Ride Reports

Read all about my adventures during the 21 Days of Pain challenge below and, if you feel inspired or just enjoy reading what I get up to, please donate to my chosen charity Pain Concern...

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Some Stats, A Slump and Some Recovery

It is now almost two weeks since I completed the 21 Days of Pain Challenge. To be honest, it’s been a fortnight of mixed emotions and physical ups and downs.

Completing the 21 Days of Pain Challenge At the end of the final ride, with the banner that my family made for me.

The stats

During the challenge I burned an estimated 40,000 calories, drank 38 litres of fluid and got through:

  • Five inner tubes
  • Two tyres
  • Around 50 cereal bars
  • 25 bananas
  • Three energy gels
  • 1kg of Energy Drink Powder

Here is a summary of the rides throughout the 21 days:

  • Total Distance Covered:
    2,913km (1,810 miles)
  • Total Vertical Ascent:
    19,520m (64,042 ft)
  • Total Ride Time
    93h 38m

Post Adventure Slump

One thing that I did not expect was to feel a bit depressed once the challenge was finished. I had read about this happening to endurance athletes and adventurers on social media, but I don’t rank myself in the same league as them. That said, the day after the challenge was finished I felt low.

For three weeks I had been immersed in the challenge. It seemed to take over my entire life. Then, once it was all over, there was a big hole. I had my life back; I had no obligation to ride my bike; I had some time to myself. And in that lay the problem. The drive and commitment to complete the challenge was replaced with, well… not a lot really. It was back to real life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that, when your life has been filled with something that has been your primary focus, once it has gone there is a sense of emptiness.

That feeling of emptiness has reminded me of what depression can feel like. When I have been depressed, in the past, I have an overwhelming feeling of sadness and emptiness. I find it hard to focus on anything. It’s as if I have no purpose in life and that there’s no point in doing anything. It’s a hard sensation to describe. It’s almost like a feeling of loss.

The whole slump in my mood may also be a side-effect of being exhausted. The 21 Days challenge left me feeling drained. This has a huge affect on my mood and will invariably be a contributing factor to how I have felt since the end of the challenge. It has also had a negative effect on my pain levels.

Days of Pain Caused by 21 Days of Pain

It has been interesting how the challenge, whose primary function was to show how exercise and physical activity can have a contributing affect on managing chronic pain, has in itself induced more pain for me.

During the challenge itself a few people asked me how my pain levels were. It was incredible that, whilst doing the challenge, my pain levels were as low as they have been in the last five years. I felt great, buoyant and almost pain-free. Yet, as the challenge progressed and I became more and more tired, I could feel the symptoms of neuropathy, such as pins and needles in my leg and foot and a tight feeling down the back of my leg. Yet the pain that normally accompanies these sensations was not there. At least, most of the time. Some evenings when I was lying on the sofa I could feel the start of a build-up of pain in my leg, but it didn’t come to anything like the usual levels of pain that I feel when the damaged nerves in my back become irritated and inflamed. Yet, the day after the challenge was complete the pain levels shot up.

It was like clockwork. The morning after I had ridden the 21st ride I woke up with severe nerve pain in my leg and awful pain in my back. It was as if everything suddenly caught up with me and I couldn’t suppress the pain anymore and “whoosh!” I was overcome with tiredness and a wall of pain. And now, over a week later, the littlest thing can cause a flare-up (when the pain becomes much more intense).

What most people do not realise about chronic pain is exactly this. It’s not just constant, long-term pain. We have to live with these flare-ups; These times when, sometimes for no apparent reason, the pain becomes much, much worse and it seems like nothing can make it ease and you become overwhelmed. There are so many things that can cause this. It’s often nothing more than doing more or different physical activity than you are used to, but flare-ups and high pain levels can also be affected by tiredness, low mood or other illnesses (such as a virus or other health condition). So, for me, this time, the end of the 21 Days of Pain became the start of a fortnight of flare-ups.

On a Brighter Note…

Before I go, I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of my chosen charity Pain Concern, to thank all of you wonderful people who have donated your hard-earned money. I am so, so pleased with the amount of money we have raised. You are all superstars!!

If you haven’t donated, but want to, hit the big blue button below...

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Day 21: Trespassing and Getting a Tow

102km (63miles) with 1265 metres (4150 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 2188km, -88km to go.

Day Twentyone of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day twenty-one; the last day; the final push to the line.

