Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

I was recently sent to the COPD Nurse for what should be an annual review. I duly arrived at the surgery with plenty of time to spare and sat myself in a comfy chair and amused myself, whiling away a few ‘downtime minutes’ playing Candy Crush (I know, I need to get a life). Eventually, my name was called and into [the room] I went.

“Kevin, are you sure you’re OK” asked the nurse, ‘You’re breathing seems bad and your eyes are all red & puffy”. Thinking to myself ‘it’s probably not worthing asking for a date then’ I explained that me breathing has been bad for the last five weeks and that I had been eating steroids and antibiotics over the same period; “Otherwise, I’m fine” I say.

The nurse, having satisfied herself that I was ok to continue, then explained that she wanted to be breath into a tube connected to a breathing rate analyser (I don’t know what its really called). It looks a bit like those devices the Police use when they think you’ve been drinking and driving – I stress that I have no personal experiences of such things. Before ‘the breath test’ the nurse asked about my medication etc, after which she asked “Have you got COPD?”. “Yes” I replied, “That’s why I’m here” I continued, now a little confused. “Oh” she says’ “I don’t know too much about that I’m afraid but we should still do the tests and hopefully the GP will know what the results mean.

So, I breath into it, 3 times long and slow and 3 time as hard as I can as long as I can. As always, black dots appear in my eyes, everything goes fuzzy and I come close to, but not actually passing out. The nurse congratulated me. Apparently I did a lot better than she had expected. She printed off the results for the doctor to look at. I asked how I was looking as at my last test I was told my ‘score’ was 47%. She said she wasn’t sure but thought it was actually 53%. This confused me as I understood that COPD never improved. Hopefully it does!

My next appointment was with my GP. He looked at the results and was also confused. Given that I had spent the last 5-weeks on antibiotics and steroid without any apparent affect he hadn’t expected such results. He checked my heart as this had been bouncing around between 105 and 127 just sitting there: this was clearly inefficient. This was probably what was making my breathing so short though he did stress (pre-empting my next question) that this didn’t mean my COPD had gone away.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a train on my daily journey into London. During this time, according to my shiny new apple watch, my pals has been bouncing up and down between 67 and 129 and it does actually feel that way too.

The decision was to double the strength of my ACE Inhibitor and have another review in three weeks.

So, I am in a state of confusion and even despair. Do I have COPD or do I not have COPD? I think I do. Is my heart like it is because of COPD or is a problem in its own right? I have no idea. Will I ever again see somebody who knows about COPD. Confidence is low on that one.

I do know however that I need to fight my way out of the current situation. One way or another, I’m going to get back out on my bike and even start running: Both very slowly. But at least that will help me lose weight which must surely help my heart.

We shall see.

COPD – Creator Of Podge’s Despair

Poor Podge


For a change, this isn’t about cruising 🙂 This is about me wanting to reflect on my health and hopefully push me towards a better, healthier lifestyle.


Ever since I was a child I have suffered from Asthma and over the years I was unfortunate enough to suffer a number of extremely bad asthma attacks requiring hospitalisation. So, why, oh why did this twerp start smoking at the tender age of 14. Inevitably, more attacks ensued but many of these were quickly fixed by not smoking for a while but still I smoked. eventually however, towards the end of the last millennium I stopped.

How did I stop? I saw a news paper article about the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge (organised by the Association of Charitable Endeavours) along with a photo of two rather fetching young ladies. That clinched it for me. I’ll stop smoking, buy a bike and train for the challenge and cycle with those two young ladies. I signed up the very next day. Being back on a bike again gave me such freedom, which I find hard to describe. I do know however that whatever sort of day I’d had, I would go out on my bike, think through all the issues of the day, put things right in my mind while all the way setting small instant challenges such as sprint between two markers or climb a particular hill in the highest gear possible. I loved it. I loved my bike, I loved it so much I bought more: See here for the list of bikes I’ve had over the years. I never gain saw those two young ladies, boo.

Eventually, I became a committee member of the Association of Charitable Endeavours (ACE), then secretary and route planner as part of a splinter group (The Reccecrew) and would go out to plan training rides and seek alternate routes in France (see here for an idea of a recce in France). I had such great times. But then, one New Years Eve, I weakened and had a cigar. Then another and so I was back smoking again and did so for another three years and then gave up once more and returned to cycling.

I entered once again the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge but this time, I took a group of a dozen riders, we called ourselves Team-SIM and we sailed to Bilbao and cycled from there to Paris to meet up with the main ride. This was to be when everything changed for me.

