Planting Seeds In Fallow Ground

I can hardly recall when I first met Steve but it was definitely at some random cricket match. Our respective sons played in the same team and Steve was usually to be found sitting with a scorecard in hand, eyes glued to the match being played. On request, he was able to instantly furnish me, the casual observer, with not only the score, but also a report of how the play was going. Critically, he could also tell me how much longer the play was likely to last. As cricket-watching parents, we were poles apart. I usually had at least one if not two younger siblings in tow and retreated where possible to the nearest playpark/supermarket/café for much of the match the better to amuse the under 5s. I had only the sketchiest ideas of cricket rules. Steve in contrast was and remains an expert on the game and able to give me a wealth of stats on the form of each batter and bowler.

Aside from cricket, our families ended up on holiday on the same island a couple of years back when we met up for a meal-cum-cricket match. Steve had a folding 26” wheel mountain bike with him which he was at that time using to cycle part of the way to work before he hopped on the bus that would take him up the A77 to the south side of Glasgow.

The cricket connection lapsed, the boys moved on in different directions and let’s fast forward a couple of years to when I caught up with his wife Jane for a cycle and started following him on Facebook. I realised then that his bus journey had been replaced by cycling the whole way to work. And it’s some journey – steep hills, frequent rain and a permanent headwind or crosswind that would cut you in two as you cross the moor. Slowly I pieced together a picture of the massive challenge Steve had set himself – to cycle the equivalent of the circumference of the world in a four year period. And in so doing to raise awareness of a condition called Neuroblastoma of which I had never heard, and raise money for its charity.

Since then, I have caught up on some of the earlier blog posts which filled in more of the story – that Steve was still recovering from a hernia operation earlier in the year, that he did these annual mad Inverness Caley-related yomps or cycles from Inverness to the central belt, depending on where the football team were playing. And that he was closely following the path through Neuroblastoma treatment of a number of children, including a charming three year old nicknamed Princess Puddles.

But one thing hasn’t changed over the years – he’s still very much the stats man. His posts and blogs were peppered with the stats of the miles covered in a week, the miles still to come to reach a particular milestone, the average weekly mileage, the average monthly mileage, the forecasted wind speed and the amount of calories burned, handily translated into equivalent pints of beer. And it became clear that despite the hernia, despite the rain and the wind, despite the waterlogged wet gear and the winter weather conditions that stretched on for about 48 weeks of the year, that he was ahead of the game.   Beating the clock. By the time the halfway point of the four years came, two-thirds of the mileage had been covered.

“Remarkable” just doesn’t do it justice.

Leaving aside the enormity of the physical challenge Steve has set himself, what impresses me even more is the mental challenge. This is a journey that requires him to set off at 5am each morning, so most mornings it’s started, if not also completed in the dark. And whilst it’s hard enough to stay motivated for a few weeks of a challenge, to keep getting up and out at that time in the morning day after day in the depths of winter, in foul weather, really develops character and resilience. Steve of course, compares his task to a family dealing with cancer in their child. They can’t take a day off to escape it all, so nor does he. They can’t turn over in bed in the morning and pretend it’s not happening, so nor does he.

We have but one chance at this life. To seize every day, to make it count for a cause strikes me as a laudable way to live your life. I was musing all these things when I heard that Steve was throwing open the challenge – franchising it if you like – to encourage others to take up the baton and spread the word about Neuroblastoma.   And I wondered if this was something I could take on.

I too have been on a journey of sorts since the days of watching (or avoiding watching) the cricket matches with Steve. Mid 2012 I decided to start going to the gym. Having cheerfully ignored all matters relating to exercise for 40+years, this was a big change of heart. I recall my induction at the gym when I was shown how to work the treadmill, the cross-trainers and all the weight machines.

Don’t’ worry,” said the instructor, seeing my worried expression as I tried to take it all in, “it’ll all come back to you when you start coming along.”

Well that’s the problem,” I told him. “it can’t come back to me because I have never been in a gym before.”

 

He stared at me for a moment, trying to get his head round someone being my age who had never set foot in a gym. Gradually however it became an established part of my week. I began to get fitter.

April 2013 saw me involved in a fundraising campaign which was needing a bit of a kick-start. Talking it over with Darling Husband over a glass of wine, I had mused on whether I could do something. The conversation is a little blurred in the memory on account of the wine, but later I recalled quite clearly declaring that cycling 25 miles to Glasgow wasn’t impressive enough – it would need to be from Glasgow to Edinburgh.   Ah, Glasgow to Edinburgh – 47 miles by the shortest cycling route I could find on the web.  Approximately 46 miles further than I had ridden in the past six years. And 37 miles further than I had ever ridden. The date for the challenge was ten weeks hence.  Through sheer doggedness and lot of support and encouragement from my lovely set of friends, I made it, along with around 20 others on the day. We covered over 50 miles, choosing the longer, but flatter route via the canal as opposed to the hillier but shorter crow-flies distance.

