Advance to Glasgow – 200 Days Since Passing Go

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

7321 miles.

 

And I Would Bike 500 More…

Absolutely knackered!

I thought the summer would be a bit of a skoosh when I decided to pile in the miles. But having done it, the only conclusion I can come to is that I may actually have underestimated the effort required and the drain on my physical and mental resources: not ideal when you’re 61 and you have a mentally demanding full time job. The truth is, I’ve averaged 220 miles a week for the past eight weeks and my wee leggies have gone on strike. I was rather hoping to bag a second successive 900 mile month in June but the way I feel tonight, that is not going to happen on Monday.

On top of the bike miles, I guess what really hasn’t helped this week was the 600 mile round trip to Wolverhamption last weekend for my niece’s wedding. I nominated myself for the driving because I know the ambience of the M6 and I felt it was my responsibility to deliver the family guests. However Monday and Tuesday were yawnfests, and my mood on Tuesday wasn’t helped by my first puncture on 2014: you really can’t beat messing about with a back wheel in the rain.

But apart from the tiredness and the fuzzy brain, today is a red letter day. When I started out last August, I was only doing 20 to 25 miles a day and at that rate, I was expecting to be at this game for over a thousand days. However now that I’ve completed 189 days (not missed a single scheduled day since I started) the number of days to completion has dropped below 500. It feels like it’s just around the corner but in truth, of course it’s not. It’s still two and a half years of serious hard work. And the nights are drawing in.

I’ve settled into a routine where I try to bag the extra odd mile here and there by varying my route into and out of work, but the real fun comes on the return leg home on a Friday. It is such a good feeling getting out of work at 11:45am that it really isn’t difficult to start messing about with alternative routes in my head on the way home. For those of you who know Ayrshire and South Glasgow for example, today I went Cathcart-Giffnock-Newton Mearns-Fenwick-Kilmarnock-Springside-Dreghorn-Perceton-Torranyard-Crossgates-Stewarton. On a map, the route looks like a giant inverted question mark and instead of returning the usual 18 miles, bags a rather more satisfying 34. And it feels like it. 21 into work and 34 out for 55 on the day, all on top of a normal shift, has left me…

Yawning…

On a normal weekend, I’d be having a few beers tonight then enjoying a long lie (till 8am) tomorrow. But unfortunately I have a longstanding commitment to, wait for it…., go mountain biking with my wife and our youngest. Green runs, blue runs and red runs with legs that have just completed 213 miles: that should be interesting. Executive decision number one is that I won’t be using clipped shoes in case I have the inevitable off. It’s bad enough falling off my bike by hitting objects in the road: the last thing I need right now is a spell on the sidelines due to a mountain bike adventure.

Next week brings with it the promise of a Cake Day. Cake Days only happen in celebration of significant milestone events, and later next week, probably Thursday (but with an outside chance of it being Wednesday), I will have clocked up 7,000 miles. That’s 7,000 miles since last August, and the prospect of 8,000 within a single calendar year. I never thought that was possible, and certainly not after giving up on regular all the way commute cycling back in 1997. 8,000 miles in a year: that’s an awful lot of fuel saved, an awful lot of road rubber saved and a lot of wear and tear on the motor. Of course the saving, currently estimated at around £1500, has been largely offset by buying two new bikes over the same period.

Yawn…

I seem to have run out of beer so there will be short interruption to normal service while I raid the fridge for a chilled Marstons Pedigree (it was on special in Morrisons at £1.25 a bottle).

I’m back…

It’s very easy, and often for very good reason, to get fixated on the miles, because that’s wholly within my control, but to do so completely overlooks the fact that one of the key objectives of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is to raise money for research and family support. Awareness is good but the money is better. Big miles mean the money comes in faster, even at a penny a mile, and it’s very heartwarming to note that coinciding with the step up in miles, the monthly income to the NCCA has exceeded £250 for each of the last three months. To keep that run going this month is going to be a bit of a challenge but as an eternal optimist, I am forever hopeful that by the time the book closes on June on Monday evening, we’ll have done it again. Right now, we’re a hundred short.

