Double Puddles

I keep worrying that one of these days, I’m going to get bored of doing this. That thought registers about 8.2 on the dreadter scale simply because there’s nothing worse than falling out of bed and getting on at bike at five o’clock in the morning when it’s dark, cold, wet and windy and you don’t want to be there anymore. But fortunately that day shows no sign of happening anytime soon because nice things keep happening week on week. And this one was no exception…

You’ll recall that two weeks ago, I set myself the target of going to the NCCA Family Fun Day in Landan next week with 15,999 miles on the clock: and that to manage that I had to bang in 711 miles in 15 working days. The 259 from last week basically set the whole thing up and this week I’ve actually found myself having to keep a lid on the miles to avert from what I’ve termed premature congratulation. Three months of averaging 48 miles a day has made it much, much harder than I’d expected to drop back into the low forties. These are very strange times. However as I sit here with six of the original fifteen days still to go, the target has shrunk to a relatively diminutive 268 and the Landan celebration is virtually in the bag.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg of excitement: you know how they say that most of the action is below the surface? Well read on…

On Sunday morning, at daft o’clock, I jumped in the motor and headed off to Glasgow Airport in the hope, at the third time of asking, of seeing Princess Puddles:

Plan A failed when Eileidh’s team found their preferred flight to Philadelphia fully booked and got bumped by 24 hours. We were due to get on that original flight at the other end and the crossover offered definite catch-up opportunities.

Plan B was to do the whole thing in reverse because as it turned out, Eileidh flew out on the plane that we flew in on: but our flight was delayed from Philly and Eileidh and her entourage had already cleared security by the time we emerged unscathed from customs.

Plan C was to therefore to ambush them on their return.

But Houston, we had a problem: we’d been out the night before, over in Irvine, and the car broke down on the way home. For the technically minded, a coil spring broke and took the nearside front tyre with it. No point in putting the spare on then. By the time the AA turned up it was pushing 3am (we waited two and a half hours by the way: they don’t tell you that in the advert). We finally fell into bed at the back of four and I set the alarm for half five because the Princess was flying in at 6:30am. I know it sounds ridiculous but sometimes in life, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do. Here’s a wee girl who for the past twelve months has been fighting for her life so who am I to worry about a lack of sleep? It was only through a public appeal that Eileidh got the funds to allow her to get ground breaking treatment in the US that’s not currently available in the UK. That’s why it mattered to go and greet her.

I first met wee Eileidh during Cycling Santas last Christmas. She was not a well girl. I met her again before, during and after the Highland Bike back in May. So this was a chance to see her again, not least because right now, she’s well. I dumped the motor on the outskirts of Paisley, ten minutes walk from the airport, and parked myself on a seat outside international arrivals: naturally I had the LifeCycle flag with me. It’s done almost as many miles as the Princess herself now. Loads of passengers emerged but no one that I recognised: “surely I haven’t missed them while I was playing on my phone” I thought. Then I spotted Cerys; and she spotted my NCCA T-shirt and called to her mum. “Mum, look, it’s Steve”. And that sparked almost two hours of catch-up and coffee as Gail brought me up to speed with the trip, the treatment, the schedule and the prognosis. But the best bit was getting wee Eileidh to sit on the rail next to the sign that says “Welcome To Scotland”, or in her case “Welcome Home”. It was a wonderful moment and made for a great photo opportunity.

Early morning fully justified!

The next bit of excitement, which has been running on and off all week, concerns the followers of this adventure. For ages and ages, the number has hovered around 200, which is okay but it’s not in the ballpark of where I need it to be to get the message out there that neuroblastoma is a deadly disease that needs to be caught early and treated quickly. Nor does 200 help with major fundraising. So last weekend, I went on a bit of a charm offensive. The first wave of attacks invited people who already follow LFN to add friends from their own Facebook timelines. Anyone can do it, and it’s by far and away the most effective way of spreading the word. Sure, some people then remove themselves from the group but that’s fine: it’s not everyone’s bag. But what I do find is that about three quarters of those added do actually stay the course. And that’s all I’m looking for. So if you’re reading this and you’re new to the group, and especially so if you’ve got small kids and you haven’t yet added all your friends to the LifeCycle group, what are you waiting for?

I hope I’m not being oversimplistic but I describe neuroblastoma as cancer of the nervous system in small children. It results in multiple tumours, is extremely difficult to treat effectively at stage 4, when is often first diagnosed, and it causes incredible pain. If you’ve ever had sciatica, imagine how that would feel all over your body, along with all the side effects of chemo.

Gail, Eileidh’s mum, posted an image on Facebook earlier this week that sums it up perfectly:

“You wonder why I want you to spread awareness when your child doesn’t have cancer? At one point, neither did mine. STOP childhood cancer”.

That’s it in a nutshell. It might not be your child today, or even next week: but it might be next month or next year, or the child of someone you know. That’s why we’re all in this together. I just happen to be the bloke on the bike that gets up at 5am to cycle 40 miles every working day, climbing over half the height of Ben Nevis in the process. The real team players on this gig are you people, my supporters.

And now, because some special people went to town on their friend lists, the LifeCycle group has over 500 members and it’s growing all the time. This time last week it had 252. I even dare to dream that this could be the lift off that I’d always thought possible. My wee band of supporters in Australia used to be sitting pretty at number 2 in the country list but now they’ve been relegated by a 50 strong delegation from Poland. Who’d have thought that a month or two back? Guys n Gals, you’re just gonna have to chase as hard as your baggie capped countrymen if you want that slot back!

Whilst welcoming all the new followers to the LFN group, let me explain how you can help even more than just being here and following the story. Back at the start, I suggested that my supporters might like to match my miles with pennies: so for every mile that I ride, you’d back me with a penny. It was loose change back at the start but as I’ve got stronger and more adventurous, so the number of miles has grown to a bag of crisps and a can of juice’s worth of pennies every week. But it’s still enough to give you a right good feeling when a child gets the treatment that they desperately need: ask anyone who helped get Princess Puddles to the States.

Here’s the link to the Virgin Money Giving account (I do also have a Just Giving account but it was pointed out to me after I’d opened it that Just Giving take three times as much as Virgin in admin fees):

On the long term front, I’m finding myself dwelling more and more on what’s to happen when I’ve done the 25,000 miles. Then what? Back at the start, I hadn’t really got a clue what I was capable of and I set the initial target at 20,000 miles before retirement. I’m 62 just now. But by the time I got the business cards made, eight months in, I was pretty well set so I upped the target to 25K. Now I realise that even that target is way too low and I’ll reach it almost two years ahead of schedule. What happens after that is dependent on a number of factors, but right at the top of the list are the conversion of effort into followers, the conversion of followers into research funds, and how my tired old body is handling the workload. I’m almost tempted to request that someone should start a discussion thread on the LFN group with ideas for what should happen (next) in the summer of 2016.

But for now, let’s just relax in the afterglow of Eileidh being home and the group having mushroomed…

Double Puddles!

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