LifeCycle Challenge


Every Sunday found Alan Curry gives his thoughts and insights to the whole team on how things are going so far. They give a personal look into the workings of this Foundation that has been going for 19 Years and we have collected all those written for this years Foster Clark’s LifeCycle Challenge ‘On The Tribal Trail’ hereunder. We hope you enjoy them!

Sunday Write-Up 13

June 17th 2017

So here goes with a few questions that need answering.

How many challenges ?

This is Life Cycle’s 19th challenge. Under the circumstances that’s quite remarkable especially when you consider that there are 1,400 other registered charities on this tiny island fighting over the same piece of meat. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think any of the major charities have been continuously running as long?


For those who’ve never been, you’re in for a wonderful surprise. Don’t judge too early because by all accounts, Nairobi is like many cities, an overcrowded eyesore.

When you wake up to an African sunrise and watch an African sunset as you sit by a blazing campfire you’ll realize that your life has been missing something. When you see such natural beauty and see so many smiling genuine people with so little in the way of material things, you then come to the conclusion, we in the west may just have gotten it wrong.

Title Sponsor?

Foster Clark’s are this year’s title sponsor and we welcome them on board. This is their first year with us and we have to treat them like royalty because in today’s climate, a sponsor of such standing in both the local and world market is like gold dust. Hopefully they will be with us for years to come?


It has no relevance whether there’s 60 participants or 12 like this year. The real issue is the amount of money raised. Obviously with more participants you would expect more but we as a smaller group just have to work harder and realize that the money raising never stops.


When asked before the first challenge in 1999 how I saw Life Cycle developing I remember stating that “there were no limits”, and nothing has happened since to change my perception. I really believe we can keep going and creating exciting events and challenges. Of course some are remembered more than others but that’s always the case. The secret is not to lose the faith. This is an event that can only get stronger if we look to market it right because it appeals to both the media and sponsors alike as well as the adventurers amongst us.

Rides and Meetings

The whole idea of the Sunday ride is to bring you together as a team. To ride as a group and socialize in order to get to know one another. If we know one another there will hopefully be more respect and thus less potential for any animosity on route. By all means do a long ride on a Saturday but don’t think that’s a reason to miss Sunday?? The meetings are there to bring you together also and keep you informed as to what’s happening with regards the trip itself whether it be visas, inoculations, flights or whatever we need to be 100

Procedure for absentees?

Firstly , iif you are canceling then I expect an SMS.

As we used to say in the military, if you’re an hour late, you have an excuse, if you’re 5 minutes late, it’s both bad planning and the sign of a disorganized person. Bear that in mind because nothing winds me up more than people being late. If you’re still coming late then you’re going to be a huge burden over there and you will be nothing more than an aggravation to everyone else.

Team in general?

To say I’m over the moon with the type of people we are now attracting on Life Cycle says it all, and confirms that a disciplined regime works. Lovely group and as I said at the start, better to have quality rather than quantity. Hopefully you’ll all prove that you are lovely people and you won’t let yourself down the moment something goes wrong which it inevitably will?

Sunday Write-Up 12

June 6th 2017

So there You are in some one horse town in a large sports hall used for ……well not sure to be honest?  “Badger baiting” or something equally alarming as its basic facilities to say the least. Its just turned 3am and its pitch black. You’re desperate to get back to sleep because in half an hour you know that all hell will break out as the Support team do the early morning wake up cry. You’ve  been disturbed a number of times during the night what with your dodgy inflatable mattress going down just enough to touch your tender behind on the concrete floor and then that bloody mosquito bite on your ankle. After half an hour scratching (which hero was it said don’t scratch!!), you were then woken by firstly the snorer, then that bloke who is either incontinent or is nervous someone nicked his new Bianchi? Every bloody five minutes he was up doing something, bastard!!!!

Of course they told you back in May not to expect 5 Star but no one warned you of the anti social behaviour of some of these morons! There was that incident yesterday when “Madam” freaked out with the lead vehicle as she’d missed a sign and ended up getting chased by some creature With nasty pointed incisors. Silly cow should have read her route card or was she too busy doing her finger nails? Then there was that Neanderthal man who complained that he had to ride in the dark! He was told to buy good lights but he was full of himself in Malta so why am I surprised? If he does get lost I hope he endsup in bloody Angola!

Then there’s Mr Happy who at first was good for morale but has now got one of those faces you’d never tire of kicking. Mates? Well there were a couple in Malta I cycled with but it was clear that one thinks it’s a race and the other moans about everything. You’re sure if the Risen Lord appeared on the outskirts of Arusha he’d probably respond by saying “Where the hell have you been?” The cooks are too bloody happy smiley by far and that “Physio terrorist” should be done under the Geneva Convention for what he calls massage! The quiet bloke has become your companion, the one  youthought was strange. He just does what he has to, doesn’t stress out and rides sensible although his nervous blink is starting to irritate you  A bit of ya hero to be honest as he’s kept you going. There’s been moments when You’ve been lower than a Basset hounds testicles yet other times You’ve been inspired to almost tears of joy. The joker of the pack lost his care free aura after the first day and his “real character” description was lost on that first climb. “Suicide Sid” would be a more apt description nowadays. Git!!

