Saturday’s ‘Sunday’ Cycle

We did our usual Sunday morning cycle on Saturday as the weather forecast was much more favourable!

The Cyclists

Jackie, Caroline, Al, Nigel, Roland & John

Highlights

Good company and the essential cake and coffee stop

Beautiful countryside

Amazing Wildlife

We spent a few minutes watching Fallow Deer running across fields and at one point, across the road ahead. There must have been 30 of them and it was such a beautiful sight.

Lowlights

The condition of the roads.

The winter roads can be treacherous. Although not icy today, it was slippy in places. I managed by some miracle to land safely and upright in a hedge after sliding uncontrollably and scarily downhill.

Fog

Visibility was really poor at times. Cycling at the rear, it was interesting to observe the visibility of the rest of the group when it became foggy. Hi vis clothing helps but bright, flashing, rear lights make the biggest difference. Many new lights purchased after today’s ride.

New Skills Needed

A problem with her chain within the first five minutes, meant that Jackie couldn’t carry on. No amount of medical, dental or veterinary expertise amongst the group, could fix the problem! A bike maintenance course for at least some of us looms ahead…..

Summary

Distance: 73km

Elevation Gain: 983m

Maximum Speed: 118km/hr. I can only assume it’s an error!

Enjoyment: undefined

Jolly Nice

A clear day when we left Cheltenham, by the time, we had cycled up Leckhampton Hill and out towards Winstone, the fog was setting in.

It was lovely to meet up with John and Chris, two friends who we had cycled LEJOG with.

LEJOG With Chris and John

Under time pressure to get back, Roland headed home, while the rest of us enjoyed a coffee and cake stop at one of our favourite haunts – The Jolly Nice at Frampton Mansell.

I’ve cycled to and from The Jolly Nice a number of times and was pleasantly surprised to find the ride home easier than before. Easier, except for the shortcut to avoid the notoriously busy Air Balloon roundabout on the A417. By this point, we had all gone our separate ways, so, on my own, I took a familiar off road shortcut, only to be met by a dozen very large cows grazing alongside the route I needed to take. I fleetingly considered returning to the A417 as the safer option!

My imagination running riot, I couldn’t help feeling my high visibility red cycling jacket might not have been the best choice for this part of the journey, and with more than a little trepidation, I took the shortcut and (of course) made it through unscathed.

Another 55km of training enjoyed!

In case anyone has noticed the absence of my husband in training of late, he’s doing his training in the Alps!

NAD

In the medical world, amongst other things, NAD, means ‘Nothing Abnormal Detected’.

‘NAD’ sums today up Beautifully:

It was cold, wintery, foggy and wet out. NAD for January.

Despite the weather, we cycled. NAD for The Cyclopaths.

We cycled Ham Hill again. NAD, having cycled it three times this week already.

We cycled 40km. NAD, 40km is fairly standard these days.

We enjoyed it. NAD, except perhaps, a slight madness!

We had a brief coffee and cake stop. NAD, coffee and cake is a core component of our cycle rides.

The owner of the coffee shop recognised us. NAD, we frequent the same dozen coffee shops regularly.

We agreed to do it all over again on Friday. NAD, this is the way it will be until June 29th………

Too Icy (For Some but Not All of Us)

Freezing over night but the sun shone brightly this morning, so I wrapped up warm in my cycling gear with high hopes. A few steps out onto the road and it was clearly still very icy. Despite my desire to cycle, my desire not to injure myself was stronger.

Today’s Results

Miles Cycled – Nil

Metres Climbed – Nil

Limbs Intact – All

Desire to use indoor turbo trainer – Nil

Fingers crossed tomorrow is warmer……….

Made of Stronger Stuff

Ewan, living on the East coast of Scotland, is made of strong stuff, where inclement weather is concerned. Braving the freezing temperatures, the wind and the rain, he had his coldest cycle so far……….and is still smiling!

