The Dirty Dozen

I never envisaged writing this story two weeks ago. But then I never envisage much on this adventure till I get out the door and feel which way the wind’s blowing. These days I just make it up as I go along, every day.

I don’t like going out late (that’s anything after two o’clock): it feels like I’m pressurising myself because anything decent is then running into tea time. Early is good: early is relaxed: early makes it feel like you have all day. I like early. It costs me timewise of course because when I’m out on the bike, I’m not sat at a computer and hence not earning. But hey, there’s more to life than money, just so long as you’ve got enough to get by. There’s life itself and that’s precious.

You wouldn’t believe the rubbish that goes through my head while I’m out on the road, but if I’m in a positive frame of mind, some really creative stuff inspires the grey matter when I get back home. There’s something really therapeutic about pouring over the issues that are challenging me workwise while I’m out on the road, and I invariably come back with a different take on the various problems, which is good. Even when I was working for an employer, I used to say that they should pay me to go out on long walks and bike rides. It’s where my best ideas come from.

Anyway, back to two weeks ago. I’d recently come off the back of a 200 mile week, my first for six months, and it was making me feel a wee bit frisky. LCFN winters can really get to you and as this was my first non-commuting winter, it was often difficult to motivate myself to go out and do anything (what I would call) useful. 20 to 25 had become the norm: even the odd teen miles. Who was I kidding? Myself. I needed a right good kick up the arse and I got one a fortnight ago: the weather was gorgeous, it was suddenly warm (22C is warm round these parts, believe me) and I made hay while the sun shone. And I enjoyed it.

So just as one longer day became two, so two became three. And then four. Four became five. Repeat…

By now the weather was back to being traditional West of Scotland: basically shit. Strong winds, westerly or prevailing westerly, grey cold and intermittently wet. 12C on a good day. It’s the way we roll in Ayrshire. So if you wanna get anything decent done, you’ve got to be prepared to fight for it. And that’s where the connection to Eileidh comes in. I haven’t seen her for six months, basically because the two times that I’ve been up north since October, I’ve been full of the lurgi, and you don’t go anywhere near a Princess when you’ve got the lurgi. But that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t think about her. She inspires all the tough rides, the ones where it would be dead easy to take a wee shortcut and head back to HQ. My self imposed, unwritten rule is that when I really don’t fancy it, I remind myself what she’s going through and I go the long way instead. Eileidh won’t know. Gail won’t even know. But I know and that’s good enough for me.

So that’s how the dirty thirties got started: a couple of nice spring days and a load of rubbish ones. I got home after about four of them and checked Strava to see when I’d last done five in a row. That’s how I knew I was back on it. When athletes are checking the stats, they’re on it, believe me. A lazy athlete doesn’t wanna know: a hungry one does, and then sets goals to rewrite the record book. That’s precisely where I was last weekend.

The thing is, right, I knew there was a finite limit to this, because tomorrow I’m off on a stag weekend. I haven’t been on a stag for over twenty years: since my own. It’s like a stag is a young bloke’s game. But this is no ordinary stag. It’s Ross’s, and Ross is my eldest. All the Taylors of drinking age will be there: and it’s an aeroplane job. I cannae say tonight where we’re going cos there’s a fair chance that Ross knows there’s a blog coming out and he doesnae know. Well, not officially anyway. He’ll find out tomorrow morning.

So I’ve been pushing the boat out these last two weeks knowing that there was a wee rest just around the corner. But check this: I’m gonna pack some cycling stuff on the offchance that I can find a bike hire place and bag a few international LCFN miles. As long as I don’t get wrecked on day one, I suspect that LCFNing is a better idea than spending all day on the bevvy. We shall see…

So, back to the storyline: the most consecutive 30 mile days that there’d been since I started was seven, and that was courtesy of the Highland Bike ride from Forres Mechanics FC to Celtic Park in May ’15. The weekend that we did that bridged the gap between two normal commuting weeks. Back then I used to take every weekend off because I needed the rest. Recovery is as important as being out on the road. Seven seems like a pittance, an embarrassment almost, but to anyone willing to point a finger, I say this: go and ride for three hours, then do it again the next day, and the day after that. Experience the weariness that sets into your muscles after each successive day.

If last week was the aperitif, then this week was the main course. And it totally screws yer legs. If it’s not the distance then it’s the time in the saddle. If it’s not the time, it’s the relentless climbing. And if it’s not the climbing on its own, then it’s all of the above. In the days when LCFN was a twice a day jaunt into Glasgow and back, daytime was dedicated to replenishment and recovery. Back then, every ride was two hours max. These last two weeks have been pushing three, and that extra hour makes a real difference. My glycogen limit is just over 1800 calories of fuel, dictated by my metabolism. And every hour that I spend on the road gobbles up 600 calories. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do the sums. Every day that I come back from a 30, I’m low on fuel. And any day that I don’t replenish properly, the next day, for sure, is guaranteed to be a bad one: and as every bad day feeds directly into your confidence (or lack of on days like that), you very quickly end up fighting a vicious circle.

But I learnt all this fuel stuff a long time ago. Putting it into practice was commonplace until a year ago: but three hour rides are to be respected. I go out, I ride, I come home. I don’t bother stopping for refreshments, I just do my thing. The aim, always, is to have maximum confidence that I’m gonna get home in one piece. Which brings me to last Saturday…

A bright sunny day, I’d gone to Kilwinning and then on to the Beach Park at Irvine. Heading back from the Gailes Hotel, there are a series of roundabouts. The first one’s a right, the second one’s straight through, the third one’s a left and the fourth one’s another right. The easy one should have been the second one, but it’s a big roundabout over the six lane A78, with two lane slip roads on and off. Not much traffic uses that roundabout, known locally as the Newhouse Interchange. I came onto it with a tail wind and nothing to my right. I was probably doing 20mph. Over the main road underneath, I could hear the revving of a car engine and I was pretty certain that it wasn’t behind me. No, this was on my left. Something was flying up the slip road. From the road below, the slip road is bordered by gorse bushes and it’s not until you get about ten yards from the roundabout itself that you have visibility of ongoing traffic. I was wearing red in place of my normal fluorescent yellow. Mistake. The car, a silver Range Rover, came straight out onto the roundabout: the driver, a single male, hadn’t seen me. Then he did. A squeal of brakes and rubber on the road left his motor in the middle of the inside lane in front of me. I had just enough time to swerve past his now stationary front bumper. Another of my lives used up. It can’t go on like this: too many near misses for my own good.

Undeterred, I just ploughed on the rest of week, pushing the boat out further and thinking of Eileidh’s own fighting spirit. Today, despite a broken pedal which sheared clean off its spindle ten miles from home (it had done around 16,000 miles), I added another onto that run of 30 milers. That makes twelve, and it will probably be the last:

The dirty dozen.

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.

LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma

LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma Brand

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…

OCTOBER 2017

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