Not Rule 5

Man, have I gone soft. Or maybe just fussy. Or maybe fussy and soft. Either way I’m definitely not hard. I went out for a ride this afternoon in what looked to be a fine Spring day, but seemed to turn into a harsh Winter within minutes of the ride. Wind and cold and rain and blah blah blah, all the normal things you should expect at this time of year. Rather than becoming a fair-weather cyclist, I seem to have gone the whole hog and become a fair-season cyclist. Basically, today was too cold and I woosed out. I was hoping to ride for a couple of hours but a hail storm in the first half hour completely killed my spirits. Cycling in a hail storm feels like having your face sand-blasted. At least it does if you’re a woosey cyclist who needs to “harden the f**k up”. Anyway, it seems fairly unlikely that I would take up face-sandblasting as a hobby, so maybe hail-storm cycling in freezing weather just isn’t for me. And if that makes me a “fair-weather” cyclist then so be it.

Shortly after the face sand-blasting I turned up a hill. After a few hundred metres the road went from slush to ice. I stopped. Got off the bike and thought: “this is nuts, I’m going home”. And I did.

Roll on Spring …

Two hours plus

I went out for my longest ride of the year today. Which isn’t really saying much, I think it was only my third ride of 2015. I’d put in a full shift looking after our toddler daughter all of last weekend, so in return I was given exclusive rights to my own Saturday today. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that less than 2 years ago I owned exclusive rights to all of every weekend. No wonder I took up cycling as a hobby – I needed something to fill those long, responsibility-free hours. Unfortunately, these days I’m even less imaginative when given total freedom – the world was my oyster and I chose to go for a long cycle and then do some DIY on the house. Rock n roll!

Following my last post, my rest week turned into a rest fortnight. In my normal non-cycling life I split my time between looking after our daughter and working as a part time builder / carpenter. So a break from cycling doesn’t mean I’m being restful. But one of main goals for 2015 is to try and stay injury-free. It’s not good for childcare, it’s bad for work, it puts a stop to cycling and according to Mrs BikeVCar it turns me into “a right grumplestiltskin”. So if I feel like I need another rest week I’ll take another rest week and hopefully enjoy the long-term benefits.

I was intending to ride 50 miles today. It was a plan I’d made after a couple of Friday night beers. For the last few months my longest rides have been around the 30 mile mark. In the winter this takes me a couple of hours. I find 2 hours to be a personal threshold in cycling – riding over 2 hours requires me to take food, in the summer it means an extra water bottle, and in the winter it’s a level of masochism that I’m not normally interested in. But today I went for it.

After a hearty breakfast I layered up and set off. Within the first hour I’d already reduced my goal to 40 miles. And after an hour and a half, on my way up Cheddar Gorge at a painfully slow speed I seriously considered just heading back home and calling it a day at around 30 miles. Enough with this unnecessary torture.

There were a few big groups of teenage lads on the Gorge with these peculiar downhill trikes that I’d never seen before. The trikes looked pretty cool and were essentially bikes so I considered putting a temporary stop to my suffering and having a chat with my cycling brethren. But then I remembered I’m not young anymore and it would have been plainly embarrassing for everyone if I’d tried to start a conversation. Some old guy in dorktastic head-to-toe lycra trying to mix it with the kids. Just leave it and suffer on, I sensibly decided.

Trike Drifting

Trike Drifting is for cool kids and not people who have to come home and do a Google search for “downhill trike” to find out what it’s called

Once on the top of the Mendips for a second and final time, I surprised myself by turning away from home and committing to an extra hour in the saddle. I rode for nearly 3 hours, covering over 40 miles and returned home frozen and completely worn out. For that final hour my stomach gnawed away at me and my fingers froze through my thick gloves – to the point where the gloves felt like they were soaking and had shrunk. I was wearing my winter cycling boots and the thickest socks so at least my feet survived – but in hindsight these additional nerdly items of clothing were another good reason I didn’t stop on the Gorge.

