Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Like my 'church' - that is Arsenal Football Club - after a bad result, I generally keep quiet on the old media front. I had fully intended to up my training this month but my back, namely the old spine, has not been feeling good. My muscles are good for the first time in ages. My work with my personal trainer has paid BIG dividends and the muscle specific strength training I've done had aided me no end. However my spine is starting to feel worse and that was, is and will be my biggest problem.

I've decided that I put in a decent month and half training from mid February to the end of March. Maybe just rest the old body, not stop everything completely, and mid May after another holiday I have - start again and build for mid June and I should be able to push through my holiday! Here's hoping anyway.

Other than that, I've taken to the app 'instagram'! I've thrown a few of my cycling related pictures up on my picasa site. Check them out if you've time!


Monday, 4 April 2011

Short, but not bitter

Well I had a week off from both blogging and cycling. Slightly intentionally, but mostly as I was away in far away places on Wednesday and Thursday of last week! I made up for it this weekend though. Did a bit of gigging up in the 'capital' with the Frames and Elbow.

Had a good session in the gym on Saturday morning and a light cycle in the afternoon.  

Yesterday then I did the Lee Valley half route cycle twice:

Did 28km of mixed terrain: hills, rough roads, less rough roads

(...... the picture doesn't really do my description any justice but I'm sticking with it!)

then a nice straight road back into the city!

Last month i did just over 400km on the saddle. April is my month of upping my distances covered. I'm going to set my aim: by months end I hope to be completing 700km or more.  That means doing approximately 28-30km per day. That's doable. I do 10km to and from work already and another 20km in the evenings should be a doddle!  I'm aiming for the 60km Lee Valley route possibly next weekend.

So, just a quick catch up this evening with some photos of my route from yesterday! More later this week once I'm putting in the extra evening kms!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Dull aches

Yesterday started off really well. I did my saddle time, down to a sleepy little place called Monkstown:

and I felt good after it. It was an increase in distance and legs, back & arms all came through it well. I came home, relaxed and made sure my warm down was good. I had my chiropractor in the afternoon so didn't want to do too much. I went there, told her i had a dull pain right down at the base of my spine and she examined me....... and then came a worrying moment. She didn't want to make an adjustment on my lower back due to one vertebra appearing to be "quite weak". Actions speak louder than words. She seemed hesitant to do anything with it. Even her speech was slow. I asked would it be worth cutting back on the exercise for a few days and she said "yes". She showed me a few stretches that I can do to try strengthen and/or loosen up that area. I think my weekend plans for cycling have changed. I think I'll have to do these stretches and see how I go. But I can tell you that I am worried. Lying in bed yesterday evening, while I could feel pain in the area she didn't adjust, that didn't bother me. It was my chiropractor's reactions after my examination. Not at all reassuring. It's made slightly worse by the fact that I booked my last two places to stay on my tour today. I'm so close now. Please don't let this be taken away from me. Not now.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Return of the Wanderer

Well after a not as mad as expected weekend in the Land of Dub (but still nicely mad), a bailed on cycle adventure yesterday, I was back in the saddle this evening for a nice altogether total 31km cycle - that was 5km roughly from work on my new longer route home and a nice cycle down to Passage.  It was a beautiful evening out here in Cork as you can see:

The sun was out, it was nearly mild (for March that's a bonus), there was only a slight bite in the air next to the water near Passage, but otherwise - perfect.  I really gave it welly today!  Even after a few days not in the saddle for any real distance cycle the legs felt good and I was able to motor along at 30km/h for the most part.  Happy with that and happy with 1 hour 20 minutes on the saddle.  Back felt a little iffy at one part but it seems to be holding tight..... so far.  I'll feel the pain of my poor spine on Thursday when I visit my chiropractor.  

So - I've decided that I'm going to put together a training plan since I've only two full months before my holiday starts and limited weekends/days off for big distance cycling.  I'm trying my luck at putting together a few nice routes around Cork.  However, with thanks to www.cycle-route.com - 

The Lee Valley Road through Coachford, Dripsey and back through Blarney would be a lovely one.  Roads can be a little narrow there so I think morning times might be best for our mad drivers.  Tomorrow I won't get to go out and cycle after work due to other commitments but Thursday I'm planning one in the morning time.  I might aim for my biggest one yet.  I'll try do 40km - 50km in under 2 hours.  Until Thursday!  Have a good one

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Tuesday Blues..... sky blues that is!

