Sunday, 30 October 2011

erection envy?

as we all know, the best bike in the world is the one that fits you (or the one you get paid to tell everyone is the best bike in the world...) anyway, if this is the case then my bike just became even better thanks to the intervention of the gents at cyclefit uk.

since my latest attempt at maiming myself in Tobago i've not been able to ride without back pain, an mri revealed a bulging disc in the l2/l3 region of my lumbar spine. not nice. so, under strict doctor's order's im not riding hard until December and i've been sent to get a fit. cue a few well placed phone calls and tweets (thanks to my friend tom who is a cyclefit (and aquafresh) sponsored rider) and i'm on a train to London at a time normally reserved for testers, jet lag sufferers and those weird people who like to watch birds through massive telescopes (i mean feathery birds here, i dont think stalkers get up that early). After a brief encounter with the metropolitan police (apparently launching a full on attack on the commuters via the pavement isn't cool with them) i made it to cyclefit in time to bask in their luxurious shopfront and browse the 100 pages of pretension that make up Roleur magazine before commencing my fit.

To say these lads have all the gear is an understatement, they broke out video cameras, fitting rigs which move as you ride (which allow you to make changes without forgetting how the old position felt), gnoimeters, footbed making vacum devices, thumbscrews (ok maybe not thumbscrews but i'm pretty sure i saw something that looked like one) and most valuable of all, years and years of experience at the top of their game. we looked at all kind of parameters and ultimatley moved my bars up quite a bit, my saddle up and foreward, changed my footbeds, dewedged my feet and concluded that in the near future (i.e. when i have enough money) a new saddle and narrower bars would be nice.

my approach to dealing with my back injury has been to get the very best people to give me their best advice. my doctor is from the uk institute of sport, the fit is one of the best in the world. it's one thing freestyling your recovery from a broken collarbone - i've tried that and now i can't wear backpacks or lift much with my left arm. it's another deal taking risks with your spine. i want to be walking when i am 40, not crawling. i'm not going to persist in riding with 13cm of drop if the cost of doing so is my long term health, i've always said i'm diabetic first and biek racer second and the same applies here. and when i have the good fortune to benefit fromt he best avliable advice, even i am not stupid enough to ignore it! If you're wodnering why i'm going to such pains to justify myself her eit's because my bike has a stem which resembles massive erection and like anyone going out in public with such an appendage, i'm a little self conscious. Ultimately nothing looks stupid if you're going fast enough and the goal is to go fast, not to look good creeping.

i managed to get out for 4 1/2 hours yesterday, 3 mountains and one particularly vicious dog-pursued interval session and i've no discernible back pain today. in fact i'm getting much more pain from carrying around a heavy messenger bag when i go to Barcelona with all my books- so if anyone has a better idea please share it below.

also NB this is my 100th blog post and I am once again, injured, just like the first one! I may also be eating baked goods, plus ca change...

oh and hea don over to @cyclefituk on twitter to find your optimal position for riding ;)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Water, baby

In an effort to maintain something approaching form while my back is being stupid I decided to make a return to the pool tonight. After three and a half years of absence I had not missed the headdom (swimcap for those dictionary fascists out there) the goggles (can you say panda eyes) or the laughing at my tanlines. I have been manfully preparing with a thorpedoesque diet in the time since the season has finished but oddly that didn't help.

It appears that since my fleeting Oxford university tri club flirtation I had forgotten a lot of the vital bits of knowledge I once held about swimming, and so after one hour of splashing about I present my expert guide;

Things I now know about swimming

As a cyclist you will excel at the following aspects; wearing tight clothes, lacking body hair, posturing, pushing off the wall, breathing. As for the rest, you're buggered. Especially the swimming bit.

Skinny men sink.

Swimming in the Caribbean is more fun than in evesham leisure center

It is possible to half wheel someone in a swimming pool

It is not possible to check your bloodsugar when you keep getting things wet.

Swimming makes James hypo, fast.

It is not possible to eat a dextrose pill whilst swimming.

