That Darned Competitive Dawg

As I sat looking out the window today, I found myself reflecting on the fact that maybe the darkness isn’t so bad after all: at least then you can’t see the black clouds and all the rain that’s heading your way. Sometimes I ask myself which is worse, the wind or the rain, but in actual fact it’s no contest. I’ll take the rain anytime, all of which fills me with dread for the week ahead. Yes there’s going to be rain but the prospect of a 30mph headwind on the uphill trip home every day this week is pretty daunting.

Another thing that’s been going through my mind these past few days is the likely total of miles by time this project is done. I suspect that’s been kicked off by the 2,000 mile barrier have been breached last weekend, a November target I loosely set for myself back in August without ever thinking it was at all realistic. Having done it of course, and in some pretty inclement conditions too, all things suddenly become possible. When I set off, I’d lived on a diet of 60-90 miles a week for the best part of 18 months and I thought that would remain pretty much par for the course. But I’d reckoned without the competitive spirit that’s always fighting within me. It’s like that old George Bernard Shaw saying about there being two dogs inside your head, one good and the other bad: the one that you feed the most is the one that wins. For me, competition with the past always wins the day unless I make a conscious effort to screw the nut and do what’s actually required for me right now in this moment. I find myself fighting that demon pretty much every day of the week. Yes I want to do the miles: yes I want to do even more miles, but in the back of my mind I know that there’s a limit on how far I can push an old body.

There are just under 160 Life Cycling weeks to go, excluding holidays and sick days (note to self: haven’t had a day off sick since I had appendicitis five years ago – how I need that record to continue) and at the current rate of progress, assuming the body stays willing (or more importantly perhaps, assuming my crocked knee remains willing), I can expect to keep knocking in 125 miles a week for a wee while yet. That’s going to give me just shy of 20,000 miles on top of the 2,100 that are already in the bank. But now that competitive dog in my head has started barking again and wants fed. If I want 25,000 miles, which is more that the circumference of the earth around the equator, then I’m going to need to bag 23,000 miles between now and March 2018, and that works out at just under 150 a week. That’s steep, very steep. But just like in a limited overs match where you just keep the asking rate ticking along until late on, maybe the answer is to just keep on doing what I’m doing and see where I’m placed in a couple of years’ time. There’s another old saying that’s particularly relevant right now and it’s this: I sure as hell can’t finish those miles this week, this month or this year, but I sure as hell could finish my body if I can’t tame that darned competitive dawg.

So tomorrow morning, I can be thankful that I’ll have a tailwind and be able to tap into as little effort as possible to climb the six hills out of Stewarton up to the 77 and onward to Glasgow. 17 more miles and 17 less to do. Then on the return trip, I’ll just take my meteorological medicine, select a lower gear than normal and just keep turning those pedals.

At least I won’t see the rain.

Paul McConville

The November blog was all set to be a celebration of 700 miles in a month and 2000 miles in total, but the week has been overshadowed by the untimely passing of Paul McConville.

In a week when The Celtic Network did me the great honour of naming Von Schiehallion as an Honorary Internet Bampot, I want to remember Paul’s outstanding work over the past couple of years. For me, he was the ultimate HIB, for as an Albion Rovers supporter by trade, he put in shift after late night shift in the pursuit of the truth throughout all the shenanigans at Ibrox and Hampden Park.

I never actually met Paul, but like so many people who have followed the RTC story with an obsessed passion, he was one of the key players who took all that legal claptrap and turned it into something that we mere mortals could understand. And he always seemed best able to do it in the small hours. My memories are of yet another statement or yet another document surfacing on Twitter late in the evening, followed by a pronunciation from Paul that he was away to make a coffee before a session at the keyboard to seek clarification on multiple points. Paul was fantastic at ripping apart the guff that came out of Jabba, Green, Whyte and the Mob of Murrays. More than once I waited up, usually with a late night aperitif, to peruse the fruits of his labour, and to offer thanks in the small hours for his unstinting work. Paul McConville was what Twitter is about: a bloke, so busy in the love of his work, yet always ready and able to engage in Twitterous banter.

It was because of people like Paul McConville that I got so hooked on the whole RTC carry-on and it’s because of people like Paul that the SFA will never be allowed to get away with the skullduggery that has gone on behind the scenes to tarnish the game of football in Scotland. They might think they are winning the battle because people like Ogilvie are still in office, but the people who really matter, the fans, led and supported by people like Paul McConville, will hold the moral high ground forever: the war is ours. No matter how hard you try, you cannot deny the truth.