I’ve kept it together so far and surprised myself to be honest. There was the Initial shock to the system of the first 3 days and the suitcase incident but I know I’ll make it now as long as this right knee holds out.

It’s now 3.25am I didn’t get back to sleep and that blokes up again! First a trip to the toilet before all hell breaks loose then it’s breakfast with toast, jam, nuttella and cereal. Let’s hope that boring bloke doesn’t sit next to me again who talks with his mouth full of porridge, (I swear I’ll kill him) or the bloke who smells like a cat litter.

“WAKEY, WAKEY!!” (Sound of Support team’s dulcid tones)

The clock is now reading 3.30 I didn’t get back to sleep and I now have the prospect of 225km on a bike with my body already feeling like its been dragged from a car crash

Ah well here goes, just 3 days to go and back to reality, whatever that is? Think of the patients they keep telling me but I’m afraid it doesn’t work. This is about me and self survival, the patients come later….

Sleep well


Sunday Write-Up 11

May 28th 2017

So I was asked to comprise a check list of what to take on Life Cycle? I know there’s one out there but here’s my own version?

  1. Look “cool” at the airport but bear in mind where you’re going and what you’ll be doing? The Foster Clark’s  team t shirt is mandatory for traveling. Cyclists will be given two whilst Support team will have four. Hopefully with all the weight you’ve lost, these will look oversized and baggy?
  2. A pair of loose fitting trousers such as stretch jeans/trousers or tracksuit bottoms are best suited as you’ll be on a plane for 12 hours each way and a change pair is advisable so that when you spill that glass of red wine on the sunset cruise it doesn’t frighten your loved ones that you’ve seriously maimed your “nether regions?”
  3. Underwear is essential but remember you’re not wearing them for the ride so 4 pairs would be minimal. You can always throw them against a wall and if they don’t stick you can wear them again!!!!
  4. Shorts? Too risky with my pasty legs for casual shorts but cycling shorts I’d advise two pairs. Mosquitoes and red ants also put me off this form of clothing.
  5. Socks? See above but two pairs of cycling socks should be enough. I prefer the short version although research is suggesting a case for longer football style to help circulation issues.
  6. Cycling tops will be provided and they will be the official Foster Clark’s. You will have two shirts for Kenya and two for Tanzania owing to the different Foster Clark’s sponsor. Don’t dare wear the wrong one as you will feel the full wrath of the committee descend upon you???
  7. Everyone will be supplied with an official rain jacket. Nothing else will be accepted so don’t bother bringing anything else.
  8. Your helmet and a bandana or buff to stop bald heads like mine getting burned are essential and a secondary bandana or buff will be useful in dusty conditions to cover your nose and mouths. Other headwear could be useful for our time off in Dar Es Salaam where temperatures and exposure will be a danger to unprotected “crowns”.
  9. A couple of t shirts may be an option on your days off whilst apart from your cycling shoes, a pair of casuals or training shoes will be a welcome relief once finished.
  10. Talking of shoes I highly recommend those full beach shoes which people wear for protection on the rocks. They are a godsend on the campsites and much more practical as well as being safer in and around the campsite.
  11. Sunglasses are essential as are arm warmers for the cold mornings or if you do happen to get sunburn on the arms. The same could be said for leg warmers however I chose “longs” last year and removed them at the first checkpoint once the sun came out.
  12. For the same reasons long fingered gloves should be taken as well as at least one pair of fingerless? My fingerless were destroyed by the end of the challenge so I may take an extra pair this year.
  13. Sun tan cream or spray, mosquito repellent and a very basic first aid kit consisting of antiseptic spray, plasters and a bandage are essential.
  14. Bathroom essentials are as follows. a) toothpaste b) toothbrush c) shower gel d) towel (check Amazon for the chamois type?) e) Shaving foam and razor if like me you look a complete git with grey whiskers!!! f) Deodorant unless you wish to smell like a farmyard for 2 weeks. g) Aftershave? Well for me I have to take but up to you?
  15. Wet wipes!! Oh yes, essential!! I got the dettol ones which acted as a wipe for cuts, bruises, bites and toilet duties???
  16. A head torch for the campsite is a godsend so get one.
  17. Sleeping bag. Mine was okay until temperature dropped. I then found the blanket which I had “inadvertently acquired” from the plane was a life saver. This year I am buying an “emergency inner” foil blanket from Pavi/Pama supermarket which cost €5.
  18. Coat hanger?? Oh you can laugh but it was priceless to hang your kit in the tent and either air it or dry it. Also saved you scrambling about looking for your shirt and cycling shorts in the morning.
  19. Washing powder, washing line and pegs are essential but check who’s taken lines as we won’t all need.
  20. Small pillow.
  21. Bike!!!! Thought I’d forgotten?
  22. Can of lubricant
  23. Small brush to remove dust from your bike chain and moving parts.
  24. Spare spokes and a chain if you feel the need but half a dozen spare tubes might be a life saver?
  25. Small pump and a repair kit in case you run out of tubes plus your speedometer or Garmin.
  26. At least two water bottles but would advise three in case you lose one or its hotter than you thought? Some electrolyte/energy sachet may be useful too.
  27. Mobile phone. Recharger plus an external or solar battery.
  28. Money? You need nothing apart from at the finish but I would still work on €10 per day minimum just in case. As for the excursions at the end, you’ll know the costs before you leave. Dollars seem to be the most convenient currency however a small amount of local currency may come in handy?
  29. Visa cards should be taken just in case but hopefully you won’t need them.
  30. Passports? Make sure you have them and they should have at least 6 months before expiry if I’m not mistaken so check.
  31. Visas? You need them but we’re looking into whether we can get them altogether before leaving.
  32. Strong legs and fitness? Essential for an extreme challenge.
  33. Ideal body weight? See above. If you want to carry 5/10/15kg up Kilimanjaro then you’re a braver man than me.
  34. Strong physique and core. Secondary injuries are still the most common reason to stop you completing this challenge so be warned.
  35. Prepare for the unexpected, it’ll pop up from time to time and you need to be ready.
  36. Last but not least leave your egos behind and smile, you never know you may just love the experience????????

