The bionic man is up and running………..well, almost

Post my beloved’s stay in hospital, we’ve quickly settled into a routine. The first 10 days we had early morning calls from the local nurse to administer anti-coagulant injections, and two at home blood tests conducted by a local lab. Every week day, late morning, a private ambulance collects him, and his packed sandwich lunch, and transports him to a nearby rehabilitation centre where he undergoes three hours of intensive physio. Then he’s brought back home just in time for a reviving cuppa and a slice of home-made cake.

The results were quickly plain to see, and in stark contrast to when he broke his leg over 18 months ago. After only four weeks, he can move around swiftly on crutches, even walking and going up and down stairs unaided. He initially found the physio tiring but it’s clear that by the end of these sessions, he’ll be as fit as a butcher’s dog!

After the first two weeks, he began training in the water. No need for the stitches to come out, they’d just dissolved and the bruising had completely disappeared. This is where he began to make exponential leaps and bounds, so much so his surgeon was delighted with the rate of his progress and has advised he can train on the home-trainer – whoopee!

Fortunately, this hasn’t stopped him working which he does either side of the physio though I have had to pick up some of the slack. The best bit is the few hours peace and quiet I get when he’s out at physio working up an appetite for dinner. To keep pace I have been spending more time in the kitchen though that’s something I tend to do more of in the winter. I’ve also been hard at work coming up with different sandwich fillings and cakes for his packed lunch. He likes having something different to eat most days, which after three weeks is proving quite a challenge.

To ensure the daily grind isn’t too demoralising, I’ve organised trips each week-end so that he’s got something to look forward to. Mostly, these revolve around lunch out, a brisk walk alongside the sea or watching some live sport. All of this is building up to a few days away in Paris at the end of his physio when he’ll be crutch-free. Lastly, if all goes to plan, we’ll be out on the bikes over Christmas and New Year.

Back on the trainer!

Yes, I’m (unexpectedly) back on the home trainer. We enjoy around 300+ days of sunshine every year leaving around 65 when it’s not so great. Some of those 65 have occurred in the last two weeks. It was lovely the week after we returned from Dubai, but it’s been downhill ever since, culminating in snow. That’s right, SNOW! A pretty rare occurrence on the Cote d’Azur.

It never lasts long but chaos ensues every time. The morning snow was forecast, I was up at the ungodly hour of 05:00 am to run my beloved to the airport to catch a flight to Prague, by way of Lyon. We had thought it might be a difficult drive but the temperature was 4ºC and I dropped him off before returning to my bed. When I awoke a couple of hours later it was a whole different ball game. Snow was falling, and sticking!

We try to get out most days but have become perhaps overly cautious when it’s wet or damp, which covered most of the last ten days or so. We’re already recognising that it’ll be a cold week-end in Siena for the Strade Bianche race and will be packing plenty of cashmere and wet weather gear. On the bright side, we’ll only be watching, not taking part! Cakes will no doubt be gratefully received by those riders I know who are taking part in what’ll no doubt be a long, hard and cold race.

That race coincides with the start of Paris-Nice which may not be a race to the sun this year! The outlook is not favourable, we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed as this year’s route means I’ll be watching it live from Wednesday onwards, not just at the week-end.

 

Turning tides

Usually in October I slip seamlessly into my 3/4 bib shorts and long-sleeved jersey but I’m still riding in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey and it’s almost November. Okay, I have on occasion worn arm warmers for the first part of my ride and on some descents I’ve worn a sleeveless gilet, but otherwise the weather’s been such that no further adornment has been necessary. I’m therefore blind to the blandishments of the virtues of winter cycling wear as extolled by the various manufacturers during our continuing Indian Summer.

Glorious views

To be fair, it never gets too cold on the Cote d’Azur and my 3/4 thermal bib-shorts with a zip-up bodice, rather than suspenders, see me through all but the coldest of winter days. Only if it’s absolutely necessary will I manfully struggle into my bib-tights, double layered jacket, thin full-fingered gloves and wool rather than cotton socks. My extremities rarely get cold. I always have hot hands – ruinous for pastry – and hot feet. Of course, I rarely venture out if it’s raining or if it’s below 10C.

Like me, this tandem has seen better days!

