The Sky’s The Limit

So much has happened in this unbelievable week, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’d told me last Saturday what lay ahead in the next seven days, I would probably have enquired, politely of course, whether you’d been on the loopy juice.

This has been a week like no other, and there won’t be another one like it before #LCFN draws to a close. Pinch yersel’ LifeCycle Man, what you think happened did actually happen.

So where better to start than back at the beginning, or more to be precise, last Saturday in Fast Rider Cycles in Stewarton. Neal does all of my maintenance work, even out of hours at zero notice, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for keeping me on the road.

I called in last Saturday, about lunchtime, to advise Neal that George is gonna be paying him a visit next Friday, the 25th, for a new chain and a service. George, you’ll recall, is the name I gave my road bike after the real George, an adventurer par excellence, passed away a few weeks ago due to cancer. George has delivered some humungous miles since he took over real time navigation and that’s perhaps one of the reasons this week has run right off the scale. Neal asked if I could bring the bike in that afternoon so he could see what spares, if any, he would need to order. I told him that the gears had started changing of their own accord, always very disconcerting and also somewhat dangerous, so I agreed.

George went in around mid afternoon and didn’t emerge until Wednesday. To cut a long story short, the rear derailleur was bent, causing an alignment issue: but it wasn’t obvious to the naked eye. It was only when the mechanism came off and a debug tool went on that it became clear where the problem lay. The strange thing is, I’ve not crashed (yet) on that bike, I’ve not hit anything and there’s no obvious reason why the alignment should have been off centre: apart from five and a half thousand miles in six unrelenting months in a horrible ‘summer’.

So… cue the reserve bike, or in F1 parlance, the spare. That’s actually very unkind to the Dawes Karakum tourer, because it’s done more miles (8,300) than any other set of wheels thus far. But it weighs an absolute ton. The difference between that and the road bike I got for birthday number 62 is around 5kg. That’s a lot of energy and a whole lot of miles that I clearly wasn’t doing back in 2014. Anyway, I got it all set up, adjusted a couple of things, and left it ready to rock n roll at 5am on Monday morning.

Strangely enough, I woke before the alarm, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s waking at half four then trying to cram another twenty five minutes in before the alarm goes off at five to. “Nah, I’ll just get up and take my time on those heavy wheels” I thought. So I was dressed, ready, and the front door was open before I went to move the bike… flat back tyre!


That moment, that instant, that five seconds or so, that it it took me to come to terms with what had happened, absolutely defined everything else that followed on this week. You know that Billy Ocean song “When The Going Gets Tough”, well that was me at 5am on Monday morning. I reckoned that I had three choices: (1) borrow Jane’s bike, which is identical to my spare, except she has it set up slightly differently (2) take my mountain bike, which delivered 3,000 #LCFN miles in year one (3) fix it and get the spare bike earning its keep once more. Options 1 and 2, whilst outwardly simple, both required a fair degree of faffing around with lights and panniers so I kicked them into the long grass prompto.

Notice I never mentioned taking the car into work. Despite the fact that this was Monday and I had the heavy gear (food) preloaded, that was never an option. Not on my watch.

Nope, what I did was curse under my breath, shut the front door, turn the bike upside down and get the tools out. 15 minutes later, I was ready to go again, except that I’d to clean myself up. If you’ve ever had to sort a back wheel puncture, you’ll know what a Lionel job it is: it’s the oil yersee…

Problem number one fixed, problem number two lay in the fact that I’d forgotten just how heavy that bike is. It is soooo feckin’ heavy! Okay, I know I started off later than usual but 21 miles? Are you kidding me? This is a week when I need mega miles to keep #GoingForGold on track and you’ve delivered me just 21 miles? For about four hours on Monday morning, I was a broken man. I’d made a vow, and unlike David Cameron, I intended to stick by mine, and here I was sitting on 21 measly miles after the first trip of the week. Doing the sums, I realised that the spare bike was going to give me 220 max, eyeballs out, and that was nowhere near enough to keep the #GFG show on the road.

So mid afternoon I texted Jane and told her “I’m going the scenic route home”… 33 miles, but more importantly, from the depths of despair at 5am, I was now ahead of the game at 7pm: and on the same day.

Game changer.

On Tuesdays I coach the fitness work at Joe’s football so I never have any spare time. But Wednesday’s run home was a repeat of Monday so all of a sudden I was on a roll: a big roll. This was like “show the dog the rabbit…” and the rest just followed.

By Wednesday night (154 miles) I realised that for the first time since I started, I actually had a chance of posting 200 miles by Thursday night. I wasn’t for letting that one go: I’ve been at this game for 108 weeks and I’ve never posted 200 by Thursday night. Make that 202 and virtually out of gas. There’s something about #LCFN that only comes with experience, right, and it’s this: you put yourself in a position to deliver something special, and you’d better deliver it. Life is littered with missed opportunities, so when they come along, you’d better make bloody certain that you give it 100% and if you fall short, well it wasn’t for the want of trying.

So Friday morning, I’m sat on 202 with legs that aren’t interested anymore. But my heart is, and it rules my head so my legs do what they’re told. Basic science of #LCFN: legs, do what you’re told!

The trip in was kinda sluggish, and in the dark of course. I met my good friend Gordon on the Billy Bowie hill, I wished him good morning as we exchanged pleasantries at ten past five, he muttered something about thorns and punctures. I didn’t think Gordon used language like that. I now know that he’s had two on that lonely stretch of road, in the dark, on successive mornings. Eeek, that’s my route out of town!

As always on a Friday, my secret weapon for the final sortie was a double doorstep strawberry jam job: diesel rocket fuel on a top secret bread recipe. The jammy doorstep always delivers: 46 miles on the way home on a route not dissimilar to last week, leaving me on a whopping, unbelievable 71 for the day and 273 for the week. The previous #LCFN best was 260. It’s an average of almost 55 a day on top of being at work. Knock me over with a feather…

So from being on the scrapheap a week back yesterday when the #GoingForGold asking rate was 50 a day for the remaining thirteen days, the asking rate now is down to 43 for seven days. That, my friends, is a piece o’ piss. I’m averaging 49 since the beginning of May. One possible fly in the ointment: Joe is overdue a return appointment at the orthopaedic specialist at Crosshouse, and that date might come in before the end of the month. That’s why I’ve kept my foot flat to the floor. If I were to lose another day now, it would bump the requirement back up to 50 a day but as I’ve just banged in a bunch of 55’s, that doesn’t scare me. Much.

I set out at the start of September to deliver ONE THOUSAND MILES in twenty days for kids with cancer. I called it #GoingForGold. I’ve never done a thousand miles in twenty days before and I intend to deliver on my promise. This has been the very hardest month since I started; I’m tired yet I’m elated. Does that make sense? Kids, this one’s for you… “Never Give Up”. Ever.

But that’s not all that happened this week. I saw on Twitter and on Facebook last week that the BBC Creative Arts department are running a weather photo competition during September so I submitted a few of my Fenwick Muir sunrise efforts. A few retweets of the best ones kind of got me interested but that was nothing compared to how I felt when I got this notification this afternoon:

It’s been a record breaking week in a record breaking month.

The Sky’s The Limit.

The LifeCycle Man is still #GoingForGold

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