Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Cautionary Tale

First, some background.

At the flooded bike shop sale where I picked up my commuter bike, I also managed to get my hands on some Shimano SPD shoes for a bargain £10. They'd been sat in my wardrobe until I got some pedals (as a gift for Christmas). I'd been looking forward to trying these out.

Fast forward to Boxing Day. This is traditionally a day where friends gather to eat, drink and be merry. This Boxing Day was no different.

The next day, 27th, I woke up after a late night. I felt OK, so decided to switch the pedals on my Scott SUB 35 to the SPDs and go for a spin - not too far. By the time I was ready it was 12:50 PM. I'd eaten two clementines and a banana, put another banana in my rear pocket and filled my bottle with isotonic Lucozade. And away I went.

I'm sure by now you're expecting a tale of how I forgot that my feet were clipped in and had some accident. Unfortunately for you, I didn't. I had one stumble but found the whole clipped in experience very good. The feeling and sound of clipping in was secure and reassuring, pedalling was assured.

I'd set off with a view to doing 15-20 miles, or just enough to cover the 10 miles in precipitation challenge in the 12 Days Of Cycling over on Google+.

After a quick stop to take a photo, I took a look at the map on display in the parking bay I'd stopped in. If I carried on a bit from where I originally intended to turn off, I'd be able to make my way to Durham city. This would be great as the day after (28th Dec) I'd arranged our traditional Festive Footy (11-a-side, muddy pitch, great fun). As it had been raining I thought a pitch inspection would be required. The route there took in disused bridleways and would be ideal with no traffic. I was looking forward to getting home, having some tomato soup with buttered bread and tea.

By the time I'd reached the top of Cornsay Colliery bank my legs felt empty. I ate my banana, the sweetest, most tastiest banana I'd ever eaten. I was wishing I'd brought more. On I went through Lanchester and then onto the bridleway to Durham. The pitch was OK; great, let's go home. By now it was getting dark and I'd covered about 27 miles. Soup was calling me.

My light went out. It hadn't been charged in a while. Rear lights were good, I was wearing my reflective jacket so I wasn't to worried. I was very tired. By the time I got to Spennymoor I called home to say I'd be half an hour or so. I carried on. Soup ever closer.

A section of road that is known locally as the "Mad Mile". It's a national speed limit road that I've ridden before. It's wide so I'm not too perturbed by it. Half way up this stretch I had to stop. It's unlit, my light was out. By now, my legs had nothing. My breath was short, vision becoming blurred, cold sweats, shaking uncontrollably. I knelt down on the grass verge, leaning on the bike. I had to resist the very strong urge to lie down. I just wanted to lie down but couldn't out there on that busy road in the dark. I rested, tried to drink from my empty bottle, cursed, then got back on the bike.

A mile or so from where I'd stopped there is a petrol station. I'd get there and be OK I thought. I made it in, staggered up to the pump attendant with my bottle asking for water. I had no money to purchase a snack. I rang my fiancee, there was no answer. I was feeling really desperate at this point. I called my friend Will and asked him to come and meet me with a banana or chocolate. He came with some chocolate and cola. While I was waiting for him, my fiancee Rebecca called. I asked her to come and get me. "Please, I'm cold, shaking, dizzy". I feel bad thinking about it because I'd panicked her. She came with the car and we went home. I was so grateful for Will and Rebecca's help because I'd gone from being a confident and strong cyclist to a desperately isolated gibbering wreck. It was very alarming.

After a hot shower, some pasta and warm tea, I felt much better. Then suddenly I got the most painful cramp in a place I've never had it before - in the back of my thigh. This hurt so much I was nearly in tears.

I know the lessons I learnt this day:

  • ALWAYS eat sufficiently before heading out.
  • ALWAYS take your mobile phone.
  • ALWAYS carry some money.
  • ALWAYS ensure your light is fully charged.
There is one thing I'm not sure about though. The cramps. Did I get get cramps because I'd set my SPD pedals up slightly wrong? Did I get them because I hadn't been fuelling my body correctly, replacing the electrolytes etc as I went? Or is it a combination of the two?

Find the route I took here and the result from my heart rate monitor here.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Dean. I'm just returning the favor and leaving a comment on your blog!

    I definitely had the same problem, only I attribute mine more to being out of condition and not slowly ratcheting my miles up before jumping right into a long ride. I was left shaken and very worried as my legs convulsed and contracted involuntarily. I've haven't had cramping since then, and I hope I never experience that again. It was quite scary. Good luck, and many happy miles to you!


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