Had my biweekly meeting with the old physical therapist Tuesday. She has a pair of magic hands I tell ya! While she does great work with my glute muscles (they seem to be my nemisis), her massages also show the fragile state of my back. My muscles around my lower back when massaged, send sharp pains right around the base of my spine where my discs are in trouble & my vertebrae are fused. It's scary that a gentle muscle massage causes consternation with my nerves. It's not a dull pain like getting rid of a muscle knot, it's sharp shooting instantaneous uncomfortable (how many adjectives can I fit in?!) pain. It makes me worried as to how bad my back situation is going to get. While the training work I'm doing currently is definitely benefitting my back muscles, my spine & nerves are never going to improve. And while day to day it's not something I worry about or even think about, small things like the brief massage which brings such acute pain down there does cause me worry for the (hopefully) distant future.

I suppose in a way it does worry me on some level...... that is afterall why I started this little experiment.

Ending on a slightly more positive note - my cycling legs are making a comeback! My calf muscles are back baby and my muscles in my thighs are developing well too! Huzzah!

Here's a little photo taken while cycling in the lovely sunshine on Tuesday:

Mirror photos always please me! I don't know why!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Morning Stiffies!

Yes the title is supposed to grab attention! This shall be my first post on back muscle worries I think? So I had my first 'big' cycle yesterday! This morning I took my time getting up, stretching in bed to loosen out the back and everything seemed fine. It was only when I got up on the bike to go to work that I felt 'IT' - it being that tightness in the muscles on my lower left side. 

(the photo doesn't show too well)

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I'm not a person who worries about much! I'm very much of the school of thinking - whatever happens, happens. You deal with it. That was my attitude when my doctor told me about my back. I've known my doctor all my life. She was more upset than I was about the news. There's no point getting upset or worried - you just have to accept you have it and get on with life!

My back muscles are a little different though! Well, not when I don't feel that strain in them, but as soon as I feel a strain in them - my mind automatically goes into my "oh no" zone. Very little goes in there. Other examples would be when batshit crazy drivers attempt to kill me. On Irish roads - this can happen a few times a week!

For me it's worse getting this feeling going to work as I'm going in there to more or less sit for the day and that's not good for my back. I really want to cycle this holiday in 95 days and my worry now is that similar events will conspire against me - months of effort and perceived progress, only for the back to go close to travel time. I hope I'm wrong. But that's my big worry.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Late Weeks

Late shift weeks are a pain in the arse. I prefer my cycles post work but when you finish at 2000 these aren't ideal due to lack of lighting in the areas that I cycle.
So that's really why I've no real training update for the week! But today I had quite a decent training session with my personal trainer. I'm very happy with the work we're doing. Building up the body again slowly but targeting the core and lower back seems to be doing the trick.
Have booked a massage for Tuesday to work out the slight tightness in my lower left back.

My blog on my gear is coming next week!  I just have the photos to take – the little piece is written.

Today I did my first 31km cycle in a long time.  Cycled on a tough road surface to Passage as not every path is going to be nice pedestrian/cycling tarmac.  I did that on the way home but where I lost out on a challenging road surface – I gained with a strong headwind on the route home.  It’s a nice route again beside the harbour entrance from Rochestown to Passage:

Sorry for the photo quality!  I was struggling slightly at this stage and didn’t want to get off the bike!  It’s not terrible quality for a motion iPhone picture!  Here's a slightly better one of the view just at the Passage end of the walk/cycle path:

I finished the cycle strongly.  I found a pack leader for a while!  He was going in my direction and I tailed him for a kilometer just to keep a constant pace with him.  Then I picked my moment like a true cycling great and went for the finish line.  My back held up well - no muscle twitching down in the lower back - my legs are still getting stamina back into them so they hurt for a little while coming off the saddle.  But all in all - a good day!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Blue Monday

Well my weekend didn't quite go as planned! It was still a success mind! I just didn't get in the distance I wanted to. Friday saw a distance of around 14km done, Saturday saw a distance of 20km and Sunday saw 4km put in. I was a bit under the weather due to a persistent cough so distance wasn't on my mind. My mood was grey like the sky on Saturday.....

But I also put in my first proper shift in a gym environment in 11 months this weekend! It felt so good to be pushing myself with the weights again!