Later in 2013 I decided to start running and 12 months later had trained up to and run a 10K. A few months later, having again stayed up to an hour when mad ideas start appearing logical, I had entered a triathlon and over the next few months set about improving my swimming as well as working out how to transition from one element to another.

Now impressive as all this might sound, in between each of these challenges, there are long fallow months. In the midst of those months, I slowly realise that I need another challenge to focus on and take something else up. It’s an approach that causes some debate in the family. It was in one such fallow period that I read about Steve opening up his Life Cycle ride, to encourage others across the world to do their bit and raise awareness for neuroblastoma. A seed was planted. Yes, I thought immediately, I could take something on. The question was what?

I knew already that cycling works for me as an exercise. It saves my joints. It’s faster than walking so my interest is maintained in the ever-changing landscape. It’s also quite social. There is nothing better than taking a mid-week day off work when the weather is favourable and cycling 30-40 miles with a friend. Whatever the next challenge was going to be, it would make sense for it to be cycling-focussed.

Previous challenges have involved fairly intensive training lasting a few months or so. The family get a bit put out, the routine chores get dropped and I focus as much as possible on the challenge in hand. Later, after the mammoth cycle/ run/ triathlon, the threads of the rest of my life are again picked up and the exercise is a bit neglected. That was the pattern I wanted to change.

My cycle computer records that I have covered around 860 miles in the past two years. The mileage is piled on whenever I am training for an event, but outside of that, the bike lies around a lot of the time. I therefore wanted to set myself a goal of covering a set amount of mileage over a year, and at a level which would require me to cycle on a more consistent basis than I had previously, at roughly 50 miles a month assuming that December and January would probably prove difficult. In this way I could embed cycling into my daily commute and my life in general. So this, then, is the challenge I have chosen: to cycle 500 miles over a year, August to August.

So there we have it – Cycle 500 – will you join me? Has a seed been planted in you? If not this, then what?

Here We Go, Ten In A Row

This was meant to be a breeze: go to London, enjoy the NCCA Family Fun Day, come back, rack up more miles then look forward to the two year anniversary in three weeks’ time.

It didn’t work out that way.

For the first time since I started, I’m faced with the realisation that faces all parents a few months into neuroblastoma: this might not be the outcome I’d hoped for. The reason will become clear in a few minutes.

But first, the events of last weekend…

You’ll recall that I headed down to London to dress up as an Eileidhphant and basically have a great time at the NCCA annual bash. I think I’m allowed to say (well it was there in the branding for all to see last Saturday…) that the NCCA has joined forces with Solving Kids Cancer (which is based in New York) to form an ever larger Solving Kids Cancer! Both organisations do the same great charitable work: raising funds, raising awareness, supporting families affected by neuroblastoma and funding research into the disease. So on the basis that one and one makes three, it’s a hugely significant step that two bodies formed by parents affected by the disease should come together to create an international charity dedicated to finding a cure for neuroblastoma. That is their aim, that is my aim, and hopefully as you are reading this, that will be your aim too. Together, we can do this!!!

A few beers on the train going down were superseded by Rob, my nephew, whose Highgate pad I was crashing out in, suggesting that we head out for a few more. Celeb spotting was how he termed it. The first couple we tried were pretty empty, possibly because it’s the school holidays and the well heeled of north London have probably legged to sunnier climes. Anyway, third time proved lucky. However, because I’m old and I don’t have either the time or the inclination to do cool things, I hadn’t got a clue who this dude was, but when we parked our beers on a table at the back of The Duke’s Head, Rob whispered quietly “that’s Alex Zane over there”. Like three yards away over there. Like at the next table over there. “Who”? “Alex Zane. Does Radio One, Sky, stand up comedy, you name it, he’s the man”. Cue a frantic Google search: right enough, I need to get out more and dig this stuff…

So we parked up at Table Zane and I enquired whether he was indeed said dude. Affirmative. He was almost as well on as me. Anyway we had a wee blether then Alex disappeared off to inspect the plumbing whereupon his mate started asking me questions about LifeCycle (yes, I was somewhat conveniently wearing an NCCA T-shirt). I thought “this guy seems a bit switched on for yer average Joe Public”. So I asked “what do you do”? “I’m a doctor working with kids’ cancer”… Knock me over with a feather! I go to London for a Solving Kids Cancer weekend, we end up in bar at midnight with a celeb and his mate, and the mate turns out to be a kids’ cancer doctor. How does that work? What script did that come from, Dr Who?