The work of guys like Paul led me ultimately to the likes of Phil Mac, Sir Bartin, Chuckles, Barcabhoy, Clarson, The Tribute Act and Lord Wordsmith. However whilst these guys amused me and kept me informed in roughly equal measures, Brogan Rogan and Jas were instrumental in taking my ideas down a completely different road altogether. I still can’t get my head around the fact that Jas is Wullie and Wullie is actually Jas but these two characters built on the groundwork that had already been done by Team McConville in the months prior. Brogan Rogan in particular was like a dog with a bone in his support of firstly Vanessa Riddle, then Oscar Knox and subsequently Mackenzie Furniss, and it was then that I realised that I had a new challenge in life.

It was merely the icing on the cake when TCN invited me to submit the LifeCycle project for inclusion on The Celtic Network list of good causes, and I will be forever thankful for that.

But today, my thoughts are firmly with Paul McConville and the family that he has left behind. The LifeCycle project simply would not exist if it hadn’t been for the voluntary forensic work that guys like him have been doing these last few years.

Chapeau.

LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma

 

Welcome to LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, the home of the LifeCycle challenge in aid of Solving Kids Cancer.

I’m Steve Taylor, aka Von Schiehallion, the LifeCycle man.

Solving Kids Cancer helps families affected by the childhood cancer, neuroblastoma. In most cases neuroblastoma is only diagnosed when it has already progressed to a late ‘high risk’ stage. Even when children are tested clear of neuroblastoma after initial hospital treatment, a high percentage of children with high risk neuroblastoma will relapse and some children will not respond to therapy.

LifeCycle is an extraordinarily difficult challenge meeting an extraordinarily difficult disease head on.

Here’s the deal: The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,902 miles. The LifeCycle target was 25,000 miles of commuting to and from work in 4 years. That’s the same as cycling from London to Manchester every week: but there’s also a thousand feet of climbing in each direction. That’s equivalent to climbing Ben Nevis twice a week on a bike. The route passes by Europe’s biggest onshore windfarm at Whitelee. There’s a windfarm on the Eaglesham Moor for a very good reason… And as if all that wasn’t enough, I was 60 when I started, and just over four years from retirement. The only way to complete this challenge was to never give up. I didn’t: I completed it in six weeks short of three years, then just kept going. Think “Forest Gump on two wheels“.

This is LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

The full ongoing story is here in the blog. You can become a supporter and get involved, at either

https://heroix.everydayhero.com.au/event/NeuroblastomaAustraliaDonate/donate

to support laboratory research, or

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma

to support clinical research into the disease.

If you’re on Facebook, then please have a look at the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma group. It’s full of the latest news, photos and various bits and pieces from the LifeCycle Twitter feed.

Here are the LifeCycle miles

And here’s the story so far…

AUGUST 2018

The Last Time

Speed Dating

JULY 2018

It’s Now Or Never

Banksy On A Bike

JUNE 2018

A Night At The Opera

King Of The Pensioners

King And Queen

King Of The Zimmers

Remembrance Day

V

MAY 2018

Stuff To Do

A Match Made In Heaven

Twenty One Today

Glen Tromie

APRIL 2018

Mind Over Matter

Ka(nga)roo

Friday The 13th

Turbo Charged

MARCH 2018

One Hundred And Sixty Seven

Hindsight

This Is Not The End…

Reflections

FEBRUARY 2018

The Beast Fae The East

The Black Bike

Just Keep Swimming

Two Wheels On My Wagon

Happiness

JANUARY 2018

99 Pink Balloons

#IceIceBaby

In The Bleak Midwinter

Out Of The Traps

DECEMBER 2017

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall – LCFN 2017

The Great British Bike Off

Seven Up

Ticket To Ride

Goldielocked

NOVEMBER 2017

The Chain

Change Is Gonna Come

Destiny’s Child

Oi Mush!!!