There is an expression we use, in the cycling club that I’m a member of, when you sit behind other riders and get pulled along in their slipstream. We call it “getting a tow”. You see you can save up to forty percent of your energy output sitting behind another rider or riders. So it pays massive dividends to sit close behind the rider in front, especially when there is a group of riders riding together. When riding in the middle of a group you almost get sucked along the road in the slipstream of the other riders and, as a bonus, you are sheltered from the wind too.

Today I was riding with four friends from said cycling club and, whilst I was keen to get towed along all morning, using my knackered legs as an excuse, at the same time I wanted to prove to both my friends and myself that I could do this without slacking off; that I could finish strong and not take advantage of others to achieve my goal. So I made sure that I took my turn on the front. But also, when I was struggling to keep the pace up when the headwind became quite strong, I had no choice but to sit on the back wheel of the stronger riders. It’s a bit like that when you suffer from chronic pain or illnesses. You just have to take the helping hand that is offered when you simply can’t manage on your own. You have to put aside your ego and lean on your friends.

Today we were out in East Lothian and we rode past Raceland, a go-kart centre and race track. Last time I rode past Raceland with Ian, one of today’s group, he suggested we sneak in and have a blast round the outdoor track. It was Sunday morning and the centre was closed so nobody was there. I’d said no last time, but regretted not taking the opportunity. So today as we got near I looked at Ian and said “shall we??”. So we all turned left and in through the gate for a quick race around the track. With over 2000km in my legs I was absolutely no competition for the others so I pulled over to take photos. It was a great laugh and we loved the thrill of the possibility of being chased out for trespassing.

Midlothian Velo Sportif Racing at Raceland East Lothian Jim Giving It Some at Raceland

Later on, when the others had gone home and it was just Jim and I left to finish the last 25km (15 miles) of the daily 100km ride, I had a second wind and I was determined to finish strong with a decent average speed and not be beaten by the strong winds. So we pushed on, down the quiet lanes, side-by-side instead of me hiding behind Jim for shelter; and rather than sticking to the flat, easy roads I took us home via some of the toughest hills in the area. There was no way that I was taking the easy option. In fact, today’s ride turned out to be the second fastest time of all the 21 rides, with almost twice the vertical ascent of the fastest ride. I was delighted.

I was even more delighted with my surprise welcome party when I got home. My wonderful wife and daughter were away at a kids birthday party for a boy in my daughter’s class at school. I was expecting to get home and have the house to myself so I could have a long shower and a snooze on the sofa. Little did I know that my wife and brother had been scheming and had made a banner and bought cupcakes for me on my return. My brother and sister-in-law were waiting outside the house with a huge banner and party-poppers. I don’t like having a fuss made, but I was really pleased that I had some recognition for all the hard work that I had put in.

That said I have never wanted to do this challenge for validation or for any kind of thanks. I simply want to show others that you can take control of your pain, even just for a few minutes a day by doing something that makes you happy and distracts you from yourself.

It has, however, been truly humbling to have people, sharing their own stories of battling pain and illnesses, telling me that I am an inspiration and that friends and family are proud of me. I genuinely don’t feel inspirational. I’m just a regular guy, with a walking stick and a mission.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated their hard-earned money to Pain Concern, for all the messages of encouragement, all the support, all the social media reposts and shares, all of you who have told your friends and to all of my friends who have come out to ride along with me. There have been days where I was really struggling to keep going and all that support and encouragement has kept me going. Thank you, you are all superstars!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Twenty: Playing Chicken Without a Chicken

100km (62miles) with 1276 metres (4186 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 2086km, 14km to go.

Day Twenty of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day twenty began in the usual manner, of the last fortnight. After breakfast I donned my cycling attire, smothered myself in sun cream and out the door to meet my colleagues of the road.

It was another warm, sunny one and Matt had planned a great, if a bit lumpy, route for us to ride today. I met Matt and Ian and off we rode towards Soutra Aisle, which is a small burial chamber, the only remaining part of a medieval hospital, atop a hill in the Scottish Borders. It all sounds a bit morbid, but in fact the road, where it is situated, is one of the most picturesque and fantastic roads to cycle along in the area. Mixed with the incredible weather it made for a fantastic morning on the bike. Of course the nearby coffee shop, whose cake scores a solid 8 out of 10 on the cake factor scale, was a huge bonus.

