Day 2 – Mechincal Problems… Arghhh

I had a terrible first night’s sleep in Calais, I just could not relax thinking of the previous day’s events and the heat was disturbing me all night. My head was spinning but fortunately my legs were feeling pretty good considering what I had been through the previous day with muscle cramps and spasms.

It soon became a bit of a ritual every evening on the day before getting everything ready, such as glucose and electrolyte drinks, glucose snacks, medication etc etc.

I noticed that the Garmin app on my phone had updated and I just knew that would be trouble. I had been using Garmin livetrak to let people know where I was and how I was doing during the route. It worked fine day one but since the update it later failed, surprise surprise.

I had breakfast, or should I say what I could manage, it was hot and I did not feel hungry so I tried to get a couple of croissants down me, but it was difficult I must say, I then tried some fruit salad to no avail.

I did speak to a couple of ladies during breakfast as one was wearing a Bluebell wood cycling shirt and that was local to me. The lady was from Barnsley and she asked how I got on yesterday, I told her, and both ladies said I needed some salt tablets and not just water. I had only got the powder but could not carry it around, so they kindly gave me some for the ride today.

Off we went, it was already hitting 25 degrees at 7:30 and off we set. It was a nice steady ride to be fair out of Calais. I soon caught up with a little cycling group of 4 (I mentioned this group on the last post) and I asked politely if I could ride with them. They were moderately paced on the flat and steady on the hills and that suited me just fine. I hit the first climb of the day, it was not steep but long. I don’t mind these as once you get your rhythm you can keep plodding. I got to the top and then carried on for a few miles. I noticed before hitting the next climb my right foot was not keeping in the pedal as my cleat was not secure. I called to the others to carry on whilst I stopped to take a look. At that point it was obvious that my cleat was broken and probably due to the fact I had to walk up the last hill in Dover due to my severe cramp attack that I had.

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I continued with my foot constantly coming away from the pedal on every single upstroke and then wobbling on the down stoke. In the end I cycled around 20 miles to the next water stop with one foot.

I got to the water stop and spoke to the Global mechanic who said I could not continue like that. They had no cleats and many others had the same problem. He decided to take me to the next town to see if we could get some cleats, we called in several shops who only had a different brand in stock (unfortunately the brand of the cleat only works with the same brand as the pedal). In the end to cut a story short I ended up riding in the van to Arras and missed out on 40 miles of cycling. I was far from happy about this and decided after the event I would do another 40 miles on French roads before returning to blighty.

The next challenge was to find some cleats in the city of Arras, I looked on-line and noticed they had a Decathlon in the city. I went to reception in the hotel and asked about walking to Decathlon, they said it would take around 30 minutes, not far but it had just hit 36 degrees in the afternoon sun. So, I asked them to get me a taxi. The taxi arrived and thank goodness it was air-conditioned, and the driver could not speak any English, but I managed enough to have a general conversation about Arras and found his daughter lived in Birmingham! We arrived and in I went, panic set in when I could not find them, everything seemed geared towards mountain biking to be fair. I ended up asking in broken French pointing to my feet followed by the word Velo. He showed me road racing section and true to his word they had cleats. Once again, my heart stopped no Shimano cleats on the shelves. I asked again and determined that Shimano cleats where order only. Ummm, but my new Decathlon French friend showed me some Look cleats together with pedals. Phewww complete relief, 40 Euros lighter but at least I knew I would be back on Charlie in the morning for day 3.

 

 

Back to the hotel, 25 euro lighter thanks to the taxi trip. During the trip the French taxis driver was very helpful showing me the sights of Arras like the police station, Marie office and then showing me facebook on his mobile phone showing me his family in Birmingham !

I got to Charlie and there were a couple of guys having a pint of liquid amber, it looked good in the 36 degrees of heat, but I promised I would not touch a drop until my challenge was complete. They helped me change my pedals, but I could not tighten them up as I did not have a 8mm allen key. But not to worry as the next morning I knew the mechanics would be here to save me yet again.  This ultimately could have started the next chain of disastrous events who knows!

