By way of a very brief background; I was a racing cyclist in the 1980s and early 90s and despite many years of ‘retirement’ (within which I raced cars) I considered myself again to be a ‘keen’ cyclist in the 5 years leading to the TM attack in October 2018. I was, at that time, also playing tennis, squash and raquetball at least three times a week. I believe my level of fitness assisted my immediate recovery at the onset of TM as, unlike others who suffer a chronic high level attack, I did not need to be placed on a respirator (although my breathing was mildly compromised).
My reference points to my improvement are the many rides recorded through those five years; at least two or three every other weekend varying from 24 to 50 miles at average speeds of around 18mph. These were primarily ridden in Norfolk (where I generally spend every other weekend) and were purely to maintain my weight and fitness levels – with occasional bursts to take on Garmin segments on my regular routes. At one point I had virtually every top spot on a dozen segments (another sign of my competitive spirit I presume)
September 5th (The big day).
A full report on the 2022 challenge will be prepared very soon.
August 29th (1 week to go).
Gave the car a clean in readiness for the trip and not really thinking about even riding a bike again until, maybe, a short leg loosener on arrival at Bedoin this coming Saturday. I need to just ride around the block once before loading up (just to make sure the bike is ok) but, given my recent experiences, I reckon I just need to save everything for next Monday.
My last ride in Norfolk before Ventoux next week. Slower again – the pattern continues – and feeling pretty despondent after dropping over 2 minutes in pretty similar conditions to yesterday. I had only been riding for a couple of minutes – still warming up – when I heard a friendly “Morning, on your right” come from a lady who rode past me as if I was stationary. She then carried on slowly with occasional freewheels and looks back over her shoulder – seemingly expecting me to catch up…I couldn’t! Despite her wavering line and questionable cornering technique I simply had no ability to increase my speed. For the second day running I couldn’t take any advantage from a tail wind and, bizarrely, went slower than I did in to the wind on Friday. I did check my heart-rate afterwards and it seems I’ve been missing a sign that I first picked up on a couple of years ago; my heart rate is much lower on the days when I go slow which, to me, means my brain is putting the brakes on. Today the average was 111bpm; yesterday 116bpm with Friday at 124bpm. My best ride of the week last Monday saw 133bpm and, after checking back through the year to date, my best rides have been around the 130bpm mark. The problem is that there is no sign of it being a good day or bad until I get going, with the only indication of late being that my best rides are usually those that follow a rest day. Well it’s probably one ride at home on the C60 before we head off and, I suspect, a short ride upon arrival in Bedoin next Saturday with a full rest day the day before the planned challenge ride.
August 27th (9 days to go).
Felt pretty good when I set out but not when I got back. Despite a tailwind out I was slower than in to a headwind yesterday. My ability to push when the wind favours me seems to have completely gone. Four minutes slower today…pretty depressing! One more ride tomorrow to see if the downward spiral continues.
August 26th (10 days to go).
Clean bike (chain and gears freshly lubricated) with new tyres and two rest days in my legs but, despite all my ‘hard’ work, I actually went a minute slower than last Monday. I found that really annoying, but the lack of power now is becoming very evident too. I’m basically no better than where I was well over a year ago (on a heavier bike!).
August 24th and 25th.
Two rest days – the second forced by heavy rain all day – with the first allowing me to time to give the bike (my Colnago C59) a good clean and relubrication of the chain. That always work psychologically…
August 23rd (13 days to go).
Four minutes down on yesterday with a less favourable wind direction and a few things on my mind to distract me. The bike needs a clean and the chain is in need of lubrication (plus I’m putting some new tyres on too) so that’s being done on a rest day tomorrow. Things will improve dramatically on Thursday!
August 22nd (2 weeks to go).
Back to my Norfolk route again but this time I felt reasonably good – despite a pretty strong cross wind for most of the way – and improved by over 5 minutes against a couple of weeks ago. I climbed out of the saddle and endured the usual levels of neuro pain but, despite the fact that I’m still a few minutes off my best, it bodes well for the rest of the week (planning 5 more rides before the wind down to the trip).
August 21st (15 days to go).
I rode my motorcycle from home to Norfolk for the longest ride since both acquiring it and before TM hit. The usual pain didn’t go away and my left knee was not happy but I did it. That’s given me an unexpected mental boost too.
August 19th (17 days to go).
Happy today to go over a minute quicker than yesterday for the same ride. Small variances in the wind direction can make a big difference here (right on the coast) but maybe there’s a bit of a recovery after recent trials and tribulations.
August 18th (18 days to go).