I’m still slogging around my regular routes and admiring the scenery. It’s sometimes an uphill (literally) struggle as I’ve yet to recover my former fitness. My doctor has suggested supplementing my cycle training with some Yoga. I’ve never tried this but my former personal assistant, now a highly regarded yoga teacher in LA, looks uber fabulous for her age so perhaps it’s time to give it a whirl. Classes in France are not expensive so I may opt for some private tuition, to avoid embarrassing myself, before joining a class. I want to regain some of my former suppleness which has been slip, slipping away this past year or so. Sadly, I can no longer do the splits!

Prayer and lighting candles might help

My beloved, who’s still to recover all his former hip flexibility following his broken leg, is keener to try Pilates rather than Yoga. However, I can’t but feel that a mixture of the two might be more beneficial, particularly during the winter months when we’re occasionally constrained from riding quite as much. Of course, some of this reduced flexibility may well be due to my advancing years but I’m not about to give in without a struggle.

Almost home

To mix up my training regimen, I occasionally go for a run (aka jog) along the sea front. Yesterday, loads of people jogged past me while I was sprinting between the lamp-posts. I was feeling a tad discouraged until I remembered that the Nice to Cannes marathon is this week-end and people would’ve been out training in earnest, wouldn’t they? I keep meaning to take part in another marathon, my one and only was London 1994. The passage of time has dimmed the pain and maybe, if I start training now, I’ll be in good enough shape in 2018 to tackle the one from Nice to Cannes? I briefly ponder this question most years but still haven’t gotten around to doing anything about it. The issue is how will I find time to ride, run and do Yoga? Answers in the comments section below, please!

 

Finally back in the saddle

My cycling has been more off than on of late. I felt I was getting back into my stride when my beloved fell off his bike and broke his leg. Consequently, I’ve waited on him hand and foot for the past four – five months. Nothing particularly new but way more time-consuming than I’d anticipated. Since he’s resumed travelling on his own I’d managed the odd ride or two but hadn’t established any regularity.

He’d been riding the aqua bike down at the hospital as part of his recovery programme, as well as his own road bike on the home trainer. A couple of weeks ago, he decided he was ready to ride on the road. However, he’d still not recovered full flexibility in his hips so it was easier to ride his mountain rather than his road bike. I decided we’d ride on part of the Cote d’Azur’s network of cycle routes, steering well clear of any traffic until he got his confidence back.

It was a long hot slog for both of us and we’ve persisted ever since. He’s now back on the road bike but still having problems getting his leg over, despite the hip flexor exercises. We’ve gone out early in the morning but the temperature’s not falling much overnight so it’s still a lot warmer than I’d like. Typically, at this time of year, we’d be off out, up and away into the Niçois hinterland but we’re still both refinding our climbing legs, so we’ve been pretty much restricted to a couple of flattish routes where we try to stay away from the holiday traffic.

We know that it’s going to take some time to recover our former bike fitness but are prepared to soldier on, come what may, knowing we’ll get there in the end. I’m looking forward to less heat and less traffic as we tip into September. It’s helped that my beloved has been at home for much of August allowing us to ride together. Inevitably we start out together and then I let him go off at his own pace once we hit the cycle paths. Typically, I’ll take the more undulating route back and do a few intervals. I can now ride all the way back up the 7% average incline to the apartment without getting off and walking – result!

The incline dips down once I reach the apartment block and I always like to sprint up the last bit of the incline, preferably in the big ring, before screaming to a halt in front of the door. Last week I managed the sprint, although not in the big ring, and almost ran over one of the boys I’d raced against some years ago. He said he was impressed that I was still riding but wouldn’t be racing me again any time soon. Which frankly, is just as well! I consider it fortunate that he didn’t see me riding up the rest of the hill in what felt like, and probably looked like, slow-motion.

 

 

 

I love riding on my lonesome

Cycling Weekly had an article this week entitled “Eight reasons why riding alone is better than riding in a group.” This resonated with me because, I much prefer riding alone. I agreed with their reasoning but have put my own spin on it.

I can go when I want

The clubs here all have set-in-stone times throughout the year for the start of club rides which pay little heed to the weather or traffic. For most of the year I like to head out around 10:30, when the mercury has risen and the traffic has calmed down. The exception is high summer when I leave at around 07:00 to avoid the heat of the day. There’s no hanging about as I don’t have to wait for anyone, or meet anyone en route. Nor is there any problem if I leave earlier or later for my ride.