And so, a blog that has been as uninspiring to write (this week) as my miles have been on the road, can be summed up in the bastardised words of the Proclaimers’ classic song “I would bike 200 days and I would bike 500 more”.

Except it’s not: it’s only 499…

Mega May

There was a time, around 30 years ago, when I decided that it might be an idea to have a shot at marathon running. I was already a runner of sorts, out most lunchtimes (good old flexitime) and quietly content with my lot. But running long distances properly demands a different approach from being Joe Average, street jogger. So I decided to start training twice a day.

During those intervening years, I’ve coached lots of athletes of varying abilities over various distances, and occasionally I get to tell the story about the impact of training twice a day. I can still remember it hitting me like a ton of bricks for the first few weeks. In my humble opinion, making the move from training once a day to twice a day is infinitely more difficult than making the transition from nothing to something. The stress is persistent for a start. There is no such thing as proper rest. You adopt, or should I say adapt to, a regime of prolonged physical effort every 12 hours, except you don’t get 12 hours rest because each session can take up to 2 hours. Contrary to the Mars Bar advert, you learn to work, rest and work some more.

Of course I’ve been working out for 90 minutes, twice a day since I started this project last August so I’ve already been through that threshold of tiredness that I know from all those years ago (and I don’t fall asleep at work). But you do adapt to it, there’s no doubt about that. You adapt your lifestyle, your eating habits, your drinking habits and your sleeping pattern: all to meet the demands of the workload. And you get through it. You get to a place, physically, where everything you do is there: right in the zone: the tiredness is there, but it’s a nice kind of tiredness: the energy is there, but it’s a suped up kind of energy: and finally there is confidence in one’s self, a confidence that says “I can do this”.

Then came May 2014…

May didn’t start out the way it finished, it just kind of happened. Or should I say, it evolved. May was a slow burner, a month that kind of crept up on me like a tsunami of miles, building, building, building until finally it exploded into the week that ended today. The stats don’t lie: 76 (two days only), then 232, 182, 209 then finally 241. Three separate weeks with more miles than any of the previous 40. May has become the month when the difference between training once a day and twice a day actually feels like less than the difference between training twice a day and three times. May has taught me a lot.

So: this week. How on earth did that happen?

Well I started out on Monday knowing that I needed 201 for 900 miles in May, and that was my target. Indeed when I fell out of bed just after five on Monday morning, that was my only target. Then on the way home, I thought “if I’m going to attack 201, then I need a good start like last week”, except instead of matching last Monday (44), I topped it (48). A good solid start. Then on Tuesday, up on the Fenwick Muir, I got a right good soaking on the way home but with a tailwind, I was down in Fenwick in double quick time. Despite having to be back out the door again at seven, I felt strong enough to do Monday’s route again so that bagged me another 48. Suddenly, from 82 the previous Tuesday, I was sitting on 96 and that’s when I started gazing into the far distance and eyeballing the magic 6000 mile barrier.

If I may explain why 6000 hadn’t really been on the horizon, when I set out at the start of May, I wasn’t expecting to count the Highland Bike miles, but Oscar’s passing while I was on the road changed all that. 6000 miles had been a target for something like 10th June, then as the miles piled up, that date with destiny became first the 9th, then the 8th, the 7th and so on. But at the start of this week, it was still out there on 3rd June (next Tuesday) so it hadn’t really occurred to me that it was under threat. But on Tuesday night, with 96 in the bank, I did the sums. I needed two more decent days with extra miles, then a big final push on Friday. Friday’s always a banker for big miles because with an 11:45am finish at work, I can pretty much go home by any route I like.

I half expected to wake up on Wednesday morning with rubber legs but to my surprise, they were remarkably responsive: I just didn’t push it going into work. Lower gear, lower cadence: five minutes longer. “So what” thought I. “I’ve got bigger fish to fry here”. The trip home took in Dunlop, as on the previous two nights, but missed out big climb out past the Church and instead headed straight down the road to Stewarton: 44 for the day. However that still wasn’t enough to satisfy my thirst for more, so on Thursday morning, when I woke ten minutes before the alarm, I just got up and left Stewarton up the Old Glasgow Road before cutting across to meet my normal route on the Clunch Road. That bagged me an extra two. A re-run of Wednesday’s home delivered 46 for the day and 186 for the week.