Back to cycling around my home town and I just scraped a 15mph average for the 17 miles. It was hard and it’s a struggle to rationalise the 12 minute difference between today and my first one on the same bike just about a year ago.
Another tennis session (my last before Ventoux). Not as good as Monday although I played 8 pretty great shots (I counted, because it’s a rarity!). Nearly feel over backwards a couple of times and froze a few more times – meaning a pause for a brain/feet reset.
August 16th (20 days to go).
Resting again in readiness for a few days of activity. Took a slow walk with the dog which took considerably longer than it really needed to – due to the pain, many stops and precarious walking.
August 15th (3 weeks to go).
Back on the doubles tennis court for the first time in weeks and it didn’t go too badly by my standards (actually winning 3 sets to love). I only lost one service game and my accuracy was pretty good generally – although I still couldn’t run and was fortunate that more balls were in reach tonight!
An enforced rest day as the heat was unbearable and I was still suffering issues from Friday’s fall. I was happy to take it!
My theory of “every day after a rest day gets worse” is pretty much being proven regularly now. Four minutes slower than yesterday with almost identical levels of pain.
August 12th (24 days to go).
I probably went out too late this morning (at 11am) as the temperature was already over 80 and continuing to climb. I took the view that it’s going to be hot in the south of France next month too!
I was suffering a bit from last night’s fall, but I managed to improve my ride time marginally over my most recent rides up here (by approximately 3 minutes) although I’m still way behind where I have been this year and, most worryingly, where I was a year ago. Tailwind out today saw me turn in good time but I suffered coming back.
The pain is still far in excess of the feeling of temperature caused by the weather. Combine the two and it’s really not comfortable from any perspective. I spent an hour or so in a cool bath when I got back, but then took 5 minutes to get out of it due to the effects of last night’s fall.
Drove to Norfolk this evening and it meant 4 hours in the car after a couple of long hold-ups because of accidents. When I arrived at Zoe’s I had a big fall after losing my balance going in to the house. I went over backwards and landed on my left hip and elbow as well as hitting the back of my head on the paving slabs. No bruises yet but another reminder that my balance is not good and once I go there’s no stopping me!
Better still this evening and a two and a half minute improvement over three days ago. The temperature was over 80 and the pain pretty bad and, as I type this (over 4 hours later) my feet are incredibly painful. Rest day tomorrow.
August 9th (27 days to go).
I felt marginally better this evening but, for some unknown reason, my Garmin didn’t record the route – so I’ve no idea as to what actually happened.
August 8th (4 weeks to go).
Another four circuits of Lee-on-the-Solent but slower than last night with yet another struggle to keep the legs turning. At least it wasn’t raining!
August 7th (29 days to go).
Four circuits of my home town (Lee-on-the-Solent) on a flat route that, being on the coast, can be strongly affected by the wind. I just scraped an average of 15.1 mph for marginally over 17 miles, which is really disappointing when considering that my first attempt last year was done in 57 minutes. My knee is still recovering but the overriding message is a lot less strength than last year. Part of me thinks that maybe I had Covid at some point (virtually everyone else has!).
Another much needed rest day. Basically, apart from taking a car for a drive and walking the dog, it was a day of sitting on my backside!
After a 200 mile drive home last night – and 4 consecutive days on the bike – I took it easy today. Just a dog walk and domestic duties!
August 4th (32 days to go).
The good thing is that I managed to climb out of the saddle – which shows the knee is recovering. Everything else today was pretty much the same as yesterday with just a few seconds of improvement over.
August 3rd (33 days to go).
Better than yesterday (around 5 minutes quicker in a similar headwind) but still way off my ‘norm’ and no respite from the pain. The air temperature may not be helping (it’s warm) but things are definitely worse than last year. More of a worry today was an absolute inability to climb out of the saddle; my left knee would not allow rotation forward beyond a straight leg but I’m hoping that’s purely to do with the swelling over the last few days. I iced the knee immediately upon returning and relaxed it for another 24 hours.
August 2nd (34 days to Ventoux)
Really not feeling great. As I type this (at 3.45pm) I am struggling with the usual intense burning sensation in my feet and my back is on fire! I rode my ‘usual’ 17.77 mile route this morning (for the first time in a couple of weeks) but it was a real struggle, with both my left knee problems and the pain combining with a 16mph headwind on the way out that I couldn’t benefit from on the return…quite simply because there’s no strength there. Over 17 minutes slower than my best and around 12 minutes slower than the average. Pretty depressing really.
August 1st 2022 (35 days to go).