 

 

On your marks, get set, go or should I say “allez allez allez”

It’s here ! it is 6:45 and I am on edge, the nerves have hit home. It is a stunning day, clear blue skies, sun in the sky and very little wind. The negative is the temperature, it’s already 21°Celsius .

I loaded my luggage into the truck which had the hotel name I was going to stop at in France. It was at this point realisation hit, because the next time I was to sleep was going to be in France and not the UK.

I listened to the induction of what to do and not what to do. The main info was water stops, food and what side of the road we need to be on. They went through the contact phone  numbers we may need etc.

Before I know it, it is 7 am and 147 of us are at the start line and off we go.

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It was a very slow start as we had to be ever so careful as with so many riders, if one person was to fall we would all be on the floor. image that on Harry Hills TV show, £200 would not go far between us all.

I got around half a mile and realised I had not got any gloves or map on me, I had left them in reception before I set off and I can’t say on here what and how it had happened but the bottom line is I had no gloves and my spares were well on the way to France. So that was to be the best part of 93 miles with no gloves and I can tell you gloves are essential for cycling any decent distance.

I got the first 20 miles in the bag and hit the water station, the temperature had already hit the late 20’s and you could tell some fellow riders were already struggling with the heat. I filled my bottles up with water and later in the day this would come back to bite me with a vengeance.

Next stop I was heading towards was lunch and it was around 24 miles ahead. I have travelled the country extensively but not on a bike and this really lets you appreciate the country side within the M25, as you always just expect it to be a concrete jungle.

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By the time I got to lunch it had hit 30°C and to fair not many people felt hungry. The food was great and loads of choice of real riding food such as pasta, potatoes and rice etc.  such a shame my appetite had all but disappeared.

Off we went again with my head down, not got time to hang around as we had to hit Dover for 15:30, we did not want to miss the boat.

I had never cycled in a group before and I must say it does make the miles go much quicker. I jumped on the back of several groups and one particular group was ever so useful. They were well paced on the flat and down hill the when it came to uphill section they were nice and steady and this pace really suited me especially in these hot conditions.  I talked to people about why they were doing the London to Paris, what charity they were raising funds for and why. I listened to some amazing stories on the very first day.

As I mentioned it was hot but I was on it and I was so glad I put the training in as I could certainly tell I had.

With 10 miles to go the fact I had been drinking just water hit me. I had several paralysing cramps in my right leg and this included my upper legs front and back and my lower leg. this then started on my left leg too but only lower. I had to un-clip myself whilst in agony or I would have fallen over. It took around 10 minutes for this to go and then I tried to cycle again, I was OK until I hit the final climb and once again it came back with vengeance.  I ended up having to walk the last part of the climb for around half a mile and I was in agony and it was even more difficult when walking in cycling shoes and cleats.

It was the last hill and then it was all flat and downhill which enabled me to complete my ride to Dover at the meeting point outside the ferry terminal.

So why did I have cramp problems, I soon realised I had washed out all the salts in my body by drinking just water. I needed to have electrolytes to replace what I was loosing in this heat. I needed a good source of electrolytes for the next day. I did have a mix of electrolytes and glucose in powder form but the amount I was drinking I could not carry all the powder. In terms of diabetes I have not mentioned it as I did not have a problem thankfully.

We all made our way together to the ferry terminal and seeing 147 of us certainly looked impressive especially as we made our way to the actual terminal before we boarded the ferry.

It was then announced once in the departure car park that our ferry was delayed for 1.5 hours so we all tried to get some food in the services and with 1 person working in WH Smiths, Costa Coffee and  couple in Burger King you could imagine the queues. the temperature was now in the 30s and the queues were that big that many an ice cream did not even make to the till and ended in the bin.

Back in the car park over my shoulder another 200+ cyclist arrived and then another 50. Both from different event organisers. It must have been agreed as all ferries were late they put all the cyclist (over 500)  on together instead of the other lot waiting for their original ferry. As you can imagine it was carnage when we got on board. We were supposed to get some food in but the queue was still snaking around the ship as we docked in Calais.

