Hoo Ha Henry

I had my annual performance review at work yesterday: indeed it finished just minutes before I got back on the bike to ride home into a lashing gale so I had plenty to ponder as I splashed the dash. But rather than merely reflecting on my professional career in IT, which now has only two years left to run, I focussed instead on LCFN and how that has shaped up against my expectations.

I had two objectives back in August 2013, one of which is on the Flag:

  • To cycle 25,000 miles in four years (around a full time job)
  • To raise a hundred grand for the NCCA (now Solving Kids Cancer).

I’m going to address those objectives in reverse order if I may. Fundraising has been an embarrassment. A select few people have stuck by me for the past two years and thrown in their pennies at the end of each month, because that was the way LCFN was set up: a penny for each mile that I could ride. But over the last few months, the money has largely dried up and barring a sudden upsurge in donations in the three months that remain, the final total is going to top out at around £7,000. A number of people have said to me over the piece that I should organise a big fundraiser at the end: do you notice the emphasis there: you. I am tired; I am sore; I am sick of cold, dark mornings and lashing rain. What I want right now is a rest. When I finally get off the bike in Forres on May 8th, I will have been riding it for 2,000 hours. It’s been four hours a day, pretty much, every working day for the last two and a half years.

So when I review my fundraising, I have to ask myself, seriously, whether the objective itself was flawed, or whether my priorities have been elsewhere. I know the answer: both of them. A hundred grand was just a number I plucked out of thin air, expecting Social Media to pitch in, and that hasn’t happened, and when I get off the bike every day, the last thing I want to do is think about organising additional fundraising. So I’ve scored myself 1 out of 5 on the money front.

The other side of the coin has been the bike ride itself. I lost one day in the first winter, and just a couple of days last winter until the point when I went into hospital for my hernia op. This winter, I haven’t lost a single day: I braved Gertrude and sidestepped Henry. I swapped bikes for the snow and just kept the show on the road the whole time. I pride myself on being resourceful, I plan a lot of stuff while I’m out on the road and basically, until the job is done, I will just keep on churning out the miles. So I’m gonna give myself 5 out of 5 for achievement on the miles front: or maybe a six.

With hindsight, I would add a third objective to those original two: raising awareness. I wish, really, really wish, that I hadn’t created the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma Facebook group as a closed group back in 2013 because we’d probably have more members if it was public. But it’s a Facebook rule (daft, I know) that once a closed group has more than 250 members, it cannot revert back to being public. I’d revert it back in a flash if I could. One of our group, Theonie, suggested that I set up a similar public group that points to the closed group, and that’s in place. On the awareness front, I think that the LCFN group does a great job, not just in raising awareness about neuroblastoma, but in promoting education about cancer in general: and that’s down to the people in the LCFN Social Media community and the stuff that they share: that’s where my material comes from. I think awareness score a 4.

I checked the log this morning and yesterday marked the first day in my entire life that I have ridden 10,000 miles in the previous twelve months. This time last year, I was sat at home, convalescing, so between now and the end of April, that 10,000 figure is only going to get bigger and bigger. Indeed, it’s going to be in excess of 11,000 before the end of March. I don’t even drive that in the car!

And so to this week: I wrote in last week’s blog that Monday past was going to be a wild one. Windguru had remained transfixed on 60mph of wind for Monday in Glasgow pretty much all of last week but the forecasters only had an eye on Gertrude last Friday. When I wrote that line, Monday was worrying me. It had the potential to throw me off the bike, both metaphorically and physically. I had about three different plans for Monday, all of which featured being on a bike and putting in a full shift at work. The rain didn’t worry me because I can dress for that. It’s the wind that’s the problem.