Fuelled by sugar and caffeine we were barrelling along a quiet, hedge-lined, leafy lane when a small bird shot out of a hedge at lightening speed. As I spend most of my time riding the rural roads of South-East Scotland I see a lot of wildlife. Every now and then I get some crazy animals darting across the road in front of my bike, birds flying between my wheels or insects diving headlong into my open mouth. Most of the time the animals continue on their way unscathed. Today’s bird was not so lucky. It flew straight under my front wheel and before I could react I felt a thump-thump as my wheels ran over the poor wee soul. Sadly it was too small to offer up tomorrow's Sunday roast, so we rode on in search of something more substantial to eat.

Tomorrow is the final day of 21 Days of Pain. So, if you haven’t already done so, please donate to my chosen charity Pain Concern. Don't forget, all donations get you enteered into our Lusso Cycle Clothing Giveaway. If you know anyone else who lives with pain or a long-term illness, please share this site. Thank you!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Nineteen: Helping To Go Above and Beyond!

135km (84miles) with 1276 metres (4186 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1986km, 114km to go.

Day Nineteen of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day nineteen was similar in many ways to day nine. The whats and whys were the same, but the who was different.

I needed to revisit the route of Ian To’s Lands End to John o’ Groats world record attempt. He is setting off tomorrow morning at 6am and aims to complete his 1359km (844 miles) ride in under 44 hours. Like on day nine I was checking the route for potential problems that might slow Ian down. Only this time my riding buddy for the day wasn’t Mackenzie, it was Mr Hollow Legs himself Matt. And the mission was to check Ian's entire route from Abington to the Forth Bridges.

The problem was, that to ride the entire section of the route, that Ian will ride, and get home again would be more than my usual 100km (60 mile) daily target, by 35km (21 miles). However, needs must and the sun was shining. It was a good route and we got to visit the award winning Apple Pie Bakery in Carnwath and have a coffee and one of their superb haggis and steak pies. There may have been some cake involved too. It would be rude not to after all!

With over 1800km (over a thousand miles) in my legs since my last day off, those extra miles, and quite a bit of climbing, took their toll and my legs were in ribbons by the time I got home! Fortunately there’s only two more days until I get to relax!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Eighteen: Take That Road; Unwind and Escape

101km (62miles) with 770 metres (2526 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1851km, 249km to go.

Day Eighteen of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day eighteen saw me doing a bit of exploring.

It was one of those “I wonder where that goes?” days. When I got to a junction, where I saw a road that I had never been along, I felt an urge to see where it went. I even managed to find roads and paths that that weren’t dead ends for a change.

One of the things that I love about cycling is the opportunities to just go out and ride; with just a vague idea of where you are going; when you can make the route up as you go. That sense of freedom is a rare thing these days. As I hadn’t planned a specific route today I had that opportunity to just “follow my nose”. This led me to some absolute gems. A road, that was on private farm land, which contained no cars and led me away from the traffic to a place where all I could hear was the buzzing of the insects in the shade of the trees. That, again, is a rare thing in this era of constant noise and the need to get where you are going as fast as possible.

Taking these rare chances to escape the everyday rush is something that everybody needs to do once in a while. Just to unwind and escape. If you get the chance, take that road that you’ve never been along, or seek out that place where you can switch off and escape.

Look after yourself people!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Seventeen: Folding Bikes and Feeling Broken

102km (63miles) with 741 metres (2431 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1750km, 350km to go.

Day Seventeen of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day seventeen, like the last few days, has been a struggle. At least to start with.

For the last few days, getting on the bike and heading out has been a serious struggle. After I’ve had breakfast and got my daughter ready for school the last thing I wanted to do was go out riding. It’s taken some major willpower to get me on the road. One thing that has really helped is some High5 Caffeine Hit (formerly called High5 Zero Xtreme), a sugar-free sports drink with electrolytes and a hit of caffeine. The boost it gives was perfect to get me moving over the past few days. Once I’ve been riding for half an hour or so the feelings of lethargy and lack of motivation has disappeared and I’ve loved being out on the road. For the last week the sun has been shining every day, which has also helped. It has been great to see so many cyclists on the road since the weather has improved.

Yesterday, on my daily ride I passed a group of riders on Brompton folding bikes. There was maybe eight or ten of them rolling along and they cheerfully waved and replied to my “hellos" and "good mornings”. This morning, as I rode into Innerleithen who should I see sitting in the sun outside No.1 Peebles Road (Innerleithen’s premier cyclist’s coffee shop)? It was the Brompton collective. I decided to go and say hello and see what they were up to. It turned out that were riding their way across Scotland, from Carstairs to Berwick-upon-Tweed. That’s quite impressive on those small wheeled bikes. What a lovely group of people.