On my first climb of the first day. my heart rate, according to my Garmin, hit 256. I had to stop. I rested for 10 minutes then started off again. This happened twice more before I gave in and finished that day in the support van. This happened two more time in France. I felt as though there was nothing in any of my joints. Clearly, something was wrong.

Returning home, I inevitably went to see the Doctor who obviously sent me to the Cardio department for a check out. The consultant after running a number of tests and getting me to wear heart monitor for a day told me he could find nothing wrong and that I should go home and ‘Die of Something Else’ (his words, not mine).

My next visit was to the Asthma Clinic for a periodic review (never had one of those before) and after various tests I was told that I had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Personally I prefer my own naming of Codgers Old Puffing Disease (COPD) :-).This was not good news. It was irreversible and degenerative. It would over time get worse. The timescales would depend on my lifestyle. Cycling has to be my lifestyle.

At my last review with the COPD Nurse I was told that my obstructive lung effectiveness was sitting at just 47%.  In my book, that less than one lungs worth of air for each breath. I’m sure the maths isn’t quite that simple: There is for instance the factor of restrictive breathing exacerbated by weight causing pressure on the diaphragm. But whatever, when breathing it feels like one lung so I’m sticking with that.

Now, one of the consequences of COPD is that the heart has to work so much harder to move what little oxygenated blood it can around the body. But because of the limited supply, the heart becomes in itself erratic and causing to to go into Arrhythmia which can and does feel extremely uncomfortable and makes exercise difficult. The consequence of this is that my cycling lifestyle became challenged which meant I put on weight which aggravated the restrictive breathing even more. I’m sure you get the picture.

So, my last review, 47% put me at stage 2 possibly moving to stage 3. My last proper review was three years ago. How do I feel today?  I thought I felt bad, I felt as though I was entering, what I call, the valley of despair. But then I read about somebody with COPD completing the London Marathon.

I’ll tell more in my next COPD update.

Poor Podge

 

Congratulations to Pete McQuade the founder of the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge,

Last Friday evening Meridian News ran an article on the Hayling Island Cycle Ride reaching its 30th Birthday in July this year having raised nearly 1.5 million pounds for a wide variety of worthy causes. This is an event I feel privileged and honoured to have been part of the event since the 90s until 2005 as both a participant and also as Secretary and assisting in Support & Logistics and was even especially in Route Planning under the auspices of Mad Fred.

What started my involvement? Well, I needed to give up smoking, badly. Will power alone wasn’t going to do it: I needed a challenge. Then I saw a news article on the Paris to Hayling Cycle Ride with a picture of 3 rather fetching young ladies with their bikes. ‘That’ll do it for me’ I thought and entered there and then. That first ride was one to remember, and most of it I can but I regret to say that having reached Paris I was rather thirsty and joined other riders at the Hotel Bar in Le Defence. The following events I regret to say are a blur but the next day was my first experience in Riding in France and with so many cyclists (100+) my heavy head was soon forgotten.

Having completed the event plus two or three further events I felt it was time to ‘give something back’ and became a member of the organising committee. Among many things, this did allow, me along with my new fellow cycling buddies Mad Fred, Reg the Hedge, Hobbitt, and Marko: I for my part was named Podge the Puffer on account of age (derivative of Codge), size and hill climbing abilities (almost, a famous five but commonly known as The Reccecrew). And just like the famous five, we had many, many adventures most of which entailed us either getting Lost in France or sampling French Hospitality in bars or café. We tried to document our adventures under the title of Lost in France. An extract of such an adventure is below where we to undertake a ‘recce’ of the proposed route for the coming years Paris to Hayling ride. Naturally, this was all done by bike and naturally, we had to find refreshment stops. But, it wasn’t all easy.


Normandy in France

Recce’s – they’re a doddle, pootle over to France, eat nice food, laze in bed, drink lots of wine, write a few notes.

Well that might be the Chairman’s view but he, and you, should have been with Mad Fred, Podge, Reg the Hedge, Hobbitt, and Marko, when they went to France in March to establish the route for the 5-Day Ride.

The trip to Cherbourg was uneventful. However the weather when we emerged into the darkness in Cherbourg was definitely English ! Windy but mild, and fortunately for us a tail-wind to boot ! Recce’s sometimes mean that we have to retrace our steps and Hobbitt soon found we had to do this within 2 kilometers of the ferry port – straight back into a headwind. While the rest of us munched apple turnovers and pain au chocolate he blasted back to check what turns out to be a very well surfaced and convenient cycle track leading out of the ferry port.

