On The Road Again

Two weeks on the road, the wrong sort of road, and I could use a rest. Inverness for four days last week has been followed by three days in Liverpool this week. You know how it is, a different bed, not a proper sleep, later than normal nights, earlier than normal mornings, and this week lots of trains, twelve of them in total.

I’m tired.

I think my poor brain is still partially frazzled from the intensity of the heart failure work I was doing last week: Thursday and Friday were particularly intense on account of searching for nearly 2,400 separate five character codes (of unique upper and lower case letter plus numbers) in a list of 180,000 in order to improve the performance of a data search. It’s probably significant therefore that the first two paragraphs of this week’s blog are about work and not about the bike. The bike has definitely taken a back seat these past two weeks.

However there is a big story to report on the cycling front, but it doesn’t concern anything that I’ve done.

You’ll be aware that LCFN has moved on from the original 25,000 mile challenge and is now focused on a global team effort to ride a million miles: the self styled LCFN Million Mile Challenge. There are now 21 riders in the team on Strava, but one in particular is deserving of a special mention…

Zuzanna Ciszewska signed up with LCFN in the same week that she set out to break the official Guinness World Record for the most miles cycled by a woman in twelve months. Suzie’s challenge began on August 1st and if things go according to plan, we’ll benefit from around 30,000 of Suzie’s miles over the next twelve months. You can be sure that the LCFN blog will be featuring her progress on a regular basis. Last week, for example, she notched up 326 miles: an introductory week. Be advised that that was actually a lightweight week and we can actually look forward to 500’s on a regular basis. Crikey, back in the day when I was starting out, I was only doing 500 in a month. Suzie makes me feel like I didn’t try hard enough! Like me, she’s also attempting her challenge around a full time job, which involves her riding from her home on one side of London, to her work way across the other side of the city. I guess she has the benefit of flat roads as opposed to my thousand feet of climbing in each direction, and probably much less wind to deal with, but the traffic must be horrendous. That said, I think I’d take my remote but difficult journey to her congested but flat one any day of the week. The difference, I suspect, lies in the fact that I got my weekends off whereas Suzie can expect to be out there seven days a week.

How did a girl going for a world record end up on LCFN?

Ah… mark that one down to Mouldy: good old Mouldy. Exactly how he signed her up for a couple of legs of the Road To Lisbon cycle next May I don’t know, but one thing led to another and once she was on the Celtic Big Cup gig, she broadened her horizons and jumped onto our challenge too. It’s great when the LCFN message grows like that.  We absolutely need people out there, telling the story, and coming onboard: this is no longer my journey, this is our journey and we need as many messengers as we can get. If you’re reading this and you don’t ride a bike yourself, then maybe your husband or wife does and they could donate some miles. That’s exactly how a lot of people get started and once you’re onboard, the thought that your wee bit is helping the team might be just the incentive to get you out the door. I publish the weekly miles and the overall total on the LCFN Facebook page every Sunday night so you can track our progress on there. It’s also the place to be for everything LCFN: articles, stories and loads of other stuff. To date, we’re just through 8,000 miles between the lot of us. I count of your miles from the week that you sign up.

The other recent ongoing LCFN story is about the wristbands. For a long, long time during the initial bike ride, I toyed with the idea of doing wristbands but didn’t have the confidence that people would actually buy them. But once I joined forces with Eileidh’s Journey, I found both the need and the market. The wristbands are a joint EJ/LCFN enterprise to raise money for future treatment that Eileidh is going to need abroad. Her first round of DFMO treatment in America last year cost #100K, much of which was raised through public subscription. Now that she has relapsed and the NHS has decided that the drug best suited to treating neuroblastoma in the USA and Europe won’t be made available in the UK, Eileidh is once again looking at hugely expensive treatment overseas in order to improve her chances of a long term outcome. This time around, Gail, her mum, is unlikely to get much change out of half a million pounds. It’s a big ask, but LCFN has always been a big challenge anyway so the wristbands are a good fit if you’ll pardon the pun.

Gail is in the process of developing the creatively named Eileidh’s Pop Up Shop idea and the stuff on there will go some way to benefitting Eileidh’s fund. The way the wristbands work is that we are selling them for five pounds each. I paid for the manufacture of the initial batch of 225 and we need to ensure that we keep enough cash back from those to fund the purchase of the next batch. Once we have enough money set aside to keep the ball rolling, everything else goes on Eileidh’s Just Giving page. My hope is that the bands will attract enough interest to make a considerable dent in Eileidh’s need.

On my own account, next Friday marks the third anniversary since I set out to do that very first mile. It seems much, much longer: it seems like I’ve been up and down the A77 for ever. But it being a Friday, I might just allow myself a wee glass of something nice to celebrate the fact that I didn’t give up, I kept the ball rolling when I got to the end, and the fact that wee Eileidh shows no sign right now of giving up in her fight either. If you wanna fight with a smile on your face, look no further than Princess Puddles. I may have started out with Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie in my thoughts, but these days Princess Puddles in my main focus. The Puddles video, that has featured regularly in the blog since it was released three months ago, this week went through 19,000 views: that’s not people who’ve gone back and looked at it multiple times: that’s 19,000 different people who have seen it on Facebook. I know Gail’s delighted: I know Amelie’s delighted. I’m just delighted for the two of them. It’s lovely when nice things happen to brighten up other people’s lives. What I need to do now is get cracking on trying to arrange for Lisa Hannigan to cover the song when she performs at the Oran Mor gig in Glasgow in October. Lisa is Amelie’s self confessed favourite artist of all time, and when you listen to the two of them sing, you can appreciate why. The influence of Amelie’s work as Frank Loves Joan is considerable. I suspect that if I can fix it for Lisa to perform Puddles in Glasgow, and we are able to get a decent video of it, then Amelie might be made up for all time. I’m working on the basis that Lisa can only blank me or say no. But then she might say yes: OMG, what if she does?

The LCFN blog itself hasn’t done badly this last wee while. Before June, the most views in a single calendar month was 551, achieved in May 2014 following wee Oscar’s passing. Then the views kind of bumbled along at a consistent 250 to 300 for the next two years, with the odd blip here or there, before June went mad with a 600 plus posting. But that was only a temporary climax because July eclipsed June’s total at the first time of asking and as things stand, the 2014 annual total of just over three thousand views will have been topped before August is out. 2015’s total was bigger by three hundred but that stands to fall too when September ends: a real Green Day moment when it comes…

And so now, back from Liverpool, LCFN will be on it again tomorrow…

Back on the road again.