I was lucky enough this Sunday to visit the new Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow and to have the chance to ride the track for the first time. Edinburgh Road Club (ERC) booked the track for 3 hours on Sunday morning and run junior and senior coaching sessions along side each other. I was lucky enough to spend about and hour on the track.
Firstly, it was just amazing to see the place, it is huge. The building is very modern from the outside and it is in the Parkhead area of Glasgow right beside the Celtic football ground. Parkhead is really quite a run down area of Glasgow that I am glad to say is being regenerated for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It seemed slightly surreal to driving along a road lined with social housing, which screamed deprivation at you, and then to turn a corner and be faced with a £113 million Velodrome.
One of the best moments of the day was, after I got my track bike to hire, climbing the steps into the centre space of the track. I was quite overwhelmed by the size of it. Fortunately I didn’t have long to wait before getting to ride. The most difficult bit is getting on and off the bike. Someone had to hold the bike for me while I clipped my feet in. Once I was in, I has hanging onto the barrier with one hand just trying to stay upright which I found quite tricky.
The hardest thing was keeping my feel in the pedals. I have an ongoing problem with my right foot jumping out of the cleat. On a road its not too much of a problem because I can just freewheel for a bit and clip back in. On the track bike it was really difficult because you can’t freewheel so I go into a pickle a couple of times with one foot hanging out the side.
It was much more difficult than I thought it would be but I still really enjoyed it. Going round the banking at speed is an amazing feeling. I’m going to try and get another opportunity to go through again next year. I’m hoping Scottish Cycling will start a track league for disabled riders although I think it will be a while before they get around to that.
In the last 1o days we have seen a much more settled spell of weather for a day or so lulled us into thinking that summer had finally arrived. I’ve been lucky enough so far to get a couple of runs and some cycling training in the sunshine wearing only my shorts and top, an experience I’ve not had since way back last summer sometime. Unfortunately things have takes a turn for the worse again and we are back to our usual rain and drizzle for now.
The good weather certainly brings out the cyclists and I was on a club run last week where there must have been around 20 riders. I generally enjoy cycling in the big pack like that although when it speeds up, as it does, I get nervous. If anything is going to happen it will happen very quickly so you have to have your wits about you. As well as bringing the cyclists out, I think the summer makes people cycle faster, further and harder which is probably help by the cycle season being well underway and people’s fitness much higher. Unfortunately this is somewhat to my detriment because I am, struggling more than ever to keep up with them. They are getting fed up waiting on me and I’m getting fed up busting a gut to keep up.
A good friend of mine reminded me of something which find of put things in perspective for me. The club that I cycel with, Edinburgh Road Club, is not just any old club, but its the most competitive club in Edinburgh. Some of the people I cycle with and not just any old cyclist, some of them are top athletes and are very competitive cyclists. There are Scottish champions and a couple of world champions in different disciplines.
Its not appropriate to compare of measure my progress up against theirs. I forget I have cerebral palsy sometimes, and I think they do too which on the one hand is a positive thing but, on the other creates false expectations. The fact that they make no difference to me is fantastic and they obviously don’t see me as disabled which is great. On the other hand, I have to remember that there is a difference and I’m not going be able to realistically keep up with them.
I think the best thing is to keep doing what I’m doing and most of all enjoy my cycling. Comparing oneself to others can be a futile pursuit unless you have good reason to do so like, you are about to enter a race or a time trail which I am not. Even I were however, I wouldn’t be about to race against the elite riders on Edinburgh, rather I’d be riding against other disabled people with a similar level of impairment. With that in mind I am not going to loose a wink of sleep about not keeping up with people and going to enjoy doing what I am doing.
Yesterday I attended Highland and Perthshire Cycling Festival after being invited to speak about the cycling that I’m doing, and about disability cycling in general. I met some lovely people and was inspired by the number of disabled cyclists there, and by the development that seems to be taking place to promote and encourage cycling amongst disabled people.
I was particularly inspired by a young cyclist with cerebral palsy who was into cycle-running and has won many medals in her discipline. She was a top athlete who brought along here running cycle to show us. I was quite surprised by the number of specialist bikes on show that are available to disabled cyclists. There were a couple of companies there displaying specialist cycles and equipment for enabling disabled cyclists to take part. For example, there were tandems, three wheelers that would enable a wheelchair user to sit on the front, as well as side by sides that enable disabled cyclists to be accompanied on a bike. It was great to see so much variety and ways that disabled people to participate in cycling.
One thing that did make me feel proud yesterday however was, that I realised that there are not many disabled people cycling and doing the sort of distances and training that I am doing. I feel fantastic that I am so fit at the moment and am able to cycle 40 miles or so with the local club. I continue to monitor my training and performance in the hope of finding other disabled people to compare notes with. The girl doing the cycle-running was fantastic and I hope she goes on to train and record her data and experience. Meanwhile I will continue to try and improve and encourage disabled riders to do the same.
