Day 167 has been the most wonderful father and son bonding day that has seen 36.64 miles cycled climbing 3,522 feet in the process and before walking 2.3 miles up 1231.91 feet.

A Ben Aan Selfie with James
A Ben Aan Selfie with James

Today James and I cycled over the Braes of Doune on the Drumloist road to Callander then along Loch Venachar and Loch Achray to the Ben Aan Car Park. A distance of 18.32 miles climbing 1761 feet on the way. We then climbed Ben Aan, a small mountain at 1213.91 feet but a mountain none the least before then cycling home.

I knew that this was going to be a big ask of James and he knew that too but last night I reassured him that he was more than up to the task. That it would be hard but with a good positive attitude and a determination to succeed he could achieve this challenge set. Heather was supposed to be coming as well and I again knew that she was more than up to the task as did she. But she had twisted her ankle on the run so I was concerned that for Heather, her ankle just might not be up to the task today. With James I was concerned that overnight he would psych himself out of today’s challenge. That fear would make him come up with a reason as to why he couldn’t come. So this morning I watched the clock nervously. They were due to walk round to the flat ready to go for 9am. I would have a packed lunch ready for them and have their bikes prepped and ready for them. I checked my watch. 8:55 and still no sign of them. 9am nothing. 9:05 and I was just starting to believe that they were never coming but then the buzzer for the flat door entry system went. They were here!!. They entered rather nervously I thought but then Heather confirmed that her ankle just wasn’t up to today. She had an English homework essay to write. Could she do that instead. Clearly the answer was a yes, Heather did twist her ankle quite sorely yesterday and I had every confidence that she would do a good job on her essay. So it was just James and I so a rare opportunity to spend some time together as just Father and son. James was clearly nervous and doubting his ability to achieve today so as I gave them their packed lunches I reassured him that all will be well. We had plenty of time to get this done so it was not a race or a rush to finish. It was still summer so we had the light with us, beautiful weather with us and the Deli Ecosse for an emergency refuel before the final climb over the Braes of Doune back home. Heather took her lunch to eat at home and left us to it after a quick cuddle. James and I made a plan, Doune to the Ben Aan car park then stop for sandwiches as we locked up the bikes. Climb Ben Aan and eat the veggie pick and mix bag while enjoying the view on the summit. Climb back down and scoff the flapjack while unlocking the bikes. Cycle back to Callander. Stop to refuel with a hot chocolate and another flapjack at the Deli Ecosse before the big push back up and over the braes for home. James apologised for not feeling that he could do it but was being equally courageous by saying that he would give it a go. This was a rare Father Son day today so I made a very conscious decision to be patient. Remember that he is only 12 and this is a big ask today. So slow and steady wins the race and in this case will get James through the challenge. He likes to lead so keep him briefed up on the route and he can lead us through it thus setting the pace. There is plenty of time. I reassured James once again, with his face in my hands while I stared deep into his eyes. ‘You can do this James. It will be hard, but with a little determination and courage you can do this. I have no doubt.’ I smiled. He nodded and off we went to grab the bikes and set off.

We got to the Ben Aan car park in 3 hours. He was wanting to stop to look at anything and everything of interest and we bumped into cousin Anne out walkng with a friend so stopped for a quick chat but as a result James was struggling to find a rhythm on the bike and was working extra hard to get to the Ben Aan car park along this undulating route.. So as we approached the car park with Ben Aan looming above us he started to express his concerns that he might not be able to make it up. However with a good tuna, mayonnaise sandwich inside him compete with spinach, rocket and watercress and the bikes locked up he was up for it and we were walking up the moutain. As we did so however I suddenly felt inadequate. I wished that I had not dropped Physics at school. James loved his sciences at McLaren High and was always thinking about them with his super inquisitive mind so today I got a grilling from some brilliant questions:

