The Last Time


There are two fours missing…


It’s the number on Lewis Hamilton’s company car. How I wish we could tap into his bonus right now. How I wish he might just get to read this and lob $111K in the direction of Ride2Cure. I’d happily rebrand the gig Drive2Cure in recognition of his and Gabby’s generosity.

Lewis Hamilton you’ve probably heard of: he drives a fast motor.

Gabby you won’t have: he’s the unsung hero of Ride2Cure. Gabby’s the guy who’s made this possible. Gabby is a big ginger Aussie who stays in Brisbane and supports Inverness Caley Thistle.

However Gabby has more in common with Inverness than most prawn cocktail munching, glory hunting Landan lads with a penchant have for Man U. Y’see Gabby, just like masel’ married a girl fae Inverness, and after visiting the place, fell in love with its football team. It is, incidentally, the biggest team in Scottish football: count the letters.

I first met Gabby in Diggers in Edinburgh: there’s a good Aussie pub name if ever there was one. Caley were away to Hearts, the pub was rammed and it was a right good Diggerydo. I think he was wearing green and yellow but we won’t go there. The fact is, the moment Gabby got wind of the fact that Neuroblastoma Australia had asked me if I’d do this gig, he was on it…

“Do it. Do it” he urged.

I said yes before I truly understood what lay ahead. We swapped a few long Messenger chats and even explored some ideas on routes but that was a long time ago: 18 long months ago.

Since then we’ve researched a lot, learned a lot, messaged a lot, and Skyped a lot (except we use Messenger video). And I think we’ve got it covered. Gabby is the guy who convinced me that we (the Jim Royle we) could do this. Ride2Cure isn’t just a bloke on a bike riding across Australia: Ride2Cure is a bloke riding across Australia with another bloke driving shotgun to make sure he gets there. And together, we sure as hell intend to have a blast while tell every man and his dog about the most aggressive form of cancer in under fives.

Talking of five, I fly out in five days’ time.

Am I excited? In a word, no. Ask me again when I arrive, for right now I’ve too many other emotions going round in my head. For five years I’ve thrashed my old body, and I’m sad that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is coming to an end. See that 44 at the top of the page? That’s the number of miles left before LCFN hits the buffers.

The end of the road.

LCFN has been my recent life for as long as I care to remember. But I know too many people whose family lives have been destroyed by this deadly disease to walk away now. But I just can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing, for a moment longer. My body needs a rest, and Jane needs a rest from LCFN dominating every waking hour of every waking day.

LCFN will be five a week on Sunday.

I plan on saving one mile, just like I did at 25,000 miles, so that LCFN can have it’s fifth birthday. I’ll ride that mile and LCFN will be no more.


I planned it that way in order that the journey that so was affected by Princess Puddles could end with her…


Australia will be the culmination of five years of dedication and pain…

Then I will be free: free to look back on an adventure well lived, and free to look forward to what comes next. As I said, I’m not planning on walking away: I just need a new direction: ideas on a virtual postcard to LCFN HQ.

The person who knows me best is Jane. Jane told me about two months ago that I should stop chasing Strava segments in order to make sure I arrive in Australia in one piece. I ignored her: it’s not the first time but I guess that’s the difference between us: I’m the risk taker…

I said nothing in previous blogs, but almost three weeks ago, I tweaked a calf muscle chasing something like the sixth or seventh segment of the day. If you know anything about sport, and in particular performance on the edge, then you’ll know that a tired muscle is a vulnerable muscle. That’s what happened that day, and I pushed it too far. I felt it go.

Cue ultrasound. Everyday.

Cue Jane’s skill in sport’s massage (that’s the sore one).

Jane always says she studied sports massage because she was interested in the subject. I think she studied it because way down the line, I was destined to ping my calf muscle five weeks before the Ride2Cure and it was going to need sorted. Touch wood, I think she’s given me more than a fighting chance, although I might need to leave the segment chasing in Oz until well into the second half of the gig.

LCFN has been a privilege. It’s been an absolute honour to serve so many kids and to represent their cause: but not just the kids, the families too. I’m just content in the knowledge that pushing myself in endurance sport for over forty years came to this: what a way to go out! However folk who marvel at this old bloke on a bike maybe don’t realise that this same guy that was running 10K’s in 31 minutes thirty years ago, and half marathon’s in an hour and ten. I just happened to swap one sport for another when injury forced me to hang up my running shoes.

It was Big Wullie’s idea back in 2013 to write a wee story…

254 blog posts.

This is the 255th.

But this is the last time that I will tell the story of this journey as LCFN.






King Of The Zimmers

I wonder if the auld boys round these parts have noticed yet: that there’s a new kid on the block. I said a few weeks back that before I finally give up on fitness, I want to collect as many Strava records as I can: well now that I’ve started my descent back to planet earth in terms of miles spent on the bike, I’m going to put all that work to good use by hoovering up all the zimmerframe records within ten miles of HQ.

I wish there was a dashboard that gave you a summary of where you are on all of the leaderboards because I simply cannae be arsed going through every segment to see what I’m missing but at a random guess, I reckon I’ve currently got the fastest time for over 65’s on about 30 segments. Yet there are others where I’m as low as number five, predominantly because I haven’t gone back there yet with a real focus: but don’t you worry, I will.

I got a bit carried away one day this week, I think it might have been Tuesday, and in the process of trying to nail a crinkle record, managed to bag the King Of The Mountains at the same time. Let me say straight off that that wasn’t meant to happen. KOM’s are the private domain of the lycra boys and I don’t think they like it when a pensioner comes along and barges them off the top of the leaderboard. But hey, that’s precisely what happened on the newly resurfaced, rather tactfully named “rough, rough road, probably better suited to dogging than cycling”.