Body feels good after what was a tougher weekend than normal. Back just has a small bit of tension in it. I might go for a massage on Friday morning to loosen it up. I'll see how the week goes but with another gym session on Saturday it might be sensible to do.

Tomorrow you get a bonus blog! It will be my blog on my gear that I use! I'll try put together a few photos of what I use and just throw in a few bits and bobs of where I get stuff etc. It will take my mind off the Arsenal game tomorrow night!
Until then!

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Highway is alive tonight

Well the last week hasn't gone to plan due to the passing of a close family friend. She will be missed.

So - a quick catch up!
I had completed about 40km from last Thursday to Tuesday evening. Those were training days 4 to 9

Wednesday evening was my first time up on the saddle post work in quite a while. Months even. Lots of months! Last month it was mainly rain related tardiness. I'm not against cycling in the rain, I just hate the fact that you put on some wet gear but you end up sweating so much in it, it's pointless! I'm sure any cyclist out there would agree!
So Wednesday evening I came home from work, had my protein shake and headed back out while the muscles were still warm. I was aiming for a nice 10km cycle, with a few photo opps for this blog! I honestly think I'm quite lucky with the beautiful road routes I have in my local area. I was taking the photos this evening with my beloved iPhone, but on future trips I might just bring my better samsung camera. I want to document this training and my holiday so I have a personal scrap book to look back on!

As you can see above, Cork is blessed with a beautiful entrance to its harbour. And while this photo is really nice, I honestly don't think there's anywhere nicer in late spring / early summer when all the trees are green!  Check out my photos on picasa web for more if you wish!

So my first evening went well. I pushed myself hard coming home from work, then pushed myself pretty hard on the cycle around the Marina. That is just under a 9km cycle so it is a nice warm up route. My back muscles seem to be holding up fine - my spine felt like someone was giving it a Chinese burn. It's a tightness which is difficult to explain. The best I can offer is it feels like one vertebrae is going one way, the next vertebrae the opposite direction. Weird uncomfortable feeling.

Thursday evening I pushed it out an extra 4km.  I went around the same area as last night, just mixed up the direction.  I also went by Blackrock castle..... 

which as you can see, looks slightly pretty with the sunset on it!  It really was a beautiful evening out.  

I felt good this evening for the whole cycle.  No real pain, just the muscles reacting to my maintaining an average speed of 28km/h for the majority of my cycle.  Normal!  My favourite shot this evening thought was this:

It was taken from a bridge on the old railway line route I go.  Truly awesome in my view!

Tomorrow I'm thinking of a 30km roundtrip to Carrigaline. I was thinking of something bigger but I have my gym session with my trainer tomorrow night and I don't want to over do it! My planned cycle would also mark my longest cycle in a little under 1 year. Should be very interesting to see how I fare and how the body feels come Saturday.  So far - I know it's been quite a basic training - but I'm coming along nicely I feel!  You have to start somewhere and I'm 11 days in now and feeling good for what I've done.

I'm going to throw up some pics of my gear and equipment soon so you know what I'm using!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Fresh Start

So! The planning is done! Route is calculated. In Europe, we cycle from Copenhagen to Brussels via Vordingborg, Rodbyhavn, Eutin, Plon, Hamburg, Bremen, Naturpark Dümmer, Münster, Kleve, Eindhoven, Antwerp and Leuven.  This is interrupted by the four day wonder extravaganza that is Werchter!


From there it is fly to Dublin from Brussels and it’s home via Kilkenny and Dungarven

I know where we need to be when. Now starts the hostel/hotel booking & campsite locating! And the training. Oh the training. Previous years I have loved my training. Pushing myself to see what I can do only for my body to ultimately fail me. I didn't know why then but now I do - fecked spine & back muscles.  This holiday is my one chance to cycle a dream - to do over a 1,000km cycle through Europe and finish it with a 300km cycle through my land of Ireland. From what I'm feeling, I think this is the last year my back will be able to take such strenuous, continuous exercise.  If not – bonus!  But I’m treating this condition on a year on year basis.