Well here’s what I did…

I got up at 2:45am, having lay awake listening to the wind and rain for the previous half an hour. I left the house a couple of minutes before 3am, muttering to myself that this would make an ideal dry run for the Cairnryan run in three months time. It was really, really unpleasant climbing the Billy Bowie hill out of Stewarton with the rain smashing into my face but I just told myself that this was temporary: once round the corner at the top of the hill, it was pretty much a tailwind all the way to Glasgow. I got to the factory at 4:40am and near gave the security man a heart attack because he’s in on his own on a nightshift. He thought I was bonkers.

I was in with the food in a dry bag so I dropped that off in exchange for my laptop. With the dry bag secure inside my rucksack, I then set off for home…

Wow!

This was some shit. I can’t even start to describe how surreal it was to cycle through Giffnock into the pouring rain on a driving headwind at 5am in the dark, when there isn’t another soul about. Every other time that I’ve been through Giffnock main street on the home run, it’s been buzzing with people and traffic. It felt really, really odd. Needless to say, the Fenwick Muir was a raging torrent of full on horribleness but fortunately, 7C meant that the cold wasn’t one of the parameters I had to deal with. I got home a couple of minutes after 7am and was logged onto work by half seven. There then ensued a twelve hour shift of peace and quiet, interrupted only by meals and cats. On Tuesday morning, the storm was still raging, albeit on its last legs, so still with the equipment that I needed to get my day job done, I left the alarm set for 5am, got up, and armed with nothing more than strong coffee, logged back on. Once the wind had finally died down a tad, I legged it back into the office for the afternoon session. That was a major result: I could so easily have lost Friday, Monday and Tuesday but instead bagged a combined 135 miles. It’s about boxing clever and never giving up.

Wednesday unfortunately, brought me back down to earth with a bump: quite literally. It had been -2.7C up on the Muir and I elected to ride the main carriageway of the A77 because the cycle lane was full of black ice. See when they rebuilt that road after the motorway was complete: some halfwit thought it would be a good idea to put those silver/red marker posts between the kerb stones (instead of on top of them) on the left hand side of the road: that’s the side where the bike lane runs on the other side of the kerb. There’s a long stretch of that road where the natural camber of the road is right to left so the water drains through the gaps where the posts are, and across the bike lane: and see when it’s -2.7C… those wee rivers of water freeze hard and you end up with a metre wide strip of black ice on the camber, every five yards. That’s why I prefer to chance my luck on the main carriageway.

So when I got down the hill into Glasgow, and the temperature has risen to a balmy -0.2C, I thought I was clear of danger. I was wrong. Turning right at a T junction heading from Pollok Park towards Shawlands, there was a car waiting to turn right onto the road I was on: I was turning onto the road that the car was on. I’m always wary of cars coming out of junctions in the dark: I always get that “have they seen me” feeling. So I gave this one a wide berth and took a wider line into the corner… Wallop! As I leaned the bike over, I hit a patch of ice and went down. Hard. Sore knee, sore hip, sore arm and even sorer ribs, plus the handlebars bent, left me in a painful heap on the road. It happened so quickly I don’t know how I hurt my ribs: did I land on the bars? I honestly don’t  know. Two days and a hundred miles later, riding is okay so long as I stay in the saddle. Getting out of the saddle to honk the bike up steep hills is to be avoided: cue the granny gears…

And so to the end game…

There are 59 days left to the finish, 55 of which are commute days. The required rate, which stood at 44/day back at Christmas, is now down to 42. This is becoming a doddle, so long as I can stay onboard. This week’s total miles (224) is the lowest five day total since August last year. The strategy now is all about cutting back to make sure that the last mile happens somewhere between Belfast and Forres, whilst still keeping the 200 mile weeks going. It’s a bit of a balancing act. The 200 mile weeks now stand at 35 in a row.

My mind is now in a totally different gear from the one I engaged last year. I’m planning for the end. But it’s nice to know that when push comes to shove, and my old foe the weather chucks me a curve ball, I’ve still got enough tricks up my sleeve to deal with it.

Even if I am blowing in the wind with Hoo Ha Henry.