After wishing them well I was on my way, towards Galashiels for coffee and cake with my two Mums. You can’t get better than that!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Sixteen: Win Lusso Cycling Clothing

110km (68miles) with 989 metres (1081 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1648km, 452km to go.

Day Sixteen of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day sixteen's ride was fairly inconsequential. The most interesting thing was when I stopped for coffee at the The Olive Tree Deli in Biggar I saw a poster for a charity ride.

The poster was to promote The Celtic Challenge, a 200 mile ride from Edinburgh to the Isle of Iona to raise money for St. Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh. What really impressed me was that the person who was taking part was the deli owner’s father who is in his late 70s. Huge kudos to him!

To make up for the lack of interesting-ness for day sixteen I have an announcement…

Lusso Cycling Clothing Giveaway

Lusso Cycling Clothing Giveaway at 21 Days of Pain

Courtesy of Lusso, a Manchester-based cycling clothing manufacturer, I have some goodies to give away to anyone who donates to the 21 Days of Campaign. That includes those of you who have already donated too. Prizes include socks, caps, base layers and overshoes.

To be put in the draw* all you have to do is donate! Full details are available on the Giveaway page.

Todays ride on Strava
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*The prize draw will take place on Sunday 27th May 2018. Names will be drawn at random. Open to UK residents only.

Day Fifteen: An All Encompassing Experience

104km (64miles) with 912 metres (2992 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1538km, 562km to go.

Day Fifteen of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day Fifteen and I’m in to the last week of the 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge. It’s quite an interesting feeling; almost bittersweet.

Today, as I pedalled along under blue skies and a warm sun, I felt a little sad that I am nearly finished my challenge. I began to think about what I’ll do with myself next week when it's over and I am not expected to be out riding my bike. The funny thing is all I could think about was where I wanted to go on my bike.

I also thought about how the most surprising thing about taking on this challenge is how much of my life it has taken over. Usually, after every ride I get enough time for a quick shower before I go and collect my daughter from school. Then there’s the usual routine of after school clubs, cooking dinner, doing washing-up etc. After the daily family dinner time routine is finished I lie on the sofa, to relieve my knackered back, and spend a few hours updating the website, uploading my ride to Strava, updating Facebook and Instagram and replying to social media comments and messages. By then it’s nearly bedtime and I have just enough time to hang up my wet, washed cycling kit to dry for the following day, do some quick pilates to stretch my aching back and leg muscles. Then I flop into bed around 11pm and wait for my brain to slow down enough for me to go to sleep.

Aside from the constant weariness I feel at the moment, the lack of time to relax, stretch and look after my damaged back is probably the hardest thing about this challenge and also the most surprising. I hadn’t anticipated this. The constant thought that I have to do this each day is beginning to wear me down. Every morning I think "I don’t want to do this anymore", yet by the time I am halfway through my daily ride I am back in my happy place and can’t wait to do this again tomorrow. It’s a strange circle of emotions. It’s an all-encompassing experience, like cycling itself.

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Fourteen: A Well-Earned Extra Hour in Bed

104km (64miles) with 815 metres (2673 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1434km, 666km to go.

Day Fourteen of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day fourteen was a good one. Firstly because I got a wee lie in, secondly the sun was shining and finally because the puncture fiasco of the previous day was a thing of the past.

For the first time since I started the 21 Days of Pain challenge I didn’t have a curfew. There was nothing in my calendar for the afternoon, so I got to have a very, very welcome lie in. Although it wasn’t as long as I wanted because I still had to get up and install a new tyre, after breakfast, to prevent further visits from the puncture fairy. I swapped my current back tyre, which wasn’t a hard enough compound for the back wheel of a fixie. In fact, this was the new tyre I fitted a Hart’s Cyclery on Day Three. It already looked as if it was six months old. So I decided to put the new, cheap Lifeline tyre on the back, because it is a hard compound, durable tyre, and swap the tired looking 10-day-old thing on the rear. Then it was off down the road to meet a couple of lads from Midlothian Velo Sportif.

It was a gorgeous day. Sunny, but not too warm. Perfect for a ride down the coast to East Lothian. The roads were quiet, considering the sunshine. The rain from earlier that morning must have put a lot of people off. Although by the time we were heading home there was quite a few of the usual East Coast Sunday cyclists making their way along the road towards the plentiful cafés and ice cream shops along the shore line of South-East Scotland.