Sunday Write-Up 10

May 21st 2017

It’s been an early start this morning, in fact by 05:30 you were already on the road. The temperature was showing 2 degrees on the Garmin and it wasn’t until the first checkpoint that you were able to remove the gloves, the longs and the jacket. It is now almost 12 hours later and you’ve just left the last checkpoint. Although it’s still hot you’ve decided to leave the jacket on as the temperature will plummet within the next hour and you may not see the Support team van for some time. There’s two cyclists behind you but you’re on your own as two punctures have left you stranded between the two groups. That 220 km seemed daunting at the start of the day but now it’s even more so as those secondary injuries are now a concern. The numb fingers and saddle sores are a daily hindrance but the stiff neck is causing you some considerable discomfort and effectively is changing your riding position as you try and sit up straighter to ease the pain. As you leave the checkpoint you notice the sun starting to set and you know you’re therefore heading west and once more into unknown bush area. The road is compressed soil and although rideable is creating concern because you know your concentration levels will diminish once dusk arrives and your sugars are reduced.

Another friendly wave from a local at the roadside keeps you focused and reminds you that this is Africa. Yes Africa, it’s amazing to think you’re actually cycling on this incredible continent and the realization of the extremity of the challenge again grips your inner soul. The legs are tired but that’s no longer a concern. You focus on the stories you can relive for years to come and try and forget the foolish fear you’re experiencing here and now?

You were assured that there was less than a 1% chance of coming across a classified “dangerous” animal but what if? Then there’s the locals? Everyone said they were friendly but that friend of yours had sent that article on hi jacking late at nights. What if? Pull yourself together for goodness sake as you honk up yet another short sharp hill. That feeling of lactic acid keeps you focused and you then try and switch your mind onto things back home. There’s that bloody outstanding Vodafone bill which you forgot to pay.  Imagine if they cut you off??? No phone, no contact??? Aaaggghhh get a grip!

All those friends and family back home, will you be a concern to them at this moment? Will they be giving a second thought to your predicament? I doubt it. No doubt they’ll be enjoying an evening in front of tv or out enjoying themselves eating in some chic restaurant and enjoying the cool Maltese evening air. Your lactic fueled legs and stiff neck will not be on their agenda although in the perfect world it should be. You’re dong this for those less fortunate but will they care what’s happening? Will the patients or their families be having sleepless nights over your demise? Not a second bloody thought!! Will the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition, President or Archbishop be giving a second thought? As if!!!!

A small woman with a stick wanders along the path which leads up to the side of the road as you approach. I hope she isn’t going to hit you with that?? Oh for goodness sake get a grip!! Listen to yourself??? More children waving, another wiry bloke riding a rickety old bike as the sun is now going down and you resist the temptation to switch on your lights as a form of denial to the arrival of the dark. Why bother? There’s no vehicles on this stretch, nothing to hit and your night vision up to now is coping so let’s delay that introduction of artificial light as it would almost ruin the moment.

Africa!!! You scream out loud to break the silence and an incredible feeling of togetherness overcomes your senses as you realize just what you’re doing.

It’s now almost 7pm and just as you’re starting to lose the plot, you finally see the Support team standing at an entrance to what must be the overnight campsite.  You’ve succumbed to lights and your Garmin reads 219km. You haven’t been kidnapped, chased by lions or hit with a shitty stick by an octogenarian. In fact it’s been uneventful but beautiful. No, it’s been better than that it’s been memorable.