Everything was now up for grabs: Only 15 were required for 900 in May, and I was certain to do those on the way into work on Friday morning, meant that I could focus all my energies, both mental and physical, into the home run. The records were about to start tumbling, one after the other. I felt brilliant.

I left work on 204 miles, with 900 already a reality. My first target, 23 miles up the road, was the magic 6000 barrier. When I got there, I was in Dunlop and thought “I know what, I’ll tweet it”…. No signal, which I knew would happen because O2 and Dunlop are not good neighbours.

Next up was the 232 miles that I clocked up on Highland Bike week. That’s been bugging me for a fortnight because while it was a massive total, it hadn’t been achieved in a normal commuting week so it was gonna have to go…

“And another 6 takes the total to 233, which eclipses the 232 of Highland Bike week” went on Twitter after I’d changed my name to 6006 LifeCycle Miles.

But by now I was getting tired and I knew the end wasn’t far away. However I was determined not to go out in the 230’s as 237 was a number that had stuck in my brain ever since I biked it from Manchester to Glasgow in a day twenty years ago.  So after heading out past Torranyard and almost to Irvine, I made the turn for home and arrived back in Stewarton with just enough juice left in the tank to do a loop up the Main Street and down Bridgend for 241.

I said last week that this project was limitless. This week merely underlined it.

This has been a Mega May.

The Long And Winding Road

Tomorrow morning at quarter to ten, I will be in Prestwick with my youngest lad and his U14 football team: I am their fitness coach. At exactly the same time, ten miles up the road in Kilmarnock, the funeral  will be taking place of Alfie Sharpe. Wee Alfie died of neuroblastoma last weekend, aged just six. Alfie’s relapse and untimely death brings into sharp focus the highs and lows of fighting this dreadful disease. But I fight on. For every Alfie, as sad as it is, I have to believe that there will be another Vanessa and that is why I am doing LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. #NeverGiveUp

To Alfie, I dedicate several things:

April: the most miles in a month since I started (it’s going to be almost 800)

Miles this year: 2,500 (achieved today)

Next Tuesday: 5,000 miles since I started last August. I can scarcely believe it.

Riding my bike is the best I can do. After that I rely on the goodwill of my supporters to make a difference and give the children who suffer from neuroblastoma a chance, no matter how small, of beating the disease.

It’s hard, very hard, but I don’t give up: I won’t give up. I wrote on my Twitter timeline earlier in the week, in anticipation of breaking the 5,000 mile barrier “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end. This is just the end of the beginning”. I’m in this for the long haul and my body is telling me that it’s well up for the fight. It’s looking good.

Talking of which…

A few weeks ago (in early March) I blogged about being Under Pressure, a subject thrown at me by Cat, one of my runners. In that tale, I mentioned Julie, who I coached almost 30 years ago as a talented teenage middle distance runner. Well tonight, my wife Jane and I met up with Julie and her family in Glasgow as Julie prepared herself mentally for tomorrow’s adventure… they’ve travelled up from Wigan to support her on the 53 (yes, that’s FIFTY THREE) mile race along the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. The race finishes at the By The Way bunkhouse where the Inverness Caley Thistle Highland Marchers have stayed on at least two occasions on our long distance football excursions. Julie is extraordinary. I’ve been following her running exploits on Facebook ever since I re-found her a couple of years ago after a 25 year gap. Well can I say that she’s still the same blether that I remember from all those years ago: a lovely person with a lovely family and a great support crew.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is not nice: intermittent rain on an easterly wind. Chuck in the chill factor from being exposed on the likes of Conic Hill and you have a recipe for a very tough day out. But Julie is made of tough stuff: I remember that from years ago. Having interviewed her tonight in order to cram 25 years into an hour of blether, I like what I see: the Giving Up gene is missing. Gone, as in just doesn’t exist. I appreciate that in an athlete.  And the wonderful people that she has around her will be celebrating with her at the other end. How I wish I didn’t have a bad knee. I’d have been out there like a shot…

Now in that same blog Under Pressure, back in March, I told the story of the number of days per 1000 LifeCycle miles. Well with another milestone imminent, here’s that same story brought bang up to date:

1000 miles: 34 cycling days

2000 miles: 29 cycling days

3000 miles: 29 days

4000 miles: 27 days

5000 miles: 28 days

There’s definitely a trend developing here: six weeks, a thousand miles. I can handle that. What it’s telling me is that all I have left is 20 six weekses of biking. Hey, that’s way less than four years. Where do I sign?