The job done we tackled the first climb ‘Hobbitt’s Early Riser’ – scant reward for his efforts so far. From the top of the hill to Quettenhou the quiet roads follow a plateau and river valleys, OK and one hill, but pretty soon we reached the east coast of the Contin Peninsular and while Mad Fred ploughed on ahead the rest of us piled into a great Bike Shop (well worth stopping at in July).

By the time we reassembled in a bar on the D-Day Beaches the wind was blowing into us at 90 degrees which was pretty hairy but fortunately the roads were totally deserted.  We batted on southwards until the estuary turned us inland and into the headwind for a very painfully slow crawl to Carentan. In the summer this will be a very pretty route but in March it was hell ! Over lunch in Carentan we were all falling asleep.

Moving on after a good feed however, the wind was behind us and with the sun out it was very pleasant as we bowled along towards Bayeaux for the night. We witnessed the strange sight of a large dog bounding trafficwards in the fast lane of the route national, whether the mutt survived was never known but it caused a fair degree of chaos.

We’d picked out a river valley to lead us the last 20 kilometres into Bayeaux but nothing had forewarned us of the flooding we were about to encounter. The valley floor was a giant lake, extending as far as the eye could see with little islands dotted here and there, we pushed on through it and up onto higher ground, getting wet and taking a few photos just to prove the point ! Approaching Bayeaux Hobbitt and Marko went ahead while Mad Fred and Podge planned a route around the ring road being built around this historic town. An early night was spent in Bayeaux as we had a 7am start the next day and we were spent!

From Bayeaux to Caen is quite a nice spin and with a sunny morning it was very pleasant – even with having to contend with ‘Podge’s Puffer’ which is a nice little climb. But there’s always a ‘but’ and in this case it was a slight confusion over where we were going. Marko and Hobbitt were under the impression that they were to meet up with Mad Fred and Podge in……..(‘Lost in France bit’)…..but the latter didn’t share the same view and after an hour of ‘being lost’ we met up, funnily, in a bar (turned out we were never more than a kilometer away from each other). Ploughing on towards Caen we encountered the floods once again, only this time the water was at least a metre deep and right across the road we used to exit Caen last year on the ride to Gorron, and which this year we wanted to use to enter Caen. Podge and Hobbitt vainly attempted to cycle through it, once to see how deep it was, and after proving to themselves that you cannot do a U turn on a cycle loaded with your luggage and up to the axle in water,  once again to pose for the camera. Time to retire to the bar and plot a way around it !

Mission completed we moved on, narrowly avoiding a very serious involvement with the local cycling club who were turning out in force for an afternoon road race. Pukka bikes and riders who understandably ignored the pannier-laden Recce Crew. The skies grew darker and Mad Fred’s unfair admonishment of the French for having moved road numbers and planted a farm in the way of us only served to contribute towards the impending gloom, it was going to rain, and there was going to be lots of it !

We became wetter and colder and more and more miserable so an executive decision was made in the bar – head for Troarn, find a hotel and dry out !

Success with this raised our spirits, helped by a few bottles of red wine, glasses of calvados, and a hot supper. By midnight we felt in reasonable shape to get up at 6am and battle on towards Le Havre, but it was still raining…..!

Sunday morning at 6am and it was still dark, this was the morning after the clocks were altered and to be quite honest we weren’t sure what time it really was. We snuck out of the hotel (having paid the previous night) only to encounter half a dozen Frenchmen having an early coffee and brandy in the hotel bar.

The road from Troarn to Pont l’Eveque is as boring as hell – long, straight, slow hills, and more flooding – anywhere flat seemed to be under masses of water. Mad Fred was some way behind us when we got to Pont l’Eveque and stopped at the first bar – rule number one is if you get separated stop in the first bar and wait, leave your bikes on prominent display so they can’t be missed by the estranged recce crew member. Rule number two is that Mad Fred doesn’t know about rule number one, so we lost him, again.

Reunited we plodded on towards Honfleur where we needed to recce the route off the Pont d’Normandie (BIG bridge to you and Podge who moaned and groaned his way to the top), and onto it for the 4-Day Ride. At the top of the bridge a helpful instrument told us the wind was 40kph, and the temperature was wavering between 4c and 5c. It felt, and was, cold !

Things brightened up once we were over the bridge and pedalling along the nice quiet roads on the industrial approach to Le Havre and with an hour to spare before the ferry left we found an extremely nice restaurant for lunch. Well 2/3 of our lunch, we didn’t have time for the dessert so we’ll go back for that in July. We did have time for 2 courses, and a litre of wine each – hell we’d deserved it, over 200 miles though some pretty miserable weather, now it was time to relax !