That KOM goes with another that I still hold coming up the hill out of KIlmaurs. I’ve held that one for nigh on two years which is a bit of a shockeroony that it’s lasted so long. Sixty seconds v clickety click is quite some difference so long may that one continue to challenge the young ones. On top of that, there are a few more where I need maybe ten seconds, but ten seconds at 25mph is difficult to find. The trick is to play a strategic game and wait for a day with a tail wind.

Anyway 43,000 miles happened today. Long gone are the days when those milestones were celebrated with cake. I worked in a office full of cake scoffers back then, whereas these days it’s just me and Dennis and he’s not too fussed with malt loaf or fruit cake.

So I said I was on the wind-down. That’s true. I plan to try and hit the start line of the Ride 2 Cure in Brisbane on 44,444 miles. Today, just seven weeks before Jane and I jet off to the southern hemisphere (where we’re going on holiday first), I’m sitting on 43,013. The difference is 1431 and if I knock off about five days that I know are already booked to do non-bikeable stuff, the asking rate is 32 a day and if you’ll excuse my French, that’s a proverbial piece o’ piss. I’ve already done 160 30+ mile days this year (as opposed to less than half that this time last year) so another forty or fifty’s no big deal.

In many ways, I’m really, really looking forward to the post LCFN era. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a blast but five winters is really enough and after the last one, even though I’m claiming the moral victory, I don’t feel the need to put my tired body through that anymore. The record books show that I’ve averaged 36 miles a day on the 1192 days that I’ve cycled since August 2013: that’s 36 on two out of every three days, and you can whack Ben Nevis on top of that three day cycle too, such is the unrelenting terrain round these parts.

On the domestic LCFN front, Friday is looming large: Vanessa’s funeral. I’m planning on heading out the door at 5:30am on a 40 mile adventure that will provide plenty of opportunity to suffer pain whilst remembering the beautiful spirit of the Queen of LCFN. Five days away from that outing, I still don’t know whether it’s going to be a solo gig but be in no doubt that it’s happening, and the route will be poignant.

And so to matters Australian…

Whereas in the old days, LCFN used to dominate my every thought because I was out there for 20 miles every twelve hours, Monday to Friday, right now my thoughts are 100% dominated by Australia:

Will my bike get there in one piece?

Will it get there at all?

What if it doesn’t?

Will the Hammerhead Karoo work like it says on the tin in the middle of nowhere?

Will the gears behave for 2222km (right now, they’re not, but I can manage until the pre-gig service)?

Will people come out in their droves and donate like crazy?

Will I manage to stay injury free whilst doubling the workload?

Will I get knocked off the bike by a kangaroo?

Will I get bitten by something nasty?

These are all the daft things going round in my head. Call it nerves, call it trepidation: for such a long time, Australia was all about the excitement of going: now it’s all about not letting loads of people down.

The website’s live:

We’re recruiting ambassadors: people who have a significant following on social media and who passionately believe in what this gig is all about. That target of $111,000 looms large over my head: what if we only manage $10K? Won’t that seem like a massive let down? Perish the thought and banish such ideas from the brain. Just believe (I tell myself) that this is all going to be okay and that #R2C18 is going to be the start of something: big.

I’ve already said that LCFN will finish when I arrive at Seymour College in Adelaide. But there’s a significant part of me that thinks, just like I thought back at 25K miles in July 2016, that I can’t just walk away from these kids like that.

So I’m not.

Introducing #Ride2Cure #TheNextGeneration…

I haven’t spoken to Solving Kids Cancer yet so apologies if I’m jumping the gun in the UK but here’s my idea: building on the theme of the number 2 that’s underpinning R2C, I’m challenging Solving Kids Cancer in the UK and Neuroblastoma Australia to partner with fitness gym brands. Sign up hundreds of gyms whose challenge it will be to market #R2C #TNG. I’m thinking about punters signing up to ride 22km on a fitness bike for £2/$2 a month in order to get their name on the leaderboard on a global website: as many 22km rides as you want to cram in: it’s still only cost you £2 or $2: a great marketing opportunity for the gyms who hey, will only be required to donate £22/$22 a month for the privilege of promoting the gig (and that’s tax deductible anyway). That’s money all going into research for a cure.

I refuse to believe that #R2C #TNG won’t fly, in the same way that I refused to believe that LCFN would crash and burn. But it needs Solving Kids Cancer and Neuroblastoma Australia to go out there and sell it to the fitness industry. Me? I think it’s a winner, but then I always think that way.

It’s only seven weeks now until Jane and I board the plane. I’m nervous. I try even harder than ever not to crash the bike lest it blows the whole project up in the air. But I’m also a risk taker and I really am trying to smash Strava whilst trying to stay upright.

Less than fifty training days left. I can hardly believe it. I can hardly wait.

I might be 65 and a bit doddery at times but hey, I’m the King of the Zimmers.

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

I’ll tell you now: I’m one stubborn old bugger. When something annoys me, you can expect a kickback. My emotional kickback is bigger than anything you’ll get off a cloven hoof, believe me.

So this tale is seeded in the fact that last Thursday, not yesterday but last week’s instantiation, I was due to come back from my latest sojourn down south. But at the eleventh hour, I remained down the road to go to a meeting in Manchester that may define my working life for the next wee while. It meant I missed our wedding anniversary: 21 years Jane and I have been hitched and I gave it up for a meeting. This had better end well…

The outcome, give a train delay or two, and a dinner date, meant that I copped zero miles last Friday. Check the date: September 1st. No miles on the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That did my nut in. In 2013, I was a rookie so I’m pleading ignorance. September returned 543 miles. I still remember being delighted with that like it was yesterday. Five hundred miles in a month seemed magical to an old fart on a folding bike.

