Permalactic Legs

That was the week that was!

All manner of stuff happened this week, both on the road and off it, so it’s kind of difficult to know where to start. But I’m going to kick off by saying that every single mile that I did this week had wee Oscar in the back of my mind. Oscar’s fighting spirit is an inspiration to us all and there were several occasions this week when the weather was rubbish and my legs were tired that I needed a wee bit of that Oscar spirit. Thank you, wee man!

Regular visitors will know that I like a stat or two so this week I have a few corkers to offer. First up, I realised on Monday that if I pulled my finger out, I was in line to complete 2000 miles for the year by the end of the week (that’s today). The digit was duly extracted and I managed to rack up 186 miles, a new LifeCycle record for a single week. 2000 miles became 2001 and I’m now homing in on 5,000 overall.

However this week has much greater significance in the long run than just a big bunch of miles. My rota days have finished at work which basically means that I’ve lost my extended recovery every other weekend. It was always nice at the end of a tiring 5 day LifeCycle week to look forward to a shortie the following week. That’s all away, and has been replaced by permanent four and a half day weeks. From the outside, that looks like a great arrangement. Finishing at lunchtime on a Friday is indeed a great attraction but… it brings with it a return journey on tired legs, five hours after I got off the bike, and into the wind too. This new schedule presents a whole new challenge in terms of getting the fuel right. That home run on a Friday carries with it the real prospect of permalactic legs, legs that are screaming “done enough, don’t wanna go any further or any faster”. People, the LifeCycle challenge has just moved up a gear…

And as if 186 miles wasn’t enough, no sooner had I got to work on Monday than the phone rang with the news that our youngest was ill, wasn’t going to school, and I would need to come home again. So an hour after getting off the bike, I was back on it with a laptop on my back. Then on Tuesday morning, I had the same dead weight slung on my (sore) back into the wind in driving rain. Fortunately I had it tucked away inside a dry bag inside another dry bag inside a rucksack under an external cover. Snug as a bug in a rug. But also naggingly annoying with all that extra weight to lug up the road.

The last couple of weeks have also featured a persistent biting easterly wind day and night, which has been brilliant for coming home because I get to choose between a superfast journey and doing hee haw hard work: it’s kind of been a mix of the two. But the big downside has been the length of time it’s been taking to get into work. People often ask me “how long does it take” and my answer is always the same “it depends on the wind”. I use strategic landmarks to judge my effort but the bottom line is that I have to be at my desk by 7:15am so for the last couple of weeks, that’s meant setting the alarm ten minutes earlier to be certain of being in on time. If you want to know how that feels, set your alarm for the back of five, get up, then see how you feel late in the day, ten days in a row. Mind you it’s a real boon with the early morning F1 season upon us: I just stick on a pair of Bluetooth headphones and watch the race on my phone, lying in bed!

A number of people might be visiting the blog for the first time and to those folk, I say welcome, you’ve arrived at the home of the hardest endurance challenge in the UK. Here’s why…

If you live in England, imagine cycling from London to Manchester every week.

If you live in Scotland, imagine cycling from Glasgow to Inverness via Edinburgh every week.

Imagine also cycling up Ben Nevis, not one but twice during that same week.

Then imagine having the biggest onshore windfarm in Europe on your route. I wonder why they put it there?

Then imagine having a mentally challenging full time job on top of that lot.

Then imagine being 61.

Get the picture? There are easier ways to spend your life, but I chose this. And when I’m done, I’ll be able to look back with pride and say that LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma was the best thing I ever did in my life (apart from marrying Jane).

Talking of endurance events, it’s about this time of year that I’m usually starting to get pretty excited about The Highland March. That started back in 2003 to celebrate my 50th birthday. The HM, as it’s affectionately known, is a walk by a bunch of Inverness Caley Thistle supporters to the last game of the season, wherever that may be, from wherever the previous game was. Come the final whistle at that penultimate match, you just pick up your bag and start walking: up to 200 miles. Then a few years ago some of our crew had the bright idea of taking the concept to the international stage and they legged it from Oslo to Glasgow between successive World Cup qualifiers. The following year, the Tartan March as that was known, spawned the Kilt Walk and the rest, as they say, is history. It is a little known fact that the Kilt Walk is the grandchild of The Highland March that was conceived in the Market Bar in Inverness on Hogmanay in 2002.

For my sins, I’ve walked 10 Highland Marches and drove the support bus last year. This year the March is from Motherwell, who host Inverness on 7th May, and Inverness, when St Johnstone are the visitors four days later. We normally get a full week to complete the job, but in World Cup and Euro finals years, the season finishes a week earlier and the powers that be slot a midweek fixture in the programme during the final week. I was planning to come out of retirement and give it the big shot (160 miles in 85 hours) but then one of the guys suggested doing it on bikes. So at 10pm on Wednesday 7th May, Dunco and myself will head off into the night, loaded up with panniers of stuff and tents, and wild camp our way back up the road. It has been suggested to me that I should claim those miles as LifeCycle miles but in reality, I can’t do it. At the outset, I said that this would be a commuting project and that’s the way I think it has to remain. It would be nice to have 160 extra miles in the bank but I know the person that I am and I would never rest and would become a seven day rider in search of miles and that ultimately would undermine what I’m trying to do. But having the chance to cycle through some of the most scenic countryside in Scotland with an HM legend will be a privilege in itself.

But Highland Bike 1 is still a month away and for now, I’m tired. It’s been a long week and next week promises to every bit as challenging: and the week after that. But I know (and it’s driving me on, just like wee Oscar) that if I can stay focussed, then Tuesday 29th April will be another cake day, indeed a very special cake day: 5,000 miles. I love cake days!

But for that to happen, I first of all have to solve the conundrum of those permalactic legs.

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