I was so delighted to have been asked to attend yesterday and hope that even in a small way I might be able to encourage other disabled people to ride. I can’t put into words the freedom and enjoyment that cycling gives me as well as the obvious challenge. I think the good thing about cycling is, that it is as challenging as you make it. I love setting challenges for myself and stretching myself to the absolute limit. For example, a few weeks ago I went out with a group who I was never going to keep up with and they would drop me pretty quickly indeed. I managed to hang onto their tails for about 15 miles before they were out of sight and I just felt fantastic that I had done that. The challenge for me is one of the best parts and I hope that I can get that over to others and they get the same enjoyment out it as I do.
I now have to set myself some more challenges and things to archive. I would like to ride to raise money for charity next and then try some bigger longer, endurance rides. I would also like to pluck up the courage to take part in local time trials and see how I get on with that.
Some of you might know, if you have been following my blog, that I have a somewhat reduced or small lung capacity which I think might be limiting my performance. I tend to notice it when I am out cycling with friends from the Road club. I generally manage to keep up on the flat ok but as soon as we start to climb hills its a different story. Although I have been training hard over the winter and feel fitter now than I have ever felt, I still don’t have anywhere near the capacity to climb hills as they have.
Recently I have been made aware of a device called the Power Breathe, which is a piece of equipment that athletes use to try and improve breathing and lung function. It has been shown to be of use to sports men and women as well as being people with health problems associated with breathing etc.
The lungs are controlled by muscles in the chest and the diaphragm, which is a thin membrane below the rib cage that stretches across the abdominal cavity. It is the movement of these muscles that enable to lungs to breathe in and out. These muscles, like any other muscle, needs exercised in order to improve performance.
The Power Breathe is a small piece of equipment that athletes use to exercise the muscles that improve lung function. Its a small item to breathe through that provides a bit of resistance in order to make the muscles work harder. As time goes on and your muscles get stronger, the resistance can be increased to make the workout harder. The equipment has been shown to have an effect after 2 weeks of using it twice a day for 30 seconds at a time.
I’m not expecting to get miraculous results with it and suddenly be able to climb like everybody else, although I am keen to try it. If it can even help me climb a little bit better it will be worth the time. Only time will tell but I will keep working hard to keep my performance up as high as I can.
I learned an important lesson last week while out on as longer run. By the time I got back into Edinburgh after 55 miles, I was extremely exhausted and someone asked me what I had to eat that day. I had a bowl of cereal before I left in the morning and, about half way through the 4 hour ride had about 6 squares of chocolate that I had left left over for baking the previous day.
No wonder I was tired, that was nothing like enough food to sustain me over that length of run. A friend advised me that I should have had a large meal the night before packed with carbohydrate, then in the morning a hearty breakfast. I sometime have porridge before a cycle as it allows you to have a slow release of energy, this along with toast and fruit would have been better than a bowl of cornflakes!
Another difficulty I have is eating and drinking on the go as it requires the rider to be able to ride with one hand and a bit of extra balance. Unfortunately I don’t have someone to cycle along side me and offer me a tray of delights as Andy Schleck does in the photograph here. However, I am learning to drink on the move but have had to adapt a little to enable me to do this. When I am cycling along in the pack I am aware of others eating and drinking as we go particularly when I see banana skins being hurled into the field as the side of the road. If I need to drink I tend to drop back out of the bunch so I have more space then, after I have had a drink, work my way back up. Cycling with one hand and drinking takes a lot more balance and control and I tend to wobble a bit when I do, so I have to choose my moments carefully.
I would like to learn to eat on the go because it gives the other riders an advantage and it can really help conserve energy if you can eat in the saddle. I have been exploring ways to do thins like having a little box like the triathletes do on the cross bar. Again it takes balance and for me, like drinking, it will take practice. I feel that this is an essential skill to learn as I have shown, cycling on an empty stomach is not a good idea.
On Sunday I joined the Road Club to go cycling for their new regular Sunday run, which I really enjoyed. As cycle training goes, I found it really streched me. There was about 12 of us and, although grey and over cast, the weather was fine. We headed southwest to the Borders into a headwind and did a big circular taking in some country roads. Coming back was lovely on a well surfaced, wide open road with a strong tail wind.
I have to tell the truth here, I struggled a bit on Sunday. When we left a place called Carnwarth with about 20 miles to the others could tell I was getting really tired. One of them offered to go ahead and when he got back to Edinburgh, get his car and come and get me. He picked my up just on the outskirts of Edinburgh and I must admit I was glad to see him when he rolled up in his car.