But back to Julie…

I was telling her the story of T1 (see, I’m always gonna call Iain T1) walking from Celtic Park to Anfield and it kind of struck me as I was telling it, how wonderful it is that two Fridays running I’ve been able to spend some time with people who are totally focussed on doing something outrageous that I admire, something that I’ve done myself in another life and wish I had the knees to do once again. But alas that’s not to be.

So as T1 nears the end of his epic journey as just about the same time as Julie sets out on hers, I would ask you all to raise a glass to the survivors of The Long And Winding Road.

To Julie and Iain…

A Case Of Pineau De Re

When I woke at 5am last Saturday morning (I’ve not yet found a way of re-programming my body clock for weekend mode), I did what I always do at weekends: I reached for my phone. A surefire way of passing 90 minutes before it’s time to head for the kitchen for the first brew of the day, I went through the same ritual as normal, it’s just the sequence that changes: Email, Messages, Twitter, Facebook and Scrabble. I do it that way round because email normally carries the biggest payload, the important stuff. I have notifications set on specific Twitter accounts and one of those is on Team Oscar. So at around dawn o’clock, I found myself skipping messages and going straight from email notifications to Twitter to peruse a Grand National tip from Oscar’s mum. The tweet explained that her record in the last 6 Nationals was 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th and that this year, her money was going on Long Run. “Crikey”, I thought, “with a name like that, how could it possibly fail”. Oscar’s been in it for the Long Run, I’m in it for the Long Run: I actually felt like I’d just been handed the keys to the bookies’ safe. Except I don’t do big bets. A pound, maybe a few of them spread around, but I don’t go well on a big “winner takes all” play. Too stressful by far, and what if it loses?

Now if I may paint the picture, we had family up from down south for the weekend, and it’s traditional in our house to march up to the bookies once a year to stick pin money on donkeys in the Grand National. And we generally lose our money. My brother wanted a form guide so I printed off some stuff I found on t’internet: words and numbers. When it got round to my turn to peruse, I’d already decided on Long Run no matter what the form guide said, but to spread my interest a little wider, I picked out five more horses, all at long odds for a quid a head (well it is the Grand National after all – I can still remember Foinavon). And I’d also decided that if any of them won, the winnings were going on the LifeCycle account. One of those horses was Pineau De Re, selected because its trainer is a doctor who appears to apply some kind of science to his work. I like that approach: it mirrors the best results I get with my athletes.

Cue the race…

I think between us, we must have had half the horses in the race covered and I always find it difficult to work out who’s who. With the commentator going at nineteen to the dozen, it’s not normally until somewhere near the end that I can see the wood from the trees. Anyway, to cut a long story short, with about three fences to go, three of my horses were still in the frame, albeit that the favoured Long Run had nosedived into the turf halfway round the course whilst handily placed. My brother was getting quite excited as one of his nags, The Package kept getting a mention, but I just sat there, beer in hand, glimpsing occasionally at my betting slip as the fences slowly counted down. Two to go and I’m sitting with two of the first three, both to win. You know what I was thinking… “second and third”. But no, Pineau De Re went over the last in pole position and actually pulled away in the home straight. As it crossed the line and the din died down, I just rose from my chair and did “the Broonie”. “You never had that did ya” they said to a man. “I feckin did: 28/1 anawl”. And long before I’d been back up to visit the Turf Accountant, the money was indeed on the LifeCycle account. But see the best bit… not only was the vintage horse at almost twice the odds of the fallen Long Run, I got to bang the Gift Aid on as well. It may only have been a pound, but it gave me great satisfaction to whack all of that money on the thing that means most to me right now.