We, however, were blasting back towards Edinburgh, to get Matt home in time for work. Thanks to Ian who gave us a Stannard-like masterclass in taking your turn on the front by towing us all the way home at a killer speed.

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Thirteen: A Tale of a Terrible Tyre

101km (63miles) with 816 metres (2677 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1330km, 770km to go.

Day Thirteen of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day thirteen. Unlucky for some, including my tyre. You see, three punctures in one day... completely unsuitable tyres innit!

The sun was shining when I left the house. It was cool, but the blue skies were indicative of a gorgeous day. Plus, there was almost no wind. What more could a cyclist want? I was on my way to meet the lads from Edinburgh Fixed Gear. It was only the second time I had ridden with them, the first being a 100 mile road ride around Fife last autumn. I was really looking forward to it and all was going great until we turned onto a gravel road. I was a bit nervous here because I had on a spare tyre which I had fitted while I waited for a new one to arrive through the post. The problem was that the temporary tyre was in my spares box for a reason, actually reasons:

  1. It was a lightweight racing tyre with little puncture protection. Not exactly ideal for a slightly overweight fixie rider smashing out the miles on rough roads and gravelly lanes.
  2. The casing of the tyre was woven radially, which makes it more supple; providing extra grip on the corners. Perfect for road racing, but not gravel tracks; they are highly susceptible to pinch-flats.
  3. The tyre was designed to be inflated to a higher pressure than normal (because of point 2) to help avoid punctures caused by the compression of the tyre on a sharp object (aka a pinch-flat).
  4. It was narrow. Too narrow for my broad frame and middle aged-spread. Because of it’s low volume it is susceptible to pinch-flats. Can you see the ongoing theme here???
Note: I have referred to the tyre in the past tense because it got binned this morning!

So, the first pinch-flat was a result of hitting a rock on a fast descent. The second and third were as a result of it being under inflated because a small hand-pump can’t handle the required high-pressure! It was destined to puncture from the moment I went off-road.

Things went from embarrassing to downright cringe when I fell over at a set of traffic lights because I couldn’t get my foot out of the pedal. I blamed it on mud in my cleats, but part of it was down to a weak left ankle. I have previous with Edinburgh Fixed Gear, when I did exactly the same thing on the last ride!

All that aside, it was a great ride, the company superb and coffees on the beach, at Dalmeny, in the sunshine was fantastic!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Twelve: When Things Don't Go As You'd Expect

104km (64miles) with 827 metres (2713 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1229km, 871km to go.

Day Twelve of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day twelve sucked plums for the most part.

It was pretty grim to start off with. The ride South towards Peebles was straight into a 18mph headwind, with the first 6km being uphill. After 35 minutes of grinding into the wind I reached down to grab a drink only to find my that my hand didn’t meet the bottle that should have been there. Yep, I’d forgotten my water bottles! So it was back home for me. I was pretty brassed off with myself for being such a dumpling. However my wife was at home today so I could get a big hug and a sympathetic ear when I got home. Bonus! Rather than heading straight back out I decided I might as well put the espresso maker on the stove and make some coffee. Double bonus!

Whilst I drank my coffee I came up with a new plan for my route. I’d already ridden 25km after all, so there wasn’t much point doing the route I’d originally planned. Instead I decided to head for the sheltered tree-lined cycle paths of East Lothian. Truth be told I didn’t really want to go back out. The first hour of the day’s ride hadn’t exactly been much fun. I was tired; I’d even go as far as feeling drained. The wind was getting stronger and I’d much rather have stayed at home. However, as my friend Jim had said to me a few days ago, “it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy”. So off I went, into the wind with as much vigour as a sleeping sloth.

The third bonus of the day was coffee with my Dad, who lives on my planned route. It was also a convenient excuse to get off the bike for an hour mid-ride. And of course, the price to pay for my slacking off, was that the whole ride home was into the wind. Typical!

And just to rub it in, when I got home I found that my Garmin cycling computer had saved my ride as two separate rides, not one. Sigh!

See Part One on Strava

See Part Two on Strava

Day Eleven: Over the halfway mark!

102km (63miles) with 912 metres (2992 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1125km, 975km to go.

Day Eleven of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day eleven saw me crossing the halfway point of the 21 Days of Pain.

