Riding Back to Fitness, part2

Here’s the second instalment in my Riding Back to Fitness story.

Quick catch-up if you haven’t seen my first instalment. Back in June I had a bout of pneumonia, which came after two weeks of fever, sleepless nights and not eating. I lost around five kilos in weight and I think most of that I sweated out! I spent six days in hospital on oxygen and anti-biotics, which I never wish to repeat.

A look I’m hoping not to repeat in 2024!

So it’s been ten weeks since coming out of hospital, the first few days were fantastic! You don’t realise how great it is to be in your own space, until you can’t. Ok, it’s not like I’ve just completed a ten year stretch in chokey, but being back home was…nice. However, like all cyclists pretty soon I started thinking “when can I get back on the bike?”

I knew this wasn’t going to be straightforward. After a couple of days being home I tried doing some stretching and almost passed out! Going for a ride might take a little longer. Also I was looking back on the events I had missed or was going to miss and this was seriously depressing. Event’s like the CX Century, which I do every year with an old buddy. While I always try and beat my PR, it’s also a great chance to meet-up and chat the night before.

I had also planned to ride some road and Mtb events this year, not anymore. Also cancelled were a couple of UCI gravel races; Gravel 150 and the Houffa. Of course this also means that the upcoming cyclo-cross season was in question. So I’ve decided to use this period as a chance to re-set and sort out some niggles that have been building up and train for 2024.

Maybe it’s time to stop racing and enjoy a little more café culture?

Let’s start with some walking!

Ok, that’s the catch-up, where am I now? Well after my stretching “episode” I gave it a week and started with some simple half-hour walks. Fortunately I could fit these in by walking one of my sons to school. The first few were ok, apart from the final stretch which is up a 12% climb: trust a cyclist to know the percentages! This left me out of breath and needing to stop for a bit, all a bit humbling: glad the boy couldn’t see me!

The following week I hopped on Zwift and rode easily for an hour. I felt tired but was breathing ok, so took that as a good sign. I kept this up for a week, also taking the kids out for walks/rides – they were on summer holidays so could help their dear old dad!

Final checks

There are a couple of final checks I have to complete before I can finally consider myself “all-clear” First was an x-ray, to see what was left in my lungs. I had one in hospital and it was not a pretty sight! One was over half full and the other around a quarter. These are obviously not medically accurate, just my fevered recollection. Seeing those white shadows lurking away in my lungs was pretty scary, so I was looking forward to seeing them all gone.

Unfortunately pneumonia decided that it wasn’t quite ready to vacate the premises. I snuck a quick look as the radiographer checked his paper-work and wouldn’t you know it? Sitting there at the bottom of my right lung, a big chunk of white: ok this is going to take a little bit longer. I’ve a doctor’s appointment in September to discuss all this, which is great, but it’s with the department of elderly medicine! I mean, c’mon! I know I’m riding as a vet’ now, but elderly?

Choose a coach

I'll be working with CycleCoach during my Riding Back to Fitness journey
I’ll be working with CycleCoach during my Riding Back to Fitness journey

So while I’m waiting I’ve been talking to Ric Stern at CycleCoach, I’ve worked with Ric previously and he made me faster, so I figure go with what you know. I’ve joined his Membership Coaching group again, working towards being fit enough to qualify for the 2024 UCI Gravel World Championship. I’ve raced the UCI Gran Fondo series previously and have always qualified, but this year the gravel racing was so hard. Hopefully Coach Ric is going to sort me out!

I also have to deal with some issues that us older riders have: namely wear and tear! I have a “mild anterior hip health change” and a “mild disc-bulge”. These have been getting worse over time – the joys of aging – but are both mild. So I should be ok with stretching and specific exercises. The stretching I have to do every day and the exercises at least three times a week. I can combine these with Ric’s strength programme.

Mental pressure?

So that’s the physical side, I’m on the mend and while it’s taking what seems a long time, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. On the mental side I’m finding it tough. I started racing as a junior many, many years ago – we were wearing wool because we had to! Since then I’ve always been racing and when I wasn’t racing there was always some competitive sport going on; fencing, martial arts, adventure-racing. So it seems strange now not to have any goals to aim for.

I’m enjoying going out and riding, but having to keep the effort low is a bit…dull! I could go out and become a tourist, stop and take photos, enjoy a few more café stops? It’s an option, but I just keep telling myself to hang on, I’m too young to hang up my racing wheels! However I do have to consider the possibility. The doctor could tell me next week, “no more racing for you!” What would that mean to me and how would I deal with it? I’m really not sure.

I’m intending to be back doing this next year!

How are you coping?

I must admit I’m dealing with it at the moment by ignoring it. Not the best way of approaching what could, for me, be a life-changing announcement. However in my defence It’s only for another week. Hopefully that’s not building up any future issues, but if the worst was to happen? Would I get as much fulfilment just riding around? Maybe I could put my energy into organising some events? British Cycling recently put together a task-force to deal with dwindling numbers of races. Or I could help with my local club, start a youth section? Cycling in the UK is going through a strange time at the moment, while we have many world-class riders, local events are suffering. This could be my chance to give something back by volunteering.

If I can’t race I could still help the next generation

Well that’s all for now. In my next report I’ll go into a bit more detail about my coaching. I’ll also detail some of my physio treatment, it might be useful if you’re old and decrepit like me!

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