By the time I got back into Edinburgh I had done 55 miles which was probably a bit much for me. It did make me wonder about my limits and biting off more than I can chew. I have done that king of length of run and longer in the past, although I have done them at a slower pace over a longer period of time. When I did that sort of run in the past I was with another club who go at a much slower pace. The club I cycle with are predominantly a race club so naturaly tend to go faster. I really enjoyed the run all the same although it will make me more cautious in the future about taking on more than I can handle.
I went to RPM class tonight after a few weeks break from it and I really struggled but survived. I knew it was going ot be hard after a gap but it was fine. I felt good after it as usual and it has inspired me to get back into my training.
I have kind let my training drop a bit over the last few weeks which is not good so I need to try and step it back up. I was training really hard over the winter but after my skiing trip kind of let it drop for whatever reason. If anything I should have stepped it up, now that the better weather is coming in.
I very conscious tonight of my RPM being very low and I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve not been for a few weeks, or because of my CP. I suspect its a bit of both. The instructor was asking up to go the maximum rate of 130-140 RPM but I can’t get anywhere near that rate. If I really push it I can just touch 120 RPM for a couple of seconds but otherwise my sprinting speed is somewhere are 110- 115RPM. Frustrating yes, but I spoke with a physiotherapist at one time about it and she explained that people with CP don’t have the same neuro-muscular control as the average person which explains things.
I’m glad I went tonight because it has inspired me to get training again. I’ve got cycling planned for this weekend so hoping the weather is fine.
I went on club social ride today that takes place on the first Sunday of every month and I really enjoyed it. We went out on a nice tail wind, although coming back was a bit more difficult so, I dropped off the back and made my own way home rather than struggle and hold the group of 20 back .
I enjoy going out on club runs because the company is always great, I’m lucky enough to be part of Edinburgh Road Club, a really nice club. I seem to do ok on the flat and keep up with the pack fine although as soon as we start climbing, its a different story all together. I really struggle to get up the hills and, as soon as we start climbing, I get dropped.
I have been working hard over the winter trying to get my fitness up by attending RPM classes and circuit training, working out on the Turbo and doing hills reps. I’m feeling a bit frustrated at the moment because, despite my efforts, it would seem that I still can’t keep up with the able-bodied people I ride with.
One thing that I have discovered is that, without doubt, I have a very small lung capacity and this has to be a contributing factor. It was actually a friend of mine who discovered on the Internet that it is a manifestation of cerebral palsy to have a reduced lung capacity. Unfortunately there is little can be done about that and although I train hard, I might not ever be able to climb as effectively as other people. Off course I find it very frustrating but its one of these things that I’m going to have to accept. I have a tendency to compare myself with many of the other members in the club who are not only able bodied, some of them are top athletes. I must remember that it is not helpful t0 compare myself to them and it is not a reasonable comparison. For someone with CP I hope I am in top bracket of fitness and hope to improve even more.
On a Sunday morning a group from the Edinburgh Road Club meet outside the local Starbucks, and they generally go for quite a long run on a Sunday. The past couple of weeks I have turned up in the morning to join them and yesterday was a fabulous morning and went along again.
Its generally a standing joke about how soon they will drop me. These guys are superhuman and are incredibly fit and strong and there is no way that I will ever keep up with them, although I do my best and I enjoy the challenge.
Yesterday I managed to hang in there for about the first 10 miles out the Kirkliston. I was quite impressed with myself but it is really hard work for me. After I parted company with the others at Kirkliston, I went Linlithgow. I had a coffee there and came home again.
By the time I had got back at lunch time I had done 40 miles. I was pretty tired because I was going quickly to keep up with them and came back home quickly to get back to lunch. All in all it was a pretty hard run but I really enjoyed it and felt good for it. I was not very confident about going too far on my own but yesterday I got lots of confidence back and thought if I can do that in a morning, I’m obviously capable of more than I thought.
I read an interesting article in The Sunday Times this weekend reporting on a study carried out at Liverpool’s John Moore University, that endurance athletes may be pounding their way to hear troubles. This article does not apply to me because I don’t come anywhere near the mark of an endurance athlete although, it did make me think a little. It made me think about looking after my ticker and not putt too much straight on it.
Scientists have discovered that placing huge loads on the heart over many years can change its structure and workings. The cardiac cells may be replaced with fibrous material that reduces efficiency, and the hearts electro-conductivity can change leading to an uneven heart beat. This has been shown to be the case in a number of example but only when people have put excessive strain on the heart over many many years.
I haven’t so far, and don’t intend to, loose a moments sleep over this report, although it has made me wonder. I have discovered that people with Cerebral Palsy have a reduced lung capacity and I wondered if, hard exercise or exertion put extra strain on the heart?
For me, all the cycling I am doing is about looking after my heart and my body. How times have changed from 10 years ago from the guy who was smoking and drinking himself to dangerous levels. I’m not going to go into my past mental health issues here but felt it important to say how much I had changed and how fantastic I am feeling.