  1. Is it possible to be born in space? And if so how would it work? What complications would there be? My answer – Yes I am sure that it is possible to be born on a space ship in space should the need ever arise but as to how zero gravity would cause complications I simply do not know James.
  2. How do we stay on earth? The earth spins around. But when a roundabout spins around we get thrown off of the roundabout so how do we stay on earth? Do we get flung off of roundabouts because the roundabouts force fights against gravity? If so, would we get drawn towards the centre of a spinning roundabout instead if it was in space? Gosh, he was clearly thinking very deeply as we struggled for each breath as we climbed up the mountain. As for me, this was well beyond my true understanding of the laws of Physics so my answer – I simply do not know the answer again James, sorry. I was starting to feel deeply inadequate.
  3. If you tried to pedal on a bike in space would you get pushed away from the bike? Again I could not explain the laws of physics on this but instead diverted away from such specifics and discussed the two answers to this which I felt I could answer having seen the video of the space walk on the moon and the lunar buggy travelling on the moon and men working within zero gravity on the spacestation. Pedal very slowly to get started and build up speed very slowly and I am sure that you could pedal a bike on the moon. On a space station the only way to try and pedal bike would be to have the bike fixed to a fixed point. You would also then need to have your hands and feet tied to the handles and pedals otherwise you would just float off the bike. Managed that one!
  4. Can you create gravity in space through a spinning force? My answer – Probably. After all they can do it on Star Trek!
  5. In our galaxy but on another planet could physics and chemistry be the same but Biology be different? So a planet made of the same elements and physical and chemical laws but just mixed together differently. Could there therefore be floating mountains because of helium build up inside rock, or purple grass, or would everything just be different. Clearly James was referring to his favourite film Avatar and something he had learned in school. My answer wanted to refer to the role of God in creation but then I realised that God could create life in anyway he chooses. So rather than try and enter into a theological discussion on creationism half way up a mountain I went for the easy but correct I thought answer – probably!
Jo and Sarah whom we met on our climb
Jo and Sarah whom we met on our climb

Then I was saved by the bell. We had passed many many people on the mountain in this glorious weather but my entire attention was focussed entirely on James. I would say hello and smile to all that passed but I hadn’t felt a single urge to stop and speak to someone to introduce the challenge but on we pressed and as I felt more and more inadequate by James’ searching questions I was distracted from my inadequacies by a lady who was most determined to engage me in conversation. So I reached for a flyer and introduced them to the challenge and the more I spoke, the more adequate I started to feel and the more engaged the other lady appeared to be. Then I discovered why. Her daughter in law, to whom I was introduced was a Christian missionary in Uganda. Just at the very time in which I was feeling inadequate and frankly a little bit stupid, God jumped in with an introduction to a delightful couple from Gartmore who suddenly made me feel so much more adequate. So much more relevant to the trials and tribulations of the world, our world, this day. I was hugely thankful for this meeting with Mrs Cara Weld Forester and Sarah and very much hope that they do enjoy their glass of wine this evening and come and join me on the challenge. James had certainly enjoyed the break but once we had taken photos and departed James surprised me. Earlier, he had been complaining about shaky tired legs. Now? ‘Dad, you took for ages can we please get on up this mountain!!’ I was thrilled so off we set.

The mountain was conquered. We took the obligatory selfie, ate our veggie pick and mix bag while enjoying and discussing the cloud formations before heading back down the hill. Flapjack eaten we then set off on our bikes for the leg back to Callander. James was really impressing me as he just quietly swallowed up the miles on his bike but the physical demands were making him tired and as the gears on his bike started to deteriorate he descended into a blubbing mess of frustrated anger. I went to help him sort his bike chain that had slipped and it was remarkably straight forward but in his blind rage he just couldn’t see it. But when he saw me fix it so quickly he realised how foolish he had been. Realised how he had let his temper, which we all had at 12 years old, get the better of him. The wonderful thing was that he apologised to me, thanked me for fixing the bike and smiled at me as we peddled on again to Callander. Time was marching on so I called ahead to order a refuel for James before the Deli closed. A hot chocolate, decaf mocha and two seeded flapjacks would be waiting for us and most certainly were. James’ bike got steadily worse but he kept his cool and nursed it in to Callander. I sent James on ahead to let Julie know that we were here while I pooped in to Wheelology in Callander to see if there was anything Peter could do to help get us back over the hill. The bike was immediately onto a stand and we discovered the problem. It was going to cost some money, in fact the bike needed a lot of money spent. The harder he looked the more he found. I started to hunt for my wallet but then Peter came up with a brilliant idea, The bike will be good enough to get him back over the braes to Doune and then for knocking around the village but is not worth spending any money on beyond that. Then he realised that in October he would have an option that he could offer me which would ensure that James had a bike upto the task of cycling with Dad but that wouldn’t cost me a fortune as it would be second hand but in really good nick from Peter himself. Then he wouldn’t take any money for fixing what he could of James’ bike to get him home. Peter has nursed my bikes over the last 167 days and worked wonders for me on many, many occasions. I cannot thank him enough for his generosity in support to the challenge and my aspirations to include the children on this journey with me. Peter, thank you.

Hugs received from Julie and her mum Lin, who actually demanded a hug from this hot and sweaty man, a hug I had been waiting a long time to give! Mocha, hot chocolate and flapjacks devoured it was time to tackle the braes and cycle home. The bike was, as Peter had suggested it would be, not perfect but with a mature head and some patience it was good enough to get James home. James was really struggling to get up the hill. There was little juice left in his legs but he did not give up once. I was pretty sure that he was close on the steepest section but he didn’t. He kept on and on and on and before we knew it we were enjoying the thrill of the well earned downhill.

