We will have to wait…
I start 2016 knowing that my riding days are now over. According to those who know spinal and bone problems, my back is a complete mess and if I ride a bike again, they will have no option but to wash their hands of the probable outcome.
The damage now is serious so I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am too old to continue doing what I have been doing for the past 55 years, ignoring all the signs.
To add insult to injury, my Arthritis is giving my hip joints a going over, along with my full spine and shoulder joints.
I have had a good run, and now I paying the piper. But being me, I’m short changing him, because, I will still do as much as I can and just accept the limitations. To those who know me, I have not thrown in the towel completely. It has taken me till I’m seventy to grow up, well sort of, but I am getting there. It might take me a couple more years!
I’m now concentrating on my musical instruments, two six string plus an eight string lap steel, all hand made by yours truly. Although two are made Wild Cherry wood, they have differing tones, while my first attempt, which was made from Elm has a completely different sound altogether.
Plans have been drawn up for a new cabinet for my amplifier, made from solid wood rather than the ply or MDF used in many modern amps. It will also sport a 12 inch speaker which, I am informed, will give enhanced dynamics to the sound reproduction of the lap steel.
Keep pedalling and keep wearing your helmets. Remember tarmac, cement and gravel tracks are far, far harder than your head. Ride safe, all of you, in 2016 and beyond.
The compressed vertebral disc’s are less compressed and there is some movement of the spine in that area. The stretching and intense exercise’s I have been performing have been more arduous than riding a 100km hilly route!
The Spondylolisthesis of the lower back still has its days and sometimes I wonder 'where do I go from here?' But it looks like I will just have to keep at it. The restrictive movement at the moment is annoying, but then I have never been one for patience or understanding! The physio has given me a dressing down a couple of times because I don’t admit to pain. She is aware of a change in my physical reactions, such as a slight tension in the muscles or whole body, but then I say nothing when she causes me some discomfort.
Her comments revolve around the premise that pain is telling you something, whereas my idea is you don’t give in to it, but adapt and carry on. I have had to explain to her that I have been fighting pain for years and I am not going to give up now. I’m too old and stubborn and its far too late for me to change a habit of a lifetime.
She just shakes her head and with a slight bemused look, carries on pummelling me!
September was a mixed month. My riding was curtailed after a visit to the doctor following a bout of pain and muscle seizures in my back. After a trip for X-Rays, the message was not good. My spine was considered a mess that would require intensive physio and the possibility of surgery.
So I have found the 'queen of physio’s'. She should be in a sports clinic… she is brilliant, really deep hard work for the first two visit’s and then the onus on me for to do some really extended stretches to help correct years of damage from the racing days and some of my later escapades.
To add insult to injury, they have also found that my spine, which had quite a lot of arthritis, is now riddled and it has gone into my hip joints. This is the first time it has got below lumbar level and they also found two old spinal fractures plus four compressed intervertebral discs.
I must wait until all the muscles in my back are relaxed as they should be and no longer in spasm, then it will be back to the doctor for the next step and a meeting with an orthopaedic surgeon.
"Do I have to stop riding my bike?'..... the answer was a raised eyebrow and the look clearly meant 'no', but on pressing the matter, it seems that it is up to me and depends the pain in my back. So I will be continuing as long as I can sit on a saddle and turn the cranks over.
I felt worse before, so I am not giving up because of a bit of pain and discomfort. I will do as I‘ve always done - adapt and work round it. I will continue to visit my physiotherapist for as long as required, after all, she is the one with the answers in her fingertips as to when the muscles are as good and loose as they will ever be…..
End of August 2015…
This has been one of the most productive months of my recovery and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Meeting old friends on the road and being able to keep up with some of the quicker guy’s has put me in a nice state of mind for the coming winter months.
Having concentrated on riding to my limits, I have been pleasantly surprised at the way my fitness has returned. My back still gives grief, but changing my position by just a 'gnats crotchet' has helped an enormous amount.
Hardly rocket science… changing the position of the bars and levers by a few millimetres, but it has worked well and I’m more than happy.
My average speed over the last three rides has risen progressively, which augers well for September. I have agreed to join forces with some old friends who - like me - have given up competition because of the prohibitive cost. As one of the stalwarts of Sportives told me, as we rode in 36°C: "They have become so dangerous now, with larger and larger numbers entering," adding with a look of disgust that the standard of riding has become lamentable.