It was dark and over 27°C when we arrived and it was the only time we needed our lights, we made our way from the terminal and through the streets of Calais and the sight of over 500 riders with flashing red LED flashing in front as amazing. I had another 6 miles to go and was rather hungry. It was gone 10 pm and after around 30 mins we arrived at our hotel and lets just say from a 5:30 am start I had a shower and fell into bed and ate a banana bar I had in my secret food stash in my bag which had arrived at the hotel.

Day 1 – over and out…..

It is Tuesday the day before the Grand Depart

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I had a reasonable nights sleep on monday after a hectic day at work. It always happens with work. The day before I go on holiday things happen…. Hey ho I left feeling I had done everything I could.

Jo had picked up the bike box, I needed this to fly my bike back from Dinard as I was not returning with my new cycling friends on the Eurostar as I was going to relax at home in france for a week.

Paul who works for Jo in the florist shop (driving) was going to pick me up on Tuesday morning for the trip down to Croydon in London. I asked him to take my instead of work and he agreed providing is wages could go to the NKF.

Tuesday morning I had a light breakfast and was ready, paul turned up a little early but I was ready for the off.

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Everything was set and off we went.

I followed paul in my wife’s car to her florist shop as she would need her car with the van going to London for the day.

I met up with Jo to say my good byes and I must say I think the reality of what I was about to attempt finally hit me. I was still not 100% if I could do it.

I was leaving my wife from Tuesday to till saturday, attempting to cycle from London to Paris as a complete novice with a little over 8 months training and not having a clue what to expect. Battling with diabetes, not knowing how 6-8 hours in the saddle would work and a donated kidney from Jo as my own were beyond economical repair.

Afer a few hours of circumnavigating the M1 and M25 and having the pleasure of being stationary in UKs largest car park we arrived at the Selsdon hotel.

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I was nervous once again the penny had dropped, tomorrow I was going to hit the road to Paris.

I got all my kit into the room which of course was at the top floor and the furthest away from reception you could get. So dragging my bike box, two bags and Charlie had to be carried out in relays whilst Paul guarded my prize possessions.

It got to around 6:30 and many of my fellow riders started to arrive some in larger groups etc, I was amazed at the lager drinking contest going on by several of the big groups. It was a no-no for me as I never drink before I get on the bike as you can feel it the morning. I took to the restaurant for some food and then it was time for final preparations such as selecting tomorrows clothing, drink bottles filled, essential food ready for the ride, garmin ready, phone charged etc etc and off to bed. This routine had to be of military precision ever night for the next several days !

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Time to prepare the riding gear and charlie for the ride to Paris

I had sorted out the meds and next comes the cycle clothing, once again much much more than I thought !

I had four days of riding and I have enough kit for clean each day, this would increase the weight of my baggage but lightened the load on washing at night, I might not even have time for such luxuries.

I needed four bib shorts, four pairs of socks, four cycling tops and so it went on.

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Top row from the left first…. Shoes, 4 pairs of socks, 4 lots of bib shorts, gloves, four cycling tops, gloves, glasses and helmet.

Does not seem a lot but then you add your casual clothes on top it starts to resemble my daughters suit case to Singapore (that’s another blog another day)

Next came Charlie, time to give her a final wash and brush up ready for the big event.

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I put Charlie some new tyres on, I thought she deserved some new rubber on her adventure away from the turbo trainer.  I checked everything else from brakes, cleaning and lubricating the chain set. She looked well and ready for action, at last I was about to put her through her paces. All this riding we have done over the last 8 months was about to come together.

Next came all the cycling kit I took on my challenge. As I had no idea of what was coming I took virtually everything apart from the kitchen sink.

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You can see above a spare tyre, spare tubes (3 No.), spare chain links in case my chain broke, CO2 mini cylinders (inflating tyres to max pressure), anti bacterial wipes for my hands (nothing worse than changing a tyre and having dirty hands for the next miles.), torque wrench for dismantling my bike at the end, alan key set just in case for small adjustments whilst riding, water bottles, garmin cycle computer and a pump.

That was it I was ready, before I knew my trusty chauffeur appeared out of nowhere and it was Tuesday.

