My Body Is Revolting

How’s your algebra?

Try this for size:                 i = a + k + g + h

Not sure? We’ll come back to it later…

Three weeks ago, when I put out The Third Man, it brought the following response on Twitter #KnowYourLimits #WhatLimits and despite the fact that I give the impression week in and week out that I’m just pushing the boat out further and further from the shore, those two comments are prophetic. It’s been a couple of months since I called off the assault on the fabled 250 mile week, something I would love to have done this summer, but I knew then as I know now it was the right decision. There have been many times over the past six months when I’ve questioned the mileage target week after week, and I’ve always reasoned to the same answer: one more week, one more week…  But now the situation has changed, for reasons that will become clear in a few minutes.

Did you like the title of the blog: My body is revolting! It brought a classic response from the guy who’s driven the support vehicle on the Caley Thistle Highland March more times than anyone else: Hate to say it, but it’s not just your body. Your feet are pretty disgusting too. That’s very much the picture I expected people to paint. Okay, I have wee short stubby legs, but they’re as strong as wee short stubby pistons once they’re clipped onto the bike. And Mrs Von Schiehallion likes them so they can’t be that bad. But my feet: och aye, maybe I’ll give you that one. Perhaps I should upload that photograph, taken at the Fort Augustus bunkhouse on the penultimate day of HM10. It’s a photo of the worst blister that you will ever see. Dawgs knows, and he wasn’t even there. But then he saw the one I had at East End Park on HM4 when I ended up getting treated by the Caley Thistle team doctor in the dressing room before the game. Ah, the joys of pushing yersel’ to the limit: and beyond.

Note: once you’ve seen that picture, you’ll understand more clearly how I don’t do giving up. I walked 70 miles on it.

You see I made a conscious decision back in April to see just how far I could push myself over the summer before I broke: except that I was always prepared to pull back from the edge when I knew I was there, hold the effort level just below where I’d been at, and then when my body was used to it, go again. That’s how I’ve ended up being able to average 220 miles a week for the past 16 weeks. But it’s finally come at a cost, so back to the equation…

i = a + k + g + h

i is for injury

a is for achilles (the left one)

k is for knee (the sair one)

g is for groin (the left one)

h is for hamstring tendon (the right one)

Now if I may qualify that equation a little, I will keep going so long as i remains less than t.

t is the threshold at which the sum total of those injuries makes it too difficult or too painful to ride. The level at which a, k, g and h contribute seems to vary from day to day, and from terrain to terrain. Last week the sair knee was a real problem, and while it’s continued to be problematic when a major effort is required over a short burst, say going up a steep climb, in the main that injury is well under control. It just hurts most of the time when I’m not on the bike. And the achilles I can deal with because it will respond to ice and ultrasound quite quickly. I’m not worried about that. The groin is a nagging thing that’s always worse first thing in the morning but it wears off during the day and it hardly ever bothers me on the way home. I’ll just keep an eye on that one.

No, the one that’s bothering me the most, and it’s been really sore attacking hills all of this week, is the hamstring tendon. It first featured in Playing Injury Time back in June and I’ve been nursing it along ever since, trying to coax it from holiday to holiday. But that’s becoming increasing difficult so it’s decision time…

The sound advice that came my way after I fell off a couple of weeks ago suggested that it would be better to lose 40 miles than to risk losing 8000. Of course it’s true, I know that, but I’m as stubborn as old boots and will always try to find a way to keep the show on the road, albeit at a reduced number of miles (and speed).

Reduced miles, I hear you say. I promised Angela back in June when these niggles flared up the first time, that I would not do 200 miles the following week. I kept my promise to the letter: I did 199. Now I think I have to do likewise. Unfortunately the weather’s so fantastic at the moment that it seems a shame not to make hay (while the sun shines) but I guess if I’m sore, the decision is made for me, because I sure as hell need to be fit when it changes.

So here’s the deal: as I’ve averaged 220 miles a week since May, I’m going to drop that back to 200(ish) until Christmas and hope that the body recovers sufficiently to go big again in the Spring. Of course it may well be the case that we have a terrible winter, unlike last year, and that I can’t ride the bike at all. A glorious excuse! I’ve already decided that I’m not prepared to ride 20 miles in any inches of snow. I’ve got enough miles in the bank to use that time as contingency and recovery.

I can’t leave this week without mentioning some truly inspirational words that I received from Chris Curry, Niamh Curry’s dad. Niamh suffered from neuroblastoma before I knew anything about the disease and she sadly passed away in May 2012. Hers was a fundraising campaign that I can only look back on and think “If only…”. I first became aware of Chris through the videos that followed Niamh’s death, and I have to say that the strength and fortitude that he and his team have shown, and continue to show, in raising money and awareness for neuroblastoma is second to none: it’s right up there with the work that Team Oscar have been doing over in Belfast. I salute you all. I suspect that Chris became aware of LifeCycle through a series of tweets withTeam Oscar and the message I received from him on Twitter this week was very touching and humbling, knowing what he and his family have been through. It said simply “Great thing that you are doing and I wanted to say thank you on behalf of everyone affected by neuroblastoma”. Chris, I want you to know that those words will see me through many a storm over the coming months and I will take you up on your kind offer to stop by next time I’m down your way. The invitation is also reciprocated the next time you and your family are up in Scotland.

And finally… it wouldn’t be LifeCycle if we didn’t have a wee peek at the mileage chart because it shows that tomorrow is Cake Day: as I sit here typing this, Thursday instead of Friday (I’m out on the town tomorrow night) I need just 29 miles to crack the 9000 mile barrier and set up an eternal thousand mile journey to a fabulous 10K in late October.

9,000 miles feels like a long way, not in terms of the effort required to deliver it, but in terms of actually how far it is. It’s Scotland to Australia for a start. And I don’t feel like a novice anymore: I hope that people are starting to believe that I can do it. I know I can tame this beast, and I know that one of the things that can stop me is that my body is revolting. I do love and respect my body but bits of it are starting to fall out of love with me… 😦

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