Easy!

Having lived cycling, talked cycling, blogged cycling, thought about nothing but cycling for the past few months, I have now started dreaming cycling.

If I believed my dreams, I would be cycling ahead of the rest of the team, they would be shouting ‘Slow down! We can’t keep up! When did you get so good on hills?’ But I wouldn’t be able to hear them, I would be so far ahead. The team would consist of the Cyclopaths, friends, Sir Chris Hoy, Mike Tindall and Rowan Atkinson! None of whom were able to keep up with me, except Rowan, who overtook me heading clockwise on the M25. However, for his efforts he was disqualified as clearly cyclists are not allowed to use the fast lane!

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I haven’t slept well for five years. Initially after diagnosis, from the shock and fear, and it was only once I’d got to grips with that, that I realised Parkinson’s itself causes sleep problems. Another symptom that is hidden from the view of others. My nights are spent tossing and turning, writing, emailing, thinking and when all else fails, occasionally I get some sleep. Never more than three solid hours.

So imagine my delight when last night, during those three hours, I cycled 137km, climbed 3,700m of hills faster than the speed of light and the only person to overtake me was Rowan Atkinson!

To cap it all, I was awarded an Olympic Gold Medal made of chocolate for my efforts. With energy to spare, I cycled an ascent of Mont Ventoux to celebrate. This ‘lap of honour’ was easy, my thighs had grown to resemble Sir Chris Hoy’s and my power output was averaging 24,000 watts. I was delighted by my performance but slightly worried I would never fit into my jeans again. The long downhill from the top of Mont Ventoux was easy, like the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, my bike grew wings and like a bird I flew gracefully down from the top. Anyone who has ever cycled with me knows for certain that I am never at the front and there is nothing graceful about my downhill cycling, so this was a thrilling finale for me!

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I felt a fleeting euphoria on waking, that the challenge was over, I had completed it without any problem, I was faster than Sir Chris Hoy and really, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

Imagine my dismay when it dawned on me that Sir Chris Hoy is not cycling the Gloucestershire hills for Raid Local (although Mike Tindall is and I believe Sir Chris is leading a section of the Raid Local challenge on Zwift), I haven’t yet completed the challenge, it will take me significantly longer than three hours and if I can’t fit in my jeans it’s due to the chocolate not the training!

Roll on Sunday 28th – Raid Local.

The Peculiarities of Pedalling with Parkinson’s

When I learned that exercise is the only thing that has been shown to slow the progression of Parkinson’s, I started cycling, overcoming the numerous obstacles that Parkinson’s puts in my way.

Amongst many other symptoms, Parkinson’s affects my balance and coordination, causes dizziness, muscle cramps, dystonia, rigidity, stiffness, pain, slow movement, tremor, fatigue, poor posture and slowed reaction times. It affects my right side more than my left. The presence or absence of each of these symptoms, their severity and their duration are completely unpredictable.

Parkinson’s also affects my concentration, my memory and my ability to multi task. Those who cycle with me know never to rely on me for directions! On our LEJOG adventure, I once cycled eight miles around Tiverton, looking for a way out!

Exactly five years since my diagnosis, I am tackling an enormous physical challenge. To cycle 137km whilst climbing 3,700m of hills in one day. I have trained for this for nine months, in all weather.

This year alone, to prepare, I have cycled an average of 175km each week, spending 222 hours in the saddle and cycling up hills equivalent to five times the height of Everest.

I know from using a Wattbike, that 65% of my power output is generated by my left leg and 35% by my right leg. My posture is asymmetrical and this causes back, shoulder and neck pain. For long days in the saddle, I am making constant adjustments to try to correct these. I am bloody proud of my left leg for getting me up some impressively steep hills!

Parkinson’s causes problems with fine motor skills, so I have difficulty doing things like attaching my lights and Garmin to my bike. By the time I’ve pumped up the tyres (which can take several attempts), zipped up my jacket, fastened my shoes and helmet and put on my gloves, I’ve already overcome a number of challenges. However, as long as I am organised and leave myself enough time, I can be ready to set off with everyone else.

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Recently, my balance has worsened. Pushing off on my bike requires my concentration or I’ll be on the ground before I even get started. I need to concentrate on my balance and I sometimes find it harder when someone is cycling close beside me. If I drop behind my fellow cyclists, or ask them to give me some more space, it’s because I’m concentrating on staying upright, not because I don’t want to talk!

There is an etiquette to cycling in a group and each position in the group carries with it, specific responsibilities. This is important for safety of each group member but it is something that I cannot always be relied upon to comply with.

For example, a ‘turning right’ hand signal poses no problem for me. Try a ‘turning left’ hand signal and as soon I take my left hand off my handlebars, I can no longer control my bike! The cyclist behind me has to remember that a wobble usually indicates an imminent left turn!

