The Carnival Is Over

What a week: what a wonderful week…

We came over to Tiree a seven days ago to revisit a special place where I kickstarted the 200 mile weeks a year ago. I came here with overused muscles, overused tendons and a spirit that was in need of a rest.  I’ve been building up for this week for three months, openly cramming in more and more miles knowing that the holiday was just around the corner. By the end it was a bit of a struggle.

Tiree is a flat place, a windy place but a tranquil place. A complete lap of the island is only 20 miles  and I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully resisted the temptation to circumnavigate the island in under an hour, something which I tried and narrowly failed to do on my folding bike a year ago. This week was always going to be about recovery: turn a few wheels with the kids and take in the odd longer ride to remind the legs of the challenge that remains, starting again next week. Fortunately, I’m not back to work until Tuesday so I get to slot back into my normal regime on a four day week. That’ll be good, followed by a couple of 200 mile weeks and the 8,000 milestone before I’m off on my travels again.

I’ve been invited to join up with the cyclists of the Celtic FC Foundation in support of SIMBA, the Scottish charity which honours babies who have died, been stillborn or miscarried. In all honesty, since I decided do it, I’ve been agonizing over how to balance LifeCycle with the SIMBA event. It kind of feels that I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul. I can’t support both but the dealmaker is that in any case I’ll not be at work so I won’t be bagging any LifeCycle commute miles. So for that week, I will ask my supporters to switch sides to SIMBA, even if that means that the LifeCycle account misses out just this once.  I’m indebted to the people who have faith in me, supporting me month after month, and I hope they will follow me again this one special time. At the end of the day I’m just a bloke on a bike who wants to raise money to help people as best I can.

So what’s the Celtic Foundation plan? The challenge is to visit every SPL ground over the course of a week. I know that the suits re-branded it, but the Premiership is an English thing and no amount of bullshit from Neil Doncaster will convince me otherwise. This is an SPL jolly. The date for the ride was fixed before the fixtures came out, and the route likewise, so it was in the stars that Inverness would be playing Celtic on the weekend that we set off. The route is roughly thus: Ross County to Inverness to Aberdeen to Dundee (and United) to St Johnstone to Partick Thistle to St Mirren to Kilmarnock to Hamilton to Motherwell to Celtic Park. When I look at the schedule, 350 odd miles, I’m really, really glad that Terry Butcher got Hibs relegated because that’s 50 miles off the agenda!

Another thing that’s weighting heavily on my mind just now is the winter. I can’t overstate how much I’ve enjoyed these long, warm days but I know in my heart of hearts that they aren’t the days that define what this is about. The essence, the kernel, the very spirit of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is a dark, cold, windy wet night in December on the Fenwick Muir. It’s that moment when, for an instant, you question why you are doing  this, and ask whether it would be easier just to give up and wait for things to get better. It’s in that instant that I ask myself “what would Stephen and Leona have done: what would Oscar have done” and the answer is always the same. You put your head down, you grimace, you find a gear that will get you through, and you get through. Somehow.  I read all these fluffy articles about nice it is to ride around Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games, and I ask myself the question “but what about the winter: what about when the going gets tough”? In all truth, you don’t see much lycra in the winter.

I can’t leave this short resume of our summer holiday without a rant. The commute cyclist in me is still there, sharp as a tack and ready to pounce on anything and everything that annoys me out on the road. Tiree is a wee island with a loop road that circumnavigates the island, and a couple of intersecting roads across the middle. With the exception of a couple of short sections of two way carriageway, the norm is single track roads with passing places. Maybe it’s because a lot of English people from the south come here I don’t know, but they sure as hell don’t know how to use passing places when a bike is coming the other way.  In my experience, 60% of motorists think it’s just fine to drive straight through a passing place at speed and expect the bike to get out of the way. I’m sorry sunshine but that’s not the way it works. I will wait for you by regulating my speed to arrive at roughly speaking the same time as you and I expect you to do the same. If you choose to fly straight through, I reserve the right to utter expletives under my breath and invite you to put two wheels off the road. On the subject of roads, another thing that amused me this week was the commentators slagging off the road surface for the Commonwealth Games time trial. I think they were being outwardly diplomatic when they continually described the course as bumpy and it prompted me to once again remind East Renfrewshire Council that they were lucky that the Games organisers chose not to include the A77 bike lane as part of the course. It remains a shambles and I fully expect it to be that way for as long I continue to ride it: fifteen years and still no investment…

So, as we contemplate packing our bags, cleaning the cottage and loading the bikes back on to the car, the only thing that remains to be said of our week on Tiree is that The Carnival Is Over.

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