Cue 2014 and I was really getting into it: 913 miles. That total was second only to the 941 that included a 165 mile cameo on the day that wee Oscar passed away. Ironically I took a rest day the very next day, the day that Eileidh was diagnosed. And to think I was only 25 miles from her house and emotionally wasted.

2015 was a biggie: Eileidh was just back from America (for the first time) so I pushed the boat out: 1041 miles. That was the very first #Gold month of LCFN. I’ll repeat now what I felt back then: these one thousand miles months sap the life out of you. They are relentless. They are a slog. They are not some wee jolly that takes up your day. When you have a full time job, one thousand miles on a bike takes commitment, planning and more than a decent dose of fuck you, bad weather. In the west of Scotland, we get a lot of that.

2016 was the start of my ongoing injury nightmare. I tweaked a thigh muscle chasing a Strava King Of The Mountains up a hill and to this very day that injury remains a problem. It’s a big driving muscle, and it hurts. Every day. I chucked September ’16 on the 25th and was sidelined for seven of the longest weeks of my life. When I started back it was okay for a while then it just came back. Now I just manage it by how hard I try.

Cue 2017, and back to last Friday.

I didn’t get out, and that irked me. If there is one month in the calendar year when you want to try harder, for the kids, it’s September. The world is busy going gold and it’s an opportunity/obligation to pile on in. September is LCFN’s Christmas. It’s my annual opportunity to push the boundaries for the kids, as if to prove that collectively, we will not be defeated.

And so to last weekend. I was not only annoyed by not getting out on the first, my frustration was compounded by having missed an opportunity to blag top spot on the LCFN leaderboard in August. For Eileidh. I gave up the last three days to head off down south with my work but still managed to post #Gold. 1046 miles grabbed a podium step but I knew I’d missed out on the big one…

That miss, and the loss of Friday, became the driving force behind #GoGoldSeptember. I touted it as a desire to bag only the fifth golden month, in memory of Eileidh as #ForeverFive, but that doesn’t tell half the story. A thousand miles was never going to be a problem, assuming I don’t get sent away with work at short notice. My focus is not on a thousand, not even on eleven hundred. It’s on the top step: 1112 miles posted at the end of the hat trick of golds back in November ’15. To be honest, no matter what I clock this month, I can take nothing away from that monumental month. I remember the hundred days of hell only too well. November is a dark, cold, wet and wild month. It’s when the storms kick in.And you see not one minute of daylight. Every one of those eleven hundred miles was done in the dark. You never forget those days.

But 1112 is in the crosshairs. You get a lot of time to think strategy and routes when you’re out for three and four hours a day, and in my mind I’ve been toying with something that’s basically been tantalisingly off limits all along: I called it a titanium month a couple of years ago because relatively speaking, it’s off the scale and unreachable: 1200 miles.

Is it achievable? In a 31 day month, with a tailwind of motivation, I think it is. But it’s on top of a full time job remember. In a 30 day month, it demands 40 miles day. The most I’ve ever done of those in a row is six. That’s precisely why 1200 is titanium: it’s basically impenetrable. So take a day off that and challenge yersel’ to do it in 29: that makes the asking rate 41 miles a day. Every day. That’s two and a half thousand calories burnt up on the bike and a whole load of tiredness to boot. And still the day job to do.

Oooft, game on…

I bagged a 294 two weeks ago and mentioned in the blog that I’d elected to leave it there as a carrot: I just didn’t expect to be nibbling away at it this soon.

I’ll be brutally honest: I’m still hurting from Eileidh’s passing, and there isn’t a day when I don’t think about her smiling, fighting spirit about six, seven or eight times a day. No, cancel that: when I’m on the bike, I think about her constantly. Five more miles: #ForeverFive. Throughout September.

One of things I am really, really, grateful for is that the LCFN Facebook group is global. It means we get to see and share stuff from all over the world, like in an instant. I should never get blasé about this but it never ceases to amaze me the amount of good vibe stuff that is constantly coming out of Australia. Even when the vibe is bad, it’s good in a positive way, if you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Today, Australia and the world lost Connie Johnson to cancer, aged 40. Connie wore her cancer heart on her sleeve like possibly no other person ever. Check this…

But Connie’s story goes way further than that. Her wee brother Sam, actor, radio presenter and philanthropist was cast from the same mould that later spawned Jimmy Harrington. Leaving aside all his professional awards, in 2003, Sam Johnson unicycled from Sydney to Melbourne to raise money for a children’s cancer charity. Then in 2013, he set out on a twelve month, 15,000km unicycle ride that raised $1.47m for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to help try and find a cure for breast cancer. In 2016, Sam was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to cancer research support.

Today, sadly, Sam lost his big sister. Big Man, keep up the fight. #NeverGiveUp mate.

Samuel Johnson is a hero of Jimmy Harrington and Jimmy is a hero of mine so I think that makes Big Sam the grand daddy of them all. Opportunity knocks this time next year, that’s all I’m saying…

There’s been stuff flying back and forth all week about the LCFN ride from Brisbane to Adelaide next year, the focal point of which will be the Sydney Opera House going #Gold on September 1st. Everything else is scheduled around that date. Roll into town on the 31st, take a rest day, look in awe at the golden spectacle then refocus on the rest of the trip.

When I set out on LCFN, I had no idea, absolutely no idea, what a hotbed Australia is for cancer research: not just punter support but state backing too. I cannot wait to get out there and pedal in support of those guys. There’s stuff going on behind the scenes that will maybe make LCFN 2013-2017 look like a support act but at the end of the day, the only currency is finding a cure to childhood cancer and Australia is trying really hard in that regard.