He agreed that the cost’s involved in entering Sportives had gone through the roof over the past six months, which he put it down to the greed of some organisers and local officials who just want more and more.
It is still nice and safe to ride on the roads of France, but the intolerance of a few car drivers is beginning to imitate that of the UK, with little or no patience or respect for other road users and speed becoming an issue. High speed overtaking is OK if we get the passing space the law here in France demands, but we don’t always get it.
Wearing helmets for safety is a given, but car drivers should be aware that with the straps of the helmet increasing the wind noise past the ears, it is not always easy to hear a car coming quickly from behind. A toot of the horn 50 to 100 meters as they approach is greatly appreciated.
Talking of helmets… I saw a clip of the finish of a Pro Race for women where, just before the finish line, there was a major pileup. Rolling down the road came a riders helmet which had actually come off in the crash. It must surely have been badly fitted for this to happen. if I was the UCI, I would have fined the rider and given her a three race ban.
Helmets are there for safety, not as a fashion accessory. They should be well fitted and secure to give maximum protection.
August, and Starting to Fly…
This month, I have been steadily improving on my performance in July, especially on the 15th when on my fifth ride of the month, I pushed the boat out and turned in one of my best performances ever.
I picked a longish ride of 100 Kms, with plenty of undulations, giving no respite and one ‘pig' in the middle - the beautiful historic and picturesque village of Nanteuil-en-Valleé not too far from Ruffec in the Charente.
Here there is a short, awkward climb and several bends with bad camber and surface, which by their very nature break up the rhythm of pedalling. But I flew up faster than I have ever climbed it before. To top it off, the heart rate was just nudging 85% of MHR.
The wind, that had been coming from the side, suddenly changed and was straight into my face or at an angle, for a lot of the ride home. It was hard but enjoyable (if you are a masochist). But, the surprise was when I downloaded all the info. I had actually done 92 Kms at an average of 26.9 Kph, which was a joy to me – and to think that I had also averaged for the first hour 33 Kph – stats to warm the cockles of this 70 year old heart. Total time when I got back home was 3 :42 :00.
Next day, my legs fell absolutely fine, no heaviness, no sore muscles (Doms) and no stiffness at all. In fact, I felt as if I could do another ride that day.... Roll on the coming week!
July 28th and seven rides under my belt...
I finally started riding again on the 11th of this month, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised and up-beat about my performances.
The weather has been a trial - hot, hotter, damp and today, a strong wind. Only 55 kms on the road today but I am chuffed to bits at my performance with just over 27kms per hour with some difficult climbs thrown in, oh, and a two car pile up which completely blocked a crossroad…. as the gendarme said: "It is the season for accidents. They never learn."
My previous rides this month have been OK, and all things being considered I’m very happy. Now looking forward to next month..... and the month after that...
July 11, 2015 to date - Long Road to Recovery...
On the Road again at last and what a relief to be able to do it. The recovery of the back has taken a lot longer to get over than I thought it would, but back I am and back to stay.
The latest ride wasn't too long 47Kms. But it's a first for a long time, and I chose a not too challenging route...or so I thought.
There were plenty of rolling hills for the first 20Kms and the wind was blowing quite hard into my face, so I was having to work quite hard abot 80% Max. which was fine. I then had a chance to recover a bit when I turned and had the wind blowing from the side. By this time the sun had come from behind the clouds and the temperature began to rise quite quickly and then the clouds burnt away and it was very warm indeed. Near a place called La Mothe St. Heray on the road to Melle there is a nice long climb of about 2Kms. I used to take this on 39/14 or 15 but today I was struggling on 39/25,but, I managed to keep the legs going and didn't loose too much on a rider who passed me easily. At the brow he was not too far in front, so being a wimp I took another road back in the direction of Lezay.
Slow on part of the route was to be expected and I must admit to having the 'sit on bones' starting to make their presence felt. The discomfort is normal, and not having been on the bike for some time, they will take a few days and a few rides to settle down. The ride took me passed many of sunflower fields, which are in full bloom, with heads of flowers getting bigger by the day, some are as big as dinner plates already, so by the time of my 70th birthday on the 18th they should be a real picture. Yvonne has told me she will take a pic. of me in a field of them. It has also been a bad time for many riders here in France because of the very high pollen counts we have had. I'm lucky I don't have any allergies, but many local riders do and they are living on inhalers.