OCTOBER 2017

A Change Is As Good As A Rest. Not…

Goldielooks And The Three Bears

Ultrasonic

King Puddles

SEPTEMBER 2017

Every Day’s A School Day

I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Stewarton Wednesday

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Going For Gold

AUGUST 2017

We Are All Tommy Melly

Made My Bed

Could Do Better

JULY 2017

The Mirror Man

Imagine

Eileidh’s Legacy

Relight My Fire

#ForeverFive

Puddles Of Tears

JUNE 2017

The Lord’s My Shepherd

El n Hazz’s Big Bash

Two Weddings And A Funeral

The Longest Day

The Show Must Go On

MAY 2017

The Big Cup

Shock And Awe

The Road To Lisbon

Empty The Tank. Refuel. Repeat.

APRIL 2017

War Of Attrition

Eileidh’s Army

Spoke Too Soon

Clogging It

The Dirty Dozen

MARCH 2017

Eight Days A Week

Everest

Don’t Look Back In Anger

Eil’ Drink To That

Down Under

FEBRUARY 2017

Ode To Joy (Puddles Remix)

We Shall Overcome

After The Lord Mayor’s Show

The Bucket List

#ChooseLife

JANUARY 2017

When Tomorrow Comes

The Journey Fae Hell

It’s Now Or Never

The Next Time

DECEMBER 2016

Why

TCNGC17

If It Disney Work, Just Keep Trying…

A Stroke Of Luck

The 2016 LCFN Awards

NOVEMBER 2016

Wum Story

Frozen Puddles

Got My Mojo Workin’

The Italian Job

Flagless And Fancy Free

OCTOBER 2016

United In Adversity

Baby Dennis

How Long’s A Piece Of String?

Quad Bike

SEPTEMBER 2016

The Hardest Words

Living Puddlian

Beautiful, Beautiful Eileidh

113 and a miss

Goldfinger

AUGUST 2016

Frazzled

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

On The Road Again

Out And About In Puddleshire

JULY 2016

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

The Oven Bucket Challenge

Timeout

JUNE 2016

About A Girl

My Way

Reflections

Freewheelin’

To Puddles With Love

MAY 2016

Around The World In (500 and) 80 Days

24 Carat Gold Cake

Oscar 2 Eileidh

APRIL 2016

Relentless

The Fightback

To Infinity And Beyond

The Land Of Make BELIEVE

The Times They Are A Changin’

MARCH 2016

When I’m Back On My Feet Again

Slange Var!

The 39 Steps

FEBRUARY 2016

1999

No Pain, No Gain

Buy One, Get One Free

Black Ice Ops

Hoo Ha Henry

JANUARY 2016

Gertrude, Sister Of Bawbag

Shirley Knott

Ice Station Yompa

Wee Kian Do It

DECEMBER 2015

The LCFN Awards 2015

The Very Best Of 2015

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

The Wheels On The Bus

It Never Rains But It Pours

NOVEMBER 2015

Something Inside, So Strong

When The Going Gets Tough…

The Princess And The Magic Garden

When You’re Going Through Hell, Just Keep Going…

OCTOBER 2015

LCFN Goes Platinum In October For Children With Neuroblastoma

The Hundred Days Of Hell

A Question Of Semantics

Because I Can

When September Ends

SEPTEMBER 2015

New Gold Dream

The Sky’s The Limit

Never Give Up

Going For Gold

AUGUST 2015

Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

Planting Seeds In Fallow Ground

Bad Things Come In Threes

Our Father

One Day At A Time

JULY 2015

Here We Go, Ten In A Row

I’m On A Train / London Calling

Double Puddles

Puddlemania Hits The States

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Kids In America

JUNE 2015

Fire Tiger

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Super In Love

Puddlemania

MAY 2015

How A Walk Became A Cancer Crusade

The Anniversary Waltz

Forres Gump

I’d Ride A Million Miles For One Of Your Smiles

Take It To The Limit

APRIL 2015

C’mon Eileidh

Ecstasy, Passion And Pain

Monday The 13th

The Spirit Of Walfrid

It’s All Downhill From Here

MARCH 2015

Halfway To Paradise

Sugar Sugar

Boom And Bust

Gimme Closure

FEBRUARY 2015

Patience Is A Virtue

Cause Or Just Impingement

Off The Cuff

A Retirement Home

JANUARY 2015

King Commute

Just Another Day

The English Patient

Rainspotting

On The Road Again

DECEMBER 2014

2014’s Greatest Hits

12,000 Miles – A Christmas Song

Riders On The Storm

Sometimes, Words Are Not Enough

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

NOVEMBER 2014

Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last

Everything In Perspective

Back From The Grail

The Holy Grail

OCTOBER 2014

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Whole Lotta Love

I Don’t Like Mondays (Except This One)

