I want to say upfront that no animals were harmed in the making of this story: only bicycle inner tubes. This was the week that the winter of 17/18 got up close and personal: this was the week that I talked to myself like never before and vowed that this thing was never gonna defeat me: this was the week when I probably appeared (to most folk) to be the biggest fool on the planet, except I knew how to handle it. I am different and I know it.
This is the story of LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma versus The Beast Fae The East.
If you read The Black Bike last week, you’ll know that there are (some) days, when I’d rather be anywhere else than on a bike. I’d had a colossal down day on Thursday of last week but used a mixture of stubborn resilience and past experience to get through it: it’s surprising what you can achieve when you keep heading away from home just to make sure you get the favourable tailwind that you know you’re going to need for the return. That’s how I got through Thursday of last week and kept the 30 miles a day show on the road. Tonight, that run has stretched to forty days.
After I posted The Black Bike, I had a serious shufty at this week’s weather forecast, as I always do at the weekend. The process is always the same: eyeball anything that looks threatening and make a contingency plan to work around it: the objective, as ever, is to bag 200 miles in seven days by whatever means are necessary. The momentum of doing that, week in and week out, is basically what keeps this show on the road: the harder the challenge, the more I’m prepared to fight it. it’s become a mixture of stubbornness and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the face of adversity.
The forecast, as far back as the middle of last week, was for winter to have a sting in the tail. I’d initially called it for last Sunday and felt a bit foolish when the snow didn’t materialise: sometimes when you’re planning a week ahead of yourself, that’s the way it is. But I knew it was coming: the only question was when…
On Monday I went out early, back pockets chock full of bananas and biscuits: this was gonna be a big one. Feck, it was cold, but I knew by looking at Windguru that it was only gonna get worse later in the week. As I headed out towards Symington from Dundonald, into the wind, the sky was dark. As I headed back west to complete the loop, so the snow started. That was just the beginning…
Monday was indeed a big one: 50 miles, the longest run for six months. And it was so, sooooo cold.
Nothing beats a good start, and with the forecast looking grim, whether I liked it or not Tuesday was gonna need to be near enough a repeat. Delivered. When the wind’s blowing a bitter hoolie off the east, which is a rarity round these parts, I would normally head up the A77 and take the pain on the way out: but the problem with that is that the there and back distance to suburban Glasgow isn’t far enough: and there’s hee haw chance of me cycling round the likes of Shawlands just to make up the miles: that’s plain bonkers. The alternative, mentally painful as it is, is to head out west to Irvine as normal, then find whatever shelter is available for the run home. But even by a detourious route, Irvine’s only 10 miles away: so there has to be a middle bit…
But there was a precursor to Wednesday’s adventure: sensing that the weather was eventually going to be sh!t, I’d originally set out on the mountain bike that did miles 2,000 to 10,000 in the winter of 13/14. It’s still sitting with the big fat knobbly tyres that I put to good use in the snow this time last year: at the back of my mind, I knew that the ten year old chugger was good for a slide in the fresh white stuff: been there, done that. But the back wheel punctured just a mile into the ride. “Sod that” I thought, I want miles, not hassle so I rode the flattie back home and swapped bikes: back out on Goldie, this time off the bench as a sub.
I’ve experimented with going over the hill from Dundonald to Loans and the Troon, but on a day when it’s howling from the east, that’s a non-no. The answer, as I’ve discovered by experimentation and plain finding out, is to take the Tarbolton road out the other side of Dundonald and just keep going until it’s time to turn around. That’s what I did on Wednesday, except that as I headed towards Craigie, away from the coast and into the wind, the temperature dropped like a stone: and when it hit -2C into the ferocious blast, the rear (disk) brake froze ON. I’d applied the brakes to make a left hand turn and it was like I’d climbed aboard a turbo trainer. 17 miles fae home and the back brake locked on with three hours of daylight left. Just as well I carry a tool set. The brake shoes are calibrated using an allen key so it was a case of releasing the shoes mechanically and getting home on the front brake alone, not a problem on that route as it’s basically as flat as a pancake. Sh!t happens.
I’d got to within five miles of HQ when the snow came on. There was no danger to my safety as the roads were basically black and dry, and anyway I was lit up like a Christmas tree. It was just the wind: blowing at a mean 20mph and gusting to 30, straight into, temperature -2C, plus the wind chill. Horrible.
As you’re reading this this, you need to consider the perspective: ten winter weeks of 200+ miles and I had every intention of making this eleven. There have only been eleven or more (in a row) twice, and one of those ended on eleven. I have every intention of this one becoming twelve, thirteen and onwards…
Wednesday ended on 124.
We had a load of snow on Wednesday night, but a reconnaissance photo sent to me on Thursday morning by Eleanor, one of our trusty supporters, showed black roads in Irvine. All I had to do was get out of Stewarton and onto the good stuff: having fixed the puncture, I took the mountain bike out again. Same basic route: west to Irvine with the wind behind, south to Dundonald then east towards Symington (more bitter than Ansell’s) I got to 17 then turned around, knowing full well that I planned to use the (shorter) Dreghorn-Killie bike path on the way home. Little did I know that the farmers had been out and that for a mile of the route east of Springside, the path was covered in thorns. I got off and walked (and yes, I counted that mile).
I ended last night on 155: two hundred as good as in the bag.
If the previous days were cold, today was colder. The biting easterly was ripping through at 30mph and because I was more than a little bit concerned, I actually told Jane precisely (more or less) where I was going. Most of the time I make it up on the hoof, but today was not a day for doing that. Out to Kilwinning at record pace (16.8mph is bloody fast for me), I hung a sheltered loop round Eglington Park before heading back towards Irvine via Benslie: and it was there I picked up a thorn twig. I was aware of it because it was caught in the front mudguard. It was only rattling for ten yards before I removed it and I thought I’d got away with it…
No: the damage was done.
Two miles further down the road, literally at the back of Ross n Stacey’s gaff in Lawthorn (the northern bit on the edge of Irvine), I felt that sinking feeling: a bouncy wheel. I phoned Ross but he wasn’t at home: apparently his snow holiday hadn’t been extended to a second day so he was at work. There was no alternative: get the gloves off, get the wheel off and fix it at the roadside: -2C and three hours of daylight left. By the time I got the tyre off and the old tube out, I couldn’t feel my fingers, which is probably why I (also) couldn’t feel the 0.5mm of thorn sat lodged on the inside casing of the tyre. Got the tyre back on, pumped up the tube and within five minutes it was flat again. I know this game, I’ve been there before, but this was no time for messing about: for a start it was way too cold, and for seconders, I was racing against the light.
I set off to get home by the quietest route, knowing full well that I’d be riding at around 10mph on a flat tyre. And I wanted 30 miles for the day to keep the momentum going so I had to factor in an extra mile just to make that more than just a possibility. In reality, it was always going to happen, it’s the way I am.
Yes, I got the bike home in one piece, and yes I got the miles done.
I could feel my fingers again by the time I got home, but now the nails on both thumbs are really, really sore from trying to get the tyre back on by hand, and big hack has opened on my left thumb: that’s the cold being nasty to me.
But tonight I’m sitting on 185.
The eleventh 200 in a row is as much a certainty as Sevco’s administration: there’s a chance it still may not happen but the bookies know the score.
As I said way back at the beginning, this was the week that LCFN got up close and personal…
With The Beast Fae The East.