Second up this blogging week, my thoughts are with Chumba, Highland Marcher extraordinaire, and deserving of a bit of luck. No, change that: deserving of a lorra luck. Despite still being twenty something, Chumba has not been well for a couple of years and you kind of get immune to it because it’s ongoing: that’s not meant to sound unkind, but Chumba and not being well has pretty much been the way of it. But suddenly, things got serious, like really serious. Without wishing to break a good mate’s confidentiality, Chumba got very, very ill last weekend, ill as in emergency ill. But he got lucky. The same NHS that has treated him so poorly (sic) these last few years upped its game when it needed to most and saved his life. Chumba, I was where you are now, 25 years and six weeks ago: same dreadful illness, same brush with the afterlife. My thoughts have been with you all week and will continue to be so until you make a full recovery and come back stronger than ever before. For the record, and by way of encouragement, it took me a good four months to get my strength back, but it didn’t stop me bagging the Cumbernauld Marathon Walk for the fourth time. You can do it mate. You’ve got the Highland Marchers and the LifeCycle Man cheering you on.

Mileswise, this has been a week with a looming deadline that quite frankly I’ve been dreading for a while. With my rota days finished, this was the second of the four and a half day weeks, and with it the first of the back to back 180’s. I’ve never done consecutive 180’s since I started and to make matters worse, I started the week with early signs of the lurgi: all that sore head, sore throat nonsense. Cue a lower gear and let the lycra boys away with their pace: I haven’t overtaken anyone all week, but I’ve been overtaken by plenty. The result: 180 miles, a weekend of complete rest and a ridiculous attempt at the hat trick this time next week.

And as if this week wasn’t exciting enough already, I got a call from Jane late on Thursday afternoon (sitting in a garage on Glasgow, waiting on the motor being MOT’d) announcing that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma was in The Metro (UK wide as it turns out) as Fundraiser Of The Day. The NCCA put me up to it about six weeks ago and we thought “well, it won’t do any harm”, so they wrote a script and I sent it in. I don’t know how many people read it but it has resulted in another few quid being chucked in the kitty, which is ultimately what this game is all about. As I wrote on my Twitter account earlier in the week “Maybe Rome wasn’t built in a day but there’s nothing wrong with laying a couple of bricks…”.

This project never ceases to amaze me. The weather continues to be rubbish (four soakings this week) but nice things keep happening too. Next week I have the branded LifeCycle business cards to look forward to (they’re going like confetti, by the way) and whatever fate throws my way.

But tonight, on the back of another big week of miles, it’s really a case of Pineau De Re….

Wanted – A Magician

March has been a record breaking month, and for once the miles have been able to take a back seat. Step forward my wonderful supporters and take a big round of applause, for in March, not only did we raise more than any other month to date, we did it by breaking through the £200 barrier for the first time. With a few days of the month still to go, sponsorship is sitting at a wonderful £201 and could yet go higher..

But if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I never settle for the status quo: I always want more. Lots more. When I set out, I had the idea that I might be able to raise a hundred grand. But then the money didn’t roll in. So I figured that I must be doing something wrong. My idea that the LifeCycle story would get shared and re-tweeted, bringing in pennies by the sackful, never quite materialised. The odd retweet did happen, and some of my best supporters have been sharing the story, but in the main the big bucks I’d been hoping for have not materialised.

So I’m going on the offensive. I’m looking to recruit a magician.

This magician needs to be able to perform one trick, and perform it well. Very well. The better the trick, the bigger the reward. The trick is dead simple: the person I’m looking for needs to be able to turn water into wine, or to be more precise, to turn two hundred pounds a month into two thousand. Yes, you did read that right: I want to start raising two thousand pounds a month to help fight Neuroblastoma. But first, let’s remind ourselves why we’re here:

The NCCA UK helps families affected by the childhood cancer Neuroblastoma. I hope to raise money to help them ensure greater access to treatment, further research and better education and awareness. 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. This is a very serious illness.

When I started LifeCycle, I was optimistic that I could give it a real go, but faced with a Scottish winter, I soon discovered that 25,000 miles is an awful long way. So I faced a strange dilemma: on one hand, I was tip-toeing into the unknown, and if it all went pear shaped while the donations were low, I guessed it wouldn’t really matter that much: at least I’d tried. But I was secretly (and occasionally publicly, as Angela will testify) very disappointed that the project wasn’t returning more hard cash. In my work, we have a way of handling big projects: first up, we create a pilot project to prove the concept, then if that goes okay, based on lessons learned, we take the big project, the original idea, out of the box, and go for it.