An appreciative round of applause greets you and a sense of relief is overwhelming. This was day 5 and you’re halfway to your dream but you need to stretch and see about your neck. Those legs are hammered too and then there’s the numb fingers and saddle sores, but first things first. Stretch, eat and that cup of coffee by the camp fire wrapped in your Maasai blanket. Priceless!!! Absolutely bloody priceless!!!!

As I said, this is Africa and you’ll love it!!

Sunday Write-Up 9

May 14th 2017

We sat in my parent’s living room the morning after completing the first Life Cycle. It was 17th September 1999 and Hobnobs and Rington’s tea were the order of the day as we looked over the maps and recounted exactly what we had achieved. All morning we were getting phone calls from Malta telling us how much we’d raised and the coverage we’d received in the media. There was no turning back, how could you? There we were raising thousands for patients needs so how could we just walk away? No choice but to continue and the planning for the following trip commenced on that day in that living room.

Same old questions keep cropping up “Why the large distances?” “Why go abroad”? “Too much emphasis on the event, not enough on the patients” I am sick and tired of justifying this wonderful challenge, because that’s what it is and if people can’t see it then I’m wasting my breath. Look in the renal unit and see what we’ve done. Ask the renal staff, the patients and their families? Ask them if they think we’re doing a decent job? Do you really think we would still be going after 19 years if we’d have done the event in Malta?

Committee members have come and gone and some never understood the fundamentals, could not see the bigger picture and were too quick to look for the exit door when things didn’t suit. The general public respond but is it enough? I’ll leave that for you to decide? Doctors, cyclists and even the clergy have had harsh words for us at times for varying reasons. Why? Because many have been found out by the extremity of it all. It’s not for the meek and there have been many egos shattered but to criticize leaves me baffled.

“Let’s get Ira, Glen Vella and Chiara on stage, heat up the pastizzi and have a phone in?” “Let’s get the dancers leaping about, wheel out the politicians and the celebrities on the phone lines and off we go. All false smiles, make overs and ego trips. Over my dead body!! Selling your soul and the whole thing stinks. Life Cycle has survived for so long because it’s both unique and because it appeals to a certain mentality, simple.

We’ve been copied and pasted. It feels like rape but we have to live with it and “up the Monty” as they say. We’ve done that and Life Cycle will go to the next level because we can. Am I bitter? Damn right I am.

There are apparently 1,300 plus registered charities on the island all going for the same available funds. We are the only charity raising money for renal patients but that doesn’t make it any easier as the years go by. Think “outside the box” because the days of companies just handing over cheque are gone. Events are the answer but you’re going to have to put your thinking caps on?

A marathon is a 26.2 mile run, nothing more nothing less. A “Maratona” is a Maltese word supposedly meaning the same but does it? “Hairdressing Maratona”, “Football Maratona”, even bloody “Car wash Maratona”. Don’t dare come to me and mention anything other than a 26.2 mile run when you use the word.

This is “tribal”, we are in this together. Next time some “muppet” starts preaching on what we should do or how it should be run then you have my blessing on pointing out the positives, the improvements, the incredible camaraderie and sacrifice we all make. As I say it’s tribal and we stick together and fight your corner.

When you’re stood in the airport on the 14th July waiting to leave and ex Life Cyclists turn up to wish you well, you’ll realize that this event has affected the lives of so many people other than the patients. It’s then that you will hopefully begin to realize just what this is all about. The politicians, media and clergy may manage to drag themselves from their “busy schedules” to wish you a hearty farewell but only those who have experienced the challenge really understand what awaits you.

