The Wheels On The Bus

This week has been destined for much hickletypickletyness for weeks, ever since the Christmas day/night out was scheduled for 11th December. Down the years, we’ve had all sorts of arrangements, usually a Friday but sometimes a Saturday, but this is the first time that we’ve made a start on Friday lunchtime. This could have been Lionel, very Lionel.

“So why should that affect LCFN”, I hear you ask. The obvious answer is “I’m not on the bike today”, which is true, but it’s way more complicated than that. Friday is my make up what you need day, the day when I invariably have the chance to bang in miles that I was unable to do earlier in the week for whatever reason. Friday is basically Get Out Of Jail Free day. Except today I’m not cycling it, and that’s important for a reason…

I gave up LCFN being easy a long time ago. I don’t do easy. If I’m going to do it at all, then it has to be challenging, so challenging (at times) that sometimes even I wonder if this will be the time that I fail and fall flat on my face. Make no mistake, that’s the bit that makes LCFN real for me. I think of it in terms of “suppose child X has been through six rounds of treatment but they’re struggling to cope. But that next round, the seventh, is going to make a real difference to their chances of survival and recovery: skip it and everything that has gone before will be diminished in value”. So in that scenario, it’s about timing and the child’s ability to withstand the payload of toxicity. That’s pretty much the way it is for me, except that my treatment are rounds of 200 mile weeks. I remember only too well how ecstatic I was when I completed my 6th round, and I wondered whether my tired body could stretch to a 7th. That was back in June and that run is still going strong…

That keeping goingness has now taken on a life all of its own and as other events have come and gone, that remains the single most important metric that’s keeping me on the straight and narrow. How far I can take it is going to be limited by the weather, I know that, but every week that it doesn’t snow and/or freeze is another week that that I can lump on top of what has gone before. And that scenario, basically, set the scene for this week: a rubbish weather forecast, lots of wind and rain, freezing cold and no Friday available in which to pick up the pieces. Are you starting to get the picture? 200 miles in four days, all full working days, in utterly miserable conditions. That was the challenge for the second week of December 2015.

There are two ways to do big miles: pick up a tail wind on the way into work and hammer it, or go extra miles on the way home and arrive later. The former’s good fun but has the downside of leaving your legs dead for the rest of the day, which affects the home run big time, whilst the second is just plain mental torture in the dark, in the winter when you have limited battery life and it’s dark and miserable. Therein lies the dilemma.

So it’s down to planning. Tuesday is still a Stewarton Annick U16 football fitness training night so that’s timebound. And on Wednesday,the forecast was appalling, with heavy rain and gale force winds scheduled for 7pm: no extra miles there then either. No, it had to be Monday or forget it…

Monday presented a strong headwind on the way home, but as Jane was away up in Inverness I told myself that I as long as I could get past Fenwick and out the other side of the wind, I could bag the miles that would make the rest of the week feasible. So I struck deal with myself. 25 in and 31 out gave me just the platform I needed. And topping that off with 52 on Tuesday left me in a good place.

But then there was Wednesday…

Soaked going in wasn’t helpful but now they’ve fixed the radiator at work, that wasn’t a problem: no, this was all about the return leg. Blowing 40, gusting 50, and the promise was for worse as it got later so it was imperative that I got over the Muir as soon and as safely as possible. This is no time to be proud: the A77 is wholly immaterial at times like this: so I hung a right at the Little Loch Fisheries road after the Red House and get over onto the Old Glasgow Road: it offers hedgerows whereas the A77 offers nothing, not even a cup of tea. It was a no total brainer…

I’ve got to say straight up that I’ve ridden in worse. The only objective when it’s as wild as that is to get the bike to the other end: but when I rode in wind like that last year, it was on a bike that was 10lb heavier. The road bike is like a dingy on a raging sea. But through some careful route selection (always thinking of the best way to rat run up through Newton Mearns, using the houses for shelter) and brute force refusal to give in, I got the job done in two and a half hours. At the end of the day, the statement was worth more than the miles.

No frills; no extra miles: just miles.

So let’s wind this back, then fast forward: 56 on Monday; 52 on Tuesday; 48 on Wednesday. This is surely in the bag: 44 on Thursday was surely a skoosh. If only it was that simple… Thursday was meant to be a much quieter day, weatherwise, except I got soaked on the way in and it was 2C with a keen, icy 30mph headwind on the way home, save for a hailstorm in the last 3 miles that took the temperature negative. It was a stinging riposte from the weather gods…

I mentioned the awful weather on Wednesday night: well I’d received a tipoff (but I’m choosing to protect my source) that Princess Puddles was going to be in McDonalds at Linwood around 7pm. “If that’s happening, then so am I” was my reaction. So as soon as I was changed, Jane and I jumped in the motor and legged it to Linwood: we were not to be disappointed.

Eileidh was in fabulous form, never stopping except to steal some chips off yer plate. She was as well as I’ve ever seen her. But this was all a pre-cursor to yesterday’s flight to the USA for another round of treatment. It’s tiresome, it’s disruptive, but it’s also the best opportunity to beat this disease. We all know that DFMO, that she’s prescribed in the States, is potentially her lifeline.

Princess, we are all thinking of you.

And that, in a nutshell, brings me full circle back to today. This was my Christmas night out from work. This was the day after the four day week: the day after 204 put a 28th week onto the run that I’ve become so protective of. No bike, and a rare chance to sample life after LCFN: on the bus.

Part of me’s in wind down mode. I’m on holiday the week before Christmas which means there’s only one more week to survive this year. You cannot even start to imagine how much I am looking forward to unsetting the 4:54am alarm and letting the body recover from the battering it’s taken this last wee while. I’m already telling myself that when I start back in January, the days will be getting longer at the rate of a couple of minutes a day. You have idea what a lift that gives: it truly is like seeing a wee chink of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Thus far, I’ve not missed a scheduled day on the bike since the clocks went back. Two years ago, I missed one day all winter; last winter, despite losing 9 weeks after my operation, the reality is that I would have lost about six weeks anyway because of snow and ice. I may be persistent but I am not truly mad. I know my limits.

My dream goal is to do the 25,000th mile en route from Oscar’s house in Belfast to Eileidh’s house in Forres on May 8th, and for that to happen, I need to average 48 miles a day between now and then. Every day I lose to the weather will ramp up the asking rate. It’s a tall order but when you want something, the true measure of how much you want it is what you’re prepared to invest to get it. Watch me…

But for now, I’ve had a taster of the afterlife, when rattling alongside the bike lane on the A77 makes me realise just how far it is from A to B. As I looked out the window for a bike, I saw nothing but darkness. For once I was warm and cosy…

The wheels on the bus go round and round.