Down Under

Eileidh Paterson touches people’s lives. For nigh on three years, she’s been doing it, albeit that her following really took off when Gail sought to raise a hundred grand to get Eileidh to America two years ago.

Her following is international, and she has a small, loyal band of supporters in South Australia, led admirably by JJ. I’ve known Julian for most of the time that I’ve been doing LCFN, and we even caught up briefly at the back end of last year when he was over for a couple of weeks. JJ hosts a weekly show on Radio KSA in Adelaide and for over two years, he’s been punting LCFN on the airwaves.

Anyway, JJ took it upon himself to reach out to Neuroblastoma Australia, the Strayan equivalent of Solving Kids Cancer (which is a joint venture between the USA and the UK). A couple of emails went backwards and forwards before this week, one headed my way: Would I be interested in going out to Australia to do a bike ride to help promote Neuroblastoma Australia?

I said yes.

For a few seconds, part of me thought “what can an old bloke fae Scotland do to help kids suffering in Australia. It’s difficult enough getting people onside in the UK: how can I possibly make a difference 10,000 miles away”?

Then I thought “see if I don’t go, nothing will happen: it will be status quo, no additional funds will flow into the coffers of the charity and no kids will benefit from the additional funding that might ensue”.

So I’m going.

I want to come back from Australia having made a difference.

I’m pencilling it in for early autumn in 2018. JJ has told me that I need to go in their early spring in order to avoid temperatures approaching 50C. Yer cannae bike far in those conditions. It’s a shame really because I really fancied going later in the year and body swerving the early part of our winter. C’est la vie.

Once I’d made my mind up (that took about three seconds flat), I got onto Messenger and noised up a couple of folk. Gabby, who’s currently looking after the flag up in Brizza (and who took it to Fiji a couple of weeks ago) was first up. “Come and stay at our place mate, in fact come while the (Commonwealth) Games are on. They’re only a forty minute drive from our place”. I thought about that plan, but the Games are on in April which is too early because our Joe will be building up to his Higher exams in April and the schedule doesn’t fit.

Next up, I got hold of Jimmy Harrington. Jimmy is the reason that there’s an Eileidh/LCFN followership in Australia. It was our friendship that blossomed towards the end of his Walk For Cancer (round the coastline of that vast continent) that brought everyone into play. Some of our LCFN followers are about five people removed from Jimbo but he remains the key man. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I’m gonna get Jimmy on a bike and we’re gonna do some stuff together. Right now we’re thinking of branding it as “The Kids’ Cancer Awareness Tour 2018”. What we’re actually gonna get up to is yet to be decided but if you know me, you just know it’s gonna be different and a whole load of fun. Brizza to Adders via Sydders and Melbers, anyone? Best crack open the tinnies for that one.

And finally I messaged Anna Meares. Now that Anna’s retired, I’m hoping that she might have a couple of days to spare that she can spend on the road with us. She’s still an ambassador for The Little Heroes Foundation in Australia, and I know from the conversations that we’ve had previously that she knows a thing or two about neuroblastoma. She also knows Jimmy because they held the LCFN flag together at the Adelaide Velodrome in December ’14. We have 18 months to plan this gig and pull off something special.

It’s gonna happen!

When I board that plane to come home (as opposed to riding home), I want Neuroblastoma Australia to have a bigger awareness footprint than it has just now. Forty cases a year in a population of 24 million makes neuroblastoma a rare disease, pretty much the way it is here with a hundred cases in a population approaching 60 million. Rare maybe, but devastating for certain.

So that’s the Oz adventure: something to work towards and enjoy when it comes around. And by the way, being an ex-Inverness Caley Thistle Highland Marcher, when you do these charity gigs, you pay your own way. The cost to Neuroblastoma Australia will be zero because that’s the way it’s always been. Awareness of what you’re promoting always comes at a personal cost.

Now talking of personal cost, I broke another LCFN bike this week. Actually, that’s not strictly true because it’s been knackered for a few weeks but I was just trying to wring the last few miles out of it before I put it in the pits. The reckoning there was that the shit n grit off the winter roads is what does the damage so the longer I could hold off, the more chance I had of keeping the repaired machine on the road before the next time.

The bottom bracket was completely away with the fairies. That’s the thing that sits in the big hole at the pedals. I hate to think how many million rotations it’s done but basically, it was seized into place and had to be smashed out to make way for a new one. I took the bike out for a post-pit spin this afternoon and I kid you not, the difference is about a mile per hour for the same effort: remarkable. The back axle was also rusted to b*****y so that was changed too. Between the two of them, they account for most of the crunching and grinding noises I’ve been putting up with since Christmas. But the front wheel bearings are also away but they didn’t get replaced because the rims on both wheels are on their last legs. I know from experience what happens when you push a rim beyond end of life because it happened to me two years ago on the way to work: the wheel exploded and bits of metal went flying everywhere. The damage is caused by erosion of the rim through braking on dirty wet roads. Unfortunately that’s a perennial pastime in darkest Ayrshire. For the record, those wheels that are on the bike just now are less than a year old: I’m getting some new ones for my birthday in a few weeks’ time. I kid you not: it probably costs the best part of five hundred quid a year to keep the LCFN bike on the road. Neuroblastoma awareness does not come cheap.

Performancewise, I’ve got my eye on the next milestone. Or perhaps that should say footstone for the number of feet climbed to date is now just two thousand short of 1.4 million. That’s an awful lot of Mount Everests (48 to be precise [from sea level, not base camp]), or 318 Ben Nevises from sea level down in Fort Bill. Actually, just think about that for a moment: forget the 28,500 miles and just concentrate on those Ben Nevises. That’s the Ben, all 4,406ft of it, seven times a month. Call it twice a week. Now whack on the 660 miles a month distance on top of that. Oh, and some wind and rain, well lots of it actually as this is the west of Scotland where it never stops (seemingly).

That’s LCFN. I tell you, I cannae wait till I get out to Oz and get to ride in 25C. I might not want to come home.

On the injury front, I’m starting to feel like Team Taylor is really paying dividends. I spent six months struggling summat terrible with my torn quad, and I really, really appreciate my friend Lynne Harrison recommending that I go and see a magic man in Glasgow, but I wanted to give Jane her chance first. She’s studying for a qualification in Sports Massage so from her perspective, what better than to have a broken husband to practice on. She is working miracles, I can tell you that. I’m still nowhere near 100% but 80% is allowing me to take on 20-25 miles and 1500ft of climbing every day supported by some heavy elbow pressure on the sore bits when she gets home from work. And as the pressure increases while I manage to stay off the ceiling, something is definitely working.

Now, before I go this week, I want to relate back to something that David Begg said to me on Twitter a couple of months ago. You’ll recognise the name because until he retired, David was the voice behind the best football commentary to be heard anywhere on these islands. And David has been following LCFN pretty much from the start. He asked me whether I was going round the world again. I’d like to answer that question thus…

See the 40,000th mile?

That’s gonna happen Down Under.