Time to prepare the medical kit for the big ride to Paris

Time is getting nearer and nearer for the ride. I am getting a little nervous as I don’t know what to expect at all. All I know is that I will arrive at the hotel in Croydon on a Tuesday afternoon and then appear in Paris on Saturday afternoon. I don’t know how it works in between if I am honest. I am more anxious about the unknown really than the actual ride.

My aim in all this is to raise some awareness, that as a transplant recipient I can do normal things in life, live life to the full and show others that a gift of life is truly life changing.

with out a transplant and a life on dialysis I am sure I could not ride to Paris in 4 days.

Before I go I need to get prepared in every way, I have lots to think about and the list seem endless.

Medication

First of all and the most crucial is my medication, I am on holiday for just over a week when I finish so I need to have three weeks supply with my throughout the two weeks Period. This includes all my transplant medication and insulin. I normally work a week  at a time to save me the effort of dispensing myself my meds every morning, mid morning and evening so I spend the best part of an hour getting those ready.

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At the end of all this tablet popping I have my full medical kit below…

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Lets look at bit closure, top of the pic I have all my essential tablets for the trip, below this I have spare insulin pens, factor 50 and 50+ sun screen, chamois cream to make my ride a little more bearable, Sudocream for after the ride each night, blood test strips in case my Libre sensor fails, blood glucose machine, insulin, the all important jelly babies in case of a diabetic low in the night, paracetamol, spare insulin needles, antibiotics just incase and some prednisolone just in case too….

Feeling strong again and I had a rise in my FTP !

There has been lots of ups and downs during the training cycle.

This week I am on the up, I hit the ground running with a very successful training session on Tuesday which once again was not easy but I got through it without any problems.

I managed to rescue my blood glucose levels, I run at the top of my rage all day  be eating a few more carbs as normal in anticipation for training. You can see a couple of peaks where the carbs had the effect (this is normal) and then it came back into range and then dropped during the ride. I just managed to get some food down me before the low hit me. So this was good effort and result on both sides.

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Thursday came and to be fair it was a lower workout ready for the dreaded FTP test on Tuesday which is a full-out effort for 20 mins. When I say full out I mean at my personal threshold.

Due to the impending test I decided I did not want to push though on Saturday or Sunday, so I went for a little spin on Friday night, it was 27°C when I left work and the first challenge was to climb for 5 miles to just over 1000ft. Not much to my pro friends, but the heat was intense, but I felt good. In fact, it was the quickest I had done the climb and then I went on to complete a quick 30 miles overall. I felt strong, in fact very strong and could not quite believe it. My MPH was up but the power I could exert at a constant felt good.

I was chuffed I had a productive ride, might have only been short but I felt good and hope I feel like this on the London to Paris.

I had a steady weekend, Tuesday soon arrived, and I felt mentally and physically good for the FTP test.

I began the 20-minute slog and its broken into 4 sections of 5 mins. So initially the idea is to just hold below my threshold of 203 for the first quarter and slowly increase it until the last section I start to put the hammer down. I think I went a little too hard to start with as I soon got my average up to 211 on the first 5 mins and continued. The rise did not increase in the same momentum as the initial 5 mins but it did go up. It was hot and I really pushed as hard as possible for the 20 mins flat out and I increased my FTP by 3.5%, not massive but a good solid performance to show how I have increased once again,

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Another week to come of hard work and then it will be time to keep the fitness but not increase. Steve will be changing my program a little. I will be doing a little tapering.

In my mind this seems all logical as I am sure Chris Froome does not do a couple of tour stages the week before he starts.  or then again maybe he does ?

Good Bye Frank the Tank :(

My old bike which was a cross between a mountain and road bike has finally left me. It was a Raleigh Pioneer Trail 4000. I purchased it originally to do the ride around Clumber park etc with Jo my wife.

Its been cluttering my garage until Charlie arrived and consequently it ended up outside. It was time to either scrap it or to see if I could give it away. I would much rather give it away to someone who could use it. I am sure after a bit of a fettle it could still serve someone proud !

