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.
I don’t know about you but I’ver got pretty fed up with the weather lately, we have had very little in the way of a summer this year. It has rained constantly for the last few weeks which has made it difficult to get out cycling much. I’ve kind of got out the habit of cycling and am finding it difficult to get back into.
Nobody needs me to tell them the effects of physical on mental health and mood. For a while I was feeling a bit rotten because I wasn’t getting out on the bike. However its amazing the change that a couple of days can have and the effect of a long run on the bike.
I made a decision to start feeling great again and have taken various steps to achieve this. As well as getting out on the bike more often I have started takking daily walks, eating healhy and looking after myself. I hope I can keep it up!
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.
There is a climb that is well known called The Granites which is just on the boundary between Mid Lothian and the Borders that has been on my ‘to do’ list for over a year now and I finally cycled it today. It was good clear conditions and I was out with ERC and climbed it today and what a fantastic road it is. I feel really lucky sometimes because within an hours cycle there are so many fantastic country roads around.
I didn’t however complete the run that I wanted to do, rather I climbed to the top of the Granites and came back down the same way rather that carrying on with a circular run that the others were doing. I was struggling to keep up with the others because it was a particularly hilly ride. Again I’m back to the old problem of finding it difficult to get up hills. Someone said to me that I should work at my hill climbing.
The truth is I have been working at climbing all winter in RPM class and by doing hill reps. I might never be able to climb as effectively as able bodied people but I just have to accept that. am trying to raise money to buy a light weight bike at the moment which will help tremendously. Unfortunately, these things cost a huge amount of money and this might take some time.
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.
Since I got home from holiday, I’ve not been out on my bike much. The first few days after my return from France I felt very tired indeed. I guess I’m not up to six days skiing on the trot which is what I did. When I am on a ski holiday for a week the temptation is to fill every day with as much skiing as possibly. Skiing, like most sports is hard work and to do it every days for a week I find pretty exhausting.
The winds are very high at the moment and this is helping to keep me off the bike. I went out for a run yesterday and turn back after 10 miles because the wind was so strong. Mind you, the 10 miles home was good with a strong wind on my back.
I need to get motivated again right now and at least get back to RPM classes. I know its going to hurt the first time back but the sooner I do it the better!
I attended the Edinburgh Road Club annual dinner last week which I really enjoyed and, as well as good food and chat, we were treated to a presentation from Graeme Obree. Known as the ‘Flying Scotsman’, Graeme Obree broke the world hour record and had a sparkling career in cycling. Despite his huge success on the track however, Graeme has experienced significant mental health issues over the years and had a couple of suicide attempts.
Graeme spoke about his achievements and how he got to where we did which was very inspiring, but the thing that really struck a chord with me and really got me fired up, was his absolute determination that drove him and still does. He told himself that he would break the hour record, in his words he said, taking a drink, ‘as sure as lifting this glass to my mouth’ he would do it, and so he did. It made me think about how that attitude could be applied to all aspects of your life and not just in sport, and what determination I had used in the past.
I had a difficult schooling career and was written off as a slow learner before my adult life had even begun. I left school at 16 with nothing then, after years of remedial teaching and very hard work, completed my MSc at medical school at the age of 25. It was a similar determination and conviction that drove me to complete my education and show the world I could. I has something to prove to the world and nothing was going to prevent me for doing that. Now I want to turn that determination to other things and sports and cycling are right there at the top of my priorities.
There is a lesson in Graeme’s story for all of us about determination and how much you want to achieve something, not just in sport, in any area of our lives. I have not achieved in my career or some other ways, but am really hoping to make up for it in sport now and make up for lost time. I don’t have a list of sporting milestones or markers that I want to achieve, but have an overwhelming desire to be better and fitter than even I ever imagined I could be. Whenever I get there and whatever shape and form that takes will only be borne out in the futer, but I know I will, as sure as typing this blog post now.