Monday The 13th

I spent virtually the whole of last weekend sat quietly in a chair, trying not to cough (because it was sore), and wondering how many days I would lose to illness this week. In hindsight it would be easy to say “ha, I knew I shouldn’t have done those four big days last week when I wasn’t well” but that would be to fall into the trap of thinking that I should somehow conform to conventional logic. I don’t. My rule of thumb is basically this: if I can ride without excessive risk, and it will get me miles that I won’t then have to do in the autumn of 2016, then I’m on the bike.

Had Saturday been a biking day, then I would have been out of the game. Ditto Sunday. But I didn’t feel as bad on Sunday as I did on Saturday, and even though I was wheezing away like a wheezy thing when I went to bed on Sunday night, I’d already decided that I was on the game seven hours later.

I kicked off on Monday morning needing 42 miles to crack 13,000. Since I came back, I’ve been messing about with my route into work, predominantly to leave less miles for the uphill into the wind trip home in case I’m not up to it. I can do an as the crow nearly flies 16 if I really cut the corners whereas I normally elect for a more pedestrian but longer 20 or 22. The objective is always to return over 40 to get the daily average back up. I was at 40 miles a day before my op but then a few single journeys as I eased myself back into the saddle ruined it to a degree and it dropped back to nearer 39.5. I’ve now got it back up to 39.75 and every day that I manage 43/44ish adds another 0.01 onto the average. As in Formula 1 qualifying, LifeCycle averages are measured in the tiniest of increments.

Now in case you’ve forgotten, thousand mile boundaries carry a payload of cake, but coming on a Monday as this one did, that brought with it the added complication of getting cake, fruit, bread, fish and jam into work without resorting to a rucksack. Normally this gear gets carted into work a wee bit at a time, with perhaps one trip luggage free in a five day week. The norm is food upfront and clothing at the back end of the week. Enter the Kilt Walk: Mrs LifeCycle and her pals were doing the annual 26 mile trek from Hampden Park, Glasgow to Balloch, Loch Lomond last weekend and I was on drop off/pick up duty before and after. So the second trip into Glasgow afforded me the rare opportunity to offload everything for the week on Sunday night. Ya dancer! Everything in a wanner (local parlance for all at once) meant five lightweight trips for the rest of the week. Let me repeat: Ya dancer!

13,000 miles has got me excited and anxious all at the same time. 12,500 felt like a long way because it was half distance and I appreciated how far I’d come and how much effort had gone into being at that point. So 13K feels like being at the next junction a wee bit further down the road but nowhere near home. Despite the fact that I’m enjoying the experience and the challenge, I want 13K miles to be near home and it’s not. That’s where the anxiety creeps in. I have to keep reminding myself that I didn’t get here in five minutes and that it will take another 300 days on the bike, that’s 600 individual trips of 20 miles apiece before the book finally closes on LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. Right now I feel like I’m in the middle of the ocean, being tossed about by big waves, surviving by instinct and a desire to just keep going on, without every knowing where the path will lead me.

Every so often, I take a notion to look way into the future to see what’s coming up. When I did that at the 10,000 mile mark, I spotted an opportunity to attack 20,000 by the end of this year. Normally I don’t do long distance objectives, especially when they involve piling in big miles week after week and month after month, but this one captured my imagination. As things stand, with the summer holiday already factored in, a regular 40 miles a day pattern from now until Christmas will leave me a couple of hundred miles short. I can’t ignore it. It sits there, looming large, day after day, like a seductive temptress. I plan to deal with it by chipping away a few miles here and a few miles there, day on day. Anything above 200 a week will do the trick: for eight months…

Another thing that’s starting to focus my mind is Highland Bike 2. Those of you who were with me this time last year will remember the bike ride from Motherwell to Inverness, with the first stop being Carrbridge at 165 miles. That was Highland Bike 1, an overnighter starting at 10:15pm on the Wednesday night after a midweek game. Well (see what I did there?) the post-split SPFL fixtures came out this week and it’s almost like wee Oscar had a hand on the tiller when they were programming the computer. Inverness are away to Celtic on the last day of the season. I won’t bore you with all the reasons why this was the fixture I wanted (but never dared dream about) but it’s fair to say that I’m ecstatic at the prospect of cycling from Tulloch Caledonian Stadium to Celtic Park in honour of Oscar Knox. I will have my wee quiet moment when I pass the spot where I believe I might have been when the news broke: the very same place where I learnt of Tommy Burns’ passing on the Thursday of HM6. I really wish the circumstances were different but I feel like this is my moment to remember wee Oscar and treasure the thought of what he did for so many other children in his position.

My challenges are many fold but the first is to see if I’m going solo or taking a squad with me. I will be leaving Inverness alongside the Highland Marchers but that’s where the similarity ends. Shall I attempt the end to end in one go or take a stop half way and make it a two day trip? That question will remain unanswered until I see if I have company. I don’t feel comfortable imposing my adventurous spirit on a team effort so I will happy do it in shorter hops to accommodate a Team Oscar reunion but if I am going solo, then my preference is to go for a wanner (local parlance to end to end non-stop, save for fuel and comfort breaks).

It’s going to be 190 miles, leaving Inverness at 5:15pm. That leaves five hours(ish) of daylight, assuming good weather. Pitlochry is around 75 miles so that can be done by half ten with a good head of steam. I think we’re talking lights from around Blair Atholl. The night section’s gonna be around six hours, or 60 miles (night riding’s always slower for all sorts of reasons) which takes me to somewhere near Crieff/Stirlingish. Stirling to Glasgow is only a couple of hours, three at the most if I’m knackered. I’d hope to have the whole jaunt done and dusted by late morning on the Sunday.

There’s also the small matter of getting the bike up to Inverness but I’m already on the case with that one. Billy’s a man with a van and he fixes things. He often has to fix things up the road and I’m hoping that something breaks down over the next three weeks so that he can take my touring bike up. I think I’ve already decided that that’s the one I’m going to use, even though it’s 10lb heavier than my racer. Comfort counts for a lot over 20 hours.

Inverness to Celtic Park will be fantastic. With the Walfrid connection so fresh in my mind, and so many Celtic minded people on my case, it will be like birthday and Christmas rolled into one linking the two clubs on two wheels.

Talking of Celtic and not giving in and all that stuff, this coming weekend brings the two clubs together in the Scottish Cup Semi Final at Hampden Park in Glasgow. For Mrs LifeCycle, that’s two trips to Hampden on successive Sundays! The teams met up the road in Inverness at the weekend and for the first time this season (in 54 games to be precise) Celtic took the lead and didn’t win. So it’s not just the LifeCycle Man who doesn’t give in. It’s his football team as well. As we speak, I’m still trying to organise a wee social gathering in the town on Saturday afternoon for my mates from both camps: specifically, that means Highland Marchers, ICT Central Belters and some Internet Bampots.

It has been a funny old week; indeed a busy old week in which the number 13 features prominently. 13,000 miles on Monday the 13th. There’s a film in there somewhere.

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