I met a lady called Angela at Skyhook who works at a social enterprise called Recycle Bikes based in Sheffield. They are a not for profit project and work with young people who may be finding mainstream education a little challenging. They offer refurbished bikes, parts, bike serving and the training of bike maintenance to Joe public.

Frank the Tank set off in the back of the flower van with Charlie to Recycle bikes. Charlie was going to have a little fettle and make sure she is in top form ready for the challenge whilst Frank was going to be assessed to see if he could be rescued to give somebody else a chance to ride a bike.

Goodbye Frank the Tank

Charlie came back in time for my normal Tuesday session, the drive train was all clean, gears and brakes in fine order and she is all ready to go to Paris.

Thursday was tough and probably one of the hardest workouts of this section, it was a full-out effort over the threshold but with very little recovery. The minute in-between the heavy load is a time to recover, normally at 50% of your threshold but this particular day it was at 90% and there is no recovery for me at this level. Just pain and more pain, I was so relived to hit the 5 minutes 45% recovery section but then the pain started again shortly after, it was relentless, and I was so glad when I hit the final warm down after 70 minutes, even that felt tough.

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I hit the road again on Saturday but must admit I failed miserably, I put in a 5 miles effort uphill and my legs were just shot, I became very aware that I had not recovered from the intensity on Thursday evening. I did not go much further apart from turn around and head back to base and relaxed for the rest of the weekend.

I was a little down and disappointed about Saturday as I had all the intention of putting in a few miles, even making my special peanut and honey sandwiches for half way, having a carby breakfast of toast with a touch of real butter. It was not to be.

Under 4 weeks to go

Its been a couple of weeks since I last made a few notes, quite a lot has happened, and the training has been as busy as ever. That’s the problem trying to keep up to date. By the time I get my training done, road work done I need my beauty sleep!

As well as Cycling I have been a little busy in the garden now the summer season seems to have appeared. A couple of years ago I installed a new composite decking, however after a couple of years of it not draining water properly it warped and cracked. I have been removing the old and laying some new. The main issues were that I had to have a decent fall on it and as it was lade originally in a 8 metre section the fall would have had to be over 100 mm over the horizontal which would have looked odd. So, I have re-configured it to run in a 1.8 metre direction which only needs 25 mm fall to be safe. I had to install new posts and timber to go the opposite way. This took me several weeks as I could only do a bit at a time in the evening around riding Charlie.

At last it’s done, it took some time but it is done properly and Jo seems happy with her refurbished outside space and LED lighting.

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Looking back over the last few weeks I broke the 100km barrier by completing 65 miles in reasonable time. The result was that my legs were in good order and recovery was good.

Initially I set on my steady Rotherham route for the first 23 miles of my ride and then rode back to Sheffield where I started to climb up to the peak district and managed an easy 1000 ft climb and then came back around Sheffield on the east side and finished up warming down on a slightly different route to Rotherham and back.

It was a lovely day with average temperatures of around 18°C according to my Garmin and peaks of 22°C in certain parts.

I did have a major problem on the first leg as I went past Magna, that was a puncture. I even heard it enter the tyre and then could hear it deflate. I stopped, and I saw the culprit with no problems. A lovely piece of steel, no I was on the border between Rotherham and Sheffield and I think it had to be a piece of Rotherham steel as it was not shiny enough for Sheffield stainless steel !

I managed to change it quick time and used my CO² cylinder to refill the tyre in quick time and it worked well !

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Off I went again.

All in all a pretty good ride.

Training round at Skyhook has been on the edge this month. We have been concentrating on the climbing phase and it been extremely hard. We are doing high load and high cadence work at the moment and my diabetes blood glucose does not like it one bit.

I have been trying to start the session a little higher than normal in the rage of 12-15 but end up sinking like a stone and then takes a long time to recover back to normal. So, my glucose control according to the software has not been as good this month as last.

I just got the last phase of work under control in terms of diabetes, but it has certainly changed again. Fortunately, on the road I have now got a grip of the situation.

I had a monster of a training session last Thursday which at the time was extremely difficult, but I knew about it two days later.

