No Pain, No Gain

It was planned as the final recharging of the batteries before the final big push to the finish line. In reality it’s turned out to be anything but. This week has been a week of pain, a week of some torture and a week when I’ve been left to reflect on how best to get this thing to the finish line.

It was just a crash, that’s all it was. I fell off, just like I’ve fallen off another eight or nine times these last couple of years: I cursed my luck, dusted myself down and got back on. Except this time it’s turned out different…

Last week’s blog Black Ice Ops told the tale so I don’t need to go over old ground. But what I can, and will do, is put more meat on the bones of how the aftermath of that spill threatens to derail what’s left of LCFN.

First, the summary version:

  • Left hand: ligament damage on the outside of the base of the hand, causing extensive pain and restricted movement in the outer three fingers.
  • Right hand: ligament damage to the thumb. Massive pain whenever pressure is applied to either side of the thumb. Downward pressure is very sore at the base of the thumb. When I don’t use the thumb at all, it just aches.
  • The bike: bent frame. It’s been sent away to Trek, the manufacturer, for assessment and hopefully a cure. The effect of the damage is that the inside rings on the rear cassette (those are the small gears that you use for going uphill) just refuse to run true.

The whole thing could hardly have come at a worse time, but you know what, you just have to roll with it, pick yourself up and decide the best way forward. As yet, I haven’t been back on a bike so I really don’t know how my hands are gonna be when I finally subject them to the stress of being in control. I’m hoping to get a ride out for an hour over the weekend and that will give me a better idea of what lies in store. But right now, I guess that being on the bike for four hours a day is going to be very unpleasant. The problem is, ligament damage doesn’t lend itself to a five minute fix so if I elect not to ride next week, I could be off the road for a considerable time. You know that term no pain, no gain? I guess that’s Taylor made for this situation…

The issue with the bike’s a real bummer: that’s my fast bike, the one that delivers the biggest miles for the smallest investment. And what made things worse was that my reserve bike, the heavy Dawes tourer that did about 9,000 miles from the 5K mark, had been sitting with a flat back tyre that I intended fixing this week because I wanted to swap the heavy duty Marathon tyre off the back wheel on my road bike onto the tourer. The tyre that went on the tourer this time last year after the rim exploded was a bit of a cheapo and it’s got a nasty habit of picking up punctures on the rubbish strewn A77 bike lane. But I couldn’t get the tyre off the old bike, let alone swap it over to the other one, because of the injuries to my hands. Cue a wee trip up to Fast Rider Cycles: “Neil, can you do me a favour and swap this tyre over cos I cannae do it”. Five minutes later, job done. So now at least I have a roadworthy set of wheels with supposedly bomb proof tyres back and front.

But it gets better than that…

The tourer has got butterfly handlebars: think figure of eight. In my current predicament, that’s probably going to give me the best chance of all of being able to ride long distance. The huge advantage that butterfly bars give you is that you can keep moving your hands from one place to another as they get tired of the grip. But what that really means is that I stand a decent chance of being able to get my sore bits out of the firing line.

Anyway, enough of my woes, what of the week itself?

Joe and I made a flying visit to Inverness Monday through Wednesday to see Jane’s mum and dad. But on our way up the road, we took a wee detour via Forres to visit Princess Puddles and see how she’s getting on. I haven’t see her since she got back from America just before Christmas. It was also an opportunity to check out the road from Carrbridge to Forres via Ferness ahead of Oscar2Eileidh in May. However as things turned out, my thoughts are now of trepidation and not a little fear of those final 25 miles because about two miles out of Carrbridge where you hang a left for Ferness, we were treated to ten miles of a snow covered, ungritted white road. Already I’m thinking “y’know it can be quite cold in May and it would be just our luck if we get a cold snap and the snow returns”: what I now know is that that road doesn’t get gritted. So plans B and C are already in place: Aviemore to Grantown or Inverness to Forres. Needs must at the end of the day and where there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Another thing that’s weighing heavily on my mind right now is that I only have two years to go to retirement. You’re probably sat there thinking “only? I thought the idea was to complete the 25,000 by then”. Yeah, well, it was but I got slightly carried away… Let me tell you that nothing focusses your mind like no more work. I can’t imagine what it will be like, but because my 65th birthday falls on a Saturday, I can truthfully say that once this upcoming birthday is out of the way, I’ve only got to work for one more birthday. It’ll be just a year and a bit to go, even if the bit will be rather a big bit for a while.

There have been two cyclists injured in collisions with vehicles on parts of my potential route from work these past few days. One guy was seriously injured by a hit and run driver on the Eaglesham Moor Road on Monday, whilst a guy only a couple of years younger than me was hit by a van at Galston Road End on Wednesday. Both incidents sent shivers down my spine. I like the Eaglesham Moor Road as a challenge because it’s a big unrelenting climb, but the road markings are a nightmare for cyclists. The Eaglesham side is marked with a bike lane on either side and a single vehicle lane in the middle, with passing places marked every couple of hundred years. But in reality, cars treat it like an ordinary road, drive on the bike lane at 50mph, and Monday’s accident was the result, made more likely perhaps by a low sun in the late afternoon. No matter what, the vehicle lost a wing mirror in the impact yet the driver failed to stop. That’s inexcusable and I sincerely hope the driver is caught and feels the full force of the law. The other incident happened on a stretch of the A77 where there is a dedicated bike lane separate from the main carriageway but the Council haven’t swept it for months so many riders choose not to use it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve stopped and spent ten minutes removing broken glass from the cycle lane after some arsehole decided it was more convenient to lob an empty bottle from the motor than it was to take it home. And that’s before I get started on the farmers and their thorn hedge cuttings that they don’t clean up after them. Motorists don’t understand, which itself is understandable until you explain the reasons, but the Council built the cycle lane for the safety of cyclists: they have a duty to keep it safe so please, sweep the feckin thing every month or so, that’s all I’m asking.

I’m finishing this week very much as I started: a bit confused, a bit uncertain and a bit “I don’t know how this is going to play out”. There are a maximum of 50 commuting days to Belfast and the start of Oscar2Eileidh. By hook or by crook, those 50 days have to deliver 2,230 miles if LCFN is to finish at the Puddledome. I’ve got a horrible feeling that every one of those fifty days is going to be a painful one, starting hopefully on Monday: it’s about getting started and dealing with it. But hell, I didn’t really expect this to be an easy journey: looks like it’s not going to be. I’m just left thinking that this isn’t quite how I planned it.

No pain, no gain…