The day itself was a real challenge for the NCCA because the council pulled the plug on the venue the day before because the ground was waterlogged. Apparently they don’t get rain in London like we do in Scotland. Cue major panic at NCCA HQ and frantic emails. I got mine late on simply because I hadn’t checked my email since arriving in London. By Saturday morning, the rain was off, the sun was out and the council had changed their mind: game on again, albeit on a much smaller scale and starting later at noon. For Rob and I that was probably a blessing in disguise if you get my drift…

Eileidhphant Man didn’t materialise, nor did the 16,000th ceremonial mile, but nevertheless we got in there at the business end of the day: meeting the families, hearing their stories and feeling humbled that we were lucky enough to live a life that they were hitherto used to before dealing with cancer became normal.

I came away from the Richmond weekend with a renewed sense of community spirit, a sense of belonging to some people who have been touched by sadness far beyond anything that I will ever know. And Rob? I think it was a real eye opener for him. For Rob to meet and spend time with Stephen and Leona, even before Jane has had the chance to do that, was something that I suspect he will remember for the rest of his days. The NCCA as was, Solving Kids’ Cancer as now, do a fantastic job, and in very difficult circumstances. To all of the families who shared their stories with us, thank you: we will not forget you easily.

When I got back, it was to face the last week of cycling in July, a week in which we were on holiday this time last year and hence zero miles. Sunday night, as ever, was a case of checking the Windguru weather for the week ahead and it spelt Challenging in no uncertain terms. If I may mix perspective with hindsight, it started raining on Sunday afternoon and stopped on Tuesday evening. Then it rained again on Wednesday afternoon and all of Friday afternoon. I did ten trips on the bike this week and got soaked on six of them. And I have to remind myself that this is the height of summer. The temperatures I got going into work ranged from 1.3C to 9.6C, while one day coming home, it was 18.5C and sunny in Glasgow but 11.8C and lashing rain on the Fenwick Muir. This is the hidden challenge of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma: coming to terms with the Scottish weather, and defeating it.

Monday’s trip into work wasn’t just a lashing rain job: it came as the payload on a 20mph headwind. The head was down, the pace was slow, and I just resolved to stick in there. And, being a Monday, I had a 10lb pack on my back. Once off the Muir, I elected to take a shorter rat run through the Mearns whilst still adding a wee bit of distance, but the roadworks down by Rouken Glen Park sent me back uphill again on a nasty wee climb: my knee popped.

I’ve had trouble with that knee (my good one) for a few weeks: hamstring tendonitis, and it’s been the main reason why I’ve been laying off the big gears. But this was a hill too far. It was sore most of Monday and I’d still to get home, which I did courtesy of the smallest ring on the front, then it was down to ice and ultrasound. I can’t overstate how important it has been throughout these past two years having an ultrasound device in the house. Many a time it’s kept me on the road.

So that was me through Tuesday and Wednesday: low gears, ice and ultrasound. But on Wednesday morning, on the way into work, and for no apparent reason, I had a different animal to contend with: my hernia scar. “WTF’s going on here I asked myself” as I started getting some serious grief from the site of the old war wound. The doctor said to me when I came round from the op that I should expect to have some discomfort for a few months but I thought that was all in the past: evidently not. I jiggled about with my clothing, as I suspected that I might not have worn this combination of shorts together before. I always wear two pairs of padded shorts: a liner pair and an outer. It’s the only way I can deal with the numbness of being in the saddle for four hours a day. Anyway, I discovered that by pulling and stretching at my clothing, I could get the pain to back off: never go away completely, but at least be bearable for turning the pedals. And that routine has stayed with me through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The best case scenario is that something iss aggravating the scar: women reading this having had a caesarean will perhaps recognise the familiar tenderness of a soft tissue injury but to an old bloke like me, it’s sore, it’s a bit scary and it’s certainly most unwelcome. The issue is this: I’ve got 8,800 miles left to ride and I’m sore. That poses a real threat to the outcome of this adventure but right now I’m hoping, no, make that expecting, that after a weekend of lazing about doing very little at all, I’ll be back on the road at 5am on Monday morning gingerly turning those pedals and not having to adjust myself.

What makes this challenge so fecking difficult is the pressure: Going out and riding 45 miles is not beyond yer average everyday cyclist. However doing it at 5am makes it a little more interesting. Then doing it for 394 full-time working days, almost in a row, makes it a completely different proposition altogether. The last eighty days have come at an average of 48 miles a day. Those same days last year delivered 42.

There has been a huge sea change in emphasis this week, one which I suspect will stay with me through to the end, albeit painfully at times. I’m now counting down the days to the finish. Hell, it doesn’t actually matter how long it takes: if I take a month longer because I’ve had to slice half a dozen miles from the workload every day, then that’s got to be better than not finishing at all. Right now, I reckon that if I can live on a forty a day habit, I might yet see this through to the end.

But tonight, I feel proud that for the first time since I started, I’ve banged in 200 (+) miles for the tenth week in a row (excluding our holiday of course).

Here we go, ten in a row….

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