Bikes packed away and baths had James was back with Heather for tea. It was a simple affair that was actually surprisingly good. I choose it because I needed something quick but it went down really well. Avocado sliced up and arranged on toast with a poached egg served on top. Quick, easy and surprisingly good. Heather had finished her essay so has had a productive day. James has been strong, disciplined and determined all day and I was just happy to have such great children so clearly a treat was required. A flake for James and a dark chocolate kitkat for Heather. Both their favourite chocolates and I couldn’t decide what to have until the nice gentleman in the spar told me that it was two flakes for a pound. Decision made and enjoy it we all did. I hadn’t eaten a flake like that for a very, very long time and was made more tasty by the light spirited giggling of Heather over nothing caused by hormones apparently. Certainly it caused James and I to giggle too. Marvellous. A good day had by all.

A good view over Loch Katrine
A good view over Loch Katrine

So the challenge in numbers:
Days completed: 167
Total Miles Cycled: 904.02
Total Miles Walked: 917.6
Total Miles Run: 158.43
Total Miles Paddled: 7
Total Distance Cycled, Skied, Run and Rowed in the gym: 53.53
Total Distance Swum: 4,580 metres
Total Miles covered under own steam.2,043.08
Total Height Gained under own steam: 85,592.59 feet
Mountains Climbed: 8
Hills Climbed: 32
Days of Voluntary Activity: 8.5
Organ tunes learnt and performed: 5
Salmon Caught: 0!
Bats Found:0!
Curling Matches played in: 8
Curling stones placed on the button (the centre of the target): 3
Weight Training Sessions: 14
Weight shifted: 10kgs lifted over 558metres or 11,160kgs moved over ½ a metre,
Aerobic Circuit Sessions: 9
Press Ups: 739
Pull Ups: 22
Sit Ups: 1204
People Met and Hands Shaken: 528
Pots of tea shared: 31
Prayers joined on the top of a hill: 3
Prayers joined in the street!: 4
Prayers joined in a Train Station: 1
Prayers joined in a Café: 2
Pills popped: 1012
Days until Driving Licence (lost to epilepsy) possibly Returned: 712
And most importantly – Money Raised as at Week 44 – £8,771

Considering I started this challenge 11 months ago very quietly with no target beyond a fiver, thanks to the brilliant advice from a friend of mine, I am absolutely thrilled and again thank you all. That is £54.48 for each and every day that I have managed to find the will and energy to do something worthwhile and my goodness it has been worth it for my peace of mind, for my healing and for the five wonderful charities you are supporting through your generosity. Long may it continue. May I also ask however that if you are not sponsoring me to please consider it for as much or as little as you can afford.

Thank you all for your incredible comments and support. Please continue to spread the word.
If you see me around do please give a cheery hello and shake my hand or toot your horn and give a cheery wave to show your support and encourage me on.

Thank you

Yours aye


Thank you for joining me on my own personal journey and encouraging me to walk, cycle, climb, paddle, sport and do good deeds each day to ‘Beat the Beast’ while helping to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people through sponsorship. The Five Charities that I have selected to support are:

  1. Cancer Research UK – My Father Succumbed to Lung Cancer; a couple of friends are currently fighting cancer and I am fighting a brain tumour. Let’s Help to Beat Cancer Sooner.
  2. The Prince’s Trust – Inspiring and preparing disadvantaged Young Lives for success.
  3. British Red Cross – helping those in need around the UK and the world whoever and wherever they are.
  4. World Wide Fund for Nature – For a Living Planet and a Future Where People and Nature Thrive.
  5. Help for Heroes – Support for our Wounded and their Families. To learn more about my story that brought me to this point, how I plan to ‘Beat the Beast’, what activities I plan to do within the challenge and why, please see my welcome video on this page.

How to Sponsor Me

The Beat the Beast Challenge is self funding through my own contribution while keeping costs to a minimum with voluntary support and corporate sponsorship in kind. Therefore the entirety of every penny donated will go directly to the 5 charities listed above.

Please sponsor me by completing a standing order form either through your own personal internet banking or by completing a hard copy standing order form in your branch of your bank and then handing it in to the teller.

It is entirely up to you how much you would like to and are able to sponsor me for so do please give as much or as little as you can. Every penny will be very gratefully received.

While I hope you will encourage me to keep going by sponsoring me for every day I survive and am able to find the cognitive and physical capability to complete a day’s task designed to improve my chances of ‘Beating the Beast’ or improving the lives of others, 5 days a week, four weeks a month, for as long as ever I can. Any One off Cash contributions will be most gratefully received and distributed in exactly the same manner to the five charities as the sponsorship. Any one off donations can be made by BACS or cheque.

Thank you for having enough faith in me to sponsor me.

Yours aye