The 8 string Lap Steel Guitar has been keeping me busy and when I play it I can loose myself for hours. The noise I make is beginning to sound like something...just what is debatable. But I enjoy it as much as the cycling. And of course it keeps me out of trouble.
September 30, 2014 to date - No head for heights?...
What a 12 months I have had…definitely one to forget. So much work to do on the barn that cycling had to take a back seat, fine, nothing wrong with that, except I fell off the barn roof and didn't do myself a lot of good, hiting the barn door, my trailer and then finally landing on my back on the road.
I think that it's OK now and I'm on the 'road' to recovery, so I have got back onto the bike and done my first serious training ride. Hard…you bet, but I was more than happy with the outcome. A modest 40 clicks gave me an insight in to what I have to get back to, but at least I'm back riding, so for the next couple of months I will be pushing the top one down to the best of my ability.
Having started the wheels turning I have been out twice more and have been covering first 50 clicks on a reasonably challenging route and surprised myself with a very respectable average speed of 33.2KPH.
Sunday the 5th of October saw me tackle a slightly longer route with plenty of climbs, fine except for the strong wind, which really had me grunting. I had planned to keep my pulse rate down as much as I could on the climbs and succeeded in the plan, I never rode over 95% of maximum heart rate. But, the next ride will be a VO2 max. Test which will be interesting !!! to say the least.
To stop me completely going insane I spent my time making another lap steel guitar, this one is an 8 string version and it looks and sounds good. See my 'New Guitars'...>>
August 1, 2013 - Legs haven’t disappeared completely...
Having had my 68th birthday in the middle of July, I just couldn’t hold off riding the bike forever, especially as I have been preaching that you can always do it despite the pain and osteoarthritis.
Well, the left hand is nowhere near being perfect, but I decided to give it a whirl. I have just finished the fourth outing since my birthday and although the hand hurts while riding and is sore afterwards, the pain doesn’t last too long. It’s my 'sit on' bones that are the problem. Having got used to a soft life, they are only just beginning to get accustomed to a hard, narrow racing seat again, but that's not insurmountable - is it?
The legs are not too bad, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they still work and I can get my pulse rate up quite high, then after a couple of minutes of easy riding it’s back down to ‘normal’.
I really have enjoyed the riding, especially in the recent high temperatures. It gets a nice sweat going which helps the cooling. It also helps mitigate the pain in the joints and let’s be honest, there is nothing like warmth on your back from the big ‘brandy ball’ in the sky. What a 12 months I have had…definitely one to forget. So much work to do on the barn that cycling had to take a back seat, fine, nothing wrong with that, except I fell off the barn roof and didn't do myself a lot of good, hiting the barn door, my trailer and then finally landing on my back on the road. I think that it's all damage is now on the 'road' to recovery and I have got back onto the bike and done my first serious training ride.
Hard…you bet, but I was more than happy with the outcome. A modest 40 clicks gave me an insight in to what I have to get back to, but at least I'm back riding, so for the next couple of months I will be pushing the top one down to the best of my ability. Having started the wheels turning I have been out twice more and have been covering first 50 clicks on a reasonably challenging route and surprised myself with a very respectable average speed of 33.2KPH. Sunday the 5th of October saw me tackle a slightly longer route with plenty of climbs, fine except for the strong wind, which really had me grunting. I had planned to keep my pulse rate down as much as I could on the climbs and succeeded in the plan, I never rode over 95% of maximum heart rate. But, the next ride will be a VO2 max. test which will be interesting !!! to say the least.
To stop me completely going insane I spent my time making another lap steel guitar, this one is an 8 string version and it looks and sounds good. See my 'New Guitars'. What a 12 months I have had…definitely one to forget. So much work to do on the barn that cycling had to take a back seat, fine, nothing wrong with that, except I fell off the barn roof and didn't do myself a lot of good, hiting the barn door, my trailer and then finally landing on my back on the road. I think that it's all damage is now on the 'road' to recovery and I have got back onto the bike and done my first serious training ride. Hard…you bet, but I was more than happy with the outcome.