The Bucking Bronco

Frauday Morning

SEPTEMBER 2014

Give ‘Em Both Barrels

Back To The Future

My Body Is Revolting

Ma Wee Sair Knee

AUGUST 2014

Rest If You Must But…

The Third Man

The Bike Hospital

King Of The Mountains

The Carnival Is Over

JULY 2014

End Of Term Report

The Three Seasons

Advance To Glasgow – 200 Days Since Passing Go

The Lesser Spotted Pot-Bellied Lycra Man

JUNE 2014

And I Would Bike 500 More…

Getting Yer Angles Right

Playing Injury Time…The Wizard Of Oz

MAY 2014

Mega May

Vastus Medialis – Injurus Crampus

One Undred An Eighty…. Two

Keep Right On To The End Of The Road

It Might As Well Rain Until September

APRIL 2014

The Long And Winding Road

Magical Mystery Tour

A Case Of Pineau De Re

Permalactic Legs

MARCH 2014

Wanted – A Magician

Bonus Track – Hey Paula

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Chugger/Gone With The Wind

Under Pressure

Fuel For Sport

FEBRUARY 2014

The Ten Commandments Of LifeCycle

Ultrasound and Intervals

Hail Hail, the Spring Is Here!

A Lighter Shade Of Pale

JANUARY 2014

No Regrets

They Think It’s All Over – It Will Be In July 2017

The Impossible Dream

LifeCycling – The Movement

Into The Groove

DECEMBER 2013

Groundhog Day

The Battle Of Wounded Knee

That Darned Competitive Dawg

Paul McConville

NOVEMBER 2013

Fuel For Thought

Bonus Miles

Kick Off

Fuel For Thought

I believe in fate: not the kind of fate that deals you a bad hand but the kind that makes you stop and think “hang on a minute, how on earth did that happen? I mean really, how on earth did that just happen”?

Let me give you an example. Suppose you’ve been married for 20 years and you have three lovely kids, although the number of kids is actually completely irrelevant in this debate. Suppose that your partner/wife/husband/whatever is your perfect soul mate and has been for all of that time. Right, think about how you met. Stop reading this for a few moments and think about the circumstances of how you met. What was it that brought the two of you together, at that time, at that place? If it was a chance meeting, then it gets really weird. Suppose you weren’t even supposed to be in that place at that time. Suppose that one of you was running late, or was meant to be somewhere else altogether. How on earth did that work?

I firmly believe that something out there sets each of us out on a path that will eventually lead to our own end. But along the way, things happen that are sometimes just unfathomable, like they were just meant to be: and when that happens, you’re better just strapping yourself in and enjoying the ride.

There is one such story that underpins everything that this project is about and that’s what coming up…

Let me turn the clock back 25 years to the time that I lived in Cumbernauld. I worked at what was then the Burroughs Machines factory in Wardpark but the factory closed in 1987. I had a job lined up in New Zealand and sold my cottage in The Village (everyone I knew who lived in Cumbernauld referred to Cumbernauld Village as <em>The Village</em>). But due to a set of circumstances that I won’t go into here, I didn’t go. Some of my mates did go but I stayed, and at relatively short notice, I needed somewhere else to stay, so I bought a new house up on the hill at Balloch. It was a new build and I’d lived there for a couple of years when the family next door sold up and a new couple moved in. Younger than us, they were both medical people, and he was Celtic daft. He used to tell me stories about people coming into his practice on a Monday morning wanting to discuss how the game had gone on the Saturday. And I remember him telling me a story about a wee bhoy dragging a front door on his back across some waste ground in the east end and when asked why he was carrying a door, replied “because we don’t have one”. This guy had a different outlook on life from everyone else I knew, and quite possibly different from anyone else I’ve ever met since. However in ’92, we both went our separate ways, he and his family to Lenzie, and mine to East Kilbride. That was it: game over, nice to know you, see you some other time maybe.