After taking my wee girl to school I set off up the railway path to Bonnyrigg to meet my friend Mackenzie. He had a few hours to spare before heading into the city for work. First things first, we had coffee and cake to find. We headed South to the picturesque village of Humbie and the Humbie Hub café for tasty snacks and banter. It’s a long grind up to Humbie from... well anywhere; especially on a fixie. The coffee and cake is well worth the effort though.

From Humbie it was a long series of descending roads, and a bit of gravelly cycle path, down to the coast and then we turned into the wind to head towards Edinburgh. The headwind was pretty nasty as we rode along the seafront of Joppa and Portobello and my weary legs were feeling the extra effort. The lactic acid made my legs burn, but at least the sun was shining.

After saying goodbye to Mackenzie as he headed off to work I had one thing in mind… getting home to give my lovely wife a big hug. After climbing from sea level to 180 metres above I got back to Penicuik, only to discover that I was 10km short of my daily goal. So I had to do another lap of the town before I got to go home. I’d had enough for the day, but it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Ten: When Wind is So Bad You Have to Hide

100km (62miles) with 801 metres (2627 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 1023km, 1077km to go.

Day Ten of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day ten, and we’re nearly halfway!

This morning I took action to try and do something about my sore butt. If you have read yesterday’s post you will know about the problem of the tender undercarriage. So today I changed the gear on my fixie to a slightly higher gear (from 46x20 to 46x18 in case you’re interested). This change in gear forces me out of the saddle on more climbs and allows me to stand up more on flat sections. This will relieve some pressure on the sore bits and allow more blood flow to the affected areas. At least that’s the idea.

Today’s ride definitely felt a lot more comfortable on the butt front, but the wind was blowing pretty hard. The route I had originally planned had me riding through some pretty exposed areas and, quite frankly, I couldn’t be arsed with a couple of hours of grinding against a block headwind. So I changed my plans and headed for the Tweed Valley. I figured the valley, with it’s tree-lined lanes and secluded cycle paths would be more sheltered. Fortunately I was right and the valley was lovely and sheltered, if a bit on the chilly side. However, Costa Coffee in Peebles was the perfect place to warm up.

Tomorrow is a milestone… it’s the halfway point!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Nine: I Can't Stand Not Standing

103km (64miles) with 895 metres (2936 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 923km, 1177km to go.

Day Nine of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day nine, started promisingly well. Applying sun cream before a ride is usually a sign of a good day on the bike. I rode up the road to meet my friend Mackenzie with a mission in mind. We were checking out a route, on behalf of Ian To, who is preparing his own challenge; to beat the world record time for riding from Lands End to John o’ Groats. The record currently stands at just over 44 hours. To beat the record Ian needs to maintain an average of over 32km/h (20mph) for 42 hours. Ouch!!

This morning we were going to get the status on some roadworks on Ian’s planned route. For the record, we had no intention of riding anywhere near the speed that Ian will be riding at. So we set off at my usual, “what’s the hurry?” pace into a stiff headwind, towards the depths of South Lanarkshire.

By the time we were on our way home, post coffee and cake, my undercarriage was getting extremely painful. The flat nature of the route and strong wind blowing us home meant that I had spent a long time in the saddle, with very little time standing on the pedals. Standing up relieves the pressure on your “sit bones” and gets the blood flow back, thus relieving the tenderness. Temporarily at least. As the 90km mark came and went things got almost unbearable and I uttered the words “I can’t wait to get off this bike!” I hope tomorrow is a little less painful!!

Todays ride on Strava
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Day Eight: Trying to Keep Up With The Fast Men

100km (62miles) with 799 metres (2621 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 820km, 1280km to go.

Day Eight of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

On the morning of Day Eight I joined up with some of the lads from East Coast Fixed Gear, a local collective of riders who like to ride long distances on their fixies.

The plan was that a 100 mile route had been drawn out in such a way that the May (their name, not the month) Brothers could join us on their way to visit their parents, I would then bail out when I got near my 100km target and the others would continue for the rest of the route. Things got a little spicy as we headed out on our 30km (18 miles) dash along the coast. The May Brothers were on the front and, although they weren’t setting a ferocious pace, I was struggling to hold on to the wheel in front while riding with my low gear.

