Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Date 22-08-16. Time: 23:30. It amazing how much things can change so dramatically over just two months - one moment you are riding on the crest of wave feeling exhilarated and proud you achieved a lifetime goal by cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats. The next moment you are sitting in a knee clinic awaiting an MRI scan and Xray wondering if by doing so, whether you have pushed your body too hard and hoping you haven't done any long term damage.

I thought I was making good progress doing the stretching exercises and light cycling (20 miles per day with no intensity) I had been restricted to by the specialist - to help recover from the knee injury I sustained during the ride. However, unfortunately things flared up after approx 6 weeks and I have now been advised to fully rest for the next 3-4 weeks and not do any cycling during this time to break the pain cycle. I'm very frustrated by this, as I was really getting into my cycling and had plans to start doing some more competitive organised long distance road races plus some other challenges I had in mind.

I'm pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoy cycling now I am into it - and that makes it all the more difficult to have to stop, be it for only a relatively short while. Watching the Olympics has got me even more enthusiastic and it is just incredible just how well British cycling has come on in recent years - not only do we win TDF but we also do so well at Track cycling. This has made me itch even more to want to get out on the road.

I do have some good news through - the dive appears to have bottomed out and it looks like I may be starting to pull out. The MRI showed no sign of any knee structural problem, but has illustrated a typical cycling overuse injury, probably caused by the large ramp up in activity from doing recommended 70-80 mile weekend rides during the training guide, to actually averaging this distance daily for 12 days.

The knee MRI shows (avoiding the technical terms) inflammation around the front knee cap tendon and some fluid build up around back of the knee. I am advised the knee will get better with physiotherapy and stretching exercises along with an active rehabilitation exercise plan (i.e. a gradual build up of cycling activity).

So hooray I can get back on the bike, but only for 5 miles initially and then a gradual build up from there. I've been advised I should be able to get back to normal fitness by the end of September if everything goes well, which for me nowadays is approx 140-160 miles per week.

So it's a start and I am optimistic. It it will be great to able to get back from having been on a ride and not feel like someone has been rubbing the back of your leg with sandpaper. I am determined to get better and hopefully stronger than before and really see if I can compete reasonable well in a road race. The only thing is, I have missed a lot of the season now, so guess 2016 is pretty much written off racing wise. I was really hoping I could utilise the fitness built up training for and completing LEJOG and translate it into seeing what I may be capable of in a road race. However, before I get anywhere near a road race, I also need to loose the 6 additional kilograms I have put on due not being able to burn calories doing cycling of any meaningful intensity augmented by going on holiday, which never helps balance the calorie books.  

Anyway, this is new adventure and challenge I suppose - to see if I can return to full fitness and I am determined to pull it off. I guess in a very small way I am getting a taster of what it might be like to be an injured athlete trying to return to fitness - but at least I am not doing this for a living. We hear many times professional sportsmen and women returning from injury, but it must be quite a long dark and emotional road for them and for many of us it just appears as 'oh they are back', not realising how tough it may have been.

I'll leave with this graph which illustrates what falling of the rails looks like - the green bar is the official start of the LEJOG training, the red bars are during LEJOG, Week 76 illustrates no riding therefore zero miles. Hopefully I can start building this chart back up. Let's see.

Well let you know how it goes perhaps in a month or so.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Date 25-07-16. Time 21:50. Ok. Wow it is one month to the day since I completed the Lands End to John O'Groats cycle ride - that time has gone just so fast.

So this is my first post for a while, but thought I would provide a little update as to how I am getting on cycling wise post completing the LEJOG cycle ride. I am making progress recovering from the injury I sustained to the right knee and have been able (following the specialist advice and not being foolish) to get out on the bicycle. Unfortunately the progress is slow and I am still restricted to just 20 miles at easy gearing with no hills, so really glad I don't live in Dartmoor (see Day 2 post). I've managed to get out about 12 times since and I am very grateful I have not been told to give it a whole month to rest - as really wanted to keep some momentum going. Although I am not climbing any hills, I would have been climbing up the walls if I could not get out - as the saying goes.