Now roll that same clock forward just over twenty years to the summer of 2010. Through a series of coincidences, again connected to huge uncertainty over my job and me ending up working on stuff that I could not have anticipated twelve months earlier, I found myself with a team of guys that ultimately led to me being challenged to develop a Wellness program. It was like a dream job for six months of my life. But I was blinkered by the notion that Wellness was somehow just tied up with exercise: you know, go out walking, ride a bike, go down the gym, and everything will be fine. But it wasn’t, and I quickly came to realise that there was something else, two other things actually, that combined to promote Wellness: Nutrition and Motivation.

I knew plenty about exercise, having done it and studied it on and off for thirty odd years. But nutrition was new. I just ate stuff, like everybody else. Hungry: eat. Not hungry: don’t eat, and that was pretty much it. Big doorstep corned beef pieces and the occasional pint of beer or six.

So I’d found myself challenged to source a nutritional programme to run alongside Exercise and Motivation. Enter the God of Fate…

My wife was away on Skye, doing <em>The Ridge </em>with some of her closest friends on her birthday weekend. I was holding the fort back home and one of my tasks was to get the kids to school in the morning. That in turn meant a later than usual commute into Glasgow with no time to lose. On this particular morning, I was driving up the Old Glasgow Road and I re-tuned the wireless to Radio Scotland: can’t remember why, possibly because I was bored with the drivel spewing forth from the adverts on Clyde or Real Radio. Anyway, I immediately fixated on this conversation that was taking place on Good Morning Scotland… “in the West of Scotland, death begins at 40”. Did I just hear that right? I had always been brought up on the notion that <em>Life Begins At 40 </em>in the somewhat forlorn hope of offsetting middle age. So <em>Death Begins At 40 </em>was a new one on me and I pumped up the volume. This bloke was going on about nutrition, or should I say the lack of it, and the fact that the western diet, on top of the traditional West of Scotland diet, was killing people at 40.

Hang on a minute… I know that voice…

That’s Tom: that’s the bloke I lived next door to all those years ago in Cumbernauld. That’s the bloke who was Celtic daft and practised in the east end of Glasgow. And here he was talking about nutrition amongst people who he saw, day in and day out.

“I need to (re) find this guy” I thought, “he <em>is</em> the missing link in the Wellness programme.

And some…

I’m not going to bore you with the minutiae of what’s happened since: but suffice to say that Tom and his research work on nutrition has had the biggest single influence on the likelihood of a successful outcome to the LifeCycle project. Tom opened my eyes to Omega 3 and the profound effect that it has on the human body and especially on your Wellbeing. Now at this point, I’m not going to go off on one like those adverts you click on Facebook and waste fifteen minutes of your life. Instead I’m going to tell you <em>how</em> the stuff that Tom taught me has made this project sustainable, for when I moved to Stewarton in the late 90’s, I cycled one summer to and from Glasgow on my Flying Scot and I couldn’t hack it: I was knackered. So I gave up two wheels and carted myself up and down the road on four. And I’ve been doing it ever since. So how come now, many years on from that experience and in my sixties, have I now discovered how to make that journey not only doable, but enjoyable?

The answer lies in Omega 3. It’s not a coincidence that the Gravatar that sits beside my name on Social Media has an Omega symbol with a 3 inside it. That number 3 is the primary driving force behind LifeCycle and if my writing this blog could change one thing in the life of everyone who reads it, it would be for the reader to go out there and research the benefits of Omega 3. They are indeed profound.

Working with Tom has taught me a lot of things: I have learnt that my personal fuel tank has a capacity of around 1800 calories of glycogen, enough for just over two hours of full on effort on the bike. I’ve learnt that at rest, I burn around 20 calories of that precious glycogen but around 50 of fat. I like that. I’ve also learned that I can get into work <em>fasted</em> and burn 30% more fat (hence preserving those crucial glycogen stores for more important tasks) than if I eat before leaving the house. And I’ve learned that if I eat little and often, with a balance of 40% carbs to 30% protein, then I can turn my body fuel from petrol into diesel, and that I can make it last for ages. I am still, even now, in the early stages of understanding how my body deals with 35 hilly miles every working day, but it is a dream job to be able to experiment with this food and that timing, to seek out what works best: however right now, something’s working well.

All of which brings us back to the beginning of this piece, and <em>fate</em>. Fate dictated that I would be re-energised after 25 years: and fate dictated that not only would that rediscovery have an impact on my professional life, but it would also have a profound effect on my personal Wellbeing too. And it has also fuelled my body and my motivation to see this project through to the end.