I did myself no favours last week by twisting my left knee badly as I tried to climb out of a car on loose gravel. The knee (after a full cruciate repair in 1995) has already been condemned by my orthopedic surgeon and is set to be replaced fully later this year. It was relatively stable prior to TM due to the fact that I has built up some pretty substantial muscles in my legs, but the major losses of muscle came both there and in my upper back. It’s now swollen and sore and I can just about bend it to 90 degrees. Ice and gel seem to be working a bit but it’s difficult to pedal a full comfortable rotation. I’m riding though, but keep it shorter than usual – basically just to clock up an hour – at just over 13 miles (albeit with a long steady climb at half way). 5 minutes better today than last Friday and Saturday so it must be improving a bit. Had a front wheel puncture too which, as always, brought on the usual dismounting and remounting problems when I’ve nothing to lean on!
THE END OF THE CLIMB
An early start with Martin driving me and the bike to Chalet Reynard at 8am. I rode a short distance back along the Sault road to loosen up and we then drove to the exact spot where it all went wrong on Monday. Martin dropped Nick at the top and rode down to us in order to accompany me.
After helping me climb on (still an issue) and holding me up, I rode away to attempt the final 3.5 miles to the summit. Alan caught me up and rode just behind me as we took on the corners and occasional vicious headwind. The last section into the wind was extremely difficult and Alan dismounted in order to run alongside me as I was struggling to turn the legs again. That was probably more a combination of headwind and gearing affecting my ability but I made it to the penultimate corner and, once clear of the headwind, rode fairly easily to the top. As the photo’s show it was a stunning scene in near perfect weather. The most significant 3.5 miles of my cycling life!
The fact that I could ride away from the previous ‘point of no return’ in a far higher gear without issue demonstrated my views on gearing and confirmed that this was all about TM.
Another rest day, albeit not planned as the van broke down when the lads went to get their PCR tests in a nearby town. They had to sort it out and then drive to Avignon to collect another!
With heavy rains forecast we drove out to Sault for Alan and I to ride a route north of Ventoux and back to Malaucene. It was a stunning ride in parts and we covered 28 miles in total at an average speed just shy of 16 mph and a 114bpm average heart rate. Despite being unable to climb on and off my bike without support, I experienced no difficulties in riding or climbing. It was enough to confirm that Friday’s attempt to complete the climb was a viable proposition.
I woke up feeling pretty flat but also driven to want to go back to the mountain and finish the climb later in the week. My legs were very uncomfortable – particularly to the rear of my inner thighs – and I still could not sit or stand unaided. I decided to aim for a simple ride on the 15th with a view to returning to Ventoux on Friday. I rested for most of the day and caught up with the massive number of messages that I was receiving on Twitter. It seems my ‘failure’ yesterday was producing a greater response than had I made it in one!
It was absolutely clear that my problem was not mechanical nor caused by lack of energy. My legs had literally stopped turning and my inability to feel muscle fatigue had resulted in me pushing way beyond a point where I should maybe have known I had an issue looming. It transpires that my ride was the longest non-stop ride since the TM hit me (at 2 hours and 16 seconds) and we were entering new and unexplored territory from a TM perspective.
FIRST ATTEMPT AT VENTOUX
I’m afraid the initial challenge failed when I had to stop after around 13 miles of climbing and 3 miles short of the summit of Ventoux.
Martin rode with me and Alan drove the van (with my business partner Nick as company).
The lower slopes were certainly not easy for me. I managed to maintain a steady cadence early on (in lower gears) in order to save as much energy for the final section from Chalet Reynard. I moved up a couple of gears on the final couple of miles of the approach, but had to drop back down for the immediate 10% ramp away from the junction. It took a few yards to get in to a rhythm but I reached the first bend feeling relatively okay, although the change in gradient (to circa 12%) entailed my climbing out of the saddle – and I simply couldn’t do it. There was no ability in my legs to support myself other than by sitting down (reminiscent of my early TM days and not dissimilar to my recent Ventoux simulation on the Wattbike). My legs literally started to slow to the extent that they could barely turn. I was crying out in frustration and whilst I managed to clear the corner it became obvious that my legs were not going to turn for much longer. I made the decision to stop; unclipped my left foot and tried to support myself, but ended up getting caught by Alan who was running alongside me aware of the difficulty I was in (as Martin had signaled the impending issues when I first told him that things were going wrong). Alan couldn’t hold me up and Martin dropped his bike to grab me too…a 200lb dead weight!
Things were bad!