I have been given some stretching exercises and these appear to be doing a good job plus icing the knee regularly x3 times a day. So it is slow but steady progress but I am optimistic. My youngest daughter is helping me with the exercises, as she does the counting.... team effort !! :)

Have been watching the Tour de France - amazing what those guys can injure - think my bad leg would have fallen off by now doing that :) I'm quite used to wearing a Yellow Jersey like Froomey, except I wore mine for 10 out of 12 days as it rained so much... and mine was in fact a high visibility rain jacket :)

Anyway, enough of my poor attempts at being funny. Will post again when I think of some equally unfunny things to say :) and maybe report some further progress.

Well done to Chris Froome for such a fantastic achievement winning the Tour de France for the 3rd time - British cycling is just going from strength to strength.


Monday, 4 July 2016

Date: 04-07-16. Time: 21:35. This weekend my legs were screaming at me to get moving again, as they were beginning to feel like tree trunks. The specialist advised it would be good to get them moving but urged caution, so I managed to get myself back on the bicycle and go for a very slow bicycle ride – iaw with the specialist’s advice - using little force and higher cadence (i.e. faster pedal rotation speed than normal) and avoid any hills and gradients.

I understand the legs felt heavy due to the build-up of lactic acid and it was therefore such a relief to just get back on the bike again and get things circulating, although it was a little frustrating to have many many cyclists pass by and overtake me. So after doing 8 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday they just felt so much better after the rides, however there was still some discomfort from the front and the back of the knee, which should get gradually better over time allowing me to start building up the speed and mileage when I can.

Anyway, this may be slow start, but it is still a start... and one that I hope will get me back up and running again - hmmm, I mean cycling again :o) Paul

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Date: 30-06-16. Time: 22:50. OK. So a few days have passed since I completed the cycle ride and the aches and pains have hit their crescendo and are now starting to subside. I managed to see a specialist who assessed my knee who diagnosed it was a typical cycling injury that is not untypical for some pro riders to get. So at least I know I am in good company. So after a quite uncomfortable hefty massage and some instructions to complete some new stretching exercises, I’ve been advised I should be pretty much fixed within a week(ish). I’ve also been given the green light to get back on a bicycle at the weekend, which I really want to do to keep the momentum going.

The injury (if I understand correctly) is basically a hamstring strain that is putting pressure on tendons. It was caused by the excessive use of the knee due to high mileage and the fact my knees are a bit odd, especially my right that has quite a lot of lateral movement during a pedal stroke. So I have to watch that a bit and check out my technique.

Anyway, I really want to mention the wonderful reception I got from my family when I got home. They have been fantastic and very patient throughout the training and the actual ride and have supported me through all the highs and lows. I didn’t think they had anymore to give, but they still managed to put together this fantastic poster, which I absolutely adore. I understand the idea was conjured up by my Mother-in-Law Judy (who is so good at creative ideas) with artistic impression by my lovely daughters Abby (aged 11) and Stephanie (aged 8), pictured here. Thanks you so much -these are memories that last forever.

And also my Wife, I just can’t mention enough just how supportive Emma has been. She is so special it is difficult to put in words …. she surely is my English Rose and one that blossoms so beautifully in my life.

Date: 30-06-16. Time: 21:55. Now I have had a few days to recuperate and get my head back in gear, I plan to pop a few facts and figures on the blog and also waffle on a little bit I suspect. This really is for the benefit of anyone who may be casually browsing the web in the future who may happen to stumble upon this blog whilst looking to gather information on potentially doing this ride, or just looking at general cycling content for interest. So if you have been following this blog mainly to see how I was getting on during the ride, it may now be a good time to unsubscribe and therefore relieve your inboxes from my ramblings. You should be able to do this by clicking unsubscribe at the bottom of the blog update notification emails. If you do unsubscribe, clearly you will still have the option to dip in and out on the blog content, by just typing in google ‘Paul Cissell LEGOG’ and finding it that way or just typing the URL in a web browser, which is  http://paulcisselllejog.blogspot.co.uk 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Day 12+1 (the day after). Date: 26:06:16. Time: 13:45. So the day after the evening celebrations brings a mix of feelings along with the realisation of going back to normal civilian life. I hope the re-integration goes well and I don't go into shock :)

The whole experience has been wonderful even though we have experienced some horrendous weather. Ironically I am now sitting on the train from Inverness to Kings Cross (we have just passed through Edinburgh) and watching our truly beautiful countryside - that is basking in glorious sunshine - roll by. I planned to travel by train, as I wanted to get a sense of feeling of the distance we have we have all cycled and felt it a great way to unwind and relax. As the train is not packed out, this plan is working out beautifully.

