought that that’s where the problem lay. Strengthwise and endurancewise, I’ve been coping fine with the workload, it’s just that the tendonitis has been threatening to derail my progress. I can’t even start to describe how frustrating how that is when the weather is finally so inviting.

Then last night, in pain on the way home, I worked it out: or at least I thought I did. It’s all about angles. I have three bikes: my folding 26” mountain bike is the one I started this project on last summer. It was the bike that taught me that back pain could be a thing of the past. It was the bike that showed me, purely by accident, the correct angles between the seat,  handlebars and pedals that mean no low back pain. So when I moved to my main mountain bike for the dark winter nights, I set it up exactly the same. I chopped an inch of the end of each handlebar, I move the seat forward and it worked. But it’s an old bike and the muck on the A77 bike lane knackered the disk brakes through the winter. A new bike was called for long term. Father Birthday bought me a tourer, exactly the same model as Jane’s, and after a bit of frigging about with the handlebar position, I was ready to go. I‘ve ridden it ever since: and I’ve got to say, I love that bike. But on my way home last night, in pain, I thought long and hard about what could possibly be causing me damage. It might be the extra miles, but I’ve been a higher mileage guy before and got away with it. It could be the hills because there are so many of them, and I like to push hard. I’ve tried using a lower gear and going slower but (a) that isn’t my style (b) it wasn’t really making that much difference.

Then it hit me: for no obvious reason that I can explain, an idea came into my head. The pain is at its worst when I’m pushing hard going uphill. The harder I push, the worse it is. And the more I thought about it, the more I came to realise that that’s when the hamstrings are working hardest and that’s when the tendons are under the greatest strain. The answer, I figured, was to reduce the strain on the tendons by reducing the obtuse angle of bend at the knee by lowering the saddle.

When I got home last night, having cut the run short at 20 miles, I lowered the saddle by about 1/4 of an inch. It doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s significant in terms of power and stretch. And there was no doubt that on the run into work this morning, when I should by right have expected a fair whack of pain, I got much, much less than that. Promising!

I decided that for the home run, the one that really does the damage into the wind up the Ayr Road (it’s a climb approaching five miles from Eastwood Toll all the way to Floak) I’d take another quarter inch off the saddle height. I could not believe the difference. For the first time in weeks, I found that I could actually stay in the saddle and give it some welly going uphill: pain free. It was never going to be possible to do mega miles to make up the shortfall to 250 because I am still injured, but the change, and the result, was very, very encouraging.

As I write this shortened blog (through necessity because I’m heading down to England for a wedding tomorrow), the mileage this week sits on 187 with a day to go. It’s going to hit 230 or somewhere close, and that is a remarkable return in a week that promised much then materially disintegrated midweek. The ultrasound machine will be going away with me, because I’ll need to continue with the physio, but this is shaping up to be one battle that I’m going to win. Oscar would be proud… #NeverGiveUp

It didn’t look good for a while but at the end of the day, it’s all a matter of getting yer angles right. LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma has taught me so much, and continues to do so…..

Playing Injury Time…

This is National Bike Week, just as it was back in 1994, and tomorrow (although I don’t think it’s the actual calendar anniversary) it will be 20 years since myself and five mates from work cycled from Manchester to Glasgow in a day for Action Research for Children’s Medical Research. 237 miles. Who would have thought, 20 years on, that this is where it would all lead? It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and just doing it: pushing those boundaries. And then, when you think you’ve pushed them far enough, push them some more.

It was because this was National Bike Week that the Scottish Daily Record picked up on the LifeCycle story this week. They did a 12 page pull out special on Wednesday and devoted  a page to special routes: who’d have thought that Stewarton to Glasgow and back a thousand times would make the top ten? Thank you.

Do you know that saying about there being two dogs fighting inside my head, and the one that wins is the one that I feed the most? I don’t even like dogs, but that saying has been a permanent fixture in my brain these last two or three weeks. I am living with those dogs…

The problem is hosted in the fact that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma trades in weeks: and the weeks roll up into months. Maybe what I need to do is stop adding up the miles each week and just count each day in its own right. You see the problem is that not only are those dogs fighting, one has taken a chunk out of the other one’s ear, metaphorically speaking.

