Shock And Awe

Envy (noun): a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

Nope, that doesn’t do it.

Envy (verb): desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable thing belonging to (someone else)

Closer, but still no cigar….

Respect (noun): a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements

Bingo!!!

#TheRoadToLisbon

Look, I need to say this and get it out of the way. I wish, I really, really wish, I could have been on the Road To Lisbon. But I explained last week a couple of the reasons why it didn’t happen: c’est la vie, I love what they’re doing just the same.

Forget the Tour De France, that’s not for another six weeks. Forget EastEnders, that’s a soap chiselled out of solid stone depression. And don’t even start me on Corrie. Mouldy’s R2L has made for some riveting reading these past seven days. I might not be on the road with those guys but I’m there 100% in spirit.

I would have been at the send off but I was 300 miles away on a work jolly (otherwise known as a rest from those 30 mile days on the bike). I read a couple of the early Facebook posts and I fell about laughing when I discovered that the big man copped a puncture in the middle of Larkhall. There’s only one bloke on the planet that that could happen to and it’s big Mouldy.

Now I know that in the early days the Facebook updates were a bit sketchy but the guys were just getting to grips with the enormity of the challenge. Look, these aren’t pro cyclists: these are just ordinary punters like you and me who, maybe twelve months ago if yer lucky, signed up to cycle a hundred miles a day for two weeks. A hunnerd miles a day!!!!! Now lob around 8,000ft feet of climbing into the mix every day. That’s four times what I’m doing and I’m tired. Maybe I’m perennially tired but 8,000ft of climbing, day in day out, is gonna take its toll.

Now chuck in an all day headwind and a dose of the wet stuff and you have a heady brew that I totally get. I buy into what Mouldy’s team are doing 100%. Indeed, while I’ve been out on the road this week, I’ve reflected on some of the shittiest, most challenging days of LCFN…

The winter’s day it was scheduled to blow at 70mph with lashing by early afternoon, so I left the house at 3am to cycle into Glasgow to pick up the laptop (in a dry sack inside my rucksack) so I could work at home that day and not lose any miles. Sixty minutes to get into work: two and a half hours to get home. The only light I had on the A77 was my wee bike light, and I got blown over on the way home. That trip stands out.

Then there was the time on the way home, again in the middle of winter, on the hill up past the Red House, when the wind and rain was so lashingly strong that even standing on the pedals in the lowest gear and giving it every last ounce of energy that I could muster, I was struggling to make 5mph. The intensity fades, but you never ever forget the solitude and the commitment that you made in those moments.

Another favourite was cycling into work at 5am and watching the mercury plummet on the Garmin to a bone chilling -9.2C. Two hours of hard cycling in temperatures as low as that, independent of any black ice on the road, leave you in danger of not feeling exposed digits by the time you get to the other end. I remember standing outside in the cold when I got to work sometimes, simply because I couldn’t allow my fingers to warm up too quickly.

Mouldy, I get every last second of the pain and the exhilaration that you guys have felt these last eight days. Stick in there mate: you are doing one fabulous job, not just for the Celtic Foundation, not just for Children in Crossfire, not just for Solving Kids Cancer, but for everyone who believes in the human spirit, and in never giving up.

Chapeau to the whole friggin’ lotta ya.

Now, I’ve been racking my brains today trying to work out why the sudden upsurge in LCFN miles. It’s becoming a bit pandemic. What started out as a creeping out from under the covers of winter into an emerging spring is now showing signs of blossoming into a full scale growth spurt of Japanese Knotweed proportions (by the way, I know where there is some, growing prodigiously at the side of the road on one of my routes: that stuff is the cancer of the plant world).

I want to put this into perspective before I spill the beans. Before I started LCFN, I’d only ever cycled over a hundred miles in a week on the open road a handful of times in my life. I cycled 237 miles in a day from Manchester to Glasgow in 1994 but all of the training for that was done on rollers in the house because I was a single parent. Ditto when I cycled 170 miles from Aberdeen to Glasgow in a day two years later. My first 200 mile week on a bike on an open road was on Tiree in 2013, just a month before I started LCFN, and that, curiously enough, was on the same folding bike that I started this great adventure on…

Since then, I’ve done 71 of them. This week will be 72. It would have been 73 but I promised my friend Angela that I’d take a rest back in June 2014 because I was so tired: I declared that week on 199 just so she wouldn’t give me a row.

I’m turned on by ridiculous stats. When I was a kid, I remember Geoff Boycott scoring his 100th first class century, ironically enough in a Test Match at Headingley, his home ground. A hundred hundreds, I’ve always thought that had a special ring to it. Well I’ll let you into a wee secret…

I dream of a hunnerd two hunnerds..

I kinda like the thought of doing the hundredth one in the week of my 65th birthday next March. That means I need 27, ooft that’s a Wum of double tons: cannae give up now. The next few weeks are gonna be barren: next week’s okay (74) but the week after that I’m down south with work (a rest!!!!) and following that we’re into the holiday season with odd days away here, there and everywhere. All it takes is one day off and that week’s a gonner. So let’s break it down: let’s make it 80 two hundred mile weeks by August. That’ll give me something to get my teeth into when the weather turns rubbish again (cue a 270 mile week in the middle of winter, total darkness with lots of rain – now that’s an LCFN week n a half: been there, done that, read the book, seen the film and got the video – this really has been a shitty bike ride at times).

But before I finish this week, I need to brain dump an episode from yesterday so it’s on record, for I’ve never been as scared for a split second in my life. I was motoring down a wee country road about two miles from Dunlop. It runs parallel with both the A735 Dunlop to Stewarton road and the A736 Barrhead to Irvine road, but sort of sits parallel in the middle. It’s slightly downhill for about two miles, it’s configured with more than a few potholes (what roads don’t round here?) and it’s fast. Actually it’s great fun, and certainly one of my favourites in close proximity to Stewarton. It’s a single track job and in the six or seven minutes that it takes to get from one end to the other, you rarely, if ever, meet a vehicle.

So cue yesterday…

I’m flying down this lane, doing 15, maybe 20 into the wind, and I can hear a tractor some way behind me in the distance. “It’s no big deal” thinks I, because I reckon I might be able to outrun it. Well I didn’t. About a mile down the road, it was coming up behind me so now I’m looking for the next driveway (there are few and they are far between) to let it past.

Except Famer Giles wasn’t for waiting.

Without bothering to put his offside wheels on the opposite verge, Giles’s front wheels gave me about a foot of clearance: meanwhile I’m staring 20 yards down the road scanning for potholes (an aside – if you’ve ever been fell running and descended fast, you’ll be aware that you don’t have a clue what your feet are doing because your brain is constantly and repeatedly scanning five yards further down the hill to where you might break your ankle: brain and feet are barely in communication). And so it is on a bike. Pothole watch is the only game in town.

His front wheels have given me a foot. So in an instant I knew what was coming. The big fat back wheels, whose tyres were as high as I was, were no more than six inches from my right shoulder as they edged past at 20mph. I nearly shat masel’. Scariest moment on a bike bar none. But y’know, I survived, and by my reckoning, I’ve still got another five lives left. They must be worth 20,000 miles Shirley.

But I want to end this week back where I started…

As an outsider looking in, I had no idea what Mouldy’s route was until it unfolded. When I saw them cycling down the spine of England, up and down all of those hills, I was in shock. But they got there. And from there the guys just got stronger, and you could tell, day on day, that were were gonna do this. A bunch of guys, most of them born within 35 miles of Glasgow, destined to make it a day of pure celebration in Lisbon on the 25th of May.

Fae the LifeCycle Man: Shock and Awe.