Pedalling with Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a progressive, degenerative disease for which there is currently no cure. Symptoms will get worse over time and the rate of progression will vary significantly from person to person.

Amongst many other symptoms, Parkinson’s affects balance and coordination, it causes dizziness, muscle cramps, dystonia, rigidity, stiffness, pain, slow movement, tremor, problems with sleep, fatigue and posture. Symptoms I am all too familiar with. Add to this, slowed reaction times, a 50% lower power output on my right side compared to my left and an asymmetrical riding posture and I might be forgiven for thinking that cycling and Parkinson’s are not particularly compatible!

BUT – exercise has been shown to slow down disease progression and for me that’s pretty compelling motivation for me to get on my bike and ride!

The evidence that cycling is beneficial for people with Parkinson’s is well established. Recent research is described in Dr Simon Stott’s ‘Science of Parkinson’s’ article The Exergaming of Parkinson’s.

Image Source: Stuartmcmillen.com

By the time I tackle The Raid Alpine Challenge, I will have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for over 5 years. During this time I have cycled 1,000s of kilometres and become the fittest I have ever been. I cycle faster, further and hillier than I have ever done and am better than I ever imagined I might be at this stage of my Parkinson’s progression.

Others may have a different experience but for me, the Parkinson’s related challenges start when I’m preparing to go out on my bike – fiddly tasks such as attaching lights, my Garmin, saddlebag, doing up zips, helmet, shoes, and putting on gloves take longer than they used to and can be frustratingly difficult at times. Checking tyre pressure is a hit and miss exercise. On a good day, it’s OK, on a not so good day by the time I’ve attached the pump to the valve, I have no pressure left in the tyres at all. So, I pump the tyre up, only to lose all the air when trying to disconnect the pump! And repeat……

There is an etiquette to group cycling. Read Road Cycling UK’s Essential Guide to Hand Signals and Calls to learn more about this. Parkinson’s makes me a less reliable group cyclist than I would like to be. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Take my left hand off my handlebars and my right alone cannot control my bike. Signals involving my left hand are unlikely to give the desired outcome.
Image Source: Clipartart.com

2. Parkinson’s makes it difficult to project my voice so my shouts are not always as loud as I would want them to be. Those behind or in-front may not always hear my warning shouts.

3. My balance is worse when I have a lot of moving things in my peripheral vision. If I don’t talk, or if I drop behind you, or ask you to give me some more space, it’s because I’m concentrating on staying upright, not because you’ve bored me!

4. My reaction time is slower than most. I’m likely to be in the pothole by the time I’ve seen it, let alone, seen it, avoided it, taken my hand off the handlebars and signalled and shouted to cyclists behind me.

Image Source: Bikeyface.com

I shall alert everyone to the risks of cycling behind me at the team safety briefing. Fortunately, cycling behind me is not something many of the group will experience as I’m one of the slower cyclists.

5. I adjust the timing, quantity and combination of my medications for long rides. So, I like to know how far we are likely to go, how fast and how hilly, when we plan to set off and when we are planning to take a break. Inevitably things change and I can adapt to this but I like to have a plan!

If I get the timing and dosage wrong, my speed, dexterity and even my thinking, reaction time, posture and balance can all be affected. Everything becomes a slog, like wading through treacle. The tiniest incline feels like a mountain as my legs lose power and my thinking becomes slow. I struggle to remember which gear lever moves my gears up or down, and it becomes difficult to remember my left from my right and I even have to think about how to brake. On top of all of this, I could quite literally fall asleep whilst cycling and can struggle to even keep my eyes open.

If this happens during The Raid Alpine challenge, where I need to cycle 800km, whilst climbing 19,000m over 6 days, I have a problem. As one of the slower cyclists, I am already worried there may not be enough hours in the day, even on a good day, for me to complete the distance and climb. Throw in a bad day and I may need a few extra days to complete the challenge!