There are many reasons why riding in a group is better than riding solo. Protection from the wind and the slipstream of the riders in front are just two. Things get a little tricky when you are all riding single speed bikes with different gear ratios. Riding at the same pace means everyone is pedalling at different speeds. When on a long, flat road the rider with the lowest gear ratio (in this case me) has to pedal the fastest to keep up. I have chosen a low gear to ride my 21 Days of Pain challenge so that I can comfortably ride at a relatively sedate pace over long distances. On any other day I would have put in an extra effort to get back on to the group that was gradually getting further and further away from me. Today though I didn’t want to use that extra energy because every time I increase my effort levels I am using energy that I might need later. Long distance cycling is a matter of balancing your energy output to ensure you make it to your destination.

This balance is the same when living with pain. Every day you need to make a decision as to what activity you can do so as not to increase your pain. For example, may decide not to go mow the lawn one day because if I do that I will be in too much pain when I go out for dinner with my wife later on this evening. It’s all about balance.

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Day Seven: Sunburn and a Tender Undercarriage

110km (68miles) with 872 metres (2860 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 720km, 1380km to go.

Day Seven of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day seven was the second consecutive day of glorious sunshine (a rare thing in Scotland) and the end of week one of 21 Days of Pain.

After yesterday, where my arms got a bit sunburnt, I was sure to apply plenty of factor thirty sun cream before I left the house this morning. However, I still had arms the colour of a lobster by the time I got home! Still, mustn’t grumble; having good weather has made the riding much more pleasant; despite feeling decidedly weary.

Throughout the week various people have asked me how my legs are feeling. In fact my legs have felt remarkably good, all things considered. The thing that has been the hardest about the first seven days of 21 Days of Pain has been the general feeling of weariness. I am hoping that this will pass in the second week as my body becomes accustomed to the level of exertion. Hopefully my undercarriage won’t be as tender either!!!

What is quite interesting is the difference in how my mood has changed since the weather has improved. At the start of the week I was dressed in full sleeves, bibtights, a gilet and gloves. It was cold! As the week has gone on the temperatures have risen by over 20 degrees celsius and the wind has dropped quite considerably. At the same time I have felt much more cheerful, more enthusiastic and less tired. Next week the wind is forecast to return, the temperature to drop (although not as low as it was at the start of this week) and there is rain forecast. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects my mood and energy levels.

Make sure you keep coming back to see what the week brings. And don’t forget to donate, if you haven’t already!!

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Day Six: Amazing People You Meet on the Road

100km (62miles) with 964 metres (3162 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 610km, 1490km to go.

Day Six of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day six was a good one. I had arranged to meet some fellow cyclist friends who I hadn’t seen in a while and I was looking forward to it. And the sun was shining. Bonus!

As I rode to our arranged meeting place I came across a chap pedalling along on a recumbent bike (one on which you pedal lying down). I said hello and asked the usual question one asks a fellow cyclist, “Are you going far?” It turned out he wasn’t, but we started chatting anyway. He was a cancer survivor and told me about how he had surgery to remove one of his kidneys and a lot of his urinary system. He was quite an extraordinary person who had been through a lot and, like me, lives with pain. What I found most surprising was that he is one of the few people that I have met who cycles to help manage pain. After we wished each other well I headed off to meet Ronnie and Julie.

With the sun blazing we headed South to the Soutra Aisle, one of the most spectacularly beautiful roads in the area. From start to finish it was the best ride of week one.

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Day Five: Unintentional Hill Reps

104km (64miles) with 998 metres (3274 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 510km, 1590km to go.

Day Five of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day 5 got off to a bad start. Nothing catastrophic likes. Just the result of running around like a daftie getting Little Legs ready for school.

You see the thing about living with pain is that I have to take some pretty heavy duty medication. The kind that would make the average person sleep for a week. If I don’t take it on time I start getting withdrawal symptoms within an hour. This morning, after the usual frantic dash to get my daughter off to school on time, I set off on my daily ride. Within 15 minutes of being on the road I realised something was wrong. I felt a prickly feeling down my back, one of the early signs of the impending horrors of opioid withdrawal.

There is a form of training that cyclists and runners use called ‘hill reps’. Short for hill repeats, it is where you run or ride up and down a hill over and over again as a way to improve your climbing stamina and technique. Where we live we're almost surrounded by hills. So to get to all the best cycling spots I need to go up a fairly big hill almost as soon as I leave the house. So this morning, when I realised that I had forgotten to take my morning meds, I was just reaching the top of one of the big hills leading out of town. So, needless to say, I was not amused by the fact that I had to go back down the hill and up another to get home, take my meds, then descend from the hill where I live only to have to climb back up to where I had had to turn round in the first place. I was raging’!