Fate has dealt me a good hand, and I’m gonna play it the best I can.

 

Bonus Miles

One of the great things about being on the bike is that you get time to think: you get a lot of time to think, up to three hours a day, and in three hours of quality thinking time, you can come up with some real wacky stuff.

Today, I invented both a Concept and a Theory, not bad for working out at freezing point into a 25 mph headwind.  But therein lies both the catalyst and the incentive for doing this stuff.

The Concept was Bonus Miles and the Theory goes that if I can bag enough of them before daylight sets it again in four months, then nothing’s going to stop me from successfully completing this project.

So what are Bonus Miles?

Well, see when you buy a CD (remember them?) and you leave it running past the last track that’s listed on the sleeve, sometimes you’ll discover a hidden bonus track. It’s something you feel like you got for nothing. Well Bonus Miles are the LifeCycle equivalent, with the real advantage that they don’t cost you (my supporters) any more cash: except they do really, because I shouldn’t have been doing them in the first place. Y’see Bonus Miles are really Bonkers Miles.

Let me explain…

When I left the house yesterday morning at 5:40am, it was cold. Actually it was very cold. I have around 200m before I hit the main road and those 200m include a bend out of our street onto the feeder road that leads to the main road. In those 200m, I have to decide which route to take to work. My preferred route is what I call ‘the 77’, which is local speak for the old A77, the old main four lane highway into Glasgow before they built the M77 motorway. Now that the motorway’s complete, one lane of the old road is a dedicated cycle lane, separated off from the rest of the carriageway by a kerb. It’s a commuting cyclist’s dream: but it’s never gritted. And to get there from my house, which is four miles away, there are six climbs, four of which are significant category four jobs in Tour De France parlance. The first is less than half a mile from the house and on a morning like yesterday, experience has taught me that if you’re clipped onto the bike and you can’t make it up the first hill because the back wheel  spins you to a standstill, there’s every chance you’ll fall off sideways. I have those precious 200m from leaving my front door to make the judgement call whether I’m going to take that chance. Yesterday I turned it down and took the busier, hairier Old Glasgow Road out of town, because that road is always gritted. The sign is water splashing up off your front wheel, in the glare of your front spotlights. No water splashes on an otherwise wet road means danger. Anyway I digress…

Yesterday morning, the Old Glasgow Road was absolutely fine. Gritted and wet, despite the -4C air temperature (and that’s before you throw in the wind chill), all was well until I got to, well… Glasgow! The Old Glasgow Road meets the old A77 at what was once the Malletsheugh pub (now an Indian restaurant). From there into Giffnock, it’s a fast 3 mile descent on a road which, at 6:30am, has precious little traffic and offers the commuting cyclist a dream trip into work. But that wasn’t yesterday. Imagine trying to stay upright on 3 miles of black ice: ice right across the carriageway from one side to the other. Forget the cycle lane, it was every bit as bad on the main carriageway. That’s what happens when one local authority grits their roads only for another ten miles away to do no gritting at all. Had I known what lay in store before I set off, then the bike would have stayed at home yesterday, As it turned out, I bagged 32 miles on the round trip. They were Bonus Miles.

Then last night it rained. Actually it did more than rain: it absolutely hammered it down so hard, and with such a gale force wind, that it woke the whole family several times. I distinctly remember whispering to my wife at 2:48am (I checked the time: how sad it that?) “hmm, spot of drizzle in the air by the sound of it”, to which she replied “I think you should leave the bike at home today”. “It’ll pass” said I, hopeful that by 5am things would have quietened down, and fortunately they did, although it was still windy enough to make staying upright a real challenge on the more exposed parts of the route (and there are plenty of those over the Fenwick Muir). Of course, having made it into work, you have absolutely no excuse not to make it back again so that bagged another 34 precious miles, this time courtesy of the preferred route 77 both ways. It was another day that, maybe, just maybe, I might not have been on the bike.

And these last two days set me thinking on the way home tonight: these are 66 Bonus Miles, miles that in reality, on another day or at another time, I wouldn’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) have done. They are miles that will be hidden in the grand total of 25,000 before this job is done, that I will look back on and say “y’know they were the miles that made the difference between success and failure: they were the miles when I refused to give in”.