Sunday Write-Up 8

May 8th 2017

  1. If you’re still in the team then you’ve probably past the point of no return and will do this year’s challenge.
  2. Don’t do too much too soon
  3. Don’t do too little to late
  4. Pace kills you not distance
  5. As they used to tell us in the military, when you feel you’ve nothing left, you’ve still got 30% of your total energy to give.
  6. During training, climb when you’re tired as it will test your mental strength.
  7. In 1939 Tommy Godwin cycled 75,065 miles(125,108km) in one year averaging over 200 miles (333km) per day. He still holds the year record as Guinness deemed the challenge too dangerous to continue. And you think you’ve got a challenge??????
  8. Don’t cycle with headphones on listening to music as it’s both dangerous due to not being able to hear traffic as well as being a distraction from the need to train your mind.
  9. Learn to be lonely as there will be days when you’re on your own in a strange place and you’ll feel vulnerable. Learn to cope with that feeling.
  10. Stretch at every opportunity it’s so important to avoid injuries.
  11. Fat does not make you fat, sugar makes you fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram while Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram. Eat fat for energy  but make sure it’s natural saturated fat and eat carbs too but don’t overdo them otherwise you’ll end up putting on weight.
  12. No good spending a fortune on a light bike when you’re 5-10kg overweight? Do your maths!!
  13. Protein is essential for muscles to repair and develop make sure you’re getting enough 1.8g per kg) but preferably from natural sources rather than shakes which contain sweeteners and additives.
  14. The moment you arrive in Africa, take it all in, the sights, sounds and smells because it may be your only chance to experience this incredible continent.
  15. Don’t be a miserable bastard no matter what the circumstances because it’s a well known fact which your parents should have told you, that no one likes a miserable bastard?
  16. Smile it costs nothing
  17. Keep focusing on why you’re doing this event.
  18. Remember your worst day on a bike is still better than a patient’s best day on dialysis.
  19. At the end of the day get in the shower with your cycling kit on. It will not only minimize the cold but you can wash the kit while showering and thus save time.
  20. Drink a large glass of water in the morning, during meals and last thing at night. It helps your metabolism, gives energy, boosts the immune system and rids the body of toxins.
  21. Drink every 30 minutes whilst riding even if you’re not thirsty as dehydration once set in will finish you
  22. Keep in touch with loved ones back home at least every other day so they know how you are. They may not like to admit it but they’ll worry about you so that message or one minute call will make all the difference.
  23. Treat the Support team with absolute respect with words some of you may have forgotten at times such as “Please” and “Thank you”
  24. When you go into the bush to relieve yourself and something rustles don’t wait to find out what it is just get the hell out of there.
  25. Finally remember the old saying “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going”

Sunday Write-Up 7

April 30th 2017

“Ego” is defined as an exaggerated sense of self importance? It’s an interesting one? Where does self confidence end and ego begin? Of course most of us in the public eye can be accused of having an ego. You could argue that certain jobs demand an ego? Politicians? Actors? Sports persons? It’s a difficult one as it’s a very fine line.
I always remember the rush of adrenalin the first time I was interviewed on TV. There I was, the focus of attention with cameras rolling, lights shining and the microphone pushed under my nose. Who wouldn’t enjoy it? I was meeting the President of Malta, politicians and some of the leading TV people as well as business people, all of whom wanted to meet the “founder of Life Cycle”. I was a hero in my own tea break, who wouldn’t have an ego? But here’s the thing, I found I didn’t enjoy it? I never enjoyed doing “small talk” with anyone, let alone to thousands of strangers who may have tuned in. I hated discussing my wife’s condition, not because I was being naive as to the impact it would have to raising awareness but because there’s this part of me that detests people trying to grab the sympathy vote.
Then however comes the contradiction, my job? If you self analyse you have to enjoy the performance of teaching or coaching if you are to be in the fitness industry and if you’re not overly confident it could be argued you won’t manage? Again a fine line but one I hope I manage to stay on the right side of?
Life Cycle has and always will attracted a full cocktail of personalities. Some honestly admit to doing the challenge for their own personal development. No harm in that because as I’ve said before, the end result is still the same. Others tell you that they are taking part because of some social conscience. They talk at great length about the desire to help those less fortunate and to be honest it’s always very admirable to hear. There is no consistent trait as to which of these types makes the best Life Cyclist but one things for certain you won’t know till you’re engrossed in the event. “Believing in the event” is a claim? A claim to “understand what the patients go through” is another? Impressive but who really cares? Who are we trying to impress? Friends? Family? The general public? Quotes from Gandhi, Buddha, Confucius or Mark Twain may impress your Facebook following but ultimately all we want from you is to play by the rules, do what you’re meant to do without the drama and raise the money. We create the ground rules for an incredible event. We tell it as it is, not as some sugary event which gives you the wrong impression. We admit it’s for a niche market and won’t suit everyone. We tell you to walk tall but try and rid you of an ego as the bigger picture is far greater than any one individual. We do our utmost to please but are always likely to fall short with certain individuals.
If by good luck rather than judgement we bump into each other socially after the event and we’re still speaking then that’s a bonus, if not then that’s life……or maybe a dented ego?

