The Third Man

There are many reasons to celebrate LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma this week, not least because on Tuesday, the challenge was one year old. But ahead of everything else that’s coming, let me give you an even better reason to celebrate this week, because it goes right to the core of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Back in 2009, wee Mackenzie Furniss from Alloa, aged just 5, was diagnosed with stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma. After 18 months of gruelling treatment, Mackenzie was given the all clear late in 2010. But in 2012, the cancer came back, and this time, despite specialised treatment in London, her only hope was to go to Germany for stem cell treatment. The cost to her family was £350,000, supported largely by the NCCA and public subscription.

Well this week the schools went back and on Tuesday, Mackenzie Furniss started P7. No one knows what the future holds in store but for now, Mackenzie has beaten neuroblastoma. Twice. The fact that I found that out on the anniversary of getting on the LifeCycle bike just makes it even more special.

A year ago, when Mackenzie’s family were desperately trying to raise the funds to send their daughter to Germany, I saw her appeal being promoted on Twitter by the very same people who had previously supported Vanessa Riddle and Oscar Knox. The courage, determination and commitment shown by those three children, not to mention their families, was the reason why I began this project. I reckoned at the time that since fighting childhood cancer often took years, I should undertake a challenge that would similarly push me to my limits, day after day, in order that I could in some way come to understand what it must be like to wake up every morning and go “not again”…

This week has indeed been special, and it’s the special weeks that keep you going through the ones that are not. Special can never be normal but it sure as hell makes life on the road a whole lot more interesting.

You may recall that last week, I bemoaned the fact that I closed the week on 9,753ft of climbing, which was enough to claim the KOM (King Of [the] Mountains) spot in the SPX Strava club but not enough to satisfy my lust for 10Kft of climbing up hills. So I set my stall out on Monday morning to put that right. I went chasing hills. Any road that went up, I went up it, and that invariably meant extra miles. It was great fun. I particularly got to like the wee single track road across the Eaglesham Moor from the B764 Eaglesham Moor Road past the wee fishery back to the A77, the rather aptly call Middle Of Nowhere segment on Strava, because that’s precisely where it is. It rises about 150 feet above the main A77 so I reckoned that if I did that every day, both ways, it would make up the difference that I was after: well it did, and some.

On Tuesday morning, seeing as it was anniversary day, I elected to do something even more outrageous: I took the Moor Road from Kingswells over the top, past the visitor centre at the windfarm and down into Eaglesham village. And what I discovered was that that route is ten minutes quicker than going the traditional route along the A77 through Newton Mearns. Remarkable! Who would have thought that climbing up and over the biggest hill for miles around here would have been quicker than going round it? You live and learn, not that I’ll be tempted to do that on a freezing December morning y’understand. It’s effin cold up there.

But the downside of chasing all these hills is that it does your knees in. As I’m sat here dumping these thoughts onto the screen, my knees hurt. Both of ‘em. The left one, my bad one, hurts more than the right, but both are complaining bitterly about the workload. I promise I’ll be good to them next week: a wee bit.

On Monday I got piled into the Zoom Up Broom segment that I’d decimated on Friday. I got what felt like the perfect run, gears just about right, effort just about right, and for once I wasn’t dying in the last fifty. The result was another new PB and a further 3 seconds off the KOM time. The 13 second gap back to second is starting to look comfortable all of a sudden. False optimism methinks. Maybe I’ll have to console myself with the over 55’s prize once the locals find out how appealing that one minute of pain really is.

I discovered another eyeballs out segment not far from my work, the so called Corrour Climb, which strangely enough climbs a third of a mile up Corrour Road. The enticing thing about this climb is that it’s short and not steep so you can basically give it full gas and hang on for dear life. By Wednesday, I was 3rd on the leaderboard, just six seconds off top spot, and despite desperately empty legs come Friday morning after 22 miles into work, I got to within 2 seconds of the KOM. Corrour Climb, next week, I’m having you mate. I’m going to take the chance to re-charge my batteries, hope for a wee tail wind and give it some big welly. I want this one: I want it a lot.

Talking of wanting something a lot, I saw a great quote on Twitter this week. I follow a lot of those inspirational thoughts accounts and this particular one stood out like a beacon in the fog: If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way. And if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. How good is that? How many times have you made that excuse yourself, and how many people around you are just full of excuses because they want an easy life, not the reward that comes with dedicated hard work?

And so, back to the main thrust of why this week has been so, so special. The Highland Bike back in May was a real game changer for LifeCycle. The number of miles per day that I was doing prior to that event was 34.3. That same average is now 37.6. In the 70 LifeCycling days prior to Highland Bike, I managed 2561 miles. In the 70 Lifecycling days since, I’ve banked 3133. That’s an extra month of miles gained in just four months, and that’s 25% more miles. What that has done is turn a project that was due to finish in early 2017 into something that can be done and dusted inside THREE years. A year ago, that was impossible. I didn’t actually have a target at the start, the idea was just to ride for as long as I could. Then after three months or so, I thought “Hmm, 25K is possible in four and half years if I set my mind to it: all I have to do is average 150 miles a week”. I’m currently running at 220, and have been since May. That’s been the difference.

I got a really pleasant surprise at the start of the week when my old Highland Marching mate Gringo texted me and asked what time I got up. I said “5am, why”?  He said “I’m going to get up with you tomorrow morning, and ride too”. And he did. On Anniversary Day, the day I cycled over the top of the Eaglesham Moor and Mackenzie Furniss stated P7, Gringo cycled 18 miles round the streets of Coventry in support of his old mate 340 miles away.

That’s why this project is special. It’s because of people like Mackenzie Furniss and Gringo Wilson.

And now that I’ve done 8,338 miles, the LifeCycle Man is now the Third Man. I’ve survived (and indeed prospered) through twelve months. So instead of saying to myself, “but I’ve still got two years to go”, I’m instead thinking “I’ve done one winter so there’s no reason why I can’t do another, then I’ll only have one year left”.

I am the Third Man.

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