The rain was a pain, but it was also a saving grace, as it kept you alert, refreshed and potentially if it was hot all the way, there may have been some  more of us that may have succumbed and not made it – I guess dehydration could have been a gremlin waiting to pounce.

Life changing – yes definitely. Would I recommend doing this -  absolutely. It is amazing what our body's and minds are capable of doing when focused - if the aspiration is there it really is just about getting out there and doing it and making the time to do it. Time management is key and cycling -  in my opinion - really unlocks the doors to fitness, confidence and just opens up the beautiful and varied countryside of this wonderful country I live in - the United Kingdom. In fact, for me I feel it unites one with the U.K.

So what next – I now have an open mind together with some thoughts, but for now a moment to reflect and spend time with my wonderful family and true friends and colleagues.

I suspect this may be the last diary oriented blog post – but I will probably post more pictures and some factual updates over the coming days.

I really hope you have all enjoyed this blog and following this journey. If it has helped in anyway encourage others to take on some future challenges and go out and grab life - that will bring a smile to my face – just like when it is not raining, and boy can it rain in the UK when it wants to.

So, the journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats took me a distance of 994miles (I went back for fellow cyclists a few times and also took a few wrong turns). As I was so close to 1000miles, when the bikes were coached back to our hotel at Inverness at the end of our challenge, I could not resist going out on the bike and knocking up the extra 6 miles to reach the 1000mile marker – just a silly personal thing, but I would have regretted it if I hadn’t, as I suspect I will never be in that position again.

For me now, time to rest and try and get my leg / knee checked out. I’m sure it will be back to full working order in a week or so, but best to play it safe.

I intend not to ride for a week, but I have been bitten by the bug and may well go for a light spin over the coming days. Let's see.

Just passing through Newcastle Railway Station now.

All the best for the future. Make it happen. Paul.

Day 12 finish on 25-06-16 - John O'Groats - Scotland

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Day 12. Date: 25-06-16. Time: 13:40. Woke this morning to an overcast cold day – but that doesn't matter as the only thing that does is that it does not rain - and it didn't.

Well I did it. I arrived at Dunnet Head (most northern point) at 9:30 am, but it was fogged out so not great photos…. and then arrived at John O’Groats at 11:06, where the fog had cleared and we got fantastically great photos.

The scenery on the run into John O'Groats was weird, strange and bleak yet stunning - an extrodinary feeling and a privledge to experience. I rode in with two fantastic guys Neil and Richard and I must say it was a pleasure to experience such a wonderful and significant moment in my life with them - they are true gentlemen and hopefully our paths may cross in the future, as they live relatively close in Guilford. One of the guys has taken on 9 significant adventure orientated challenges and this was challenge number 5 - a truely inspirational guy whom I hope to keep in contact with to see how the others go. The other chap was such a strong and capable cyclist and totally and utterly considerate. I really hope to catch up and have a few beers with both of them in the near future.

This has been one heck of an emotional, pleasurable, exhilarating yet painful journey. One that has brought real tears of joy along with real tears of desperation – it is amazing just how much energy you can draw from those feelings when channeled positively and that was probably what got me through this challenge.

I look around and see cyclists on this trip with all sorts of abilities and you can virtually ‘smell‘ the feeling of satisfaction, as well as relief it is all over. All of them have a different story to tell and their reasons for pursuing this challenge.

I have to thank every single one who has supported me through kind words, gestures of support and of course generous donations towards my elected charity – Flying Start (Comic Relief).

A big massive thank you to the British Airways Community Investment team, that have really helped make this challenge materialise – it has been such a pleasure working with Mary and the team.

Another big thank you to the Discover Adventure team who organised and supported the trip and made it so much fun and run so smoothly.

We are now making our way by coach to Inverness for a celebration meal tonight before making our way home tomorrow. I’m going by train and hope not to have the same shenanigans, as the way down to Lands End (see my first posts).