A modest 40 clicks gave me an insight in to what I have to get back to, but at least I'm back riding, so for the next couple of months I will be pushing the top one down to the best of my ability. Having started the wheels turning I have been out twice more and have been covering first 50 clicks on a reasonably challenging route and surprised myself with a very respectable average speed of 33.2KPH. Sunday the 5th of October saw me tackle a slightly longer route with plenty of climbs, fine except for the strong wind, which really had me grunting. I had planned to keep my pulse rate down as much as I could on the climbs and succeeded in the plan, I never rode over 95% of maximum heart rate. But, the next ride will be a VO2 max. Test which will be interesting !!! to say the least. To stop me completely going insane I spent my time making another lap steel guitar, this one is an 8 string version and it looks and sounds good. See my 'New Guitars'.
Now I’m back in the saddle, I think that this month should see a vast improvement in all departments, although I won’t be racing again. I still find it difficult not to push myself and get the adrenaline flowing. Age and little problems don’t stop me acting like a teenager where cycling is concerned or kill the competitiveness in me, only a box will do that and I’m to ‘ornry' to go there!
June 24, 2013 - Midsummer and not back the saddle!
After one of the longest 12 months I have had to endure, I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Other things affect us when we are not doing those things we enjoy. But although I have other interests, deep down I still miss the thrill of riding a bicycle to the limit and pushing this old body through the rigors of riding at my limit.
It is a just reminder of what can happen with any form of sport when even top professionals loose valuable time and fitness due to accidents or ill health. Chest infections are the norm with most cyclists and even the great and wonderful have to realize they are mortal like the rest of us, who in most cases have to think and plan our lives according to the family.
The one difference in today’s world of professional sport is that sportsmen and women are financially better off than in the in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s when I was racing. I’m not complaining - I had a good run and was happy with what I had then and still have today. But we all need some luck in everything we do.
I think I have been luckier than most – at least it has kept me alive!
June 7, 2013 - Still off the bike...
Its' been quite a while since I rode on the roads and some time since I last updated the site. I will be back on the road within the next couple of weeks and to this end I have prepared a new training plan which I hope will get this old body moving again. It has been a long winter for me...longer than I have had before and the injured hand is getting better but it's still not perfect.
So it looks like it will be slowly, slowly for the first few rides until I get some fitness back. I have kept the pounds off over the winter, but the muscle tone just isn't there.
I have been continuing working on my playing with the lap steel and have changed the strings from Hawiian sounding to a full blooded country sound and tuning. Huge difference in all aspects, but now I am having to relearn the neck because the tuning in so different. But we are getting there...even if I'm lossing friends over the noise I make. I call it music but there is a difference of opinion as to what music is!
I was watching the Moto GP from Mugello in Italy and who should be on TV but Mark Cavendish. He was brought up in the Isle of Man and knows a lot about Motorcycle Road Racing, but not too much about the circuit racing. He was watching Cal Crutchlow who now is resident on the Island and who rode his socks off on the 'Satelite Yamaha' GP bike and finished 3rd. Keep up the good work Cal and stop falling off, 'cause it catches up on you later on in life. Mark lives not too fdar away from the Mugello circuit in Tuscany and I was wondering if he did any training around the circuit, because it has lots too offer in the training stakes!!
March 10, 2013 - Hand problem taking for ever...
Not the happiest start of the year bike-wise, as the damage to the left hand is taking far too long to repair. The original diagnosis was changed after x-ray’s and is now severe ligament, tendon and muscle damage, which has got progressively worse because I carried on riding.
So I am trying to use the hand with care to give it some chance of eventually repairing. It has never taken me so long to recover. Patience was never my strong point and the fuse has got shorter as I have grown older... I have been using the home trainer, but because of the pain my heart has not been in training mode.
I have started stripping the bike and going over it with a fine tooth comb to ‘fettle’ it for when, hand permitting, I can get out and get some miles - sorry kilometers - into the legs. Maybe when the sun eventually comes out!
Meanwhile, I have been concentrating on the Lap Steel Guitar, which has given me a real buzz. I was having a couple of problems with transposing and decided to join a forum where the help has been invaluable. Most of the contributors are professional Pedal and Lap Steel Guitarist’s happy to pass on their vast knowledge and encouragement.
I have just finished the hard case for the lap steel except the foam I ordered to finish off the inside still hasn’t arrived. Again, the patience is wearing thin.
February 11, 2013 - Riding soon, but still building guitars
What a difference a month makes... hand still not working properly, but a new lap steel guitar up and running… wow!
