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.