Sunday Write-Up 6

April 23rd 2017

I don’t  know the medical term for it but it’s that empty hollow feeling in your stomach? It’s that huge black cloud that suddenly engulfs you at 4 in the morning when you get out of bed? The feeling that seems to start at the pit of your stomach before grasping your head and dragging you down into the depths?
I’m lucky, I’ve never suffered from depression in any shape or form yet for a brief few seconds every morning I get a reminder of what it’s all about. I remember that feeling on Life Cycle too and often in the morning when you first wake and you have 15 -20 people to say morning to with a false smile. I would take my bowl of cereal and coffee outside, where I would find a wall to park my backside and contemplate what was happening and there it was, that internal slap. Homesickness had a part to play but it went deeper than that. It was all about the emotional roller coaster we had all undergone over the weeks since we signed up to do this incredible challenge. The feeling, luckily didn’t last long but it was consistent throughout the period. Was it self doubt? Was it fear? I can’t say it was ever one particular thing but it would rear it’s ugly head and annoy me how it would affect my mood for that brief instant.
Late at night was another particular tough time when you may find yourself on your own on the bike or in a vehicle following the last cyclist and that evening light was starting to fill the sky and the sun would soon be a distant memory for the day. You felt the whole world had forgotten about you and were going about their normal lives. They were at home socialising and you could almost hear their cheerful tones while you were here in the middle of nowhere trying to convince yourself there is a purpose to all this. The questions you asked yourself during those moments would cause you to analyse this whole event.  Of course you cursed yourself for falling short in your own mental self assessment but it was too late. Two hours later when you rode into base camp the old bravado would return and you were back on route both physically and mentally.
When I look back to those moments and really assess what those feelings were , they were more to do with guilt that I had spent so many hours on the bike and on meetings when I could have been doing something else. I could have been with loved ones , with friends, travelling in a more relaxed setting or concentrating on my career. When you travel through a country like we do you see so much more. When you go through the highs and lows with people in such an intense Enviroment something good has to develop and of course it does. The self doubt, insecurity and misery will never be far away but the incredible highs will quickly erase those memories.
There will be moments on the bike when you really do wonder but hopefully what you see will be stored in your “memory bank” and you will remind yourself what this adventure is really all about. Of course it won’t make you climb faster and it won’t null the pain of those saddle sores. It won’t stop the frustration at times and it certainly can’t avoid the wave of blackness which I described, that overcomes you at times. One thing, however it will do is that it will put everything into perspective because as someone once said “Your worst day on a bike will still be better than their best day on dialysis!”

Sunday Write-Up 5

April 16th 2017

    1. Bike – Definitely top priority but what kind? Carbon fiber? Aluminium? Bianchi? Giant? Large frame, small frame? Blue, red???? Front suspension should be lockable when not in use, disc brakes, 27 gears and make damn sure it’s the right frame size? Do you go for 26,27.5 or 29 wheel sizes? One things for sure, it’s pointless buying a €3,000 bike weighing 11kg if you’re 10 kg over weight so bear that in mind.
    2. Shorts/Bib shorts – Don’t go cheap otherwise you’ll have a posterior like a blood orange.
    3. Shoes – one pair should be enough but take some strong tape just in case they split and try them several times before you leave as there’s nothing worse than “hot spots” in your toes because of ill fitting footwear.
    4. Cleats – in my opinion are essential but make sure they’re set right. Remember once set in place, it means that the biomechanics of your leg are defined. Get the position wrong and injury will undoubtedly occur.
    5. Helmet – again, don’t go cheap as it will be on your head for an average of 8-10 hours per day. Also ideal for head butting confrontational gorillas.
    6. Gloves – must be well gelled to prevent nerve damage. Move your hands around on the handlebars to prevent numbness but spending a little more will help greatly.
    7. Sunglasses- apart from looking cool they will protect the eyes from dust and more importantly flying insects.
    8. Lights- I got some excellent front and rear lights from Sports direct but you need them as there will be little or no street lighting over there and you need to be able to spot a rhino from 50 meters at least!!
    9. Tool kit – a set of alen keys and some tyre levers are the basics even for the non mechanical amongst us whilst a couple of spare spokes a small brush and a can of lube are also basic needs.
10. First aid kit – small antiseptic spray, sticking plasters, a roll of bandage and a box of pain killers are essential but I also take a tub of Vic rub as it comes in handy if you catch a cold and it helps deter mosquitoes???
11. Wash items – small bottle of shower gel, flannel in case it’s too cold to jump under the shower, although I used my buff last year and your toothpaste and brush. Don’t bring a large traditional towel but instead buy one of those chamois towels which have become so popular and are ideal for camping. Some shower shoes are also essential for not only taking your shower but also for wandering around the campsite in case of large man eating dung beetles.
12. KFS – Knife, Fork, Spoon and a mug. You can get your KFS in one of those foldable type Swiss Army contraptions. The knife will also come in handy whilst wrestling crocodiles
13. Sun tan cream – if like me you get tanned under torchlight then you need to cover up well. Factor 50 has always worked well for me on my thighs but Factor 30 is normally enough for my arms. Remember to keep reapplying at checkpoints. A buff around your neck prevents sunburn on the back of your neck which in turn can cause secondary sickness. “Roll up sleeves” are in my mind essential a) for the extremely cold mornings and b) to protect the arms if it gets too hot. Nothing worse than sunburn so go prepared.
14. Insect repellent- most of us in Zambia used it only in the evening but got caught out on route in the bush when we hit an area of tsetse flies which land on your shorts and bite. Carrying your spray canister in your back pocket and spraying your shorts may help to prevent such occurrences?
15. Underwear – I’ve worked it out you need 4 pairs? One each way to travel, and two for your days off. You don’t really need them on remaining days on the bike as they rub under the Cycle shorts and will cause abrasions. The golden rule is throw them against a wall and as long as they don’t stick, then wear them again!!!!
16. Lip balm – as I found last year, an essential item as I had a very sore mouth for the last week and looked like I’d gone 12 rounds with Floyd Mayweather.
Other essential items to bring –
1. A sense of humour? If you haven’t got one then find one quick as there’s nothing worse than a miserable bastard who can’t see the funny side of life. As they used to say in my military days “If you can’t take a joke then you shouldn’t have joined?”
2. A great deal of patience is needed as every single human trait will be on show from, slurping soup, snoring and sarcasm…..and that’s only me!!!
3. A sense of romance? This is Africa guys and if you don’t fall in love with the place and it’s people you’ve probably missed the point and should have stuck to Europe.
4. A sense of organisation. You need to get “your s*** together” as our American cousins so eloquently put it. That means both in and around the campsite so you not only keep your essentials nearby and not lose them but also don’t disturb the entire team when you end up searching for stuff late at night or in the morning.
5. A large bible or a copy of “Dhammapada” may not serve much purpose in giving you spiritual guidance but it will come in handy for killing those armies of red ants when you wake up  in the middle of the night.