It feels good to get a decent ride under my belt for the year. But it was also reassuring confirmation that winter rides over 2 hours require a level of dedication that I’m currently not feeling. I’ll be waiting for the temperatures to rise significantly before I increase my ride lengths.

The Recovery Week

There are a number of reasons for taking time off from exercise. Allowing your body to heal fully after several weeks of a strenuous programme is one. Taking heed of the sensible advice from a loved one that maybe you’re doing too much too soon after returning from an injury or illness is another. Even if that sensible advice manifests itself as unwelcome nagging. If you think the nagging’s bad, just imagine what the “I told you so’s” are going to feel like.

Endurance sports and weight lifting both tend to recommend a full rest week at least every 8 to 10 weeks to allow muscles to repair and fitness to increase. Other sports such as golf, fishing or darts recommend that you do something strenuous every few weeks just to remind yourself that your sport is actually rest.

This week I am having a recovery week. It’s certainly easier to enforce rest when the weather’s bad and you’ve got lots of other things to keep you busy. I had been out for a long run and a good cycle last week, and despite following the surgeon’s advice about rehabilitation times, I still don’t want to risk overdoing it and injuring any newly healed tissue. This week was also the first time our daughter tried cycling. She was as unhappy about cycling as I am about not cycling. Great teamwork.

I'm only crying because this bike has too many wheels

I’m only crying because this bike has one too many wheels

Next week I hope to return feeling stronger, fitter and mentally refreshed. Well, at least as mentally and physically refreshed as you can feel with a young toddler in the house.

 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder … or maybe it just makes you forget the pain

The local roads seem to be swarming in cyclists at the moment. I’ve been on the mend from surgery and not cycling, so maybe my perception has been slightly warped as I notice and envy every cyclist I see. But I think it’s more likely down to the ever-increasing popularity of cycling combined with New Years fitness resolutions. I’m all in favour of increasing cycling participation: the more who do it, the more normal it becomes and the more likely it will be for non-cyclists to have close friends and family who cycle. And you would hope when these non-cyclists are behind the wheel of their cars or vans, they might be a little more careful and courteous to cyclists. I guess there are a few other barriers to harmony on the roads, such as rude cyclists and obscene amounts of lycra, but at least this strength-in-numbers approach is a good start. On most of my own rides I usually confront a driver when it was me who made the mistake and then return home to look in the mirror and think “WTF am I wearing?!”

"Smile for the camera .... ok, well at least try not to look completely pissed off"

“Smile for the camera …. ok, well at least try not to look completely pissed off”

This weekend I headed out for my first ride of the year. It was cold and windy and I immediately found myself wondering what I’d been missing so much. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but I think injury and illness can make you a bit deluded. I kept thinking: “I’d be enjoying this a lot more if it was sunny and I was fit.” It’s difficult finding a window to get out and ride at this time of year. The roads are icy in the mornings and it gets dark late afternoon. Plus we have a small human child and a crumbly house which are both in constant need of my time and energy. And certainly more deserving of my time than riding around in circles dressed like Peter Pan. Peter Pan was definitely a cyclist, prancing around in those stretchy trousers and never growing up. Anyway, at least the benefit of cycling is that it’s relatively low overhead time-wise when compared to other sports. When you get a small window of opportunity you can just race out the door and do your thing for as long as you’ve got.

Litte cold bike on the hills

Litte cold bike on the hills

Cold, wet, windy, dark and muddy. The perfect ride

Cold, wet, windy, dark and muddy. The perfect ride

I decided to do a ride of two halves, firstly a flat lap of the lake and then a climb up into the hills. This is then capped off with an enjoyable long descent home … so it’s technically a ride of three halves. I’ve been riding the turbo trainer a little bit lately as part of my rehab and it’s helped me to feel the difference in efficiency between a beautiful, smooth and fast pedaling speed and my own slow, cumbersome pedal-mashing technique. The French call it ‘souplesse’, a fluid and even technique. I might be able to say it, but I can’t do it. Anyway, I kept the cadence sensor on my bike and tried to translate some of this into reality on the roads. It’s pretty hilly around these parts which can quickly kill momentum. Plus I quite like getting out of the saddle on a climb, but I did find it helped my stamina to keep the legs spinning quickly … at least when I remembered. Once up on the hills I thought I’d finally found my sweet-spot, souplesse Nirvana as I flew along at speed for several miles without feeling pain or tiredness. Unfortunately it turned out to be a tail-wind! It doesn’t matter how many times this happens, it still fools me every time. Ah well … it was a beautiful tailwind and with a long and sweeping descent home, at least I realised what I’d been missing so much.