I couldn’t carry my own bodyweight as my legs collapsed under me. In the end the team had to remove the seat-pin from my bike so we could slide it out from under me. I couldn’t lift my legs, walk or stand unaided. Two of my helpers supported me to our van and the other then lifted my feet onto the step before they all unceremoniously lifted and pushed me on to the rear bench seat. It was devastating and as I type this (some 12 hours later) I need assistance to stand up and my walking is not good! More thoughts tomorrow, although it is highly unlikely that I will be trying again!
A 20 mile ‘leg loosener’ today in the Bedoin area to the south of the mountain. It still involved 1,000ft of climbing and the weather was really too hot for me (we left at 10.50 and the temperature was in the high 20’s F / 70’s C and rising). My legs turned but the neuro pain in my back was verging on unbearable and I suffered from abdominal aches that meant I really needed to maintain focus. Quite nervous about tomorrow…
The last leg of the journey down to Ventoux. It was a bit surreal seeing it for the first time! Met my ‘team’ of Alan and Martin from Mellow Jersey.
Second day of driving. Around 8 hours at the wheel so little time for anything else. I class it at a sort of rest!
First day of the trip down to Ventoux. A relaxed evening and decent night of sleep helped as there’s more tomorrow.
Two sets of tennis between rain showers this evening. Didn’t play too badly (my partner and I won 6-3, 6-1) and, ultimately, as it was my last exercise before heading to France, I took it a bit easier than usual.
A rest day but purely because I was getting the bikes and wheels ready for the Challenge.
Office followed by my last massage before the Challenge and then 3 sets of tennis. Feet and back burning pretty bad today – not sure if that’s also related to the higher air temperatures – and the mosquitoes were out big time during the early evening. A rare upside of TM is the fact that I can’t feel the bites on my legs!
A Wattbike ‘Cyclist Climb Workout’ over 64 minutes. Not my highest readings but not far off them and everything felt much as it should.
A second rest day. It seems a double rest day is the best way to recover for another few days of activity ahead.
Rest day today. Feet still scorching but needed it again!
A shorter, 40 minute, Wattbike session today but pleased to see a perfect 50:50 leg balance.
Work, rest, massage and 90 minutes of tennis. Didn’t play as well as two days ago but felt ok overall. Feet pain annoying…
An hour on the ‘Mountain Stage’ simulation on the Wattbike. Two weeks ago this didn’t end well, but today was significantly better with average power up over 8% and all of the session targets met.
Back home after driving back from Norfolk last night. 3 sets of tennis this evening (which we won) and I didn’t lose my serve once in 7 service games. Burning feet and slightly burn in the back, but feeling pretty good overall.
My final ride in Norfolk before Ventoux in two weeks. Similar conditions to yesterday (13mph northerly wind) although my heart rate didn’t start to rise until around 10 minutes in. Half a minute quicker than yesterday, so pretty consistent (the 6 rides this week have been covered by 2 minutes). I’ve an overall concern that my strength has dropped off significantly as I haven’t got anywhere near my best times earlier this year. It may be due to the wind this week, but it seems that my efforts in Wales last month (and the painful Wattbike ride up Ventoux) have resulted in a loss of speed. May be a TM thing, so something to watch.
Back on the bike for Norfolk Ride #5 this week. It started off well; my legs felt good and my heart rate lifted straight away (still pretty unusual) so I expected an improvement against all four previous rides. Wrong!
15mph northerly wind was annoying and I ended up going slower than every ride this week bar one. I felt better than that…
An unscheduled rest day due to really struggling to get out of bed this morning (with massive brain and body fatigue) as well as burning back pains that don’t usually happen until I get on a bike. Too uncomfortable to do anything and too tired to try.
Rest day. Aside from work, reading (a stack of ProCycling magazines) and watching La Vuelta, I will be doing nothing today!
Norfolk ride#4. Almost identical conditions to yesterday and (aside from a very near miss with a caravan early on) pretty uneventful. Conditions were so similar that my time was only 9 seconds different, but my average heart rate was lower at 112bpm compared to Tuesday’s 120bpm. The heat pain in my back seemed worse than normal, but I can’t explain why.
Norfolk ride#3. Another one minute improvement than the previous day and annoyingly noisy, as my saddle creaked the whole way (thanks to Sunday’s soaking). Didn’t feel to0 great but I suppose I’m consistent!
Norfolk ride #2. An improvement on yesterday (despite a very minor detour for roadworks) but still some way short of my best up here. I don’t feel fully up to speed again and the awkward northerly wind doesn’t help, but it can only get better….