On the riding front, the hand injury has persisted and I now have the X-Ray’s showing the extent of the damage. Muscle, ligaments and tendons are all very second hand, which according to the quack, is due to last years race accident. I have been told I should have rested it, but being me, I just carried on which I am told has causing more damage. I am not so sure, because if something stops you doing certain actions, then how can you do more damage? Anyway, at least I know what the problem is, so now it’s down to me to overcome it.
I will be out riding with my old mate Tony soon, which will be good. Along with all but one of his club members, he has also refused to renew his UFOLEP licence, so I’m not alone. Tony is going to be going back and forwards to UK over the coming racing season as he can race with his own age group and pay less than here, but he does admit that it is better riding and training on the roads of France than UK, and a whole lot safer.
I have started riding the home trainer to get back into the swing of things, although the hand is a slight handicap for the road at the moment. But the legs and lungs are functioning fine, so the enforced lay-off hasn’t done me any harm.
January 3, 2013 - No Riding but lots of music
Happy New Year to one and all and may all your wishes come to fruition!
I have been doing some long, hard thinking about the state of racing and UFOLEP in France since the end of last season. They have put up the price of license’s to a ridiculous level while cutting down on the number of events for us ‘oldies’ to enter...
‘Ageism’ doesn’t even begin to say what I think of these Jobs-worth’s. The race organisers have been terrific, but the powers behind the throne have been shambolic, ignorant and, in most cases, ostriches with their heads firmly in the sand.
What does this mean for me and many others? We have hung up our racing gear and not renewed our club memberships. If the clubs had stood their ground and argued the point, it might have had a different outcome, but in most cases they are apathetic and do not want or like confrontation.
Well, it is their loss. In this life either stand up and be counted, or sink into oblivion. GOODBYE and all that!!!
On a lighter note I will still be riding my bike... that is as soon as the Arthritis in my left hand will allow me. Through some quirk of misfortune, I have developed a very painful thumb joint right where the Scafoid is. It feels as though it is broken and has made it very painful to ride because of the pressure on this part of the hand. It will get better and I will be back riding, but it will just take time.
In the meantime I have been making two guitars. Check out my Guitar’s page. The Lap Steel is a joy to play, and the sound is ‘real country’ rather than Hawaiian, due to both the amp I use and the pickup. The old Elm wood also helps by resonating nicely, and it looks great - the grain taking on new colours with each day that passes as the oil and turpentine soak in and the surface gets drier.
I have liked this style of guitar for most of my life and still remember listening to my father’s Wout Steenhuis records. Sadly, Steenhuis passed away in 1985, but you can still hear his work on YouTube - well worth listening to, some of it close to Jazz with a Blues influence. Suited and booted along with the obligatory tie, he could certainly play!
I am now on the lookout for a piece of walnut to make a twin deck Lap Steel, so if anyone knows of a piece 1000mm x 400mm x 40mm that’s not too expensive, I’d like to hear from you.
There have been two very serious accidents involving pro riders including Mauricio Soler receiving serious head injuries. Now I know a thing or two about head injuries from racing motorcycles professionally in the 60’s and 70’s. I still suffer a headaches on a daily basis, so I am beginning to wonder if modern cycle helmets are actually fit for purpose.
Iin a perfectly innocuous randonnée, a cyclist touched another rider’s rear wheel and came off, breaking his collar bone. What was particularly disconcerting was that his helmet split in two on impact. I have no idea how old the helmet was or what had happened to it during its lifetime, but it does seem to raise concerns about the very light air friendly helmets we are obliged to wear in any activity run by clubs affiliated to UFOLEP or the FFC etc.
In my racing days, your helmet had to be passed by scrutineers before you were allowed to race. Now, I can enter a cycle race wearing an uninspected helmet which could have been in an accident or worse still, used as a football (no joke - I have seen this done).
Used and fitted properly, helmets are a life saver, but all too often you see them with straps so loose, they would fall off probably before the rider hit the ground. No one seems to be taking responsibility despite the fact that we pay our subs which include our insurance cover.
On a completely different headgear note, mine was recently attacked from behind by a Montagu’s Harrier, then on another ride, by a female Honey Buzzard. So what is it about Bell helmets that attract birds of prey?
Answers please to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2015 Maurice Carroll
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