In The Bleak Midwinter

There was some dross on the telly the other night where people who’d been married for donkeys years were renewing their vows in cringweworthy fashion, reading off cue cards on live TV. Truly, truly awful television.

Well in contrast, I’ve just spent forty eight hours renewing my vows to the bike ride, and on occasions like this, the best place to start is the beginning. Are you sitting comfortably?

I was invited to Lindsay Gunn’s surprise 30th bash on Friday night, in the town, in the Merchant City, and it gave me the chance to catch up once again with my good friend Snuffs, who I haven’t seen for far too long, and the immortal Iain McGovern and his good lady Jack, who these days is his his fiancé. They all have history: Snuffs created the LCFN collage of images, borrowed from the Facebook group, as a surprise present late in 2015. I will forever treasure that work.

Then I got the full chapter and verse of Iain and Jack’s Hogmanay night out overlooking the river and the fireworks, and the ring in Iain’s pocket episode. I particularly loved the “what if she says no” deal back at the ring shop. I don’t think it was ever in doubt mind. See Iain McGovern: if ever you have the need, or indeed the opportunity to recharge your batteries for a good cause, there is no better reboot process than time spent in Iain McGovern’s company. I first met Iain when I ambushed his solo charity walk from Celtic Park to Anfield for The Celtic Foundation in May 2014. Then, through Mouldy, Iain fixed up the support driver for our Cycling Santas day in Belfast in December ’14 before taking time off his own work to drive the support vehicle (our motor) for Eileidh’s bike ride to Celtic Park the following May. Time spent in Iain’s company is good for the soul.

So that was Friday night taken care of, albeit that the rustiness of the old body made yesterday’s LCFN outing a little more challenging than it might otherwise have been. I should have gone out earlier than I did but some software technical issues with my work (yes, I know it was Saturday, but the job comes first) meant that I didn’t get out of the door till nearly two o’clock, and by then the rain was on. 1C and miserable as sin. But as the Nike advert says “Just Do It”.

So last night Jane and I were back out again, this time in the company of some of the Team Oscar guys and it was just a total reboot of my desire to drive this thing to the max.

Then this morning happened.

I woke to the desperately sad news that wee Layla, a three year old tot from Renfrew near Glasgow, gained her angel wings late last night. I had followed her story from afar, but having been so attached to Eileidh’s Journey for so long, I felt unable to attach to another cause so soon. But it doesn’t ease the pain for anyone: another precious child lost to neuroblastoma, another family devastated by the disease. And as it was with Eileidh, it was the speed of Layla’s passing that struck me the most: Gail commented overnight that the situation was almost identical to Eileidh’s decline at the end. So sad. So, so sad. So today, despite having got to bed at 3am, and despite the wind blowing an absolute hoolie at 4C, I decided that the bike ride needed a right good kick up the arse, and there’s no better place to deliver that than the Fenwick Muir.

I’d to go and pick the motor up after last night. It was parked about seven miles away in Andy Fisher’s drive, but I thought it would be opportune to head from Stewarton to Andy’s gaff by going via Newton Mearns, the Eaglesham Moor and the back of Dunlop. That detour, most of it seemingly into an intolerable biting headwind, added nearly thirty miles onto what should otherwise have been a stroll in the park. Then throw 2,800ft of climbing into the mix. That was one nasty, nasty outing: but the job is done, the miles delivered and the spirit is intact. The first two weeks of January have delivered five hundred miles (and I would ride five hundred more), way way more than any comparative period in the previous four years. Actually five hundred’s a fib: it’s only 496.9 but my legs are claiming the other 3.1 so that’s near enough for me.

You might remember that last week I introduced some new metrics for 2018 to help me keep a focus:

Percentage of days elapsed v percentage of miles towards 10,000 v percentage of climbing towards 500,000ft. The climbing’s in there for one reason: to stop me chasing flat miles at speed. Two weeks in, and the numbers are good:

D: 3.83 v M: 4.97 v C: 5.12

That climbing stat is especially pleasing: 25,000ft in a fortnight when the mercury has barely risen above 2C. Climbing may be hard but descending is absolutely freezing in those conditions. It’s almost three hours since I got off the bike today, and still I’m chilled to the bone, fingers and toes just plain cold, despite the heating being on.

In other news, the Aussie flights are booked, which basically means we now have dates for the bike ride across Australia. The Gold bike will leave the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane on 24th August. The interim target is to be in Sydney, six hundred miles down the road, eight days later: do the maths, it’s 75 a day. That’s the warmup act. The second half will kick off from Sydney on 2nd September, dangling a challenging one thousand further miles to be knocked off before the show arrives in Adelaide on or around the 13th. The asking rate for the second half is up nearer 90 a day which even I know will be a bit of a task: it’s actually one of the reasons I’m keeping my foot hard on the gas just now: endurance, both physical and mental, built up in a Scottish winter, will be worth its weight in gold come the Aussie equivalent in seven months time.

Staying on the Aussie theme, Jimmy Harrington is planning on heading over to Europe in the autumn, and I sincerely hope that Jimbo will be able to find a couple of days to spend north of the border at LCFN HQ. Gonna take him on the Glasgow Central Station tour if it comes off: we’ve never actually done it but people I’ve spoken to say it’s the best tourist attraction in the city.

But finally, this week, back to what this has been about for the last four and a half years. David Begg, he of the ‘greatest football commentator of all time’ tag, asked me about eighteen months ago whether I was going for a second circumnavigation of the earth, having originally set my stall out to try and achieve one. Well yesterday, I was finally able to appraise the great man that I had crossed the rubicon: LCFN is now nearer to 50,000 miles than it is to the original target of 25K.

On top of that, this week has confirmed 98 double hundred weeks and all sorts of things are now on my mind, a thousand miles in January for a start (last January only delivered 458). The weather this coming week is looking horrendous, with snow forecast for Tuesday followed by plummeting temperatures which inevitably means rutted ice everywhere. It would be lovely to carry on bagging the mega miles but needs must where safety is concerned. The most miles in January sits at 960, which happened back in 2016 towards the end of that epic 36 week run of double hundreds before I crashed on black ice and wrecked my thumb. Whatever I can pillage from the next seven days will at least set up the opportunity to attack that total in the following week. Show me a challenge and I’ll show you LCFN.

The weather’s been rubbish, the weather continues to be rubbish and no doubt the weather will be rubbish for weeks to come.

In the bleak midwinter…

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