Norfolk ride #1 of this week. I was ready to set off when it tipped down with rain. I waited for it to stop before heading off on my usual route and, as expected, the rain returned 10 minutes later! The ride was steady and uncomfortable as, not only did I have to contend with the usual burning pains, I had to deal with the pain generated by rain hitting me…and limited visibility through constant rain on my glasses. The time and speed wasn’t great (way off ‘normal’) but hopefully that’s more to do with the weather than anything else.
After a drive to Norfolk last night I chose another rest day today as I’m staying up here for a week with a view to getting at least 6 rides in. I needed the rest though, as my body has been aching a fair bit.
A 35 minute Wattbike session. Fortunately there were no problems and no repeat of the disastrous session last week. Just a steady “All-Rounder” routine that helped to build some confidence back up.
Rest day. It was needed and welcomed!
A morning on the road in the car with a restful afternoon (sandwiched around my usual micronap) before 3 sets of tennis. Didn’t play too badly but my feet are at the extreme end of painful. Still can’t run though…
Lifted my mood with a ride on my motorcycle and, a couple of hours later, 17 miles cycling. The latter was marginally better then last Friday but the wind wasn’t too great.
Work followed by massage and 90 minutes of tennis. The day didn’t start well however as I was very flat mentally and getting more annoyed by the lack of feedback from my GP. My mood lifted slightly in the afternoon but it’s very much a TM thing in my opinion.
Still really tired so took another rest day. Went to bed at 10pm and managed a good night’s sleep although still some issues with the lack of effect of my bladder medication.
After 6 days of effort (at varying levels) I decided it was time for a rest day. I really needed it and hopefully the rest will serve me well.
My local ride of 4 laps of my village (17 miles) in windy conditions but it was marginally better than yesterday’s effort. I struggled to climb off the bike and, unknown to me at the time, in doing so I managed to bury a chainwheel tooth into my right calf…the joys of not having feeling in the legs! Still feeling a bit run down so need to keep an eye on things.
After yesterday’s positivity, today was a complete turnaround – with one of my worst Wattbike sessions to date. I went for a 1 hour mountain ride simulation but power just dropped away – eventually averaging 20% lower than the Ventous simulation last week (which was 45 mins longer). As I’m still waiting for the results of my urine test it may be that I do have an infection as I am also having problems with aches around my right eye.
For the first time since TM hit I really focused on my tennis today. I still can’t run but it was, in my opinion, the best I’ve played since ‘coming back’ to it. In a two set doubles match (over 90 mins) I didn’t lose any of my five service games and managed some half decent shots (commented on by others too). Mental approach was key though and that’s critical for me overall.
I had every intention of walking the dog and cycling for at least an hour this morning but I was hit my massive fatigue. The dog was walked at 11am but I was then confined to a chair for three hours – literally out of energy and the drive to do anything….classic TM. I sparked into life at around 3.30pm so immediately got into work mode. I managed to get on on the bike at 7.45pm and despite the intention of riding four laps of my local route I only did two due to fading light. I felt ok though and it was useful to loosen the legs up.
Drove home last night and spent a few hours in the office this morning. A late afternoon massage was followed by 80 minutes of, poor, tennis. Nothing too heavy but still dealing with the stress of my bladder problems. Not heard from my urologist but managed to speak to a specialist nurse and have had a urine sample sent for lab analysis.
After another bad night (due to constant trips to the bathroom) I decided that I must go out for a steady bike ride despite heavy winds and forecast rain. I didn’t feel too bad and despite the conditions managed a decent time on my usual Norfolk route. Just scraped under 1.09 with an average heart rate of 131, so not too bad (for not trying too hard).
Another enforced rest day – for the same reasons as yesterday – so I took the opportunity try to find an answer/solution to my bladder problem. As it’s a Saturday there’s nobody I could call save for NHS111. I tried but there was no answer, after holding for ages. The message recommended the on-line version, but that was a complete waste of time as it gave no opportunity to mention pre-existing conditions. The outcome of the latter was a simple message: “Call your GP” – not much use on a weekend! I then tried the local pharmacist but that was another waste of time (particularly as she looked blank when I mentioned Transverse Myelitis). It’s not severe enough to justify an emergency so I’m stuck with it for at least another couple of days. Go to say it’s causing me some worry for a number of reasons.
Fate (75% weather and 25% urological problems) dealt me another rest day. Pleased in a way but the latter problems are becoming of concern, as my bladder control appears to have reverted to a point it was at 2 years ago. It’s as if the drug I take has suddenly stopped working and, whilst I have called the Portsmouth Hospitals Urology Team, I am none the wiser as to what may be happening. Not good when you want to ride a bike…
Rest day. Very much needed. Four hour drive to Norfolk this evening.