Back on the bike

Today I made my return to cycling following appendix surgery. I opted for the turbo trainer, the logic being that if I felt any pain I could stop straight away. I had been advised by the surgeon to give it 2 weeks before returning to ‘normal duties’ and this felt about right for making a return to light cycling. It still feels a bit soon to be running or heavy lifting but I thought an easy spin on the bike would be good for the body and mind. It’s been surprising how quickly my body has recovered from the op. If I’d had open surgery rather than keyhole, my recovery period would have been far longer. This is an approximate timeline:

Day 1 – Recovery in hospital. Immediately following surgery, the acute pain to my abdomen disappeared. A constant supply of strong drugs eased the pain of surgery and I was discharged from hospital that evening.

Days 2 – 5 : Recovery at home. Mostly laying in bed taking painkillers and antibiotics and watching old DVDs.

Days 5 – 7 : Moving around the house with minimal discomfort. I stopped taking the strong painkillers and tried to be guided by my body. If I felt any pain or discomfort I stopped whatever it was that I was doing and rested.

Days 7 – 10 : Returned to light duties. No pain from the abdomen area. Soreness from the incisions, particularly the central one. This was possibly from clothing rubbing on the hardening scar. I used ‘Bio Oil’ and did some light massaging of the scar at the recommendation of my wife who’d had a caesarean last year. It should be pointed out that the level of sympathy I was receiving at this stage from Mrs BikeVCar was understandably hovering between minimal and none. “Pffft, Call that a scar?!”

Days 11 – 13 : Feeling back to normal. Going about my normal day but resisting the urge to exercise.

Day 14 : Did an easy 30 minutes on the turbo trainer. It’s been quite cold and wet recently so despite my normal reluctance to use the turbo, today it seemed preferable to stay indoors.

Looking ahead I plan to take another week or two of light exercise before doing anything more strenuous to ensure I’m fully healed. It’s probably the best time of year to have something like this happen. With the short days and grim weather I don’t feel like I’m missing too much at the moment. Roll on Spring …

s

Sweat and sawdust mingling on the workshop floor 

My cycling 2014 in pictures

Big family rides

Big family rides

Little family rides

Little family rides

Muddy rides

Muddy rides

Sunny rides

Sunny rides

Watching races

Watching races

Riding races

Competing in races

Completing challenges

Completing challenges

Eating cake

Eating cake

Taking it easy on holiday

Taking it easy on holiday

Taking it easy at home

Taking it easy at home

And pretending to take it easy

Enjoying the scenery 

Ending the year with one less bike

Ending the year with one less bike

Chasing shadows of previous years

Doing a lot less miles than previous years … but trying not to chase too many shadows

 

A final sting in the tail of 2014

For me, 2014 seemed to be a year of many injuries and illnesses and I had been looking forward to starting afresh in 2015. By the end of December I’d recovered from my last setback and was slowly rebuilding my fitness. To encourage me to do a little Winter cross-training off the bike I’d even set myself a goal of running a half marathon at the start of March. So when I was rushed to hospital on December 30th to have an emergency operation to remove my appendix, I couldn’t help hoping that this blow was the final sting in the tail from a cruel year. The silver lining was that I was discharged from hospital the next day and was at home with my family to see in the new year.

New Years Eve morning and I already had three bottles on the go!

New Years Eve morning and I already had three bottles on the go!

Fortunately they managed to remove the appendix by keyhole surgery which should hopefully lead to a quicker recovery time. And so I find myself limping into 2015 in the hope that the new year will be kinder on my body. At least it’s a good time of year to be wrapped up in bed watching old DVD’s and drinking hot cups of tea.