Well that’s pretty much how I view LifeCycle. I’ve proved to myself, through a wild Scottish winter, that I don’t have the Giving Up gene. I wasn’t born with it. And I think I’ve proved to a lot of people out there that I’m here for the long game, and I’m slowly but surely gathering support.

So now it’s time to pump up the volume, turn on the gas, and go professional…

I’m looking for an agent, a PR Marketing guru who can take this project to a level that I never thought possible. James Forrest used the wonderful phrase “Dave King found himself sitting on top of the Ibrox volcano” in the latest episode of On Fields Of Green. Well I know that I am sitting on top of one of the biggest fundraising gigs this side of Live Aid, if it’s managed properly The potential is enormous…

Consider the following:

LifeCycle is 954 marathons back to back, running five days out of every seven, except every working day is 1.5 marathons not one.

Every day has 1600ft of climbing in it.

Every day I burn 2000 calories on the bike.

Every day I’m out of the house for 13 hours.

I have a full time job.

I’m a little old man (my mother’s words, not mine).

Occasionally, I get to sleep.

So who might be interested in this madcap adventure?

Well, how about Tesco, Asda, O2, Vodafone, Halfords, Tiso, Blacks, Red Bull, Seal Skinz and Goretex to name but a few. Why can’t we sell advertising space on my bike shirts? Why can’t we sell advertising on my winter jackets? Why can’t we sell advertising space on the bike? I spend the best part of five miles each way, each day, in commuter traffic, so the opportunity is there to sell the LifeCycle concept to a captive audience sitting at traffic lights. For companies that want to come onboard, LifeCycle is a feelgood project. It’s a children’s project. It’s a sick children’s project.

How much good PR could a company generate by announcing on their website that they are proud sponsors of LIfeCycleForNeuroblastoma?

Look, we’ve completed the pilot. On the 29th April, I will crash through the 5,000 mile barrier and this project will be 20% done. It’s time to step up a gear, up our game and take this message out there. If Gary Lineker can raise £51m on a Friday night, and still blank my tweets, then we can raise 51 grand (a year) and, as the Eagles would say “Take It To The Limit”.

So here’s the deal. At the current rate of progress, I’ll be at 25,000 miles in the autumn of 2016: a full 18 months before my retirement date. If LifeCycle has raised a hundred grand before I hit 25K, then I pledge to carry on until March 2018. But I need help, specialised help. After I’ve spent 3 hours a day on the bike, I have nothing left in the tank to do the marketing.

Now someone out there has the skills, the knowledge, the nous and the drive to turn water into wine. That special person has the know how to open corporate doors and bag some major sponsorship deals for LifeCycle. I want to meet that person, and I want to do it soon. Actually I want to do it now. If you’re reading this and it’s you, then please email me at lifecycleforneuroblastoma@gmail.com. If you’re reading this and it’s not you, then please share and retweet this story to infinity until someone steps forward and says “it could be me”.

We’re 28 weeks into this thing and there are 4,260 miles on the clock. The pilot is done: long live the pilot. Now for the king.

But first I need a magician who can turn water into wine. It could be you.

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Chugger/Gone With The Wind

Back in the days when vinyl was vinyl, and the single was king, proper bands did double A sides when they had loads of good material. Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out and Honky Tonk Women/You Can’t Always Get What You Want immediately spring to mind. Now I’m not suggesting that I’ve got too much material for the blog, far from it, but in this particular case, the first week of my 62nd year, I do have a couple of offerings that I’m basically too impatient to keep in the can. So I give you The Loneliness of the Long Distance Chugger, a remix of the old Alan Sillitoe ’59 classic, and Gone With The Wind, even older in its original form but given the two wheel treatment at the end of a brutally windy week.