A day driving for work and tennis in the evening. Really suffering from yesterday’s effort – which was very evident on the tennis court, although things improved slowly through time.
After numerous excuses (thanks to the Olympics) I ended up wheeling the Wattbike out of the garage for my first attempt at the simulation of Mont Ventoux. The only option was the climb from Bedoin (supposedly tougher than my intended climb from Sault – but sharing the upper section) which extends to 13 miles at an average gradient of something stupid. It took me 1.48.24 (after a 15 minute warm up) with an average power of 185W and cadence of 63rpm. A large proportion of the ride was spent in the lowest available gear and (what I believe to be) the last three hairpins were almost impossible. I was close to stopping but determined to get to the top – and that was a result. Neuro pain was off the scale again and my toes just burned from the outset. I could barely spin my legs to warm down and didn’t anticipate the issues that would arise immediately after stopping:
Getting off the Wattbike took a couple of minutes and I could barely stand – let alone walk. My inner thighs were really uncomfortable (ironically not something I feel when riding) and over the next few hours my legs collapsed on me on a number of occasions. Clearly there are a number of things I discover through such activities but, from a positive perspective, I made it (although the reality will be a completely different proposition once wind, road surface, altitude and temperature are accounted for).
In the office this morning (which tends to tire me) with a 1 hour massage this afternoon, leading in to tennis a couple of hours later. I felt great during the first set and played some strong shots – not unnoticed by the three other guys on court – but tiredness started to creep in during the second set and eventually I was absolutely gone!
I felt good this morning after a decent night’s sleep and took out the C64 for my usual local ride of 4 laps of the town. Compared to my last one (9 days ago) I was 3 minutes slower, but the wind was less beneficial and that’s still 2 minutes better than my previous best. Feet and upper back were off the pain scale but overall I was happy with an average 17mph and can now focus on a longer Wattbike session this coming week.
Rest day. I was tired and suffering from the usual TM related muscle aches, pains and fatigue. I had no desire to do anything and even walking the dog was a struggle.
Long drive home from Wales.
The Bwlch Mountain again but this time I chose to ride a little easier in the lower section (by using a lower gears and higher cadence) in order to try to save something for the top. My objective was to cover the, steepest, final part of the climb without using my lowest gear. I didn’t feel too good about it when I left the house, but in the end I did get to the top without using my lowest gear and with an average heart rate overall of 128 bpm – just under a 10% improvement against Monday. My overall time was a couple of minutes slower but my time over the last 3 miles was almost exactly the same as Monday.
I descended a lot faster and felt far better overall than on Monday (both on and after the ride) although the levels of pain were no different. Ultimately I think this ride demonstrated that I have to conserve as much energy/power as possible when able to, in order to make the more difficult tasks less stressful on mind and body.
Two big positives from both rides were the fact that I suffered no comfort issues (I sometimes suffer with a sensation in the saddle that feels like I am sitting on two straws) and I had no need on either ride to stop for ‘comfort’ breaks. Given the numerous issues I have to deal with ‘down below’ these findings are significant!
Not great weather to start the day so we drove the climb and took the dogs for a walk. I went out for a short 10 mile ride in the evening to loosen up a bit for another ride up the Bwlch tomorrow.
No real issues following yesterday’s ride but, with rain first thing and a desire to try the climb again later this week, I decided a rest day would be appropriate.
Set off at 10.30 and headed off to Port Talbot (a useful warm up) to the Bwlch climb. 20.83 miles later I was at the top, so achieved the task non-stop, albeit with a few issues: high levels of nerve pain (feet and back off the scale with perceived scalding heat), concerns that I ran out of gears (the last 2 miles were in my lowest gear, but I managed to keep it turning) and, due to the actual heat (in the 70s) and direct sun, I really suffered with sweat in my eyes. I basically climbed for over 10 miles from near sea level to circa 1,500ft. The largest elevation I have ever cycled and with an average heart rate of 141 bpm (175 peak). The ride took me 1 hr 44.34 with an average speed of 11.9 mph – not surprising as my speed on the hardest final slope (around 2 miles in length) averaged around 7 mph.
I descended very carefully, as the top road surface was not too smooth and (as my issues mean I cannot hold the drops too comfortably) I was holding and braking through the top of the brake hoods. The jarring caused some minor leg spasms (and caused my saddle to eventually come loose) and my legs as a whole felt quite strange after the effort of the climb. I was back at the house in 1 hr 17.29 and did suffer a bit towards the end but – after 3 hours on the bike – that came as no great surprise, as it was by far my longest and most strenuous ride since the TM hit me in October 2018.