If you train with multisport athletes (see how nice I was there?) they will take this to be revenge time.

Just when you're about to catch someone they stop, always.

My hair is not swimcap compatible, the swimcap is wrong, my hair is not.

Swimmers go straps over hats, this is like sunglasses over helmet straps-vital insider knowledge. I don't think they embrace though and I'm not sure on colour matching of shorts, goggles and hats.

People will mistake omnipods for: bail tags, iPods, nicotine patches, heart rate monitors and pacemakers(?!)

Swimmers train at odd times, like before breakfast and at dinner time. Looking at a few of them they don't seem to let this prevent them from consuming said meals.

Swimming gets dull fast

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Outside the municipal leisure center

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Back to being broken

Well I’ve hurt myself again! I must say this one could be a bit more grave than previous injuries, indeed its probably the underlying cause of all the niggling issues I’ve been having this season (well, that and the fighting bulls of Valencia). I’ve just got back from a couple of days with my dad, just being boys. Going to the pub, watching the rugby, walking the dog etc. it was nice, it reminded me of what I used to do at weekends before I started to spend them in lycra.

Two Sundays before I was sitting on a curb in Tobago, drinking a “vita malt” (which I won’t be doing again any time soon, it tasted like what we feed the horses smells ) and hurting after the uci 1.2 tobago cycling classic. My left leg had been feeling weaker and weaker since july and in Trinidad and Tobago it was almost useless. When I got up off the curb my whole lower back seized up and I couldn’t get my leg over my frame to ride back to the car. Not good.

Fast forward 10 days and I had flown home, making ample use of the rum as painkiller method, and taken a week off the bike. I started to train again with the goal of getting my legs back for a race in Costa Rica but it felt bad on the bike, like my position was way out and I wasn’t transferring any power, like I was hunched and contorted. I put in 2 five hour days, each ride thaking about 6 hours thanks to constant saddle and cleat tweaks but it still didn’t feel right. On Thursday I saw a doctor, in the modern era of mris and CAT scans I had expected him to immedeatley refer me to a machine but no. he poked me with a pin and, to my surprise, I couldn’t differentiate between a pin and a peg on my left hand side.

After an examination we sat down. In my experience, when a doctor starts his address with “now young man” and continues by fetching the skeleton on wheels, things aren’t going to end up with a paracetamol and a lollypop. Sure enough he reckons I’ve been bulging my l2/l3 disc and restricting nervous activity in my left quad for a wee while. I’m off for an MRI on Monday and seeing him again on Wednesday. HE told me to prepare for the worst, I might not ride for several months. I know what injury can do, I stopped rowing at oxford in 2006 with a herniated l5 s1 disc just before lightweight selection, probably not the worst thing in the world as it stopped me becoming a manorexic “boatie” but at the time it was pretty tough to deal with.

In a way I’m relieved, I thought I’d just turned into a sloth, at least I know what was wrong now. So in that sense I can look forward to healing and coming back faster. But I’m also pretty bummed. I might miss the whole ‘cross season without ever getting muddy (actually I’ll go and watch just to throw snowballs at the other racers like they did to me last year). I’m going to have to reassess goals on Wednesday, including my diabetes management. Thankfully I’ve go the pod so I can experiment with basal rates to suit inactivity. I won’t have the pod for much longer (thanks to the kind people in Georgia who would love you to believe they exist to do anything other than cream off drug money) but at least it’ll be there for this transition period. It also lets me party it up with my custom “big night out” basal program.

I’ve also been feeling emotionally tired recently. This year hasn’t been great. Not financially, nor with my family. I use the bike as a way of coping but suffering so much off the bike seems to cut into my ability to hurt on the bike. I hate myself for not giving my all, but some days I’ve already spent my beans staying up all night worrying about money, or my family, or where I’m going to get insulin. It’ll be nice to have a break, but I hope I can find something else which gives me the release that riding my bike does. That said I’ve been pretty lucky to have had the help of some great people and travel to some cracking places. This always perks me up and gives me something to look forward to. I also genuinely enjoy the chance to help people. I’m constantly aware that as a diabetic in sport I serve as an example to kids who, like me, are told what they can’t do, not what they can. If only for that reason and not for the many other reasons I have and haven’t given. I’m going to do everything I’m told. And heal as fast as I know I can ride, that way the awesomeness can continue in 2012.