However, I felt much better once the drugs were in my system. I had been wondering why I had been feeling a bit crappy this morning. So all was right again and off I went to tackle today’s ride.

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Day Four: What Have I Got Myself Into?

100km (62miles) with 1206 metres (3956 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 406km, 1694km to go.

Day Four of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Today is day four and this morning I had several of the MVS boys join me on the road.

Midlothian Velo Sportif, or MVS, is a cycling club that I am a member of. Today three other MVS riders joined me to ride down to Longniddry for coffee. This is a regular occurrence on a Thursday, which has been imaginatively named the "Thursday Thing”.

As usual, I dropped my daughter off at school and set off to meet the lads. It became clear from the outset that I was tired. In fact, given the chance, I would have happily turned round and gone home to fall asleep on the sofa. Although my legs weren’t feeling too bad, the rest of me was not quite so keen to be out on the bike. It was at this point the enormity of the challenge hit home. I had already told myself that the end of the first week and start of the second would be the hardest. After that my body would start to adjust to the daily grind. That said, I was still taken aback at how tired I felt. My eyes were half closed, and my brain was only working at half capacity. But if there’s one thing that takes your mind off things when things get tough it’s friends. Especially when they’re giving you shit. So as we made our way towards impending coffee and cake my spirits lifted and soon enough everything felt much better.

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Day Three: Tyre Trouble and a Few Firsts

101km (62miles) with 906 metres (2972 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 306km, 1794km to go.

Day Three of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day three was a day of firsts for the 21 Days project.

The first was rain. Today I got an absolute soaking and it was bloody cold! An other first was a visit from the puncture fairy, when it was tipping down with rain of course. Not once, but twice.

It turned out that I had a hole in my tyre, so I had to make an emergency diversion to a bike shop to get a new tyre and inner tube. Thanks to the very kind Graeme Hart at Hart’s Cyclery, who let me shelter in his shop, out of the wind, while I changed the tyre.

Once my new tyre was fitted, everything was great. The sun came out and the road home was plain sailing. However, what with all the fannying around, I didn’t have enough time to cover 100km before I had to go and pick Little Legs up from school. This meant that I had to head out for half an hour while she was at Brownies, to complete the days ride; which sucked plums! Roll on day four...

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Day Two: Daffodils for Days

102km (63miles) with 861 metres (2824 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 205km, 1895km to go.

Day Two of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day two felt like it was divided into two, but there was one common theme… daffodils. They were everywhere!

The first part of the ride featured two hours of solid headwind. It began to wear me down and it got to the point where I wanted to be anywhere but there; I was out of my saddle, driving into a wall of air that was pushing me back. Then, at exactly 40km into the ride I turned and instantly my mood changed as the wind was no longer in my face and instead came from the side. Just that one change meant that I was no longer driving against an invisible force and just like that, my mood lifted and I began to enjoy myself.

The second half of my ride was a much better affair. I had a ridiculously good tailwind blowing me towards home and I stopped for a well earned coffee and slab of cake at The Olive Tree Deli in Biggar; one of my favourite cafés. Cake and coffee always makes a good ride great and today was no exception. I flew home fuelled by caffeine and sugar with the wind at my back, singing away to myself and a smile on my face. Happy days!

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Day One: Splendid Sunshine and Huge Hugs

103km (64miles) with 629 metres (2063 feet) of ascent
Total distance to date: 103km, 1997km to go.

Day One of 21 Days of Pain Cycling Challenge

Day 1 ought to have meant fresh legs and an abundance of energy. Except it wasn’t, because of an ill-advised long ride on Saturday. So my first ride of the challenge featured the familiar burn of weary thighs on the few climbs that I rode up. Fortunately though, I broke myself in gently with a ride along the East Lothian coastline, which is about as flat as you are likely to get around these parts.

Another bonus was the beautiful blue skies and clear light which made the East coast scenery even more beautiful. It was a fabulous Spring day and the only downside was the wind. Having seen that the wind was blowing from the North-East I knew that it would be chilly and by riding East I knew that the flatlands along the coast would mean a stiff headwind. However, the return leg was easy and faster with the wind at my back.

The absolute highlight of the ride was stopping in to see my two Mums at Roslin. They have just returned from an eight month winter tour of France, Spain and Portugal in their motorhome. Seeing them again, after all that time, meant the brilliant sunshine seemed to shine brighter still.

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