Onboard the ship we bumped into Syme and Michelle, two former riders who’d just enjoyed a romantic weekend and now had to face reality in the shape of a hammering in the bar. We failed miserably in the onboard quiz, drank loads of Guinness, a couple of bottles of wine, and a few brandy’s, and wobbled off the ship into the Ship and Castle by the Ferryport. None of us remember much after that !


And, if you want to enjoy such adventures though with less wind and rain, and if the ride continues beyond 2015, I can’t recommend it highly enough..

The Colnago Ge Dream still performs as well as it did in July last year and with little or nothing done to it. I love my Colnago. I need to get back on my Colnago: maybe my Colnago needs a sister or brother like a C50 or C60. In fact, I’m sure it does.

Having had my long awaited Cardioversiuon only to be told it had failed and my heart was still bouncing about like a good’n I was [naturally] a little depressed but, depression solves nothing so I wallowed for a short while then looked at what I needed to do to ensure the 2nd attempt was a success. Weight loss was the obvious answer and I have made a start on that , having lost 8 lb. already but I still had another 20+ lb. to shed.

Against all this, I have had to endure[!] watching the Vuelta (Tour of Spain) and now the start of the Tour of Britain. I so, so wanted get back on my bike. Well, this weekend, as result of numerous events, was the 1st weekend Debbie and I had where we actually had no commitments whatsoever. And by way of bonus, the weather was good. That was it, I had made my mine up I was going to try a bike ride.

Saturday came, Saturday went: no bike ride, but lawns cut, so not so bad. Sunday was my last chance but the morning found me feeling tired, physically so a morning ride was out. Come the afternoon however I was going to do it. I got my bike out, pumped up the tyres, heart rate now 150 bpm so I sat down and go my breath back. Maybe I’ll just ride to the end of the road and back. “Go for a ride” said Debbie “And when you get back, we’ll sit down and have a Desperado”. That did it.

Dressed in Khaki Shorts and Caribbean shirt complimented with brown sock and black & grey cycling shoes, I looked every inch a supreme cyclist (none of my cycling kit fits me at the moment). And so, I donned my cycle hat and I was off. After all this time off my back, getting back just seemed so natural and better still, even though I hhd neglected her of late, the Colnago behave and operated like a dream.

Muy intent was to do 3-miles but as I drew close to home I veered off, determined to another two. Heart rate was surprisingly average but my chest ached so I wasn’t going to push myself. After about 1.8 miles I turned left off the main road and stopped to let tractor go by. He signalled his thanks then slowed does so that I could catch and draft him, but the heart wouldn’t allow so I gave a thumbs up to say thanks then waved him on. All in I did 4.8 miles which given the circumstances isn’t so bad. Let’s just hope this is the first of many progressively longer rides.

RideSlide

Property of PodgeThePuffer (PtP) – Unauthorised use is very, very naughty.

Go Podge, Go

To start with

Technically, my first bike was some nondescript bike that I first managed to ride without falling off. My reward for completing a full length of the road with putting my feet down or crashing was 6d (about 2.5p in new money), enough for a bag of chips from the chip shop and still have change, but having no further recollections of such a steed, my [First Bike] was therefore my Raleigh/Hercules (my memory is misty), complete with 3-speed sturmey archer gears chrome rims and full leather saddlebag. I rode it to and from school, day in and day out.I even got knocked off by a couple of motorists, though in those days, the motorists were horrified by what they had done and would do all they could to make sure you were ok. By the second summer however, it was time to upgrade my bike so I bought some cow horn handlebars, removed the saddlebag and mudguards and went off-roading into a place known locally as Anmore Dell which was about 100 yards in diameter and 50 to 75 feet deep. This was a great big hollow which was slowly being filled in by lorries but in the meantime made a great playground offering as it did, cycle paths down through the shrubs and trees into a great wide expanse of ups and downs, ideal for my new off-roader.