To many of my social media mates, I am Yompa, the moderately eccentric geographically challenged long distance walker of the Highland March. To those same blokes, I am also Von Schiehallion, the self styled Black Baron of Highland March 10. I can also lay claim to be one of only two Field Marshals currently operating behind enemy lines. You see the Highland March teaches you stuff about going a long way, often on your own, in difficult conditions, in pursuit of something that you  don’t really have to do. Ever. I mean, why on earth would you choose to walk up to 200 miles in a week, year after year, to watch a game of football? You could go on the supporters’ bus. Or the train. Or drive. You don’t actually have to walk. Unless you want to….

I’ve walked about 1600 miles doing the Highland March to watch Inverness Caley Thistle. That’s quite a long way: it’s Lands End to John O’Groats both ways for a start. But it’s not even half of what I’ve already done on LifeCycle. This week sees the end of the 7th month, during which time I’ve clocked up 4116 miles. A quick calculation says that’s an average of 588 miles a month. The asking rate back at the start was 454 so I guess I’m over a thousand miles ahead of schedule which is quite reassuring.

But being on the road for three hours a day doesn’t half give you a lot of thinking time. I’m lucky because a lot of my most productive ideas come when I’m out on the bike but I often wish I could can them as and when they appear. Many, many times they’ve gone by the time I get off the bike. It’s the same with writing this blog. I have huge chunks of it written (in my mind) on the road, but then it all disappears as soon as I finish.

Gordon, my intrepid explorer biker mate from last year’s Whitelee extravaganza, challenged me to share what occupies my thoughts on the open road, so the bits that are fit for family reading are here in graphic detail…

First up, I curse the weather. I always curse the weather. I curse the weather because the feckin weather deserves to be cursed. Short and simple. If you’re a reading this and you’re a runner, you have my sympathies running into the wind. But I challenge you to get on a bike and try staying upright over the Fenwick Muir when it’s blowing at 50mph. That’s what it’s been doing these last two days. Bucking fecking bronco!

Next up I plan stuff. I plan lots of things: on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I think about particular bits of torture that I can inflict on the Stewarton Annick Under 14’s, all in the name of fitness. For my sins I’m fitness coach to the team and I try to instil in them a work ethic that says you have to be mentally and physically ready to do the job, any job, every time you step onto the pitch. You’ve come here to perform, and in twenty minutes, which is what I’ve got, you will. It seems to work: we outlast teams who are perhaps technically better equipped than we are, and we’ve started winning games.

I can guarantee that on at least two other trips in or out of work, I’m thinking about Cat’s 10K training: because of the complex nature of her availability, we have to be constantly agile in the way we approach the workload. Nothing’s ever easy and the plan is constantly changing but at least we have a plan of sorts. For the record, we’re currently working on alternate endurance weeks and speed weeks in search of an elusive 50 minute 10K.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the LifeCycle miles, and how an extra effort might bring the project to an early conclusion. That might come across sounding like I’m bored and I want this to end, but that would be untrue. I enjoy the challenge: I particularly like the slim waistline (back to 32” where it was twenty years ago) and I like being able to eat what I want whenever I want. But I confess there are days when I think “wouldn’t it be nice not to have to do this”? Whenever that negative vibe strikes, I deal with it swiftly and decisively: I think about Vanessa and Oscar. I think about what it would be like on a nice warm summer’s day, if they were cycling along with me, thinking how this is helping kids just like them. Then I’m sorted. The brain’s back in gear and I remember why I decided to pledge four years of my life to fighting Neuroblastoma.

I also think about the family. On the way into work, I often reflect on the fact that I’m gonna be showered and changed before the kids are even out of bed. Then I wonder if Jane has got up to make a cup of tea, only to be besieged by Dennis and Fluffers on her return to bed. Ten minutes to read her book? Nae chance: biff, biff, fuss please….

And I wonder, from time to time, how Ross would cope with all this. A fitness freak of the gym generation, he prides himself on his muscular fitness but LifeCycle demands fitness on a completely different scale: off it in fact. If you haven’t switched on to this already, get this: LifeCycle is fecking hard. Tired? Turn in: go to bed, even if it is only 9 o’clock. I’ve done it. I often have to leave the rest of the house watching X, Y and Z simply because I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. Yet on other nights, school nights too, I’m still wide awake at half eleven (note to self: not to be advised. LifeCycle on five hours sleep is not a good idea).