Dog number one is completely insane. It’s quite possibly one of those Springer Spaniel jobs, never able to sit still and always wanting more play. Dog number two is educated (do you get educated dogs?) with a brain in its head and it knows how to get things done. Dog number one wants to break all the mileage records in the book: dog number two says “you’re injured, you need to take a timeout”.

Remember the blog a couple of weeks ago, the one about Vastus Medialis? In that, I spoke of two injuries that I was carrying. Well I’m happy to say that the muscle cramps have gone: completely disappeared, as in sorted. What was the cure? Bananas. I actually like bananas but I’d got out of the habit of eating them. Full of potassium and magnesium for a start, I guess I always knew that they would do the trick, and they did. It was an electrolyte thing: I was banana deficient!

I wish I could say the same about the hamstring (tendon) insertion injury in the back of my knee. I’m in management mode as they say. That’s code for putting up with it in the hope that it will just adapt to the workload and go away. The cycle (no pun intended)  is this: Monday, Tuesday: not bad. Wednesday: a bit of discomfort. Thursday: annoying dull pain. Friday: management day. Saturday and Sunday: rest up and drink beer. Repeat for the last four or five weeks…

If this was a brand new injury, I’d probably be more concerned than I am. But I’ve had this before, and more than once before. Back in the days when I was a runner, I’ve done a hamstring tendon two or three times. Each time it was while I was out running on muddy ground, the landing foot was planted, load bearing, and slipped. Ultrasound can shift it, so can a cortisone injection while the tendon’s on stretch. I’ve done both in my time and I’ve no intention of going the injection route anytime soon.

So for now, I’m trying to use a lower gear, pedal more efficiently (pull and push the pedals) and just go slower. It works from Monday to Wednesday: I just need it to last through to Friday. Cue more ultrasound…

Having said all of that, I’m not for giving up the miles anytime soon. While the warm summer weather hangs around, I kind of feel it’s my duty to bag as many as I can. I’ll be happy (yes, really) to go back to doing minimal miles and just existing through next winter. So, that said, I’ve managed to bag another double ton this week and on Monday the miles for 2014 will crash through 4,000. It’s six weeks until our summer holiday, and yes we will be taking our bikes to Tiree, but I’ll be trying to use mine as sparingly as possible.

Because right now, I’m playing injury time, and it shows no sign of ending any time soon…. L

The Wizard Of Oz

When I knock up a guest post, I strive to make it a good one. Either the subject has to be good, or the person that gave me the idea has got to have given me an angle on something different that’s good. This week’s blog has both, and more. Much, much more…

This is the true story of The Wizard Of Oz.

The story started for me a few weeks ago when something popped up on my Twitter feed. I can’t remember who tweeted it but I think it was a retweet of a retweet. That’s why I love Twitter so much: you can find out so much good stuff in an instant. Who needs the news when just about everything you need is out there on your timeline. Anyway, someone had fed me a link to a story that really captured my imagination. The only problem was, I knew pretty much straight away that I’d missed most of it. For me it was like coming in with ten minutes to go in the final episode of a six part drama. So I had to play catch up. I got onto Google, scoured You Tube, found some footage, and pretty much got myself up to speed with the plot: I liked it, I liked it a lot.

There are only two people I know who possess the same infatuation (because that’s what it is) with ignoring common sense, ignoring the normal boundaries, and taking on stuff that just takes your breath away. And both of these characters make me wish I wasn’t in a 9 to 5 job so that I could just get out there and join them. These two individuals have cloned my spirit. I can say that, and get away with it, because while I’m 61, they are both young and in their twenties. One of those guys is Chumba, an inspirational free spirit from The Highland March, and the other one is Jimmy Harrington, the Wizard Of Oz.