Overall I was extremely pleased that I made it to the top although disappointed that I ended up having to use my lowest gear for most of the final 2 miles of the climb. My lack of strength is very apparent when I need it although for the majority of the climb I felt comfortable and genuinely believed that I would have gears to spare. I know I am too hard on myself…so may have to try again later this week!
A 16 mile ride with Zoe just to establish how best to get to the base of the climb tomorrow. We did start a parallel climb and the bike felt good (although it took me a few minutes to feel ok once we has set out).
A rest day, but we took the opportunity to drive up the climb I intend to attempt to ride in a couple of days. Got to say it does look a bit daunting!
A long day driving to Wales.
Off to Wales tomorrow for a week in an attempt to ride a long (10 mile) climb in order to establish that I am not being too stupid by planning to try Ventoux in September. Thought best to take out the bike I intend to ride down there: my, as yet unridden, Colnago C64 purchased in 2018 (just a few weeks before TM hit me). I did not want to ride it until I felt confident in myself – and now seemed about right. I rode it around my ‘usual’ home based route of 17 miles – comprising of four laps of my town – and incredibly went 5 minutes quicker than the best I have achieved to date. Now, that could just be the bike, but I suspect a combination of that, me and the weather. Very encouraging though and just the boost I needed before the Bwlch next week.
Tennis for an hour and a half this evening. Not as good as I was two days ago, but still feeling the benefit of the massage.
Just 30 minutes on the Wattbike today. I started one specific one hour routine but the software crashed after 10 minutes and, as it was so hot, I just turned the pedals (with an average power of 170W).
I had a sports massage booked today (the first for a few weeks) and it seemed to make a significant difference to my flexibility and overall condition. I played tennis for over 2 hours this evening and it’s probably the best I’ve felt overall for some time. I’ve been experiencing some impingement type pain in both shoulders when cycling and thought it might be TM related, but some deep tissue work and ultrasound appears to have worked in easing the issue. Playing tennis with TM nerve pain in today’s heat can hardly be called comfortable though!
Norfolk ride #3. Seriously hot today (I probably went out too late) and I had to deal with a marginally stronger wind than yesterday; 1.08.17 with an average heart rate of 132 was ok, but hard and painful.
Norfolk ride #2. A 2 minute improvement on yesterday (1.06.59) in similar conditions. I suspect a lot of this is down to the fact that I rode a different bike today (my Colnago C59) even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t ride it until I had bettered my best efforts on the Pinarello. I just fancied a change!
Norfolk ride #1. Felt pretty good today on my usual 17.7 mile course but, with stronger winds than last weekend (and from a different direction), it was a far harder ride back. My heart rate was ok (average 128) but the time of 1.09.06 was a little disappointing although, with two more rides to come, I feel that tomorrow will be better. There was definitely some tiredness (from yesterday in the car) but it was also pretty hot (not the best thing for me!).
A long drive today, so I was pretty tired when I arrived in Norfolk and decided (with three days cycling due) to rest.
A morning in the office followed by rest (including usual afternoon micro-nap) and 80 minutes of tennis.
With Ventoux only 2 months away I thought best to increase the time and effort on the Wattbike. Chose to ride the simulation of the Col d’Izoard – an ‘Hors Categorie’ Tour de France climb of just over 8 and a half miles in length and an average gradient of 6.9%. This is over twice the length of previous climb simulations and took me 1 hour and 6 minutes at an average power of 193W and cadence of 65rpm. I managed it (despite a nasty sting in the tail around a mile from the finish) but had some serious issues with my legs thereafter. Leg strength and mobility were seriously compromised and, not surprisingly, the nerve pain was intense (both throughout the climb and a few hours afterwards).
The climb is approximately two thirds the length of Ventoux and clearly, as a simulation, real world conditions don’t exist – but at least I can cover a greater distance than previous efforts. Combined with a simple 15 minute warm up and similar cool down the total session amounted to 1 hr 32 mins at an average heart rate of 114 bpm.
I had hoped to take my Ducati motorcycle out for a ride in the evening but the weakness in my legs made it too dangerous a proposition!
A few hours in the office with afternoon rest followed by just shy of an hour of tennis in appalling weather conditions. I was hoping the tennis would be rained off (in which case it would have been an hour on the Wattbike) but all others showed up so I had to go.
Rest days. I had my second Pfizer jab on the Saturday morning and a major lay in on Sunday. Spent both afternoons Sitting on my arse watching the live Tour de France coverage (although I did venture out for dog walks on both days).