So back to #GoGold…

I made a flippant reference on Facebook in midweek about the cat being amongst 300 pigeons. It was a cryptic reference to my attempt to bag 300 miles. Feck, this is hard! What really scares me is that I thought I’d worked hard Monday thru Wednesday yet I hadn’t even culled 125 pigeons. And the weather was (pigeon) shit. It’s been shit all week. Even 45 pigeons yesterday still left me needing more in the last three days than I’d culled in the first three. This (pigeon) shit just got real: but I’m in it to win it. For Eileidh…

My Ross knows that I want the Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want played at my funeral. Well I reckon I’m gonna slap an extra condition in my will: I want my funeral extended by five minutes in order to take in my theme song, the song that defines me…

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


The Big Cup

Y’know that saying “it takes one to know one”?

Well here’s its big brother: “it takes one to know thirty”.

I make no apology for headlining Team Mouldy for the third week in a row because no bunch of guys n gals deserves it more than this lot.

1200 miles, 50K+ feet of climbing and all done and dusted in two weeks.


Nothing about that entire bike ride was easy…

Getting riders onboard: guys of varying abilities, and few of them anything other than yer average bloke on a mountain bike.

Getting sponsors onboard to help create a brand and swell the coffers of the three charities.

Getting a specialist operator to plan the whole thing from end to end.

Getting branded kit in a style that befits the journey.

Getting publicity material, including one humoungous banner, to help spread the word.

And then there’s the training…

You don’t need to tell me about the training. I spent three years, five days a week all year round, leaving the house at 5am to cycle to work, coming home into the wind by the same hilly unlit route, six months without daylight: I know, possibly better than anyone what Mouldy’s team have put themselves through. And that was just to make the start line.

I’m the first to admit that when I saw that the cyclists were heading down the spine of England, through the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales, I was concerned. That’s some seriously hilly terrain, especially when there’s a fast, flatter, albeit busier route through Lancashire. I watched some of Sean’s early video diaries and I really felt for those guys. It reminded me so much of some of my worst days on LCFN in the middle of winter: but here’s the deal: you signed up to do this beast, so this beast you will do. You survived yesterday, you survived today so tomorrow you go again. That was always my mantra.

Just like a kid fighting cancer.

The journey is as relentless as you make it (or it makes of you).

I look at the photos of these guys and I just think “for the love of Celtic”. Imagine loving your football club so much that you are prepared to punish yourself through whatever winter can throw at you you, just so you can go and top it all come the summer: because by the time these guys got to Portugal, the mercury was screaming summer!!! Just like back home as it turned out, but that’s another story…

I look at the team and I only know two of the cyclists. Mouldy and I go back two and a half years to Cycling Santas, and wee Zuzanna and I met very briefly at Euston Station last year when I was on a work jolly down south. She has an EJ/LCFN wristband: ‘nuff said. In two weeks time, Zuzie leaves these shores to start a new life in New Zealand: hey, what a way to leave the mother continent? If you get to read this Zuzie, I want you on the final miles on the LCFN journey across Australia next year. Brisbane to Adelaide: you’ve proved that you can do 1200 miles in your sleep… 😉

But back to the big man for a minute….

“Football is nothing without fans”. The words of the immortal Jock Stein. Mouldy just proved that that’s true. Four hundred Celtic fans turned up at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon to welcome Mouldy’s cyclists because he made it so. In the sacred place where their heroes made history, so did Mouldy’s cyclists. They opened it up to the fans because of Mouldy. No other reason. Mouldy got to stand on the same ledge where Caesar stood fifty years ago to the day, and he lifted a replica cup to the multitudes who’d made the pilgrimage. Let that sink in for a minute.

Mouldy made all of that possible. The journey of thirty people’s lives suddenly became the journey of four hundred: for they were there to witness their own flesh and blood conquering everything that Europe could throw at them. Respect doesn’t even come close to describing what I feel for those guys.

And see next week, Mouldy’s gonna have to come home and go back to the day job. Bhoy, is that gonna be hard…

A lot of my friends, especially the Inverness contingent, don’t quite get that I ‘get’ the whole Celtic thing. I get it big style. You don’t surround yourself with the most warm, charitable people in the world without understanding what it is that makes them tic (see what I did there?)

And in a sense, while I had a wee tear in my eye watching the Rachel’s Facebook live (all twenty five minutes of it) video of the team cycling into the stadium, I could never have imagined myself celebrating as they did. I’m Inverness. Respect yes. Deep respect yes. But that’s as far as it goes. I yearn for the day when Scottish football has been cleansed of corruption and I can start going again.

And so to matters LCFN…

I’m sad.

I’m sad because the nation was led to believe by Corrie that neuroblastoma could be cured by six weeks of outpatient appointments: and then came wee Bradley Lowery.

Bradley first appeared on my radar when Sunderland played host to Everton about six months ago and Bradley was the home mascot. That night, Everton presented a cheque for £200K for Bradley’s fighting fund.

But neuroblastoma makes its own rules. It’s a family lottery ticket, and I don’t mean that to sound harsh. Sadly, excruciatingly sadly, the images of Jermaine Defoe leading Bradley out at Wembley, then carrying him out at the final game of the season at the Stadium of Light, will remain the defining public lights of Bradley’s fight with the disease. I hope when it’s over that someone remembers what Jermaine Defoe meant to the wee man.

My quest, as ever, is go go where I’ve never been before, metaphorically if not geographically.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: the prevailing wind in the west of Scotland is a right b*****d. Well last Saturday, I set out to keep this run of thirty milers going but despite it being warm and sunny, the wind was something else. As always on these occasions, I headed out west, straight into it, then bagged masel’ a wee detour this side of Irvine to gain some respite and a couple of extra miles. That brought me out into Perceton (pronounced Perce tun, as opposed to Pierce tun which is what the locals call it – another story) and not half a mile from where my Ross stays (note – I should say Ross n Stacey but I’ll leave Stacey out of this: this is a Ross story…)

Where Ross stays, there’s a 1.25 mile rectangular circuit with roundabouts at each corner. And it’s well sheltered which is what took me there. After one lap, I thought to myself “hmm, I could do a few of these, get out of the wind then leg it home on a tail gale”. So one lap became two, two became three and so on: Not really pushing it, just burning fuel like a plane ahead of an emergency landing.