In short, Bonus Miles are the miles that reflect the fact that Vanessa Riddle, Oscar Knox and Mackenzie Furness refused to give in when the going got tough, and they came out fighting on the other side.

Bonus Miles are going to be the difference, not just in financial terms, but in mental “I can do this” terms throughout the next dark, cold and potentially dangerous four months, until the sun finally comes out again. Right now, all I see is darkness, darkness and more darkness, just like the families who are going through Neuroblastoma.

But if I can bag enough Bonus Miles between now and February, then LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma  is there for the taking. Because if I can get through one dark, cold, wet winter (on unlit roads), then I’m sure as hell gonna manage the next four until the job is done.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for -2C, a wind chill that’s going to make it feel more like -7C, and a headwind the whole 17 miles into Glasgow. More of those lovely Bonus Miles….

Bring it on!

Kick Off

I’ve been meaning to start a blog about this project for a while: I just never got round to it or convinced myself that I’d do it some other time. It’s so easy to put off till tomorrow what you know you could do today, so maybe my phone getting gubbed and having to go away to the phone doctor just gave me the breathing space to do what I should have done at the outset.

There are some good people out there and this story, indeed this whole project, is dedicated to them.

Right up there is Jas Cameron, aka Wullie Broon. Never met the bloke and all I know is that Jas wears his heart on his Celtic sleeve. Through Jas and a bunch of his Bampot mates, I have learned that there are people out there, who follow football just like me, for whom the game, the team and the season are just part of a wider life experience. For these guys, social justice is as big a part of the deal as following the team itself. I respect these guys, and I especially respect Big Jas.

I’ve been doing this project now for just shy of three months: it’s a four and a half year gig so these are still very early days. Indeed this is my winter numero uno and to be frank it scares the shit out of me that I’ve got to go through this another four times. But just over a week ago, I got a DM from Jas asking me if I’d write a wee article on what I was doing. I knew exactly what he was going to do with it, and I kind of suspected what the reaction was going to be. It was Celtic bound, for Celtic is a football club whose existence has always been the embodiment of charity. A lot of my mates just don’t get the fact that I can still support Inverness while teaming up with people of another footballing persuasion on something like LifeCycle but for me it’s a no-brainer: they get it while the rest don’t. Or to put it another way, I get what their heritage is about, even if I don’t support their team. That’s called mutual respect.

So I wrote my piece, Life Cycle (Pennies From Heaven), emailed it off, and it duly got published on The Celtic Network on 12th November 2013. In case you haven’t read it, here’s the story that Jas ran on TCN:

http://thecelticnetwork.com/2013/11/12/pennies-from-heaven-a-celebration-of-social-bampottery/

The reaction was inspirational if you’re me and you have to get up at 5:15 to leave the house on two wheels in the dark in lashing rain. The following comment comes word for word from Parsonbhoy (he has a proper name but I love the way football fans hide behind their pseudonyms):

“Wow! I simply can not get the hairs on the back of my neck to sit down. Wow! again. What an objective; what a compliment to Celtic fans. I love football. I love Celtic. But more and more I love the way the fans reach out to people and touch their lives. That is more of a treble year on year than any trophies. To conquer an opponent on the field is always an achievement and a glorious feeling. To capture an opponent’s heart is Godsent”.

I’m also going to say upfront that I firmly believe that our place on this planet has somehow already been mapped out and that our role is just to play out our existence as it unfolds. Let me give you an example: Jas DM’d me on the Thursday, I knocked up a blog on the Friday and he published it on the following Tuesday. That much is pretty straightforward. But then two days later, it was revealed that Vanessa Riddle is cancer free. I mean, how does that work? I came to the Neuroblastoma party quite late in the day, in the Team Oscar days as it turns out, but the trio of Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie were the real inspiration behind the project.  So how come, two days after Jas runs the story, Vanessa gets the all clear? I mean that’s gotta be some sort of a miracle. I claim absolutely no credit for any of it but what I would say is this: Celtic fans played a big part in saving Vanessa Riddle’s life and somewhere in the great megascript of life, the great God of Coincidence decided to run the two things side by side within a couple of days of each other. And one thing’s for sure: it makes my task a whole lot easier to have Vanessa Riddle alive and well as a shining example of what can be achieved.

So for Vanessa, Oscar and Mackenzie, this one’s for you. And for Jas and all the Celtic Bampots who got me off my backside to get this thing off the ground.