So I think stuff: I’m always thinking stuff…

And last night, on the way home, I asked myself “is this the toughest ride home of the winter”. I’m on a new bike, which I got for my birthday, and it has butterfly handlebars that allow endless configurations of hand grips. But most of them, from my early experience, don’t suit my posture and I end up with a sore back. I thought I’d seen the end of that when I configured my mountain bike correctly so there’s clearly work to do on that score. But last night was a beast of a ride home. 30 mph of wind cross and against, gusting to 40-50 basically meant that the home run became a 2 hour bucking bronco in which the challenge was simply to stay onboard. Angela (Jane’s pal) says she worries about me cycling in the dark in heavy rain. Angela, I have news: it’s not the dark you need to worry about (I’ve got a pair of 300 lumen spotlights that scare the daylights out of motors, and a lightshow on the back that half a dozen people have commented that they thought I was the polis), nor is it the rain (just stick on the wet weather gear – except for the Seal Skinz waterproof gloves that definitely don’t do what it says on the tin). It’s the wind you’ve got to worry about. If I worry about the wind (which I do) then you should worry too…

All of which brings me to this morning’s run into work. To put this into some kind of perspective, I used Strava to log all of my rides from August, when I started, through to Christmas. Then I couldn’t be arsed anymore because it was the same old route, there and back every day, and I thought I’d already set my PB’s all the down the road. PB’s are nearly always set going into work because that’s the way the prevailing wind blows. I used to operate a scheme whereby I would bite off one, maybe two sections of the route in, and give it laldy just to see how high up the leader board I could get.  Now to qualify this, I’m 61 and I have a competitive gene. But some weeks and months ago, I came to realise that chasing the leaderboard was no longer in sync with doing what I’m doing: it’s the volume of miles that counts, not the quality and speed.

Until today.

I was still mad with Michael Fish for last night’s gale force wind when I went to bed last night, and I also knew that lashing rain was forecast for 6am, just about the time I would normally be hitting the high exposed road of the A77. Well by luck, Dennis (Jane’s adorable wee cat) woke me up at 4am when he wanted fuss. The purring and tickling under the chin routine was much to his liking but unfortunately, it also meant I was pretty much wide awake by 4:15: and listening to the wind. “Hmm, no rain” I thought, and committed to give it another half an hour in the nest. Dennis meanwhile, determined to enjoy his comforts, plonked himself on my feet: so nae sleep. So I got up at 4:40am, scoffed (yet another piece of) chocolate birthday cake and headed out the door. Feck, it was wild.

The first three miles out of Stewarton I’ve dubbed The Six Hills, for no reason other than there are six hills, all of them up: 800ft of up. Those three miles are cursed with raging cross winds at low speed and believe me, it’s not pleasant at all. But I knew, just knew, that the moment I turned sharp left onto the A77, things would be very, very different: a cross tailgale!

At first I just enjoyed having an easy ride but when I went under the lights at Galston Road End and spotted that the clock was showing 5:53am, I thought “I wonder if I can make the motorway bridge at Kingswells by 6am”. That meant legging it. And that was me. Personal rule book out of the window (what window?) I just kept burning the legs for mile after mile in the surefire knowledge that I’ve never gone as fast as this along any section of this road. Overdrive!

It’s probably better if Angela closes her eyes at this point, or at least skips this paragraph, because you’ve got to remember that it was blowing at around 30-40mph from all directions, but as I came down past the M77 where the old road runs parallel to the motorway just before the Malletsheugh, the speedo was showing 37 point something. I couldn’t clock the extra digit because I was totally in the zone, pedalling as fast as my little legs would go, and hanging on to the bike.

When I got to work and uploaded the file, I had a shufty at the damage: 12 PB’s, one straight after the other, including short sprints and long end to end runs. Not one section missed in 15 miles. The average speed from Kingwells by the Eaglesham Moor Road, to Mearns Cross, about six miles, was over 25mph. So now this 61 year old competitive dad is in the top quartile of every leaderboard into work. Retirement from Strava!!! Well, for now…

I got into work at 6am, just as the rain was starting in earnest. I had bagged an early worm, served up with lashings of lactic acid. But by feck I was happy: Michael Fish had just taken another terrible beating….