Cue the 9th lap: right, “I’ve got enough miles in the bank, let’s give this one some welly”.

Got home, uploaded the data to Strava then made a segment out of those four roundabouts. Think Monaco. Think Montreal. Think Melbourne. Think street circuit. Mark my words, once the fast guys get a sniff of what I’ve done, this will become a blue riband segment. But for now it’s mine and it’s named after ma boy: The Tour De Taffy: one mile of pure pain.

So I posted 4m22s, screenshotted it and sent it to Ross…

But I haven’t got a bike”.

Understand one thing: Ross is a Taylor and he’s a former Scottish drug free bodybuilding champion. He’s 27, I’m 64. You think I’m competitive? You ain’t seen Ross.

Ninety minutes later, he’s back on… “4m17s, round ye, old man”.

Music to my ears.

He’d blagged a bike and did one searing lap: I was 22 miles and nine laps into mine. Game on…

Sunday morning, the rain was coming. It was cold (6C) and by the time I got over to Irvine, it was already hosing down. But as it was early and my legs were fresh (???) I was going for this. It’s an uphill start with a downhill finish, which basically means you can wreck your legs on the first half then hope to hang on in the second half: oh, and if a motor appears from your right on any of the four roundabouts, you’re fucked. You basically have to hit each roundabout at 20mph: any slowing down and it’s Goodnight Vienna

I tried as best I could to hit the rolling start with the Garmin just clicking over a minute so I could judge the pace. Next time, I’ll make sure that average speed it on the display cos that’s the ultimate guide. But this was a rookie attempt so just fucking go for it. By halfway, at the top of the course, the legs were still feeling remarkably good so as long as I could get round the last corner without traffic, I thought “hmm, this is in the bag”. So I buried masel’.


Ross is gonna beat my time. No doubt. I’m expecting a three thirty five fae the wee man but I haven’t touched the big chain ring yet. That’s my turbo and DRS rolled into one. This one’s gonna roll all summer: a teacher, he’ll be finishing for the holidays soon and I fully expect him out there every day, testing, testing, and burning those legs. You only get one shot at this circuit, then you’ve gotta come back themorra.

There’s no prize for winning the Tour De Taffy.

But there was for being jubilant in Lisbon…

The Big Cup!



Empty The Tank. Refuel. Repeat.

Legs shot to pieces.

A couple of weeks ago I touched upon how LCFN has evolved into an experiment to find out just how far you can push your body. Tonight it feels like if I haven’t already found out, then I’m about to.

It’s the combination of climbing, distance and strong winds that are doing the damage. The run of consecutive 30 milers has now moved on to 23, and 13 of the last 14 days have also included over 2000 feet of climbing: and that would have been a full house if I’d not had to take the heavy spare bike out last Sunday when my road bike developed a mechanical failure. Sunday fell 400 feet short.

Now throw the cutting easterly wind into the mix. There are no routes out of Stewarton where you can get shelter from an easterly. You can get some respite coming from the other direction but that means heading out west and driving into the wind when you’re already knackered. Alternatively, you can just bite the bullet and head uphill and straight into it when you head out the door. Neither option is appealing, and I’ve tried both, twice, this week.

My bad knee’s sore. My hernia’s sore. My strained thigh muscle’s sore. Everything feels sore. This is the edge I talked about two weeks ago. This is that place when you either drive on, or you don’t go out. I’ve been here before, but somehow each new episode seems more in yer face than the one before. I’m sat here typing, yawning my head off, and it’s only 8 o’clock. It’s a fuel and blood sugar thing. Today was an absolutely brutal ride, in distance, in ascent and in effort. Biggest miles, biggest climbs and fastest average speed of the week: and the most fuel burnt. I have much more faith in my Garmin that I ever have in Strava, so when Garmin says it was a 2200 calorie outing, I concur. My aching body is in total agreement. How do you actually manage to consume all of your glycogen stores in a little of two hours? My tank is empty. Yet tomorrow I go again.

The whole week seems to have been that way. Starting from Monday, the calorie burns have been 1960, 1937, 2029, 2084 and finally 2221. My fuel tank holds 1825, maybe fifty more because I’m up almost half a stone just now. But every one of those rides has had me coming home on fumes. The climbs have been no better: 2034ft, 2156ft, 2454ft, 2379ft and today 2510ft. Climbing into the wind is a killer: that’s where the calories have gone. I’m writing this on empty.

But there’s a thing about the climbing and why I chose last week and this week to torture myself. It’s because of next week.

Two years ago this weekend, Mouldy, Robert, Kev and myself rode from Forres to Glasgow for Eileidh. That ride brought up 17,000ft of climbing for the week and it remains the most in any LCFN week. But I’ll tell you now: I’ve got my eye on that total. I closed today on 11,533 and there are still two days to go to close out the week. It’s going to take two near 3,000ft days in the saddle to topple it but it’s in my sights, even on empty. The reason is simple…

Monday will be the third anniversary of Oscar’s passing.

Tuesday will be the third anniversary of Eileidh’s diagnosis.

And nor is it lost on me that Tuesday is also the first anniversary of the release of the Puddles video on Facebook.

If there is one week in the year that demands something extra, it is this week.

