It’s Now Or Never

It’s not the first time I’ve binned the blog on a Friday night cos I couldn’t find the hook line to set the tone. I tried twice last night and aborted both efforts: what was coming out of my brain was just pure clunky and not in the least bit inspiring. Maybe, reading this, you feel that anyway, but I was having none of it. LCFN OCD took over and I parked it until today. Now I find myself under pressure for a different reason as the blog is now sandwiched between the lunchtime game, where my beloved Baggies just got a doing, and the three o’clocks where there’s money to be made on my favourite 10p bets.

However I digress slightly, because when Dennis woke me at ten to six this morning by head butting me repeatedly cos he wanted fed, I checked my Twitter feed and found exactly what I was looking for in terms of the spark for this week’s word ramble.

My wee friend Tara, who co-ordinates the foodbanks across the north east of Glasgow, posted an image of a bloke pulling another bloke out of a hole with a snappy caption. Simple but right to the point:

“Helping one person might not change the world but it could change the world for one person”.

That’s what I was missing. I needed that line to join the stuff that’s been happening on the road to the stuff that’s been happening in Puddles’ world two hundred miles away. So let me rephrase Tara’s wee slogan:

“Helping Puddles might not change the world for all kids battling cancer but it could change the world for Puddles”.

Yesterday, Eileidh had her MIBG scan: that’s the one where she gets injected with a special dye that clings to any neuroblastoma cells in her body. When she had the same test done about three months ago, the results came back clear, but they need to stay clear as she nears the end of this round of treatment ahead of possibly getting on another trial in the USA designed to stop the disease from returning. There are two battles to be won on different fronts here: first of all, Eileidh needs to be cancer free at the end of treatment. And if that happens, and only if, then the second objective becomes critical: to repeat what happened in 2014 and raise a hundred grand as quickly as possible in order to get our Princess on the plane.

So let’s mess with Tara’s mantra one more time:

“Buying an Eileidh’s Journey/LCFN wristband might not pay off the national debt, but it could sure as hell help to pay for Puddles’s treatment”.

When I switched from being solely a fundraiser for Solving Kids Cancer to supporting Eileidh’s Journey this time last year, it was for days such as this. There are basically two ways that you can support the LCFN Puddles Remix bike ride:

You can support Eileidh herself by buying wristbands from Princess Puddles Pop Up Shop on Facebook:

The wristbands are £5 each (plus postage so best call it £6) and payment can be made via Paypal:

Please choose the family/friends option & in the note section, please enter your name, address, how many bands you want and which size: we currently have teenage and adult sizes in stock. They’re all hot pink on black and look fantastic!

Or you can follow this link and donate to Solving Kids Cancer: your money will then go straight to the charity to help support the next wee child…

Having found and used the one person might not change the world angle on the blog, the adventure itself took on a whole new impetus this week courtesy of the weather forecast.

You might recall that when I passed through 27K miles back at the start of December, I went public and said that I was going to try and crash 28K without taking a day off. Under normal circumstances, that would have proved impossible because of frequent trips down to Liverpool with my work. But I reckoned that with the holiday coming, coupled with some careful work scheduling, I might just manage to squeeze enough days in a row to make it happen. Now at this point I need to say that a thousand miles without taking a day off is something I’ve never done, not on this bike ride nor at any other time in my life (I’ve never been that motivated).

Then about a fortnight ago, the call came to head to Merseyside and I’m going down this coming week. At once, that put the kybosh on the 27K to 28K plan because I was still 300 miles short when I got the call and there were only ten days before the trip. As I’m still carrying the injury that cost me seven weeks out in September and October, that kind of pressure is something my tired body can do without. So I shifted the goalposts. Instead of riding from 27K to 28K, I just made it a straight 1000 miles. That was eminently more doable and the only thing I needed was a good run of settled weather, and in particular no snow.

Cue the weather forecast from ten days ago: I use Windguru as my weather app of choice. It’s been deadly accurate for me for the best part of three years but on this occasion I didn’t like what it was telling me. It said that on Wednesday past (11th Jan) the wind would be gusting at 50mph, and that the following day, we would cop a dollop of snow. With a hard frost to follow on each of the next two nights, that signifies extreme danger on two wheels once the snow and slush has turned to ice.

Time to up my game.

I banged in an early morning 40 last Sunday morning, which coupled with a heavier than normal effort on Monday and Tuesday, left me with a stark choice:

After 45 unbroken days on the road, I still needed 53 miles. The next 24 hours were scheduled to bring gale force winds, the following 24 hours were going to bring snow, and the 48 hours after that were going to be freezing. Black ice: deep joy!

It was game on.

The snow day was clearly going to be a road bike stays in the shed kind of a day, which roughly translated meant that Thursday was going to be a mountain bike day on fat knobbly tyres: slow, cumbersome and full on max effort. Not ideal with a torn quad muscle. But what choice did I have? None actually.

The key day was always going to be Wednesday. There are fewer things more scary than riding a lightweight road bike in high winds. The issue is about what route you take. The country roads round these parts are fine from the perspective of giving you shelter under the hedgerows but see each time you pass an open fence or a gate…. You’d better be hanging onto the bike for dear life. Crosswinds are a nightmare. I headed out north, which was roughly speaking where the wind was coming from (it was actually coming from the north west but it was tough enough to make no difference). And I was heading uphill. Four miles uphill. But that was all calculated because at the highest point, when then route swung round to the left and directly into the raging wind, it was all downhill: until the road climbed again, and dropped again, and climbed again and dropped again. The best part, to be honest, was when I finally turned for home and had a tail gale for much of the last seven miles. 23 miles and 2100 feet of climbing in those conditions set the scene for one last push on Thursday: 30 miles required in the snow.

My first thought was to go Stewarton-Ardrossan-Stewarton: out into the biting wind then get blown all the way home. The first six miles were pretty straightforward, the biggest hazard being snowfilled potholes. But half a mile on the Benslie road from the A736 confirmed that the next section was going to be anything but a walk in the park, safetywise: a car every six or seven minutes and lying snow/slush was not a risk I was prepared to take. I turned around.

But I had a plan B, one I’ve used before to good effect. The Sustrans bike path from Irvine to Killie was guaranteed to have deepening snow as it slowly rises away from the coast, but that four mile section is only frequented by dog walkers and cyclists. Lo and behold, I was the first one!

14.6 miles at Killie meant that basically, all I had to do now was get the bike home again in one piece. The huge advantage, of course, was that I’d just ridden that route the other way, so apart from a dirty great snow shower that dumped on me around half way, the outcome was never really in doubt.

You have no idea how much satisfaction I derived from parking the old mountain bike back in the shed. It hadn’t even been out since this time last year, when it did a trip into Glasgow and back under pretty much the same conditions. I remember wondering in the summer whether I should swap the knobbly tyres for road ones: I’m bloody glad I didn’t now!

Faced with two pretty horrendous days after setting up the opportunity by basically never giving in to winter, you have no idea how much pleasure I derived from sitting down with a cup of hot soup on Thursday afternoon.

Yesterday and today, the bikes stayed in the hutch. All of them.

Wednesday and Thursday were pure dead simple…

It’s now or never.

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