6. My symptoms vary day to day. The only predictable thing is knowing I will have some combination of some of the symptoms for some or all of a ride. Symptoms can be influenced by the time of day, how well I’ve slept, stress levels, fatigue, what and when I’ve eaten, time of the month, illnesses (cold, flu etc), the weather….

In a nutshell, like everyone, I have good days and bad days, they may be a little more variable and more unpredictable than most but I have had a few years of experience in dealing with these and I believe, I have it down to a pretty fine art. Time will tell.

Weather Forecasting

Deciding which weather forecast to use when planning the timing of and routes for our cycle rides is an art form in itself. Cycling for three beautifully sunny hours during a 24 hour period where ice, freezing temperature, gusty winds and rain dominated the weather forecast is nothing short of a miracle! And yet, today this is exactly what we achieved.

We cancelled the usual Sunday morning cycle due to the forecast icy temperatures and a warning from a friend who had fallen off his bike after hitting black ice early in the morning the day before.

However, setting off at midday, we encountered three hours of glorious sunshine in which we could enjoy the beautiful Cotswold countryside. The weather was stunning. Accompanied by Cyclopaths Caroline, Paul and Roland and an old friend, Neeraj, we cycled 76 fairly hilly kilometres.

We took an easy sociable pace and I conquered Ham Hill for the second time in a week. Harp Hill and Stanway Hill seemed easy at this pace and we then enjoyed a beautiful ride out to Broadway Tower.

However, after our coffee stop, as the sun lowered in the sky, the temperature dropped and the cold set in. The others went on, keen to warm up. Neeraj and I took an easy pace home, meaning that we tackled Cleeve Hill, the last hill of the day, as dusk fell. It was a pleasant light uphill but by the time we were ready to speed downhill, we were in complete darkness. Avoiding the numerous potholes is not easy in the dark and was the only bit of the ride that I didn’t enjoy.

Another week’s cycle training completed, with a total of 167km cycled with 2,082m ascent. Sounds and feels like we’ve done a lot but this equates to just one day of our Raid Alpine Challenge in distance and half the amount of hills. So much more training to do………

Thanks to everyone for your great company. I couldn’t do all this training without you all.

Calm After The Storm

Yesterday threw gale force winds, relentless driving rain and cold temperatures our way all day and all night. I couldn’t imagine being able to get out and cycle today.

However, in true British weather style, the winds had passed, the rain had stopped and with true British stoicism, Roland and I ventured out for a hilly 50km cycle. There is something about facing the challenge of a lifetime in less than six months that makes us get on our bikes and ride.

Up Harp hill, which, I don’t really consider to be a hill anymore (progress indeed) with a Personal Best (PB) time. Next up came Ham Hill. Known to local cyclists as a tough climb, I have to confess that I had never actually cycled the length of Ham Hill without having to stop to catch my breath. It is on my list of ’50 things to do at 50′ and today, I did it! I can’t say it was easy but it wasn’t too hard either (progress again).

I learned from Ham Hill today, something about the importance of mental attitude as well as physical preparation on performance. I had a written goal: I wanted to conquer Ham Hill, I have trained hard on hills in recent months, it was important for the rest of my 2020 Raid Alpine training to conquer it. Ham Hill is a tiny fraction of what I will need to do during The Raid Alpine, I needed this tiny achievement to confirm I was making progress. The belief that completing The Raid Alpine is within my reach is as important as any other aspect to my training. I wouldn’t allow any ‘what if I can’t’ thoughts to invade my mind and before I knew it, without much ado, I conquered Ham Hill, with another PB.

Bouyed by the confirmation that I could do Ham Hill, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the ride through beautiful undulating Cotswolds countryside. During the ride home down Ham Hill, littered with flood water, debris and potholes, I found myself wishing I was going up and not down it. Now there’s a change in mindset if ever there was one.

As always I returned home invigorated, a little tired but pleased with my performance and thrilled to get 41 Strava Achievements! I’m becoming slightly Strava obsessed but that’s another story……..

My Ham Hill Results