And talking of something extra, I want to wish Mouldy and his team good luck and a bon voyage on their epic cycle from Celtic Park to Lisbon, in commemoration of Celtic becoming the first British team to lift the European Cup fifty years ago this month. If all goes according to plan, they will arrive in the stadium where Billy McNeill lifted the trophy, on the day of the anniversary, and in doing so they will raise tens of thousands of pounds for charity, one of which is Solving Kids Cancer.

Mouldy, if you get a chance to read this before the off, I salute you sir. You are a living legend. I know second hand just how much emotional and physical effort you have put into organising this epic journey, a journey that for you, started five years ago with wee Oscar. It’s entirely fitting that you’re taking this on in the week of his anniversary. He would be so proud of you, and even when it rains, you can kid on that he’s playing with his watering can again.

I would have come to see you off but unfortunately I will be 300 miles away at Donnington on a work jolly. Actually, it’s not really a jolly, not in the true sense of the word. At age 64, I’m embarking on a new career of study in relation to SNOMED-CT, the international standard in clinical coding in healthcare, and it’s coming to a GP practice near you this time next year. I passed the foundation course a couple of months ago and now I’ve been let loose with the big boys and girls. I honestly don’t know whether I’ll pass this advanced course, because my background is in software, not medicine, but I need to understand the concepts that underpin the methodology in order to further my research into software tools in my day job, the one that I do when I’m not on my bike. I used to think of myself as a bloke with a full time job who cycled: these ways, I prefer to think of myself as a cyclist who has a part time job doing something I love. It works both ways: one feeds off the other. You’d be surprised how smashing your legs frees up your mind, and that’s when the good ideas start to flow.

Next week’s trip down south will bring to an end the current run of thirty milers – good riddance say my tired wee leggies – but the summer is still young and with a run a good weather, there’s no reason why a target as high as 25 or 26 can’t be run down with a bit of dedication and hard work. Maybe I’ll park it at 27 so as to really annoy myself. I just need to keep a focus and avoid being away from home.

On the awareness front, I batched up 50 EJ/LCFN wristbands this week and sent them off to the south coast of England. Nic Naish, cancer survivor, former primary school teacher, now re-invented as a wellbeing and nutritional guru, is an Eileidh fundraiser and Nic’s gonna be signing people up in Worthing in support of our Princess. Also on the awarenss front, the LCFN Million Mile Challenge on Strava gained two new riders in Brazil this week. This is the way word spreads, you see. Out there, in cyber space, people are randomly catching on to what we’re doing, signing up, donating their miles and spreading the word further still. I’ll bet a pound to a penny that one of them joined the LCFN challenge then told his mate. Organic growth: the best kind: keep it low key and people will come in their own time, when they are ready. We’re now 53 riders in 13 countries.

But talking of being ready, I feel anything but ready to take on thirty miler number 24 tomorrow. The only thing that will get me out the door is the knowledge that I survived each of the previous 23. This one might just have to be a straight out and back, because once you’re 15 miles from home, there’s only one way back and that’s gonna chalk another one on the leader board. The other thing about out and back courses is that you can kid on you’re only doing half the distance: that’s okay, of course, till your legs give up. Then what’s left feels like twice as much.

It was never easy.

It isn’t easy.

It will never be easy.

Empty the tank. Refuel. Repeat….

United In Adversity

The good news is that wee Dennis is almost back to his fighting best after last week’s scare, and has the scars to prove it. He’s only a welterwight, that boy, and he insists on taking on middleweights. We never get to see the damage he’s inflicted on his opponent, just the lumps and bits missing from his head. But we still love him.

I wish I could say the same.

October’s total mileage is utterly pitiful: six.

It’s by far the lowest monthly mileage since I started. Even after my hernia op in the winter of 14/15, I managed more than that, both in the month that I went under the knife and the month after. This latest injury has been both persistent and frustrating. What I’ve knackered is Rectus Femoris: I know that because Jane has gone straight from qualifying in Swedish massage to studying sports massage and she knows. When you ride a bike, it’s the number one muscle that does all the work. And as the name suggests, Rectus Femoris has its origin somewhere up near yer arse.

But today I lost patience. I’ve been doing the quad stretch every day while I’ve been off the bike and today, another lovely autumn day, I thought I’d go out for a wee wander on two wheels. That’s what the cryptic lunchtime Facebook post was all about. It was only ever going to be four or five miles, just to see if the injury was still sore. But in reality, I discovered that I had a problem after only two hundred yards.

And it wasn’t my broken body. It was the bike.

While I’ve been laid up, so (obviously) has been the bike. I’ve never ridden a fixed wheel bike in my puff but I sure as hell found out what it was like today, and I didn’t like it one bit. The freehub was seized, which basically meant that if I stopped pedalling, the chain came off. There is currently no freewheel function in the back wheel, and on a bike with thirty odd gears, that’s not good, the derailleur shoots forwards and the chain starts dragging in the spokes. It’s got over the handlebars written all over it. So I cut the exercise short at a whopping two miles. Still, it was good to get off 26,623 at long last. As soon as I can get hold of bicycle repair man, that problem will get sorted then I’ll try again. I’m fed up with sitting on my broadening arse.

If only that was my only problem…

For years I’ve suffered with lower back problems. That all started when Finn was wee, so that probably makes it early 2000’s, and I was lifting the kitchen floor because we were getting a new one put down. The old floor was so well attached that it needed a crowbar to prise it apart from the base: I overdid it and fecked the sacro-illiac joint on one side of my lower back. It’s bothered me ever since, so now, every two or three months, it pops out and I’m left hobbling about like an old man. Hint: I am an old man.