Anyway, that is enough for now. I am going to sleep on the coach for a while. I am very tired and happy and relieved. Next post will probably involve me nursing a hangover. Paul

Friday, 24 June 2016

Day 11 finish on 24-06-16 - Thurso - Scotland

Day 11. Date: 24-06-16. Time: 18:21. So today we made headway for Thurso leaving behind Brora – a distance of 65miles. It was interesting hearing the cycling group talking yesterday as if 65 miles was going to be a breeze – I wasn't so sure,  as we were all very tired and even most of  the very experienced cyclists had never amassed this kind of mileage over such a short time frame – you never really know what is lurking around the corner. Anyway, this segment did come with a sting in the tail, as as soon as we turned out of the hotel to head North we were hit with a fierce headwind. In a matter of moments the 65 mile ‘jolly’ now effectively became the equivalent of an 85 mile battle. I again was separated from my group early on and tackled it alone, but fortunately my knee was stronger and I could put virtually my full power through the knee – which was almost essential to tackle the headwind and gradients. We cycled through some beautiful but desolate countryside today and it felt very  lonely at times and felt quite surreal.

My bicycle has been brilliant and reliable and I really hope that tomorrow it will see me all the way to John O’Groats without any problems – touch wood. Tomorrow we travel approx 29  miles and go to the most Northern Point at Dunnet Head before going onto John O’Groats. As I  had a good sector today and managed to put some force though the knee, I am so hoping that will not bite me tomorrow and I can enjoy the final stint.

We are setting off tomorrow at 8:30 and we will be closing in on the finish line at approximately 11am, so if anyone is tracking me that will be a good time to watch. Now time to sleep one last time. Paul

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Day 10 finish on 23-06-16 - Brora - Scotland.

Day 9 finish on 22-06-16 Loch Lochy - Scotland

Day 10. Date: 23-06-16. Time: 10:45. A dry day - hooray - for the entire ride and we also experienced sun. That feels just so good. So today I managed to do my 2nd only century as cycled 102 miles (meant to be 97 miles) as I took a wrong turn and climbed a hill for two miles before I had an eerie feeling I had nobody behind me. Early on in the ride we cycled past Loch Ness which was just majestic. No monsters spotted but what a magnificent sight - it is one sure way to forget about a grumbling knee that today felt as good as it had for a long time. It managed to hold up on Heratbreak Hill, which I was really worried about and so relived to get past. I managed to get up without stopping and that is always a personal goal for me - never to stop for reasons of needling a rest - I just don't do it and hopefully that will be the case all the way till the very end. So tomorrow we cycle for 65 miles to Thuro, which is our shortest ride so far as we are closing in on John O 'Groats. Had a silly fall today about 10 meters from the hotel door, as I couldn't get out of my cleats fast enough, but I am ok.

Although my right knee was sore for the first few miles it petered away relatively early on and allowed me to enjoy the ride and deal with the hill and finish strong. So hoping that doesn't bite me tomorrow morning, but we will see.

Weather expected to be wet and poor tomorrow, but I am used to that now. We could not possibly have two days of dry weather could we. Time to sleep now. Paul

Day 9. Date: 22-06-16. Time: 19:30. My oh my oh my. That was a tough tough day. The day started dry until we turned pretty much the first pedal. Then we had our first long climb start just after only completing one mile and went on for what was a few miles during which it started to pour. And it poured and it poured all the way up to the lunch stop. I got separated from my group very early on, as I stopped to put on my overshoes, which were meant to keep water out of my cycling shoes. As it  rained all the way up till the lunch stop at 65 miles, my feet still got soaked. With my socks and shoes wet through I sacrificed some of my lunch break to pedal back 1 mile to the garage we had just passed to try and dry them with the hand dryer. The socks were never going to dry, but I managed to get the inside of the shoes fairly dry and then cycled on for the next 30 miles after lunch without socks on. My knee again dogged me up till lunch time and made things tough and I had to dig really deep for motivation, but after lunch it felt better and I had a fairly good run in to Loch Lochy to complete the 96 miles (plus the 2 extra). Today I cycled on my own for all but 1 mile of the distance, which is challenging but never-the-less very enjoyable, as it allows you more time to take in the breathtaking views, as you don't have to worry what the person immediately in front of you may do.

Tomorrow we go to Brora and it is again another 97 miles, but we also take on the toughest climb of the trip – Heartbreak Hill, which I am told is 20 percent gradient for 1.5 miles and comes with some health warnings. So I really hope my knee is again a bit better and will hold up ok for our friendly hill!!. Time to sleep. Only approx a 97 miler, a 60 miler and a 30 miler to go. Here's hoping I can complete them. Paul.