Good Times!

Sometimes the good stuff just comes non-stop, like an avalanche. Perhaps overdramatic but, for all the troughs, the peaks are there to be enjoyed, revelled in.

First the slightly superficial. Well not that superficial to me but, anyway, the triple challenge has been completed. What started on a miserable day in April with a slow, nervous departure from Liege ended last Sunday on a bridge not far from home. Over the three rides a total of 355 kilometres was ridden and 4,700 metres climbed. Not much perhaps when just looked at in purely numeric terms but the effort was there.

The last challenge was nice and low key. I rode with a friend, which was nice as I was shaking off a bug and the company was welcome, a nice change from my usual solo efforts. Nicely uneventful, just one brief loss of direction and then a gentle cruise through the Rondje Markermeer. After the insanity in Belgium and seemingly endless climb of Ventoux via Malaucene this was, well, just fun. And a lot of new sights, for me at least. No speed records to be broken, just a slow cruise taking in the sights and sounds.

On the Houtribdijk

Memorable in it’s own way. And the triple will all have memories. True, the first two had moments of difficulty. Pretty long moments! The first 60 kilometres of Liege-Bastogne-Liege were miserable, the rain consistently against me and the first long descent something that I genuinely did not enjoy. The mid-point on Ventoux was sapping this time, with my Garmin Sat Nav occasionally thinking I had stopped when I was bloody well moving!

The nice thing about the Rondje Markermeer was that the worst moment was a little bit of rain at the start and cycling into some wind from Monnickedam to Hoorn but, if you cycle in Holland, the wind is just something you are used to. Instead it is the good memories that remain; watching various seabirds take off over the water from the Houtibdijk and looking across the water from Almere toward Amsterdam and realising that we had just covered that distance. These added to a list of great memories that the triple challenge has left me.

From Ventoux, the views that the climb from Malaucene afford means the horizon slowly became….. bigger. No picture can do it justice and the feast for the eyes helped distract from the pain in the legs.

Nearing the top of Ventoux….

And from Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the amazing feeling that came after realising that the big climbs (and subsequent descents) had been completed, a list of names that probably mean little to most but, to someone who is a bit obsessed cycling, are magical; Haute-Levee, Ancienne Barriere, Col du Rosier….. And, of course, the infamous Cote de la Redoute. I can’t really describe the feeling on completing that one.

(Unfortunately, in the elation, it is easily forgotten that there are two short but brutal climbs and a set of proper Belgian cobbles on the finish for amateurs….. just to break any resistance you may have had left!)

Early climb out of Liege.

And then, after the completion of the Triple, the good news continued to flow in. An MRI that I had been more than a little fearful of actually yielded good results! Well, a strange sort of good. The lesions have grown and there are ominous sounding ‘black holes’ appearing; small, dark gaps on the MRI. So now, instead of looking like someone has sneezed on my scan, someone has spilt some ink on it.

(Disclaimer – my neurologist called them blackholes and with a small chuckle, not an official medical term – I see the humour, after all my mind was always a black hole!)

So the MS is still there and messing with my brain. So what is the good news? Well, the growth is slow, which is good, and the effects are manageable. No need for medication and I can carry on with everything that I do now. Work, play.

Cycle.

Which means next year needs planning. Winter training has started, slightly reduced time in the saddle but much more fun unless it’s icy. Empty roads, none of the summer warriors and just other riders who are friendly because they know another idiot when they see one.

Personally, it’s a real high is that I can start to plan next year’s challenges. Liege-Bastogne-Liege will be repeated, the ultimate hypocrisy from someone who swore never to do it again. Also looking for two more. It’s fun to prepare for and to think about. One will be sponsored, need to give that some thought.

That I can put time in to thought around such ‘trivial’ things is special in itself. The circumstances are not perfect, I admit that. But they could be so much worse. So focus on the good stuff. ‘Reasons to be cheerful’, to paraphrase Ian Dury. And, right now, there are plenty of those.

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