I know the things that kick it off and top of the list is sitting about doing nothing. Second on the list is driving and getting out of the car after a long journey. So cue last weekend… Joe and I went to watch West Brom at Liverpool. Four and a half hours there and four and a half hours back. Stiff as a board when we got home, I thought I’d just sit up with a glass of wine for a couple of hours to unwind from motorway driving in the dark: woke up on Sunday morning like a crooked man. That’s what happens. I can barely get out of a chair, and walking short distances about the house is a sore as a sore thing.

That’s what getting old does to you.

It’s also why I need to be out on the bike because I know from 26,000 miles of experience that cycling does actually help, and eventually alleviates the problem. Except right now, I cannae, hence the wee excursion today to see if we’re there yet.

Anyway, enough of my troubles: let’s whizz over to Australia…

Amelie has received the wristbands. I’m soooooo excited. She’s taken fifty and there are pictures appearing all over Facebook of proud Aussies wearing Eileidh’s Journey/LCFN wristbands. #Goosebumps

I cannae get my feelings into words. When the Gabbas took some back to Brisbane and mailed a few off to JJ in Adelaide, I thought that might be it. But when Amelie said a couple of weeks ago that she’d take FIFTY, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I still remember being in the post office, waving them off. The thought that there are people walking around Adelaide supporting Eileidh with a band on their wrist is way, way out there in the extremes of proudness. What I have to do now is get hold of TT, who’s heading out to Italy in a couple of weeks, and send her skywards with a bag full of bands. Let’s go continental before tariffs are imposed!

I’ve been reading this week, with huge admiration, the plaudits that have been coming Iain McGovern’s way following his epic walk from Merthyr Tydfil to Celtic Park with Sian, Jonathan Thomas’s widow of one day married. I read Iain’s fantastic eulogy of the walk that he posted on Facebook, and I hope he won’t mind, but I’d like to reproduce just some of it here. This was a compassionate idea of epic proportions.

“These are the musings of a tired and emotional man, written on the journey back to Newcastle yesterday. Been a wee bit busy so sorry this is only getting posted now.

It’s the morning after the 16 days before and I have that empty feeling in the pit of my stomach as has been the case after each of our challenges. They have all had that “best week of my life” feeling but this one is different, not just because of the fact it was two weeks but there’s something, or rather, someone, who sets it apart. More on that someone later.

6 months ago we sat in a quayside bar in North Shields and had a conversation that would change my life forever and allow memories and friendships to fill a hundred lifetimes to be made. Siân O’Mahony Thomas and I walked back to our house after that Sunday afternoon chat and within minutes had a road atlas out with Jack sat alongside on her laptop checking out accommodation. A Walk For Jonathan, From The Valleys to Paradise was born. The following months seemed to drag although a flurry of emails, texts, to-do lists and, of course, the legendary spreadsheet, kept us occupied. The planning was fun but we couldn’t wait until the October day dawned when we were all together in Jonathan’s beloved Merthyr. We faced it with bucket-loads of excitement and anticipation and a hefty dose of trepidation. This was to be by far the longest walk we had embarked on. 360 miles through the hills and valleys of Wales, the North West of England and the South West of Scotland before we reached Hamilton on Siân and Jonathan’s Wedding Anniversary. The next day, the first anniversary of Jonathan’s passing, would see us arrive at his, and our, beloved Paradise”.

That’s how great things start. I never got to meet Sian because of wee Dennis’s dice with danger but here’s her take on the lead up to the walk:

“In October, to mark the first anniversary of Jonathan’s passing we are going to embark on a walk in his memory linking his two favourite places, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales and Celtic Park, Glasgow.

As most of you will know, Jonathan was a keen charity fundraiser, organising and taking part in a series of charity challenges with the Tyneside No1 Celtic Supporters club starting from an idea to walk from Newcastle to Celtic Park to watch a game. After he passed away we wanted to organise another challenge to keep the tradition going and this little 350+ mile route was the obvious choice.

Thinking it through sensibly we decided it probably needed to be done over three weeks and in two legs, but following a quiet Sunday drink Iain convinced me that walking it all at once and over two weeks was the only option!! I can’t even blame it on the cranberry juice!

Iain McGovern is an amazing man. But he’s only part of an amazing double act because you know what they say: behind every great man lies a great woman…

I give you Jack O’Kane. Together, Iain and Jack are an unstoppable charitable force. I’m sad that I missed out last week but I’m so proud to know these guys and the charitable work that they do: and keep on doing. I’ve said may times that it doesn’t matter what team you support, your soul shines through, and I will choose to align myself with Iain and his crew for as long as I can either put one foot in front of the other, or keep turning those pedals.

The meeting of Caley Thistle and Celtic through events of enduring difficulty are what joins us together.

United in adversity.

Quad Bike

Four miles in two weeks. You could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve retired, but I haven’t. I’m taking an injury timeout. The four miles were courtesy of a two mile trip out of town on Monday afternoon (a lovely crisp autumn day for a bike ride, just as every day has been this week), before I had to turn round and head back home. I fear that this is gonna be a long haul.

I look back forty years through a catalogue of running and biking injuries that includes a chipped ankle (operation), a chipped elbow, multiple Achilles tendon injuries, too many calf strains to count, hamstring tendon strains (top and bottom), a destroyed cartilage, maybe a couple of dozen toenails, torn ligaments in hands, arms knees and ankles, groin muscles torn, hamstrings torn, shin splints… the list goes on and on. There was even one infamous night at the Cumbernauld sports injuries clinic in ’83 after my first Marathon Walk when I had three different physios working of separate injuries simultaneously.

But never a quadriceps tear. Until now.

The main muscle that does the hardest shift, the one that drives the engine, has given way. And in this glorious autumn weather, I can’t even start to describe how frustrating and annoying that is. Four measly miles in two gorgeous weeks and no end in sight to the misery. I did it chasing KOM’s on tired legs. Yes, I know, it serves me right.