The ‘hollow’ offered more than a place to ride bikes mind you. Being half filled with water most of the time, it was also a great place to play ‘war at sea’. Using a couple of old car roofs, we never knew how they came to be there, we would upturn them and use them as rafts to out manoeuvre one another until tired of paddling with sticks and bars we would once more return to shore. As our war games became more ambitious however, so did the dangers, culminating when one of my friends showed off his sugar bomb that he’d made (we’d been shown how to make them earlier at school, but I’m not about to divulge such information again) and decided to let it off. One flash, one loud bang, one cloud of smoke, one big fire, which took us what seemed an eternity to put out, and we were one happy bunch. With that, we returned to our bikes and spurred on by adrenalin of the ‘bomb’ we started creating ramps to jump our bikes over. First jump, no more than a foot high, I came tearing down the hill, hit the ramp, soared into the air and landed on my front wheel just before coming off and rolling into the water. I was wet but I would dry, I was dirty but I would clean up (a nice puddle and sandpaper always saw to that) before going home but the bike was not so good. The forks had bent back making the bike impossible to ride: The wheel had buckled making the bike impossible to ride: The handlebars were bent in all directions making the bike impossible to ride. But, ride it I did, the full half mile back home where I just knew I was in for a ‘not very nice time’, which did turn out to be the case.

Come to think of it, I got a thick ear then. Why is it that I’m always getting thick ears. No wonder one of them is a bit cauliflower like.

I remember sulking (believe me, this old Podge can still sulk for England) for weeks after that day not only because I’d been chastised by my father for trying to use my Hercules Push Bike to simulate the great jumps over ramps that I’d seen Dad doing so many times before, albeit on a motorbike – I should point out that he was part of the Royal Marines Motorcycle Display Team and was a regular motorcycle trials competitor – but also because the bike had been thrown away and not replaced. I now walked to school, day-in, day-out, a distance of about 3-miles each way.

Actually, it was only a couple of weeks as my Dad had taken it to his barracks where it was made good once more. But it was never the same bike again though it still took me to school and back and it did take me and my paper bag round on my paper rounds, 2 every morning and 2 every evening. Eventually though, the bike caved in and once more, I was relegated to walking and winter was approaching!

Christmas 1967

It was a cold Christmas Day with a very heavy frost outside, my Father (I was 14 by now) told me to come with him in the car to Uncle Bills though he didn’t actually say why. Uncle Bill lived about 8-miles away so the journey did’t take too long and were soon inside with Uncle Bill and Aunty June having a nice hot cup of chocolate and mince pies. I was then taken out into the garage and there before me was a beautiful Falcon Black Diamond Racing Bike, and yes, you guessed, it was all mine. There was however a catch. I had to ride it home. Now I had come, and had been allowed to come, dressed for a car ride with just a shirt and jumper as defence against the cold. I certainly didn’t have any gloves but I didn’t care. I had my new bike with drop handlebars, butterfly wheel nuts and a double clanger which gave me 10 gears. With absolute glee, I hugged Dad and Uncle Bill, said my goodbyes and set off on the 8-mile ride back home. I have no idea how long it took I just know that most of the ride was a blur, initially with excitement but soon replaced with bitter coldness and fingers that were so painful it was difficult to change gear or even brake. But, eventually I got home, close to tears with pain and with joy. Dad of course was home already and thought it was all very funny. I didn’t care how funny it was: I didn’t care how cold I was: I didn’t care that my fingers were almost dropping off: I didn’t care that snot and tears had frozen around my face. All I cared about was my new bike. This bike was NOT going to have cow horn handlebars and it certainly wasn’t going to go jumping. No, this bike was for serious riding – I was going to be the new Eddy Merckx.

I rode my bike everywhere; I rode my bike all the time; I became a regular sight around my local village doing my lap after lap trying to get faster and faster: at one point even the local policeman would ride next to me on his motorbike, telling me how fast I was going. Then my need for adventure grew once more but this time, my adventures were, not how high could I jump but how far could I cycle in a day, and how quick. Denmead to Arundel was a cracking route and a flat route. Denmead to Heathrow was another good route but very, very hilly and we never did reach Heathrow anyway.  My favourite route was Denmead to Alresford where another uncle and aunty of mine was the river keeper and house keeper for a Colonel who ‘owned’ a stretch of the River Alre: That was a hilly route as well.

And so, with the Falcon Black Diamond, my love affair with cycles and long distance cycling was born. And yes, I did like cycling up hills. I hated cycling up hills, just as much as I do today, but I still love cycling up hills: Only a cyclist would understand.

And now, I yearn for just one more ride. 😦

PS: The Falcon was eventually stolen by a [trusted] ‘friend’ while I was working at holiday camp.

PPS: I never became the new Eddy Merckx, but on this day the 20th July, Eddy wine his first Tour de France and, as it it happens, Armstrong (Not Lance) and Aldrin first landed on the Moon.

PPPS: None of the aforementioned uncles and aunties were actually Uncles & Aunties. We just called them so.

PPPPS: No more PS’s 🙂