I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

I’ll tell you now: I’m one stubborn old bugger. When something annoys me, you can expect a kickback. My emotional kickback is bigger than anything you’ll get off a cloven hoof, believe me.

So this tale is seeded in the fact that last Thursday, not yesterday but last week’s instantiation, I was due to come back from my latest sojourn down south. But at the eleventh hour, I remained down the road to go to a meeting in Manchester that may define my working life for the next wee while. It meant I missed our wedding anniversary: 21 years Jane and I have been hitched and I gave it up for a meeting. This had better end well…

The outcome, give a train delay or two, and a dinner date, meant that I copped zero miles last Friday. Check the date: September 1st. No miles on the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That did my nut in. In 2013, I was a rookie so I’m pleading ignorance. September returned 543 miles. I still remember being delighted with that like it was yesterday. Five hundred miles in a month seemed magical to an old fart on a folding bike.

Cue 2014 and I was really getting into it: 913 miles. That total was second only to the 941 that included a 165 mile cameo on the day that wee Oscar passed away. Ironically I took a rest day the very next day, the day that Eileidh was diagnosed. And to think I was only 25 miles from her house and emotionally wasted.

2015 was a biggie: Eileidh was just back from America (for the first time) so I pushed the boat out: 1041 miles. That was the very first #Gold month of LCFN. I’ll repeat now what I felt back then: these one thousand miles months sap the life out of you. They are relentless. They are a slog. They are not some wee jolly that takes up your day. When you have a full time job, one thousand miles on a bike takes commitment, planning and more than a decent dose of fuck you, bad weather. In the west of Scotland, we get a lot of that.

2016 was the start of my ongoing injury nightmare. I tweaked a thigh muscle chasing a Strava King Of The Mountains up a hill and to this very day that injury remains a problem. It’s a big driving muscle, and it hurts. Every day. I chucked September ’16 on the 25th and was sidelined for seven of the longest weeks of my life. When I started back it was okay for a while then it just came back. Now I just manage it by how hard I try.

Cue 2017, and back to last Friday.

I didn’t get out, and that irked me. If there is one month in the calendar year when you want to try harder, for the kids, it’s September. The world is busy going gold and it’s an opportunity/obligation to pile on in. September is LCFN’s Christmas. It’s my annual opportunity to push the boundaries for the kids, as if to prove that collectively, we will not be defeated.

And so to last weekend. I was not only annoyed by not getting out on the first, my frustration was compounded by having missed an opportunity to blag top spot on the LCFN leaderboard in August. For Eileidh. I gave up the last three days to head off down south with my work but still managed to post #Gold. 1046 miles grabbed a podium step but I knew I’d missed out on the big one…

That miss, and the loss of Friday, became the driving force behind #GoGoldSeptember. I touted it as a desire to bag only the fifth golden month, in memory of Eileidh as #ForeverFive, but that doesn’t tell half the story. A thousand miles was never going to be a problem, assuming I don’t get sent away with work at short notice. My focus is not on a thousand, not even on eleven hundred. It’s on the top step: 1112 miles posted at the end of the hat trick of golds back in November ’15. To be honest, no matter what I clock this month, I can take nothing away from that monumental month. I remember the hundred days of hell only too well. November is a dark, cold, wet and wild month. It’s when the storms kick in. And you see not one minute of daylight. Every one of those eleven hundred miles was done in the dark. You never forget those days.

But 1112 is in the crosshairs. You get a lot of time to think strategy and routes when you’re out for three and four hours a day, and in my mind I’ve been toying with something that’s basically been tantalisingly off limits all along: I called it a titanium month a couple of years ago because relatively speaking, it’s off the scale and unreachable: 1200 miles.

Is it achievable? In a 31 day month, with a tailwind of motivation, I think it is. But it’s on top of a full time job remember. In a 30 day month, it demands 40 miles day. The most I’ve ever done of those in a row is six. That’s precisely why 1200 is titanium: it’s basically impenetrable. So take a day off that and challenge yersel’ to do it in 29: that makes the asking rate 41 miles a day. Every day. That’s two and a half thousand calories burnt up on the bike and a whole load of tiredness to boot. And still the day job to do.

Oooft, game on…

I bagged a 294 two weeks ago and mentioned in the blog that I’d elected to leave it there as a carrot: I just didn’t expect to be nibbling away at it this soon.

I’ll be brutally honest: I’m still hurting from Eileidh’s passing, and there isn’t a day when I don’t think about her smiling, fighting spirit about six, seven or eight times a day. No, cancel that: when I’m on the bike, I think about her constantly. Five more miles: #ForeverFive. Throughout September.

One of things I am really, really, grateful for is that the LCFN Facebook group is global. It means we get to see and share stuff from all over the world, like in an instant. I should never get blasé about this but it never ceases to amaze me the amount of good vibe stuff that is constantly coming out of Australia. Even when the vibe is bad, it’s good in a positive way, if you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Today, Australia and the world lost Connie Johnson to cancer, aged 40. Connie wore her cancer heart on her sleeve like possibly no other person ever. Check this…


But Connie’s story goes way further than that. Her wee brother Sam, actor, radio presenter and philanthropist was cast from the same mould that later spawned Jimmy Harrington. Leaving aside all his professional awards, in 2003, Sam Johnson unicycled from Sydney to Melbourne to raise money for a children’s cancer charity. Then in 2013, he set out on a twelve month, 15,000km unicycle ride that raised $1.47m for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to help try and find a cure for breast cancer. In 2016, Sam was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to cancer research support.

Today, sadly, Sam lost his big sister. Big Man, keep up the fight. #NeverGiveUp mate.

Samuel Johnson is a hero of Jimmy Harrington and Jimmy is a hero of mine so I think that makes Big Sam the grand daddy of them all. Opportunity knocks this time next year, that’s all I’m saying…

There’s been stuff flying back and forth all week about the LCFN ride from Brisbane to Adelaide next year, the focal point of which will be the Sydney Opera House going #Gold on September 1st. Everything else is scheduled around that date. Roll into town on the 31st, take a rest day, look in awe at the golden spectacle then refocus on the rest of the trip.

When I set out on LCFN, I had no idea, absolutely no idea, what a hotbed Australia is for cancer research: not just punter support but state backing too. I cannot wait to get out there and pedal in support of those guys. There’s stuff going on behind the scenes that will maybe make LCFN 2013-2017 look like a support act but at the end of the day, the only currency is finding a cure to childhood cancer and Australia is trying really hard in that regard.

So back to #GoGold…

I made a flippant reference on Facebook in midweek about the cat being amongst 300 pigeons. It was a cryptic reference to my attempt to bag 300 miles. Feck, this is hard! What really scares me is that I thought I’d worked hard Monday thru Wednesday yet I hadn’t even culled 125 pigeons. And the weather was (pigeon) shit. It’s been shit all week. Even 45 pigeons yesterday still left me needing more in the last three days than I’d culled in the first three. This (pigeon) shit just got real: but I’m in it to win it. For Eileidh…

My Ross knows that I want the Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want played at my funeral. Well I reckon I’m gonna slap an extra condition in my will: I want my funeral extended by five minutes in order to take in my theme song, the song that defines me…

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

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