I’ll try and describe it: Remember when you were wee and yer pal (at least, you thought he was yer pal) gave you a Chinese burn? Well that’s what this feels like, except it’s slap bang in the front of my thigh. As I’m sat here now, I can feel it, yet the only exercise I’ve done today is cut the grass. I need to set Jane loose on it now that she’s a qualified Swedish Masseur. She passed her exams last weekend. Chapeau!

What’s going to make this even more frustrating is that Jane’s signed up to do a 6am boot camp for the next four weeks and I would have jumped at the chance of heading out the door to bag 20 miles in the dark before breakfast. I used to love those early morning forays out into the wilderness when there was no other bugger about. But even if I somehow make a miraculous recovery, 6am is out of the question: nae warm up and surrounded by hills is just asking for trouble. So I’m gonna sit out the next few weeks, October for sure, and take each week after that as it comes. There’s zero point in trying it out again soon, only to break down, because that’ll put me back right back to the start and possibly beyond: scar tissue and all that. The LCFN record for lost time stands at 9 weeks after a hernia op in 2015: this may come close.

The first casualty of doing hee haw has been food. I like to trough loads of the stuff, which is never a problem when yer burning up 1500 calories a day. But when yer sat on yer backside, that’s a big meal or two that have to be parked for another day. And the beer, which is more than a trifle unfortunate.

Anyway, that’s enough of my expanding 32” waistline…

What about Puddles?

Last week, if you recall, was the worst week ever. Poor Gail could do little, save for reporting on one bad experience on top of another. Forgive me for thinking it, let alone putting it into print, but the adult strength treatment is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back and ends a young person’s life. Despite the fact that Eileidh has defied the odds time and again and bounced back stronger than before, last weekend was different. I’m not even going to start to pretend that I understand the toxicity of the chemo, but my understanding is that this round has been the hardest and most toxic of any that our Princess has had to endure. It was never like this in Corrie…

I think each of us reading the unfolding story were somehow secretly fearing the worst.

But Eileidh is Eileidh.

I love the way Gail manages to weave mischief into the blog, as though “up to no good” is a watch phrase for “she’s feeling much better and on the way back”. It’s what we all hope for, every day. You know that scene in “Brave”, the song mashup between Sara Bareilles and Cyndi Lauper, where all the kids fighting cancer sneak out of their rooms to go paint daubing down the corridor? That’s how I imagine Eileidh on a good day: out of bed, off down the ward (still attached to her kit, of course), and up to no good, but in a nice way.

And so it came to pass that in the middle of this week, Gail greeted us with these words “Eileidh went back up to the medical ward just before lunchtime today. She has responded so well to TVD, they have decided not to give her the final block. They feel it would do more harm than good. The risk of severe and possibly fatal complications is too great to warrant it”.

Whisper it quietly, for that is all we can do just now, but Eileidh is doing okay. This is one small step, another tiny wee step along the road to a proper four year old’s life. Eileidh is a remarkable child, and it’s hugely sobering to me, to think that it’ll be two years since I first met her in a few weeks’ time. That’s almost half of her wee life that she’s been fighting this demon with a smile on her face.

Talking of fighting things, the Solving Kids Cancer team, featuring Leona Knox on behalf of the parents, and a battalion of medical/lawyery folk, took NICE to an appeal in Manchester last Friday. NICE inexplicably decided, a couple of months ago, that they would deny kids in the UK access to the drug that families hundreds of thousands of pounds for, so they can get access to treatment in the United States. A drug that was 30 years in research and development, and proven to make a difference, denied on grounds of cost. As if kids’ lives didn’t matter whereas it’s okay to waste thousands of times that money on waging war. It’s an immoral situation to be in, and one that does this country a great disservice. Leona, I sincerely hope that you and your team get the result the kids so richly deserve.

When it comes to deserving things, no one is more so this week than Steve Abraham, the king of our LCFN Million Mile Challenge on Strava. Steve has spent around 16 hours a day on two wheels in pursuit of the world record for the most miles cycled in 30 consecutive days. The big man came in at 7,104 miles (and a half) which works out at an astonishing average of 236 miles a day. Every day! Divide that by the time he spent on the bike and you’re up around 15mph average. I’m lucky if I can bring that average home after two hours, let along sixteen, and for thirty days in a row? Astonishing! The word machine was invented for Steve Abraham, world record holder elect.

The squad that’s been banging in those Million Miles, as mentioned a week ago, comes from countries all over the world. Well this week we welcomed another important member to LCFN, not on the bike but on the Facebook page. Afshin, who studied medicine at the Tehran University of Medical Science, has a beautiful daughter Hana who’s been diagnosed with neuroblastoma at stage one. As we are only too aware with the cases that we’ve encountered on LCFN, neuroblastoma is indiscriminate in who it selects for the fight. Afshin can draw strength from the fact that he has found us, because we will follow Hana’s journey, and offer what support we can, just as we would if the child was our own. Afshin, welcome to LCFN : our journey knows no bounds.

The final topic for this week comes from a programme I caught on TV last night on Diabetes. I know more than a wee bit about the disease through my current work in disease detection, but the stark reality of the sharp end of the disease, with people losing limbs and their vision, was a sharp, and at times unruly reminder of what we are doing to our bodies with our slothlike couch potato lifestyles. There will be people reading this who will think “but it won’t happen to me” and I will counter that with “oh yes it will. Your habits are yours to choose: or to change. Get on a bike and burn, baby, burn. If you didn’t see the programme, then I implore you to catch it on iPlayer. You will be shocked: possibly into action.

I’ve spent the last three years burning up calories, almost a million and a half of them on this gig, but last night’s show had me worrying that I need to get over this injury sooner rather than later. I need to be out there. I need to be powering a quad bike.