I was painting the hall this morning, and had the Temptations blasting out from the living room. In David Ruffin, they possessed the most searing voice in black American music and his was a voice that took me down the road of unadulterated raw Soul music as a kid. There are songs on which David Ruffin performed lead vocal that are just too raw and just too sensitive to be mentioned by name in this blog but I can say without fear or favour that this journey has given at least three of them new meaning and a whole new importance in my life. Music has the ability to do that and 60’s black American Soul particularly so. The music of that era laid so much emphasis on delivery that I can easily translate the emotion of the performance into my thoughts when I’m on the bike. In a sense, you’ve either got it or you’ve not….
Throughout 2014, I just kept pushing my aging body to every limit it had and I guess it was no surprise when it retaliated the week before Cycling Santas. To be honest, it was a real struggle from then until Christmas but I just kept my foot to the floor because I knew what was coming: ten days of doing precisely hee haw. The scheduled trip to Inverness got cancelled because I managed to pass the lurgi on to Jane via Joe but the benefit was that we have just had the laziest ten days since the kids were born, and that stretches back to the Millenium. No bad thing.
But despite all the laziness and the 11am starts, something was bugging me: 11,960 miles. It was eating away at me because 11,960 isn’t 12,000. I guess I must have been a kid who liked to line up his cars because back at the start of December, I’d planned to finish 2014 on precisely 12,000 miles so that the new year would fit so symmetrically into the pattern of five figure numbers. It needed to happen so to put it into some kind of perspective, I’ll take you on a typical Monday morning run into work. I make my own bread because I demand to know what’s fuelling the LifeCycle bike. A standard family size loaf weighs in at 800g: a LifeCycle loaf, 30% smaller in size, weighs in at 1200g. It’s the stuff of secret legend that Irn Bru would be proud of retaining. Call the LifeCycle loaf 2.5lb in old money. To that you can add half a dozen tins of mackerel at 125g a time. There’s another pound and a half. Chuck in some fruit, a jar of heavy duty marmalade and the bag sitting over the back wheel, which itself weighs a couple of pounds empty is suddenly demanding that a further 5lb be dragged up the six hills that characterise the first three miles out of Stewarton. The upside in winter however, is that that extra weight does help to keep the back wheel in contact with the tarmac. How many times have I got out of the saddle on one of those hills only to find the back wheel spinning and the bike going nowhere?
So to accommodate that set of nicely lined up cars, I elected to do a one-off run into work over the holiday to deliver all the non-bread stuff for next week. A forty mile round trip: see where I’m coming from? The problem was, I couldn’t use any of the lovely sunny crisp days because the roads I use were sheeted with black ice. Black ice is not my friend. So I homed in on Wednesday morning, Hogmanay, the first of the unnice days and the last day in which I could seal the deal before the new year. Wednesday was grim. A stiffening south westerly wind coupled with gathering rain made for the perfect storm of not much help going into work but a hellish ride home. And for the first time since I started this caper, it was a back to back journey. Santa bought me a Garmin Edge in the early hours of the 25th and I wanted to grasp the chance to play with the features in the daylight. You can’t see anything in the dark, or if you can I haven’t found the backlight yet. One of the things it does is measure your calorie burn rate based on weight, height and speed. This was always going to be fun: I’ve been assuming that my glycogen fuel tank is 1800 calories at full capacity so with breakfast immediately before heading out the door, I reckoned I could push that to 2200 maybe. I chucked some emergency fuel supplies in the bag, but still I knew it was going to be touch and go on the way back. The combination of into the wind, into the rain and a rapidly emptying fuel tank is not the place to be in winter. But in daylight, and in in the interest of personal knowledge and body science, I was going for it. History will show that yes, I exceeded 2000 calories, but no, I didn’t run out of gas. That was a big result. It was a result of such significance that going into 2015 I know full well that my fuel tank is at least as big as I thought it was, and then some.
It’s still three days to Monday morning and already I feel a quiet sense of anticipation. I don’t have that “OMG, it’s back to work” feeling that normally afflicts the final few days of the winter break. Here I am, looking out on a bleak winter sky and thinking “Never Give Up” and thinking of Eiliedh in much the same way that I thought of wee Oscar this time last year. The battle goes on, not just to save lives, but to give the parents hope that someone out there is at their (virtual) side, thinking of them and suffering alongside them, albeit in a different way. If Gail (Paterson) wakes with wee Eileidh at 5am, then I want her to be comforted by the thought that I’m out there thinking of them both. It may only be twenty odd miles in that single journey, but it will be the same every twelve hours for the next 18 months, weekends excepted. Mouldy texted me this afternoon and asked if I wanted to go out to play this weekend. I would have loved to but I have to be realistic enough to know that the 230 miles I have in mind for next week will take everything that I’ve got. There is simply nothing left to leave aside in a full-on LifeCycle week when work fills the hours between the two daily trips. It translates into 13 hours out of the house, 40 miles, 2000ft feet of climbing and a full time job, five days a week. In a nutshell, that is LifeCycle. At least I get the weekends off: neuroblastoma doesn’t do days off.
At the bells, Jane asked me what resolutions I’d made for the new year. I’m renowned for my assertions that I won’t do this and I won’t do that (think biscuits, crisps and beer spring to mind for starters) but over the years I’ve mellowed and now I just see that as torture. The LifeCycle version of me just sets goals and goes hell for leather in pursuit of them. But 2015 has only one goal, and it’s a big one: 20,000 miles by the end of the year. Given everything that happened last year, and 9500+ miles, it should be a skoosh but an impending hernia operation throws a firework right into the mix. All I know for certain is that I’m due to be off the road sometime between now and the beginning of March, and that I’ll be laid up for a period thereafter. The length of the recovery is impossible to judge so I’ll just pledge to take every day as it comes. Climbing hills is hard, 2000ft of hard, and it might take three months before I’m back to where I want to be. That’s why 20,000 miles represents a challenge, a real challenge. I suspect that just as in 2014, 2015 is going to be a back ended year with big miles in those final winter months: I can’t wait (pulls a funny face).
But I’m ready for this. I’m ready for 2015. I’m ready for 5am Monday morning and the cold, wet darkness that it will bring. I’m ready to feed off all the experience I gained last year to make 2015 not only bearable but beatable. Whereas 2014 was the grunge year that set the whole tone for LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, 2015 is going to be the year that promotes enjoyment and a sense of just keep doing it. There is no longer anything to fear, not even myself.
I’m on the road again….