A taste of honey is worse than none at all

Caution: slightly sweary post. I’m not normally a fan of strong language, but there’s a fair bit in this post. not really sure why.

After my last post it was pretty obvious that things weren’t going entirely to plan. To summarise, I’d been feeling progressively worse and worse for a few months, culminating in a scary moment on Kirkstone Pass where I honestly thought for a second or two that I might not make it down the other side. But of course, I did, and when I got back home, I did what any sensible person would do.

I drunk a bottle of wine and felt bloody sorry for myself.

Of course, the next day I phoned my doctor, and explained what had happened, and got the next available appointment – which was eight days away. I thought it probably best not to ride my bike for that time, just in case something truly serious had happened to my heart, so I sat around in a sulk, and generally wasn’t a nice person to be around. I mean, I’m not that nice normally anyway, but I’ve noticed that if I’m off my bike for a few days I get even more tetchy than usual. I’m sure that there’s some physiological reason for this, but in my mind, it’s just a total pain in the arse. Anyhow, the doctor finally saw me, I explained carefully what happened, she took an ECG, and then did something that made my heart sink even further. You know that noise when you call an emergency plumber because the pipes in the loft have burst, and he looks at the carnage, sucks his teeth, and you know the next line is going to be “this is going to cost you”. My doctor looked at the ECG, made the same noise…

“I’m going to refer you to the cardiology unit at Addenbrookes.”

“Can I still ride my bike until then?”

“No. And I want you to carry a glyceryl trinatrate spray with you eveywhere you go from now on.”

Fuck. Fuckity-fuckity-fucksocks. I really didn’t like the sound of any of that. I’m only 45. I’m not ready to be put out to pasture yet. Besides, I’ve found something that I really really enjoy doing. Something that makes me happier, healthier, and a nicer person for my children to be around. Suddenly being told I couldn’t do it was really not in the plan. I’d never have got on a bloody bike in the first place if I’d known it was going to end like this. I got home from the doctors, and did what any sensible person would do.

I drunk a bottle of wine and felt bloody sorry for myself.

Next day, I realised, I needed a plan. And the best place to formulate one was on my bike – so I went out for a ride. And I think this was absolutely the best thing I could have done. I pottered through The Fens, enjoying the sun on my back, and listening to the birds singing. And I decided at that point, that I needed a bit of a change of direction in my cycling plans. You see, just prior to riding the Fred Whitton, I’d been making plans to ride the Haute Route. Which is essentially something like eight Freds in eight days through The Alps. It’s about as tough a challenge as you can get really. But, riding through The Fens, gently, enjoying the feeling of just being outside, put things back into perspective. And I made a simple choice. No more organised rides [1]. The last few I’d done had all been about chasing some goal that I didn’t really care whether I reached or not. And it had driven me to somewhere I really wasn’t comfortable. Namely necking two bottles of wine to try to stop feeling sorry for myself. And since then, I’ve been out for several rides, all of them with no particular goal or target, and all of them brilliant.

And today, I went to the cardio unit at Addenbrookes, and was stuck on a treadmill with loads of wires stuck to me (sadly, I’m rather hairy, and so now have two holes shaved into my chest hair where a pair of electrodes went. I’m going to draw some googly eyes in there) and told to run. And I ran, and ran until the sweat poured off me. The consultant looked at the resultant ECG, and said “You’re fine. Get back on your bike”.

Seven of the best words I’ve heard all year.

[1] With one exception. The marvellous Shropshire Hills ride. I’ll still do this every year, as long as I can.