Never Give Up

There’s a saying in our house that Second Is Nowhere. I know it’s kinda harsh, especially when so much effort and so much commitment goes into making the second step, but at the end of the day the reality is that someone else got the top job.

That’s life.

I mention it because there’s a corollary: if you’ve done your best, your very, very best, then there’s no shame in coming second. Because the alternative really is nowhere, as in didn’t rate and didn’t rank because maybe, you didn’t actually try that hard. That’s when coming second really is nowhere.

That doesn’t cut it in my book.

So why is this important? Because in Going For Gold last week, I made a commitment:

“I’m going to say upfront that despite this only being a 30 day month, and having a Scottish bank holiday in it, and possibly a parent outpatient appointment with LifeCycle Junior (which means no miles on those days), I’m shooting for a thousand miles, or as close as I can get to it”.

What I didn’t know when I said that was that September also had an early morning Glasgow Airport run in it, and that’s really put the cat amongst the pigeons. The daily average to hit a grand was 47.6 every working day when the month started. The first 7 days returned 350 miles at exactly 50: good start. Then came the airport run and zero miles: a lost day. The average for the remaining days, previously a manageable 46.4, suddenly became 50 again and my legs went “OMG”…

650 miles in 13 working days to deliver Gold for kids with neuroblastoma. That’s the new deal.

#GoingForGold just got really serious. My first reaction, last night, was to chuck in the towel, explain that because I’d lost a day the whole thing is now out of reach and settle for somewhere in the mid 900’s.

Aye right!

Did Vanessa do that?

Did Oscar ever do that?

Did Mackenzie do that?

Has Eileidh ever done that?

Hell no. Well I ain’t doing it either. I’ve got what the kids call an empty just now because Jane’s away visiting a friend on Barra. And as Friday’s a short day at work, today was my call to do as I pleased and put a big dent into that #GoingForGold challenge, or at least get it back on track inside the perimeter of my comfort zone.

Comfort zone? Since the start of May (because we’ll count April as a warm up after 9 weeks out injured), the daily average has been 48. So that’s it: anything inside 48 is comfortable and anything over 48 is getting scary.

So how does 75 stack up? That was today: 24 into work (it would and could have been more but I kept stopping to get sunrise photos at 6am) followed by 51 on the home run five hours later: 75 in a total of six hours in a strengthening south easterly. But leaving the wind aside, it was a lovely day (6C in and 19C out) so hay was there to be made in the sunshine. But I should also add that those 75 miles came with a payload of 4534 feet of climbing. Ben Nevis stands 4406ft above sea level.

But exactly how do you make 51 miles out of a 16 mile as the crow flies commute? Easy: you get close to your destination but never actually go there until there’s actually nowhere else to go. The rules of the game are simple but for clarification I’ll reiterate them: I either start off from home heading for work, or I start from work heading for home. I can take whatever route I want, so long as when I get within a mile of the finish at either end, I must finish by whatever rat run remains. Also, I can’t go over the same piece of tarmac twice so I can’t go round in circles just for the hell of it. You wouldn’t believe how that focusses the mind when you’re looking at the clock and working out what you can do to wangle an extra mile with the time you’ve got left before you have to be in. #LCFN gets very tactical, especially when the weather’s interesting.

The run home was a case in point: 3 miles from home at Fenwick, I played the wind at its own game and did a great big loop that took in Kilmarnock, Irvine and Dunlop before coming home from the other side of town. That loop bagged me almost 30 miles: precious miles.

425 done in 8 days at an average of 53. That’s two weeks spent in the scary zone.

575 remain at 48.

What was that again about the comfort zone? I ain’t done yet: not by a long way. So long as there is one day left and the target ain’t right off the scary scale, this is one LifeCycle Man who’s gonna be taking that challenge on for every kid who wants to win Gold.

And there’s another reason for never giving up: yesterday was Oscar’s 7th birthday. The day that Jane flew off into the sky, the day that the LifeCycle Man did no miles at all, was the day that Oscar was looking down on #LCFN and giving it big licks of “Never Give Up, Big Man” (I’m only big because Oscar was wee; I’m really a wee man too). So it was he who recharged my batteries for today; it was he who gave me the desire to go where no LifeCycle bike has ever gone before on a working day, and it was also wee Oscar who was on my mind when I got a message from Lynne on Wednesday asking me about the Oscar To Eileidh bike ride that will kickstart the run in to the finish of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

But before I spill the beans on the #O2E challenge, here’s why it’s important:

The date was May 8th 2014. It was a Thursday.

I was cycling 165 miles from Motherwell to Carrbridge with Dunco on the first stage of the inaugural Caley Thistle Highland Bike. It was the second longest single stage route of my life behind Manchester to Glasgow in a day in ’94. See how I said that second isn’t always nowhere?

When I was somewhere near Loch Insh by Kincraig (by Aviemore), 150 miles in, Oscar gained his angel wings.

On that same day in Forres, Gail Paterson took wee Eileidh to the doctor because her breathing was funny. The following day, they were at the Aberdeen Sick Children’s Hospital and Eileidh’s journey began.

The #LCFN schedule says that depending on what sort of winter we have, I should hit 24,000 miles sometime in late April or early May and begin the countdown to the finish. On Friday 6th May, I’m planning to take the ferry from Troon to Larne. There’s just one ferry a day and this year it runs at 11:45am. Two hours on the boat and two hours on the bike at the other end leaves just enough time for a bite to eat and a couple of beers before lights out. Cue the next morning: remember I said there’s only one boat? It leaves Larne at 8:15am so the rollout from Fort Knox is going to be at sunrise. Nothing new there for the LifeCycle Man. This is a symbolic journey. This is a bike ride that will retrace the taking of the #LCFN baton from Oscar to Eileidh. Off the boat at Troon at half ten, the next stop will be Pitlochry, 115 miles away. The challenge will be to maintain 12mph and catch last orders.

Sunday will be the 8th May. I’ll stop at that same point on the road near Loch Insh, the same point where Dogsbody told the Highland Marchers on HM6 that Tommy Burns had passed away. I know exactly where the van was parked up. Pitlochry to Forres is 90 miles. That’s another solid 9 hours on the bike: and it’s hilly.

#O2E is 230 miles in total and it’s targeted for 36 hours including an overnight pit stop. Just like everything else on this adventure, it’s possible but challengingly so. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hopefully some people will read this and think “y’know what, I want a piece of that action”, even if it’s to ride ten or twenty miles to be part of the end game”.

When #LCFN arrives in Forres, it will signal the beginning of the end: but what a way to go out. Wee Oscar called it way back when he said…

“Never Give Up”.