112 miles cycling during the week with minor improvements from start to finish. No let up in pain though.
Norfolk ride #5. The heart rate issue was there again but I decided to push through it today as best I could, as it’s a long drive home tonight and rest day (and second Pfizer jab) tomorrow. In the end it wasn’t too bad with a 1.07.19 – albeit still a couple of minutes shy of my best. Average heart rate of 123 bpm but a lot of neuro pain- especially after a rare short climb out of the saddle.
Longer Norfolk ride. It was pretty obvious within the first 2 minutes today that it was another brain/heart lock-down – and I was close to turning round – but I decided just to carry on slowly and travel a bit further to see how I felt (with a longer time on the bike than I’ve been used to of late). In he end I rode one of the routes I used to ride regularly before the TM hit. This involves crossing the busy A47 twice (the reason why I haven’t been using it since TM as my balance and speed of pulling away is not confidence building!). In the end it was 23.44 miles in 1.38.16 and average heart rate of 110. It transpires that it was the longest ride I’ve managed since TM but still a long way short on time of where I need to be in September. 20 minutes slower than what I used to do comfortably and, in places, uncomfortable on the saddle (a problem down to self-catherisation I believe).
Norfolk ride #4. Normality returns! Heart rate up as soon as I set off and I felt so much looser than the last two days. Ended up with a 1.06.55 – a minute and a half better than Sunday and average heart rate of 130 (max.151). Basically an all round better performance; slightly less effort with a much better return. This is still over a minute slower than my best – but hoping to deal with that tomorrow – with, unfortunately, no change in the levels of pain. Spent the afternoon watching the Tour de France climbing Mont Ventoux…interesting!
Norfolk ride #3. The same problem as yesterday! Average heart rate again at 115 bpm although I did manage the distance 1 minute faster. It was raining when I left the house but it was very apparent, after only a mile, that the ‘lock-down’ was back. Getting pretty pissed of with it now as it feels as though I am being held back. All the usual pain issues and some minor saddle discomfort too (feels like I am sitting on two solid drinking straws at times!). Played pool for 90 minutes at the end of the day (for the first time in 2 years). Arm stretch is useful therapy but the burning in my back and not sitting caused later problems when I took the dog for a walk – my legs felt like they were made of lead and it was extremely difficult to keep my balance.
Norfolk ride #2. Not so great today. 2 minutes slower than yesterday with all of this lost in the first few miles, through a combination of headwind and an inability to raise my heart rate above 100 bpm. Average rate today was 115 (137 max) against 132 (160 max) yesterday. Not the first time this has happened and I can only conclude that my brain is simply putting the brakes on!
My usual Norfolk ride of 17.77 miles. Ever since climbing back on my bike after TM, this has been my regular ride – taking in country lanes and a couple of small ‘ramps’ in the centre of the county. Today it was covered in 1.08.25 (average speed of 15.6mph) – just shy of 3 minutes slower than my best (set in May) but, at best, 3 minutes better than a series of rides last month which were undertaken after a 10 day period with no exercise due to a chest cold. I actually felt good and was disappointed that I had not gone faster. Usual burning through back and feet and was drenched with sweat when I got home as it had been raining when I left (so rode in a waterproof gilet). Ridden on my Pinarello Neor road bike – which will be used until I beat my best time…and then I upgrade to a carbon Colnago C59!
Rest day. I drove 200 miles from home to my partner’s home in Norfolk on the evening of the 2nd July and, these days, this does tend to cause some tiredness the following day. Faced with 6 solid days of cycling I chose today as my once weekly rest day. We did take the opportunity to book accommodation in south Wales in order to attempt to ride the Bwlch Mountain climb at the end of the month – my only real test of gearing and capability prior to Ventoux.
Wattbike ‘Building Blocks’ programme. 57:30 mins with perfect 50:50 leg balance. Average Power of 166W; cadence of 86 rpm and 1.89 W/kg. External temperature was high and ‘garage’ temperature mildly reduced by the face level cooling fan. As always I suffered from incredibly painful feet and upper back muscles.
First Building Blocks was in October 2019: Average Power of 108W; cadence of 85rpm and 1.04W/kg.
1 hour on the Wattbike. The ‘Mountain Stage’ programme. Average Power of 176W; cadence of 80 rpm and 1.98W/kg.
My leg balance was 49/51 and hopefully is now consistently far more balanced than it has been since the loss of muscle and weakening of my (already heavily compromised) left knee. It was hot and hard work.
First ‘Mountain Stage’ was November 2020: Average Power of 146W: cadence 83 rpm and 1.60W/kg. Leg balance 45:55.