On the more positive side this gives me more time to work on the team traveler project for 2012, although it does seem like free money is hard to come by in a recession. I think time will prove that the market has substantially undervalued our awesomeness. In fact, in a recession the awesomeness necessity quotient (ANQ) is in direct negative correlation to the unemp0oyment rate, so the more people who lose their jobs, the more they NEED men in lycra to come to the rescue. This theory has a pretty strong empirical basis, I mean batman and spiderman didn’t hang about in suburban LA did they? Nope. Grotty urban decay necessitates fast men in lycra. Strangely I’m struggling to find anyone who backs my ANQ theory, or agrees that the 21st century FDR wears zebra print skinsuits, but I see this as a work in progress. Opinions are formed over a lifetime and cannot be changed overnight.

So there’s an awful lot up in the air, I’ll update more when I know more. Any tips on battling the bulge are welcome. Right now I’m off to my little sister’s birthday party via the garden centre. I’ve decided to begin the offseason dressed as Bill (of Bill and Ben the flowerpot men fame) and I need a hat.

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

In pain on a plane

Well I'm on a plane again, earlier than expected and less comfortable. I'm coming back after the uci race in Tobago. I haven't been riding very well for various reasons, some of which it wouldn't be very professional to go into on a public site. While I was away my Sugar management wast always optimal, often this was my fault. I always tell kids with diabetes to take control of their own situation nd never rely on threes who will never fully understand "your" condition I was guilty of ignoring my own advice.

I was also guilty of ignoring the tips I give to beginner cyclists, chiefly listen to your body, don't brake in the middle of a turn, don't attack in the first k of a long race and don't make a prick out of yourself descending in the wet. I'd been feeling pants all week, coming down twice didn't help but I was riding at the back where it's sketchy as I didn't feel like my left side had any connection to push through.

In the uci race on Sunday I marked a very early move ad went way to deep for my bad legs. Come the first long climb I was lathered lactate and paying off my oxygen debt. I tried to float but guys were loosing wheels left right and center I ended up going full gas to stay within sight of the caravan, and descending like a nutcase to get back on. Eventually I paid the price for taking risks and went sideways across a corner, I kept it up but my back was in agony. My whole left side seized up in a familiar pain. In 2005 I herniated a disk rowing at Oxford and this felt like the early stages of that injury, I rode around to get finish but back at the end I couldn't even swing my leg over the bike!

Now I must say the beautiful corse and wonderful people of Tobago made this suffering about as pleasurable as was possible. The 2k 23% climb and 3000m of climbing and descending did not! As for the mudslides, off road sections,goats, chickens and cows well,variety is the spice of life.

Talking of spice the food was really impressive. I'm a devotee of saltfish buljol (especially with bake) and just about anything made with coconut. And i can honestly say I've never even seen some of the fruit on offer. I've also eaten far far too many bad pb and guava "jam" sandwiches when in a country with such great fresh seafood and fruit. A great part of traveling is trying new food so stocking up on basics which are neither that healthy nor that unique always seems a shame. That said when you can eat your fill you shouldn't ever complain. Lots of people can't.

Last night I sank a few beers, listened to some steel band music and reflected on an enjoyable I'd slightly hectic trip. Though about the future and the past. Later I spent some time with Ronnie who might just be the best driver and mechanic ive ever met. When I get flustered I make a knob of myself, I've never met someone who more exuded calm and warmth. I was exuding warmth from the inside as we shared a glass of rum before I left!

Today I rode in the back of a pick up truck to a boat to a bus to another pick up to a rum shop, a velodrome and an airplane to take me home.

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes

Location:Piarco airport