This blog centres on MS and cycling and it is a weird combination, I keep saying that. Too much has been about MS recently, though. I want to say something about cycling and why I am going to go mad in the Alps next month. I mean, a guy with MS cycling up mountains? How stupid is that? That has been said to me. The anger that follows helps motivate me, turning a negative to a positive. Increased awareness of others with MS also helps.
The problem is that MS is going to have an impact. It feels like I have to mention it. It is there, every day. I am so damn aware of it and how it affects me. August will be ten years since the initial preliminary diagnosis. I would love to say I am used to it and understand it but that would be bullsh*t. It is frustrating when everything is going well but then suddenly it just goes wrong. Tiredness, cognitive problems, the fact that I sometimes don’t say anything because I cannot get the words clear in my mind. All that invisible sh*t.
It is important to be positive and realise that I am actually pretty lucky, that things could have been worse without good support I have, not to mention what what I was initially tested for. Stroke, Motor Neurone disease. Absolutely terrifying!
ButI am human. Sometimes I am quietly, selfishly angry. Quite pathetic, I realise that. I mean, what will it actually achieve? Yet, it is impossible to be positive all of the time. Some things do get to you. That very rare stupid response from someone around me. Impersonation of limping, the ‘Oh, I wish I worked three days’ comment. You want the MS? F*cking have it!
The anger stays inside. A burning feeling in the heart. An internal combustion engine. I am not going to start blowing up in people’s faces, it is important to stay above the childish things. So what to do with these emotions?
Harvesting the Anger
Pressure of this type needs a release. Why not harness it in the saddle, let that energy loose and drive hard toward targets? I had better get a small disclaimer here. I am not an aggressive person and certainly not an aggressive cyclist. It is possible push yourself hard but take no risks. All this energy would be dangerous if I ploughed through a load of people out for a quiet walk. I not so selfish that I risk others. Give me a nice open road, though, and I will us that fire. Push it out through my legs, dissipate it!
These feelings will help take me up the mountain, whichever one it will be. Certainly Alpe d’Huez, that’s where our hotel is. It is also one of the greats, all those hairpins! Oh, Heavens! I would have so looked forward to it four years ago when Stelvio, Gavia and Ventoux were taken in the space of one personally glorious month.
Nowadays, honestly, I am slightly nervous.
Col du Tourmalet was taken last year but with a lot of stops. It can be hard to get moving again. Bloody foot drop! The legs are still strong but the wiring is broken. Drive can help overcome that, harvesting all this internal fury. Not that I sit on my bike and shout at my leg! This is about focussing the anger away from negative (Why has this happened to me? Why did they say that) and toward positive (Drive it forward! Get to the top and see what you have done!). Push a little harder and focus on keeping the leg moving, it’s strong but difficult to feel. Keep pushing it! I will still be slower than everyone else but the personal battle is the one that matters. I will make it. It will happen.
Time to Get Serious
All this passion is great but there needs to be serious preparation. It can seem as though I have a flippant attitude to so many things in life. Work, play, MS. Life in general. Part of dealing with the negative I suppose.
This extends to cycling. I don’t want to be one of those serious guys who seem so angry at the world. Especially when I overtake them, tee-hee! For example, I have the habit of naming rides after songs. There is occasionally something symbolic about the song chosen but, more of than not, it is simply what was on the radio when I left the house or a tune that comes in to my head whilst riding. I never listen to music whilst riding as I prefer to hear cars behind me to be honest.
For interest’s sake, the Spotify playlist this leads to is here. It is quite long and quite inconsistent!
This obscures the fact that I am serious about cycling, though, even if I am no expert. I ride a lot and there is a method in my training. Patterns of short, fast rides to build power and long distance rides to increase endurance, sometimes to the one hill nearby. Alongside that, diet changes and exercise to work on weaknesses, such as my back and the already-mentioned-far-too-much foot drop. Planking, for example, and rocking from to heel on my right foot. It is no fun working out in your room and I would rather be out on the bike but working on core strength and my right leg are important. A little boring for me at least but necessary.
This post was going to focus on World MS Day that is occurring this week but, as usual, I have gone all over the place! It does give me another push, an important one. A reminder that I am not the only one who is dealing with the difficult emotions and feelings that follow in the aftermath of MS diagnosis and progression. I am not alone in feeling anger, frustration, dealing with misunderstandings. It also gives a positive feeling to hear about others who are thriving in spite of MS. Some of them on bikes as well!
Increased awareness has important benefits. It means more research. That knowledge means my neurologist does not proscribe me medication that will mess me up and will also reduce my ability to undertake the activities that are doing me much good. There is also the reminder that there are others who have it far more difficult than I do but who are still taking life positively. When I don’t feel like that ride (sometimes I don’t feel like it, believe it or not!) that can give me a little, personal push. It also reminds me that it is not the end of the world if I have a day where I just can’t. There is always something positive tomorrow.
Making Positive From Negative
Someone once said that they found it a little stupid that I liked cycling up mountains. I did reply politely, honestly! That was on the first, big climb. Mont Ventoux. A sponsored climb. No-one who sponsored me would have minded if I did not make it. I would have, though. Comments like that fuelled me, drove me. Anger, alongside a meaningful target. But being angry all the time is just not healthy, I know that, but try to use it as fuel. World MS Day can help in a different way, a positive drive to get on the road and push myself. Finding the right balance between all these drives will take me on high in the Alps.
That and actually, simply, looking forward to some of the most beautiful rides in Europe with great bunch of friends. Let’s not forget what pulls me there and which puts a smile on my face. Anger and drive have a place. But they are not everything.