I can go where I want

I generally ride with a route in mind but, depending on how I feel – and the weather – I can extend or foreshorten it. I typically like to warm up on the flat before heading for any climbs. I also have routes that I only ride at certain times of the year. In winter the chill keeps me off the climbs and I hug the coast.

I confess that there are certain routes I’ll only do at the week-end when I know there will be other cyclists around, just in case I have a problem. These are areas where the mobile phone coverage is non-existent, the roads are very quiet during the week and there’s little or no habitation.

It’s easier to stick to my training plan

I like to ride to a training plan, even though I’m not training for anything in particular. It’s unlikely I’ll find anyone, should I even be so inclined, who’s following a similar plan. It’s hard to do interval or climbing training with anyone else, although it is handy to have someone else look at the stopwatch and shout encouragement. That’s where a trainer comes in handy but not a riding companion.

I can ride for as long (or as little) as I want

The length of my rides tend to be determined by the training plan but occasionally I’ll want to ride further and sometimes I’ll want to ride less. I can just head for home wherever and whenever I want.

I can ride at my pace

I found when I rode with the club, I wanted to ride faster on the flat and downhill but was slower than most going uphill. I tended to ping off the front and drop off the back of the group. I wasn’t really riding with anyone and once I had to keep stopping for them to catch up, well………. Of course, it also means I can’t get dropped and others don’t have to wait for me.

I don’t have to keep stopping

When your riding companions are largely elderly (male) retirees, you have to stop a lot for comfort breaks. And, if it’s a particularly long ride, lunch. I don’t like to stop at all on long rides, particularly not for any length of time because it makes me feel far less inclined to get back on. I find it all a bit of a waste of time. I don’t mind stopping for a quick drink, or to fill up my bidons, or to use the facilities but that’s about it. I’m not one to hang about.

Though I can stop as many times as I want

Conversely, when I’m on my own I can stop to take pictures, answer my phone, or blow my nose without anyone minding. Sadly, I’ve never mastered the art of blowing my snot into the wind; it usually ends up on my face and jersey – not a good look! Nor can I do anything, such as answering my mobile, while riding hands free.

It gives me time to think

This is by far and away the best reason to ride on my own. I can enjoy the peace and quiet, clear my head and drink in my spectacular surroundings. I don’t have to make polite conversation or listen to inane chatter. If I’ve got a bit of a challenge, I can chew over the options for resolving it while I’m riding. I also find the kilometres seem to go by much faster. I know it’s an illusion, but it’s a good one.

I can fix my own punctures

Touch wood, it’s rare for me to get a puncture. But, if I do, I know how to change my inner tube. I should add that I’ve never once had to do so myself on the road. Usually, before I’ve even stopped, some gallant Frenchman (or men) will come to my rescue and within a matter of minutes, I’m back pedaling once more.

I should add that on the off-chance I lose my chain – rookie error – I keep a pair of disposable plastic gloves in my teeny, tiny saddle bag to put it back on without getting oily hands.

I’m never really alone on the road

Cyclists are a friendly bunch and I’m constantly waiving at riders I know, and don’t know, on the other side of the road and exchanging quick pleasantries with those I overtake or who overtake me. The latter group is much larger than the former. I know many of the local riders and they love shouting “Salut Cherie.” You’d have thought by now that the novelty would have worn off!

I can see the road ahead

In a bunch, you’re reliant on others to identify hazards. Some are better at doing this than others. I like to see the road ahead so I either ride at the head of the bunch or on my tod.

No one is sucking my wheel

Okay, so I’m not sheltered from the wind either but frankly you need to know how to ride in a cross or head wind and I’m pretty nifty in both.

No one is going to cross my front wheel

Hands up, how many times have you been taken out by a club-mate who hasn’t maintained his line and crossed your front wheel? Yeah, everyone! Not a problem if you’re riding on your own.

No one is training on my mountain

With so many professional riders and great amateurs training around here, the chances of getting a QOM are practically zilch. However, I have my own mountain, I’m training to be its Queen and no one else knows about it.