Signalling to those behind me to warn them of potholes, obstacles or other dangers in the road is an important element of safe group cycling. However, my reaction time is slower than most. Those who cycle with me regularly know that by the time I’ve seen a pothole, taken action to avoid it, taken my hand off the handlebars, signalled and shouted to cyclists behind me, then it’s too late….I’m in the pothole! They know not to rely on me for such signals.

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The timing and doses of my medication have become really important. I take more medication when I’m planning a long, hilly cycle. However, what I eat, when I eat, how I’ve slept and a number of other factors all influence how well my medication works. It is an art and not a science and it doesn’t always work as I have planned!

If my medication wears off, my speed, dexterity and even my thinking, reaction time, posture and balance can all be affected. Everything becomes harder, it’s like I’m cycling against the wind or wading through treacle. The tiniest incline feels like a mountain as my legs lose power and my mind becomes slow. I can’t remember which gear lever moves my gears up or down. I have to focus extremely hard to stay upright and brake effectively as my hands shake and dystonia causes my right hand to twist and move involuntarily. A rest, medication and jelly babies usually work after a short time but obviously I aim not to ever get in this state.

So, with my new bike, electronic gear shifters, meticulous timing of my medication regime and lots of practice, I cycle well. In fact I’m fitter and faster than I’ve ever been.

I am joined by a team of fabulous people, all of whom have trained hard and who will find this challenge one of the toughest they have undertaken. We will all push ourselves to the limit of our physical capabilities and the challenge will no doubt test our psychology too as we dig deep to continue to climb those hills long after each and every fibre in our our bodies has yelled ‘stop’.

Is it worth the effort, I have been asked? Absolutely! Cycling is good for my body and my mind. It helps me stay strong mentally and physically. I love being outdoors, the weather has been fantastic and our countryside beautiful. I love a challenge and I’m blessed with lots of friends who will cycle with me despite my poor group skills! I’m also blessed by the support of family and friends who don’t cycle but put up with my endless tales. Apologies to them, I have no intention of stopping cycling any time soon!

Fourth ‘First’

My fourth ‘first’ for this week was to cycle Sudeley Hill today without stopping. As part of a hilly ride today, after Harp and Ham hills, I finally did it!

At 2.5km long, with an average gradient of 8.4%, a maximum gradient of 18% and a total climb of 215m, it was a tough one.

Despite trying a lighter, more aerodynamic bike, an additional ‘granny gear’, electronic Di2 gear shifters, a lighter me, all the cycling gear, months of practice, until today, I just couldn’t quite do it. What was different today? The promise of bacon baps at The Old Post Office in Guiting Power was perhaps was gave me that final push I needed to get up that hill!

A very welcome rest and refuelling stop!

Three times more and I’ll have completed The Raid Local……

We’ve got Wind!

According to the Met Office, the following descriptions of wind apply. The Met Office does’t mention cycling in these winds, so for the cyclists amongst you, here are a few extra pieces of information.

Light Air (1-5km/hr)

Not a problem for cyclists. We generate more air by talking on the flat and deep breathing when going up those hills.

Light Wind (6-11km/hr)

Refreshing, keeps us cyclists cool and fresh.

Gentle Breeze (12-19km/hr)

Cyclists may not describe this as ‘gentle’ when meeting it head on but we are unlikely to be blown off our bikes by it.

Fresh Wind (29-38km/hr)

‘Fresh’ conjures up nice images, such as ‘fresh as a daisy’, ‘freshly laundered clothes’. The word ‘fresh’ did not enter my mind once when battling up and down hills just to stay upright in a ‘fresh wind’! The words ‘frightening’, ‘ferocious’ and ‘fearsome’ seem more appropriate and I’m sure the ‘f’ word escaped under my breath a few times during Saturday’s cycle, battling a ‘fresh’ wind. High risk of getting blown into ditches, other cyclists or cars. Remind me never to venture out in a ‘fresh’ wind ever again!

The Met Office descriptions go on: Strong Wind (38-49km/hr) etc…… but I read no further. For me, cycling stops at anything more than a gentle breeze by Met Office standards!

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A Second Wind!

Rarely have I ever cycled and not enjoyed it. Yesterday, however, was one such occasion. Despite a beautiful, hilly and carefully planned route during which we thoroughly enjoyed the first 40km, the homeward bound route was tough. After the trauma of cycling in winds strong enough to knock me over, we eventually made it home safe but exhausted. Desperately keen to replace these negative feelings about cycling, with my usual positive ones, I ventured out again today.

The wind had dropped from fresh (not recommended) to moderate (hard work but without the threat of being toppled over).

What a beautiful ride. A gentle 50km in spring-like temperatures. No hills, windy enough to be a little harder work than usual but an easy pace. One puncture, easily repaired. Made even easier when we stopped to change the tyre outside the house of a cyclist, whose track pump saved time and effort pumping up the replacement tyre. Thanks Rob!

Still feeling a little competitive, here’s the good news for this week:

Distance

Elevation

Despite the colds weather in Scotland and a weekend away from home, Ewan managed a very respectable 6th place.

The Cyclopaths!

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!