OK - a little background so you know where I'm coming from and why this blog is being kept.
I started my last intense training regime in January 2010 with the aim of competing in a Tae Kwon Do European championship in England in September 2010. My training was going perfectly - cycling, gym three times a week at least and I was controlling my diet brilliantly. Then in April I slept on a bad mattress and when I awoke, I felt my back muscles go for the 2nd time in my life. Had enough in them to walk the 10 minutes home from my girlfriends. Went to work thinking it was just the way I slept but the longer the day went on the worse my pain. Back muscles giving up on you - Not the greatest feeling in the world ever is how I'd put it. All my training down the sinkhole. My dream of competing on a European stage with my Tae Kwon Do club taken from me. But I didn't get depressed! I told myself I’d be back! My doctor arranged a cat scan to be taken of my back to see what was going on and that was 2 months away in June/July!

I'd be back!

Post cat scan results should have had me under clouds of doom. The results were (and still are) bad. My doctor started with the age old "I don't know how to tell you this, but......."
It turned out that my last three vertebrae had been fused since I was a child and it had never been detected. They were pinching my nerves - which explained my constant back pain - and there was nothing that could be done. I had to give up any thoughts of returning to martial arts and anything deemed 'contact' sport was out. Mountain biking. Tae Kwon Do. Running. All gone.  ‘Old man’s back syndrome’ was here 30 – 40 years early.

So for months I could do nothing but gentle stretching. Get my physical therapy. Stretch. Therapy. Stretch. Then in December 2010 I sold my motorbike. I decided that it was now or never to build myself up one last time to cycle my dream and achieve my goal.
January saw me cycle 221km mainly to and from work to start my rehabilitation.
It's going to be tough going. I had my visit to the chiropractor on January 26th and the adjustments hurt more than normal. My lower back & pelvis seem to be starting the deterioration process already. I'm not one to burden others with my issues so I think that's where this blog comes in. I get to share my burden, share my pain and share my planning and training I suppose?! No one knows my pain levels. Not girlfriend, not mother, not best friends, not housemates. They all know I have pain but are not aware of the levels I suffer from.

So, from here on in, I'm anonymous.
But my pain is shared.
My regime is training.
But mentally I hope I'm prepared if my body fails again.
The people involved are my chiropractor, my physical therapist, my personal trainer, my mother, my son, friends/girlfriend and my cycling/holiday chum/best pal. A 3 in 1! .......which would be nicely tasty about now.....
These people are the ones that get me through my days. Mock me. Drive me. Inspire me. Humble me. Attempt to push me. And feed me!!

I'm going to say today is day 4 as it's a Thursday this is being posted. I'm classing day one as Monday 21st Feb as I sent my cycling buddy an email advising we need to get up on the saddle soon as he has done no training this year thus far. He acknowledged this to be the case but he has demons of his own which are not mine to discuss but just so you understand - I do get frustrated with these demons but it is more out of love for the guy and the fact there is nothing I can do to help. That's the hardest part. One issue I can mention is his tight shoulder muscles!

Day 1: Completed 10km

Day 2: Completed roughly 15km
This day was productive in that I more or less put together my cycle itinerary for Europe. Ireland has to be finished off but Europe is the biggy and it's finished!

Day 3: Completed 8km
Today was tough. While I did a bit of cycling around town and down to my Mum which was fine, today was my fitness induction with my personal trainer. It felt weird doing weights for the first time since April last year! They were miniscule but boy it felt good! First proper session is next Friday evening!
I then went to see my therapist. Got a massage on my gluts on my left side that were as tight as anything. The massage didn't help too much (which is very rare) so I went for a quick adjustment with my chiropractor. The more I see this woman the more it hurts. My spine seems to be shifting a lot more. My middle vertebrae and my lower ones needed adjusting along with my pelvis. The pain I had since my adjustments worries me. Not from a bad practice point, more a 'how bad is this going to be a few years down the line' worry. My cycle buddy's physiotherapist told him a cycling holiday wouldn't be the best thing for his shoulders but he's doing it anyway! I have to try hiding the pain I'm in so I can do this mega trip. It's quite hilarious in a way to see the length of journey planned and the two broken 'old' guys attempting this mega journey! I say fair play to us!
Took me two heat patches and lying still on my back to get me asleep.

Day 4: Completed 10km
Nothing extra done today due to a family friends funeral after work. Just the standard to/from work distance. The upper body was quite sore after my weights yesterday and my pelvis/hip area was a little weak after my adjustments yesterday. Nothing major though, problem wise, which was great after the gym.