When Chumba announced back in 2008 that he was planning to walk from Oslo to Glasgow for charity between two Scotland World Cup qualifiers, I didn’t think he was mad (like everyone else), I just wished I could have gone with him. But I couldn’t because I couldn’t afford to take that amount of time off work. I thought that Oslo to Glasgow was a long way, and it was. I’ve huge respect for Chumba, Lady Madonna and Slater for finishing that walk. But it was Chumba’s brainchild.

And so to Jimmy, the most remarkable Australian of 2013/14…

Jimmy is from Adelaide in South Australia, where as a teenager he worked in a Café. Like many teenagers, he didn’t know what he wanted to do when he grew up, and ideas of being a polis, a teacher and a zoo keeper all crossed his mind. But Jimmy wanted to be different and not just be different, he actually wanted to make a difference. Cue Emily. Emily was a young girl who frequently came into the Café, and Jimmy was mesmerised by the courage that Emily possessed in having beaten cancer not once but twice. But as all families of children with cancer will testify, it is a disease that never gives up, and in Emily’s case, it came back with a vengeance a third time, terminally, as brain cancer, and she passed away just short of her ninth birthday.

Jimmy did not forget Emily. Jimmy could not forget Emily. Emily changed Jimmy’s life. Forever…

At first he started doing fundraising events in and around Adelaide in support of the Brainchild Foundation.

The Brainchild Foundation is a charitable organisation established in 2010 with the aim of helping children who are affected by brain and spinal cord tumours, and their families.

Now compare that mission with the NCCA UK which helps families affected by the childhood cancer neuroblastoma through supporting access to treatment, research, parent education and raising awareness.

Jimmy Harrington and I are one and the same spirit doing the same thing for the same cause, 10000 miles apart. The world is indeed a very small place at times.

But Jimmy didn’t stop with a wee walk round Adelaide: he decided to take his message round the country, and May 2013 he set off to walk round Australia: when I say round, I mean right round, as in right round the outside. I converted the kilometres to miles and I made in just over 11,000 miles. Jimmy Harrington walked 11,000 miles round the coast of Australia in order to raise money for the Brainchild Foundation. It took him 13 months, averaging 30 miles a day, however the average was actually higher than that, a lot higher, because Jimmy wisely took rest days. I reckon that when he was on the road, Jimmy was banging in 35 miles a day, every day.

Jimmy Harrington was only 20 when he set out. He celebrated his 21st out on the road.

To date, Jimmy Harrington has raised over $230,000 for the Brainchild Foundation.

Jimmy Harrington is a national hero. No, correct that: Jimmy Harrington is an international hero.

Jimmy Harrington is an inspiration to people all over the world to become a force for good.

For Oscar Knox, read wee Emily.

For the NCCA, read the Brainchild Foundation.

For the LifeCycle man, read Jimmy Harrington.

We are of the same spirit.

Now when my challenge is over, I want to meet up with Jimmy Harrington, drink beer, and ask the question “Why”. Why did you decide to walk round Australia? Tell me about that moment when you thought “this is what I’m going to do”. Tell me about your hopes that you might be able to do it, and tell me about your fears that it might not work out the way you’d planned. I share those same hopes and fears every day that I get on the bike. I have just over 500 cycling days to go. For me, doing the miles is the easy part: it’s holding down a full time job and trying to keep up with all the other stuff that makes it so difficult. And you can’t do these things without a strong family to support you. Jimmy’s family were there every step of the way: Jimmy’s mum and dad took a year out to follow their son. Huge, huge respect to you all. My wife is the rock on which LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is based. She allows me the time and the freedom, and she supports me through the difficult times. And she makes cake. I would back Mrs Von’s cake against Mr Kipling any day of the week.

Now when I woke at 5am last Sunday morning, and dared not move for fear of waking the family, I did as I always do on those early morning weekends: I reached for my phone… Twitter:  It told me that Jimmy Harrington had sealed the deal. Overnight, while I was in in the land of nod with my wee sore legs, Jimmy had finally nailed it.

It’s Friday night people, and it’s late: but please raise a glass and toast Jimmy Harrington, The Wizard Of Oz.