Sunday Write-Up 4

April 9th 2017

Words such as “sprocket”, “Lycra”, “spokes” and “cleats” are now a part of your vocabulary. Mentioning “sartorius”, “periformis” and “gluteus Maximus” muscles” in polite company has become the norm and your family and friends are becoming increasingly irritated by your constant reference to anything regarding cycling. Falling asleep in front of the TV is now part and parcel of Sunday evenings and reference to your posterior and “nether regions” in front of your in laws, cousins and work colleagues is bordering on the embarrassment. Your friends no longer invite you to weddings and social occasions and associates and work colleagues hide in supermarket aisles so as to avoid striking up a conversation which they know will inevitably turn to Africa, insect repellents, Tsetse flies, dung beetles and the dangers of the black mamba!!
Talking of trips to the supermarket also means your normal 20 minutes looking over Pavi’s camping equipment. Emergency foil sleeping bags, head lights and detol wet wipes are essentials of course but small washing liquid a hand flannel and your mosquito deterrent spray add to the expense that such a trip inevitably comes to.
You’re just starting to question your reasons for doing this? We’re only 4 weeks into the training and already the pressure is on. The talk on Friday by James Muscat of the Transplant Support Group is inspiring but is it enough to drive you on? Deep down of course the thrill of Africa is keeping you focused but that’s 3 months away and even though you’re being told it’s a “life changer” you just can’t focus that far ahead while you’re posterior is starting to resemble something on a butchers counter?
Of course next week you’ll be in the bike shop buying your new MTB shoes, your gelled gloves and some ultra cool Oakley sunglasses. You’ll be at the Floriana Polyclinic getting your first injections, you’ll get another breakthrough with the sponsors and you’ll delve onto the Kenya tourism website and purchase the required visa. You’ll also start to feel those legs getting stronger, your sessions will quickly start to improve and the change in your general physique becomes noticeable.
Of course it’s still not too late to change your mind but imagine the feeling of never knowing whether you could have done it? Imagine how you’ll feel seeing the group leave in July and imagine how you’ll feel getting invited back to those social gatherings and having to explain your reasons, and not being able to tell them tales of Africa, insect repellents, Tsetse flies, dung beetles and the dangers of the black mamba!!
Sunday Write-Up 3
April 2nd 2017
The date Saturday 15th July 2017,the time 9:10am, the place Nairobi, Kenya. You’re lying in a room with 5 other people and you are wide awake. Your senses are on red alert and you are in almost a state of shock as you realize you’re finally here. For all your adult life you’ve wondered what Africa is all about, you’ve had visions of dusty landscapes and wildlife in abundance, smiling locals with nothing to give but compassion. You’d imagined the sounds and smells and had concerns over insects and loose bowels yet here you are in a room with sounds of heavy breathing and one annoying snore? There’s a window at the far end of the room which you are eager to confront and see your surroundings but as the plan was to wake at noon and start preparing the bikes, you’re concerned that to wriggle out of your sleeping bag and climb over this prone set of comatose bodies may upset the serenity.
It’s been an exciting 24 hours. Malta airport was its usual confusion with the goodbyes and photo opportunities but the flight was a marvelous experience. The luxury of Turkish airlines, the banter between the group and the stopover at Istanbul were all something for the memory bank. Happy, smiling faces for now but how long will it last? Africa, and more importantly Life Cycle will test even the strongest character but you’re optimistic as all the signs are good.
You arrived in Nairobi at 02:30 this morning. It was surprisingly cold when you stepped off the plane but it was such an amazing feeling knowing you’d arrived. Even the arrivals queue was an experience as we gave our passports and visas. Strange looking tourists with youths sporting yoga style pants and elderly gentlemen with straw hats and cream chinos. Our white faces were like spots on a domino compared to the locals and it somehow felt like justice that we were the minority race. A frenzied identification of luggages on the conveyor belt and then the relief of seeing our bikes had arrived was then followed by our first meeting with or host and “the team”. Onto the bus, or should I say buses as we quickly loaded our belongings, then like school children, jostled to be with your chosen few? As if it mattered but it becomes instinctive to want to experience each scenario with those you have identified as your “mates’.
By the time you’d arrived at the lodge, gathered your stuff and been allocated your room, it was already nearly 4:00am and now here you are in the light of day trying to come to terms with your surrounds?
