The 39 Steps

Eight weeks and counting…

And it would be so straightforward except for some news that arrived unexpectedly in the week that I can’t discuss online. LCFN isn’t quite in intensive care but the next few weeks aren’t going to be the breeze I anticipated even a month ago.

Anyway, enough of that, it’s beer o’clock and time to look back on a week of immensely tiring proportions. Do you know, I got off the bike at three o’clock this afternoon, just so tired, legs, mind, body, the whole shooting match. For once I couldn’t raise the enthusiasm to clean the bike, which is normally the first job when I get home, so I just parked it in the shed with a squirt of degreaser. A shower, a scone and a cup of hot chocolate later, I was fast asleep in the chair. I woke around quarter past four and couldn’t work out (a) where I was (b) what time it was (c) what day it was. Totally out of it…

And y’know that kind of reflects the week. One morning, I think it was Wednesday, I found myself micronapping on the way into work. That’s dangerous. It’s only ever happened to me once before on a bike and that was on the stretch from Dunkeld to Pitlochry when Dunkant and I cycled from Motherwell to Carrbridge. My excuse on that occasion was that we’d been on the road all night, having left Fir Park just after ten. This time, the only possible explanation was that having a late teenager in the house means badly broken sleep, on top of which Dennis (the cat) pinched the bottom of the bed where my feet should have been and I woke at 1am with the most excruciating cramp in my right quad. And that brings me, rather aptly, to Jane’s recent but timely intervention on LCFN…

For a long time, ultrasound has kept me on the road. I get aches and strains a lot of the time, much of it down to overuse injuries (220 miles a week – overuse, who are you kidding?) but Jane decided at the back end of last year to seek a new skill in Swedish massage.

Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking

But it’s not like that.

Her newfound skill is in muscle metabolism and repair. I tell you what, she need look no further than the LifeCycle Man for a prototype patient. I’m full of bits that don’t work properly. So the night after the cramp incident, Jane got to work on the errant quad.

“This is solid”. (Keep it clean – Ed)

“Check the other one and feel the difference” said I. “that’s what I put up with a lot of the time. That muscle has been a problem for a very long time…”

So I thank Jane for her new found skill and hope that she can manage my broken bits through to the finish.

But she’s not getting anywhere near my thumb..

There is only one person who I trust to poke about with my bad thumb and that’s my trusty GP. I won’t embarrass him by name but I’ll have waited almost two weeks by the time I walk into his surgery next Friday. The ironic thing is he always gets up from his seat to shake me by the hand and ask how I’m doing. That won’t be happening next week: “actually, Dr Who, the fact that I can’t shake your hand is the reason I’m here.” You know the rest of the story. 740 miles after I fell off and lost the chance to post a whole year of 200+ miles, the war wound is as sore today as it was a month ago. I’ve got used to braking and changing gear in pain, although a lot of the time I elect to use the bike like an old three speed Sturmey Archer job and I stick the rear cassette in a middle ring then use the front chain ring, which is a triple, to get me up and down the hills. My left wrist’s knackered as well but it’s much less sore.

I can’t leave this week without homing in on a few stats: today was the 99th day of hell, which means that as far as LCFN is concerned, Monday is officially the last day of winter. That’s the 100th Monday to Friday day since the clocks changed last autumn. I can’t even start to explain how relieved I am to see the back end of winter 15/16: it’s been a belter in the most challenging of ways. But it went out on a high yesterday with a low 6am temperature of -6.9C, the second lowest of the whole winter. I probably can’t do justice to riding a bike for two hours in those temperatures but suffice to say that when you dismount at the other end, your jaw doesn’t work properly and you carn tawk proper cos your wips are fwozen: and that’s before you have to stand outside the shower for five minutes waiting on your fingers and toes to say hello.

The miles continue to pile up. Perhaps the fact that last week was #1999 to go and this week is #1756 will highlight just fast the finish line is approaching. It is quite literally just around the corner: I feel it every day and I’m working soooooo hard to make the last couple of weeks as simple and as comfortable as possible. The runner in me knows that coming up to a big event (and believe me, Belfast to Forres in 3 days is a BIG ask), you need to taper off and give the body a chance to recover and relax. So that the last thing I want is to have to bang in near 50 mile days in the week leading up to Belfast and I’m keeping my foot pretty much to the floor. Let me put it like this…

When I went through 20,000 miles back in November, the asking rate to make Belfast on 5th May ready to finish LCFN at Princess Puddles’s castle in Forres was 47 miles a day… with winter around the corner, ready to unleash its wrath.

By Christmas, that number was down to 45.5.

Today, notwithstanding the hundred miles I lost after the Black Ice Ops incident, it stands at just 42.4…

And the nearer LCFN gets to the finish line, so the faster that number falls with a mega day: today it fell from 42.8 to 42.5. By the time it’s below 40 in about a month’s time, it will be almost time to put the medicine on ice.

A few nice things have happened in the LCFNsphere this week. First of all, I realised, purely by accident, that I could revert the Facebook group from Closed to Public: that’s going to help in raising awareness of neuroblastoma because of all the related stores that appear on the page. I was actually searching for something else at the time and was quite amazed when it allowed me to change the profile. The last time I tried, I got a knock back because the group had more than 250 members. That constraint, ironically, introduced me to Theonie, one of my most ardent Aussie supporters, and it’s remarkable that a year on from our chance meeting over that limit, that LCFN may be about to change her life in a hugely significant way. Watch this space, or perhaps Theonie’s, for more news on that over the coming weeks. It’s all very exciting. For record, Facebook changed 250 to 5,000.

Another nice thing that happened this week was that Ashley, the physio who fixed my shoulder this time last year after another tarmac adventure, has joined the LCFN Facebook group. Ash, you need to read up on the last four or five week’s worth of blogs to find out why I might yet be needing your help again.

The other thing that happened was that I came to realise that two of my Facebook friends, 10,000 miles removed, needed to be friends to each other other. I love it when this happens. It’s Social Media at it’s best: two people with exactly the same outlook on life, exactly the same values, who just don’t know that the other exists. In that scenario, I feel it’s my duty to make the join. Girls, you know who you are: make it happen and be friends happily ever after….

And so to the finale.

I’ve been on the road for 535 days, and on each of those days, I’ve averaged over 43 miles on top of a full time job. Next week I’ll be 63. The Celtic supporters amongst you can rejoice that it’s on St Patrick’s Day. But I’m tired, very tired. The signs are very clear. There was a time when I planned LCFN being “Around The World in 580 Days” but that’s going to be beaten by a week, with or without the international date line. As things stand, there are just 39 days left…

The 39 Steps.

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