I got on Charlie on a Saturday and set off and hit a climb for around 4 miles and my legs felt awful and just would not go. I blamed Thursday for this as the following Tuesday a just as hard session I was fine.

I have under 4 weeks to go and I am ok but am worried that I don’t want to do too much, I don’t want to be fatigued before I start. In my own mind I need to keep my fitness and making improvement is not my aim now. But who knows I could have got it all wrong, we will have to see what Steve has to say about this idea…  My own thoughts is I bet Mo Farah does not run a marathon 2 weeks before the next one….

Am I going to make it to Paris

I am leaving France for the last time until me and Charlie meet up with her again in Calais. The next time I arrived at our house in France and sleep in my bed will be after I have finished my challenge.

We (Jo my wife will meet me in Paris at the finish) get back home late Saturday night after a trip on the TGV from Paris. If I do complete the challenge I must say I will be overwelled with achievement. For the pro riders (those that go out every week for the last 5 years and think nothing of a 100 miles weekend ride) out there the London to Paris trip is a straight forward training exercise. For me it will be different, I have been riding for around 8 months but battled with diabetes all the way and kidney disease. I will be ecstatic but no doubt my legs will be in bits and my backside will resembles one of those monkeys you see at Chester zoo, You will get the idea of how I will feel when you look below.

 

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So I have 8 weeks to go and people are telling me it will be fine but I am not too sure to be honest. I am not convinced. A few weeks ago I was fine and now… well its different.  The last few weeks of training has been very difficult, the climbing of short very sharp hills worries me immensely, I don’t want to fail in fact I won’t allow myself to fail. Its all in the head says Steve @ skyhook training.

Steve is right I am sure of it, but I am getting more worried as the days go on and I wish it was tomorrow to be honest. I don’t want to let people down especially fellow kidney patients, my family and friends, my wife and finally myself. I must conquer this and complete it and find my next challenge.

A weekend ride and a rest

Its getting touch at skyhook during this climbing phase.

I went out once again on a Saturday to get a 50 miles ride in. I ventured out had a few warmup laps through Hillsborough and then via my normal Rotherham route and climbed up through Masborough and Thorpe Hesley.

I normally cycle pass my daughters but, on this occasion, as I was heading down hill I had nothing to lose by calling in.

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If I don’t call in she complains but with it being an uphill section and I can see the summit I don’t want to stop. I got of my bike, her car was in the drive but no one at home. I tried and sent her a picture of her car as proof !

I was trying to eat a bit more regular on this ride so I had done 25 miles it was time to stop off at Keppel’s column which is with 400 yard off our old house in Scholes.

I sat on the grass took off my new shoes and devoured my peanut butter sandwich, sweet treat and drink. I stopped for 15 minutes before heading back in the saddle.

I headed down into Scholes village, a lovely place and downhill section before I climbed up the short but steep section to Wentworth. As I said it was steep but short and I struggle a bit with the gradient. Not out of breath just felt fatigued and I had only done 30 miles by then.

At this time, I realised I need to make this London to Paris challenge a little easier and I have a plan but I am worried it will harm my training. I need to lose a stone in weight and loose it fast. I worked out if I was to lose a stone the gradient would not be as problematic and in fact my power to weight ratio would increase. I am having to work a lot harder than others who don’t carry the weight. But is it too late?

Last time I lost 6 stone I did it quite quick by cutting out carbs, so this is what I will do. However, the problem I see is that carbs are energy and If I do this now will the lack of energy impede on my training. It is something I need to speak to Steve about.

In the end I had a good ride but was fatigued quite a bit and I felt like I had gone backwards. Maybe the intensity of the training is talking longer for me to recover?

I went for the next session on Tuesday evening and it was tough, in fact I really struggled and turned down the intensity, so I could make it to the end. I did make it to the end, but it was horrific, I felt absolutely shattered.

I feel like I need a rest and a reset. Start again if you know what I mean.  As I write this I am 38000 feet in the sky on a flight back from France. I have had an extended weekend away and the way it has fallen means a full week’s rest for the bike. Those that know me I can assure you I have done nowt apart from a bit of gardening.

Here is a nice picture of Dinan

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