There’s noises outside? Just noises, no voices but there’s definitely life? Your bladder has decided that’s enough “shut eye” and it’s time to rise. That window has become increasingly tempting and as you unzip your sleeping bag and gently get to your feet you now plan a route to see through the glass. You immediately identify the snorer as you step over two of the human obstacles and can see one other who is on his mobile and catches your eye. An acknowledgement of each others presence is confirmed with a nod of the head but no words spoken. You finally reach the window and excitedly look outside? There it is, Africa!!! Kenya, to be more accurate, but Africa, yes Africa. Trees, birds and a bright clear sky. You’re actually here, you’ve made it, there’s no turning back. With 5 months of training now history you are finally going to be set free in this incredible environment. It’ll be like a bird released from a cage. As you stare out into your new surrounds, the snoring stops and a grunt takes its place, followed by a noisy stretch  “What’s the weather like?”, comes the curious question? Are you serious? This is bloody Africa, is this persons romantic dreams of this great continent not been on the same page? “What’s the weather like?” Is your reply followed by your first, but certainly not your last sarcastic response of the trip, “its pissing down, absolutely pissing down!!!!”Life Cycle 2017 is about to begin.
Sunday Write-Up 2
26th March 2017
This whole bloody Life Cycle is doing my head in!! I love it!!
 I was out of it for a while and convinced myself I needed a break, but in reality it wasn’t the event I needed a break from, it was pressure from both work and at home as well as a small minority of “pond life” who over the years had tried their best to make things difficult. “It’s only a bike ride after all said and done” but I was having to put my diplomatic hat on too often for my liking.
I’m suspecting that you guys “came onto dry land” years ago and I’m envisaging a team spirit second to none? I hope so because there are patients who are relying on us. Their current existence makes our efforts seem tame in comparison. We’ll meet some patients next meeting when a couple of them will take time out to give you an insight into what renal failure is all about. Take note and absorb their experiences because it may just drive you on when those dark periods occur.
Team spirit is essential to this event and over the next 16 weeks I have to create a team where everyone feels a part. Get to know each other, speak about your concerns, about your fears. Talk to each other, if someone’s seemingly on the outside looking in then engage with them, drag them into the group and make them feel welcome. If you see someone riding low on the seat, help them adjust their seat. Advise them on nutrition, eyewear, shorts, shoes. Relate stories of past challenges and the problems they may envisage on route. Prepare them for what lies in wait, the great stories from 19 years of travel, the legends amongst us, the tragedies, the extreme highs, and the extreme lows. Let them know they are now a part of history, of an event that has no equals. Be proud of what you are about to do and make sure you let people know because they just don’t understand. It’s not some glamorous holiday but a real life adventure in aid of a truly great cause.
Sleep well……….
Sunday Write-Up 1
19th March 2017
Well it’s started again? Sunday rides, meetings, sponsors and all the uncertainty that is par for the course.
Life Cycle has and always will be much more than just the ride. It’s about the whole planning of it, the preparation and then the trip itself. I love the planning phase, contacting the host countries, examining the route, reading up on the places we’ll be going and all the equipment, visas, transport, injections etc etc.
Of course first familiarizing yourself with the bike is a priority if you’re new to this sport. Most of you this morning are experienced riders so the progressive training and weight loss is your only concern and as I said on Friday a combination of indoor and outdoor bike is what’s needed. Those new to the bike must master the gears and the general handling and although good sessions on the indoor might be necessary, the ratio must swing towards the outdoors.
I’m in love with Africa and that will not be the last time I say that. As I was saying to someone this morning, when you see the sun rise over an African landscape it’ll bring you to tears. Your internal human instincts will suddenly engage and you’ll realize that there has been something missing in your life before that point. Life Cycle looks strong and I couldn’t be happier with the group we have this year. Get to know each other, get to know the story behind the person. The more you know of one another the less likelihood of frustration on route because there’ll be respect throughout. The coffee stops are almost as important as the ride itself as are the meetings. If you can’t make it on Sunday because of injury or illness then jump in the car and support the others as you would on route. This is a team game and on first impressions this is a strong team. Africa will be the icing on the cake, an experience of a lifetime somewhere you too will fall in love with but there’s a long way to go yet.
Sleep well………