I feel like the Grand Old Duke Of York, except that I don’t have 10,000 men, I just have me: and if I don’t march, then LifeCycle goes nowhere. That’s pretty much the way it’s been since the middle of January give or take a couple of aborted attempts to get back on the bike after my hernia operation. If you were with me last week, you’ll recall that I cycled on two days, Monday and Wednesday, and blew up big time on the way home on both occasions. It’s a weird thing, hoovering up the fridge because you know you’ve got to, but it gets you nowhere in the long term.
So it was with some trepidation that I set out on two wheels on Monday morning. Jane and I were scheduled to go out for dinner on Monday night so it was only ever going to be a one way trip, with the return scheduled for Tuesday. To my delight, both runs were good, particularly the home run, which was particularly pleasing after last week’s carry on.
That left me with the prospect of Wednesday and possibly Thursday being suck it and see days. I just don’t know right now whether I’m going to be fit to ride from one day to the next so I really am taking each day as it comes. During the time that I was off, I didn’t get on the scales but I knew from the fact that I’d lived in joggies then had difficulty finding a pair of work trousers that fitted, that the news would not be good when I finally did pluck up the courage to jump on the numbers. That was Tuesday and the evidence was damning. I’ve put on a stone since the turn of the year. That’s horrific! Here I am, riding a bike that’s 10lb lighter than before, and the cargo is 50% greater in the wrong direction. Oh dear…
Cue some sums: a pound of fat is worth 3500 calories. In real terms that means that every time you scoff your way through three and half thousand calories that you don’t burn off, you gain a pound in weight. In slapping on a stone of lard, I’ve clearly worked my way through almost 50,000 calories that I didn’t need. That’s equivalent to 196 pints of Stella. I know I like a bucket but surely I didn’t go that far!
So now it’s payback time. Each round trip on the bike gobbles up 2000 calories (see what I did there?) so by an approximate rule of thumb, it’s going to take 25 bike days, or five weeks, to shift the handicap. Give or take a beer or six, I’ll settle for the middle of May. That’s when Highland Bike 2 kicks in and I need to be at my sharpest: it also coincides when I went mad last year after the inaugural Highland Bike taught me that I could basically manage anything over 200 a week.
So back to this week: with Monday and Tuesday out the way, Wednesday was the first real test. Back to back rides. But whereas last week I was on commercial bread, this week my home runs have been fuelled by the special ingredient LifeCycle loaf. This stuff is like diesel rocket fuel. 24 in and 20 back on Wednesday only started to go pear shaped in the last couple of miles so I was well happy with that. More importantly however, it left me tantalisingly poised on 12,489 miles overall, only eleven short of the magical halfway mark.
I’ve dreamt about being halfway for a very, very long time. It’s such an important milestone, not least because you can finally look yourself in the mirror, and say “hey, all you’ve gotta do now son is all of that again”. It really is as simple as that. I feel like I’ve scaled the summit, and in doing so done all the hard work: what’s left is all downhill, albeit that it’s a very long hill…
Another way of looking at the whole project is a journey to hell and back. Perhaps that’s closer to the reality of what family life is like for the children who are struck down by the disease. It also suggests that I’m in hell just now: it certainly feels that way. It’s like someone has stolen my mojo. I don’t feel particularly energetic and yet I know what lies in front of me. I know because I’ve been doing it since the summer of 2013. But here’s a thing if ever I needed cheering up. This has been my first real attempt at being back on the bike and it’s been really, really hard work. It’s been cold, intermittently wet and constantly strong wind against on the way home. It’s not the way I would have chosen to make a comeback but hey, this is still March. The only things that have got me through are the fact that I’ve been here before and I have no intention of giving up now. So in order to seek some inspiration, I looked back in the stats to this same week last year: 144 miles, all at 36 miles a day. It was a four day week because that’s what I was working on alternate weeks back then. This week has also been a four day week, albeit that I’ve ridden every day but two of them were single journeys: 163 miles. Let me just stop and think about that for a minute. Last week I rode two days and blew up both times on the way home. This week I’ve ridden more miles than in the same week last year. Tell yer what: I can do this, I can bloody well do this…
As you might imagine, the money hasn’t exactly been flooding in while I’ve been laid up, although John Kerr slapped a hundred dollars on in February. I think John is the Celtic fan (originally from Glasgow) who stays in New York. Sir, you don’t know how humble that made me feel at a time when I wasn’t able to produce the goods. I will repay you in miles. We are going to New York in the summer, and the plan is to take the flag, find the Celtic Supporters Club and bag as many signatures as we can. I’ll need to check the dates for the Champions League qualifiers just in case we can bag a bit of atmosphere into the bargain. But remember guys, this is an Inverness fan you’re dealing with and I was there that night in February 2000.
The flag has also gained a couple of signatures from the girls at Physioflexx in Stewarton. They’re trying to sort my shoulder, the one I hurt back in October when I had a coming together with a fallen tree in the dark. I’m slowly, very slowly, regaining the use of my upper arm and I’m now at the point where I can almost signal left without going into “Ooh, ya b*****d” mode. It’s just ordinary sore instead.
Through a chance conversation I spotted on Twitter in the week, I got in touch with the people who do the Travel Scotland newsdesk at the BBC. At first I just wanted to alert them to this nutcase who’s trudging up and down the road in support of kids’ with a special form of cancer, then it occurred to me that I could offer a different kind of service: LifeCycle in pictures. With “send ‘em in” firmly in the bag, I’ve now engaged a different philosophy on the bike: keep the phone camera to hand and snap anything and everything that might be travel related. Yes they’re going to get lovely scenic shots of the countryside, but they’re also going to get photos of potholes, broken glass and litter if East Renfrewshire Council and East Ayrshire Council don’t up their game. At lunchtime today I sent in a couple of snaps of vehicles parked up blocking the cycle lane on the A77 as is the case from time to time: well every day actually. Name and shame is the name of the game. Get the registration numbers in there. “DF 4” was today’s winner. A feckin Bentley!
But finally this week, I want to return to the focal point of the week: the summit at 12,500 miles. I’ve thought a lot this week about Vanessa Riddle and MacKenzie Furniss but especially about Oscar Knox. Vanessa and MacKenzie made it, Oscar didn’t. I wear a Team Oscar wristband with pride: it’s my inspiration. So when I set out from the house yesterday morning at 5:15am, in slanting rain that quickly turned to sleet as I headed out of town, I thought long and hard about wee Oscar, about Stephen and Leona, and about how far I’d come since those three children inspired me back in the summer of 2013. The previous evening, on the way back down the A77, I’d knocked up a wee poem that I just kept reciting to myself over and over until I got home. It was so that I wouldn’t forget it. Then I stuck it in a draft tweet to get it inside the 140 character limit (which necessitated some rather severe pruning I have to say) and parked it for 6:15 yesterday morning. But it was chucking it down at the time so I delayed sending it until I got to work, but here is the fruit of my mental labour. It says everything I feel about the journey so far…
Missed your smile
You’ve lit every mile
Met ma’ n da’