Just 86 miles remain between now and next Friday when the subject matter will unequivocally be About A Girl. Day after day after day; week after week after week; month after month after month have brought me to this point, a point in which I hardly dare to believe that it’s almost over. Except it’s not.
Two days ago, the people of England and Wales voted to leave the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. It’s somewhat ironic, therefore, that as an Englishman domiciled in Scotland for the past 39 years, I have voted to remain with LCFN at this time. There will be no LCFNexit. The future of this this project is about inclusion, not exclusion, and the only thing that’s going to happen in the future is that cyclists all over the world, not just in the United Kingdom and Europe, will donate their miles in pursuit of our collective New Gold Dream.
I set the bar at an initial 100,000 miles between the lot of us. That’s too low, way too low. By the time we get more riders onboard, we’ll be through that target in no time. Even people donating 30, 40, 50 miles a week are going to make a difference. The power is firmly with the people.
So, back to the final week…
86 miles, and six days to do it in. There are all sorts of ways of delivering it. A couple of 30’s, a 25 and a 1. There has to be a one. That’s Friday sorted already: and a couple of rest days. But I doubt that’ll happen. I like to be out every day because routine and repetition are the heartbeat of LCFN. The alternative is a bunch of high teens and the special one. That mile will be from our house to Angela and Gordon’s place just up the road. It seems such a long time ago now that I used to send my first few blogs up to Angela for proof reading to make sure I wasn’t offending anyone: these days I just dump my brain and put it out there in the hope that I got the feeling right.
My favourite blog was just two weeks ago: Freewheelin’, a remake of Bob Dylan’s classic album from ’62. Behind that, it was a tale penned on a wild, wet Tuesday afternoon after Mouldy and I got back from Belfast “Words Are Not Enough”. Y’see, no matter how far or how fast I ride my bike, the day I hugged Leona Knox outside the Sick Children’s Hospital in Belfast was a total game changer for me. I’d met Eileidh the day before, but didn’t know it. If Eileidh was the first tiny person that I’d met with neuroblastoma, then Vanessa was my first symbol of hope, whilst Stephen and Leona were (and still are) my first couple of the afterlife. Wee Oscar’s legacy is in everything that has happened since I set out on the morning of August 19th 2013, and the hug that lasted an eternity on that bleak December morning spoke volumes for the woman that Leona is. Our paths keep crossing, even now, and something tells me that this will be no five minute enterprise: More likely a long term effort to find a solution to childhood cancer.
Favourite moments? There have been many. Walking out at Celtic Park with Vanessa; the aforementioned huggle in Belfast, seeing, for the first time, the photo that Gringo took of the wee huglet with Eileidh at the Forres Mechanics football ground; surviving many a storm, including leaving the house at 3am one morning to ride to Glasgow to collect my laptop so that I could work from home that day in order to avoid 70 mile an hour winds: I got to ride in 40mph instead, in the dark, in lashing rain, in January.
Favourite people are almost too many to mention: the hallmark of LCFN has been its diverse following, so instead of naming names, let me give you roles that I know people perform in their day jobs, when they’re not following the bike ride:
I can give you at least two CEO’s, some company directors, a couple of lawyers, no, make that at least three, an outstanding interior designer, an equally outstanding web designer, nay, two…, teachers, nurses, casino dudettes, rock stars, including half of an acclaimed LA band, and solo artists in both New York and Adelaide. Y’all know the Adelaide connection: Puddle love. There’s a radio DJ, two other broadcasters, a couple of professional footballers, some newspaper hacks, both online and web based, some schoolkids, for whom this is important because LCFN is very much My Generation, a fair few IT people, predominantly because that’s my trade, some physios, three at the last count, and football fans from a whole host of clubs. LCFN crosses the divide between rivalries, just as cancer doesn’t discriminate based on what team you support.
And so to the things that make me proud. Without doubt, the thing that I’m most proud of is what LCFN has become. For a long, long time, it was just me, my various bikes, my passion, my energy, and a dream. Now the dream is fast becoming a reality through the ongoing LCFN project on Strava, and some other ventures that I’ll be able to talk about publicly in due course. And then there’s the fact that I didn’t ever give up. I missed just one day in the whole of that first wild winter, banking miles on first a folding bike, then a clapped out old mountain bike. I broke that bike many times over, just as I did with each follow on machine. Five bikes in total, six if you include the couple of days that I had to use Jane’s tourer in an emergency.
Fourteen punctures. Ten crashes, the majority of which were ice related. A hernia, which necessitated six thousand miles of pain before surgery and a further five thousand after.
And at least twenty five cakes: One for each thousand mile stone. And Jane deserves huge credit not just for the milestone cakes, but for every other bit of LifeCycle fuel she’s left about the kitchen these last three years. If an army can’t march on an empty stomach, then it certainly can’t ride on one. Through some careful nutritional research and planning, only once or twice have I hit the wall on the way home (and never on the way into work, despite leaving the house on an empty stomach) and that knowledge, well documented in one or two of the early blogs, will stay with me forever. Little and often, my friends: little and often. It is both the key and the secret.
This time next week, it’ll be the eve of Millport, and the group ride that’s scheduled to bring the curtain down on LCFN phase one. In truth, Millport will kickstart phase two, and it’ll no longer be about how few miles I need on that Sunday, but how many of the new million I can encourage people to put it. 20, 30, 40, 50? Flat and at ten miles a lap, I fancy something at the upper end of that scale, but we’ll see.
As I sign off this, the 141st story in the blog, can I say what a privilege it has been to support so many wee ones. During the time I’ve been on the road, almost three hundred kids in the UK have been diagnosed with high risk stage 4 neuroblastoma and around half of them have lost the battle. For the remainder, just as it is with the bike ride, the fight goes on.
And, as ever, I’m doing it My Way…
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friends, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a Life Cycle that’s full
I’ve cycled each and every highway
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step, along the byway
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spat it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so bemusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me,
I did it my way.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.
Yes, Life Cycle was my way.