Back from another lovely holiday in France and back to reality. It took seven hours of driving for the last leg yesterday from Brighton to Bradford (about the same total time from Dieppe to the Dordogne) and this morning we woke to heavy rain. At least I’m not sweating.
The plan to use the holiday and daily rides round our Laveysierre circuit did not work out due to me arriving with a heavy head cold. It was not too bad on the Saturday afternoon we arrived so I did a circuit steadily straight away as we had had 2 days of driving, eating and drinking with practically no exercise. The cold got worst for a couple of days so I only managed to go round the circuit a couple more times towards the end of the week. My best time this year was 22 minutes 03 seconds compared with my all time best of 19 minutes 38 seconds. My best time this year up the 1.2 mile climb was 9 minutes 38 seconds compared with 8 minutes 15 seconds. So not too bad considering my cold and the fact that I’m about a stone heavier than when the best times were set.
I’m now 32nd out of 46 on the leader board for the Strava segment I set up. The current leader is a young local man who has done it in 4 minutes 17 seconds, about twice as fast as me! Strava has a facility where you can compare your stats with any other rider. In 2017 so far this young man (I shall call him Pascal since that’s his name) has ridden 4,767 miles compared to my 256. I’m guessing he is a pro bike racer but he may just be an unemployed enthusiast. He also rides a full carbon bike worth about £6000. My rides are on a near 30 year old heavy steel hybrid with heavy duty wheels and tyres, not to mention a bell and a carrier. Pascal must be praying I never bring my carbon bike over! On the plus side I’m second on the 65 and over leader board and Daniel is only 1 minute 17 seconds faster than me, also on a race bike. He has done a mere 1,927 miles this year so far and I bet he’s only just 65, so a youngster. I think 6 minutes 58 seconds might be doable if I can lose the stone and get on a race bike. I will be petitioning Strava to introduce a 70+ leader board. 65 is so yesterday.
Another plus is that I didn’t put any weight on while in France this year. This, I think, qualifies as a miracle and I am expecting pilgrims at my door any day.
When I bought my Giant Defy Advance all carbon sportive bike in March 2013, just over four years ago, I had no idea how little I would use it. For most of that year I was doing fairly short rides on my steel hybrid to get fit and the first sportive I entered was the Lincolnshire Arrow in May 2014. This didn’t happen as I was unexpectedly away and the following April, 2015, I had the mountain bike accident that required most of the summer to recover. So the first sportive I managed to do was April 2016, the Tadcaster event I reported on here, three years after buying the bike. As a result of my stay in hospital with a ruptured kidney I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had surgery in August 2016 which kept me off my bike for most of the rest of the year but I did manage to ride the 2017 Tadcaster sportive earlier this month. But as the route recorded below, I only did 22 miles.
I played in a racketball tournament the day before and had a fairly heavy evening so got up late on the Sunday morning and had to rush. I got to Tadcaster in time to sign on and get through the starting gate before it closed but I was on my own. The route for the 60k event, which I was doing, was common to both events, the 60k and the 100k. Those doing the longer event repeated the first 3 miles or so of the 60k route and then went off on another 40 k hilly loop to the north east of Leeds. The route was well signed but unfortunately I missed the right turn in Boston Spa for the initial 60k loop and when I picked up the next sign I was unknowingly on the 40k hilly finishing loop for the100k event. As soon as I got into the hills near Collingham I knew I’d gone wrong but didn’t feel I had the fitness to turn back. I carried on, walking on a couple of the steeper hills and eventually got back to Tadcaster when I recorded a time of 1 hour 51 minutes, an average speed of 12 mph which, in the circumstances, was quite creditable. But it was a lonely ride with none of the group riding I’d bee looking forward to, or being able to shelter in the wheels like I had last year. On the plus side it was lovely countryside, the East Leeds villages are very pretty, and it was a sunny and fairly windless day.
I shall do more sportives and also look out for suitable audax and reliability trial events. I’ve got a few days cycling with my friend Mike in Scotland in June and France again in July. There is also talk of doing the Sustrans route along the coast from Dover to Brighton. We shall see.
After my radical prostatectomy on the 21st August it has taken a while to get back on my bike. I was walking the next day and having a gentle knock on the squash court in less than 2 weeks. Competitive racketball started early November. But cycling is more of a problem as the re-plumbing required is directly adjacent to the perineum which presses on the saddle. I first rode my hybrid post-op on the 21st October for about 15 mins. A bit sore but not too bad. Over the next few days I did a short 2 mile circuit with the saddle tilted slightly down at the front to relieve pressure. This seemed to work but put additional load on my arms. The following dated paragraphs are copied from my Facebook updates.
1/11 Went a bit further today. The saddle tilted forward does help ease the pressure on ‘the affected area’ for the moment but a new saddle is still needed, probably in the next week or two. I spent a lot of time pushing a highish gear on the top ring to help keep weight off my bum. This worked pretty well too. I’m usually a twiddler and prefer lower gears and faster pedalling. This is a habit I got into riding many miles in road race bunches conserving energy. Being in a lower gear (as long as it’s not too low) helps you accelerate faster in response to an attack or splits in the bunch. I managed to do at a PR on Strava even though I’m unfit. Perhaps I should start using higher gears in future. The ride back along the canal was stunning; sunshine, the autumn colours and the swish and rustle of golden leaves on the towpath.
[I bought a Bontrager Montrose Comp MTB saddle from All Terrain Cycles in Saltaire on the 5th November. It is suitable for road of mountain bikes but is designed for a fairly aggressive forward leaning posture; posture 2 in the Bontrager 5 posture schemes where 5 is leisure and 1 road racing].
8/11 First ride on my new Bontrager saddle. Only 30 minutes but felt OK so far. Still making steady progress but will need to get longer rides in and a few more hills to get my previous level of fitness back. Fortunately there is no shortage of hills round Bradford!
13/11 Had a lovely ride this morning, testing out my new bum-friendly saddle on slightly rougher ground. Met good friend and fellow racketeer Rick Brooks at Saltaire and rode back with him along the canal to the Bridge cafe at Apperley Bridge for breakfast. We then rode up the hill to Greengates to catch the 2 minutes silence at the Memorial Garden before going our separate ways. It was interesting to hear about his experiences meeting an old friend in the US a few weeks ago. Where he went there seemed little doubt that Trump would win.
4/12 Great social ride with Rick this morning. An interesting mixture of short sections of main and minor roads, cycle paths, bridleways and canal towpath. Stopped for breakfast at the Bridge Cafe, Apperley Bridge. Once again luck with the weather. Knackered by the time I got home! The ride was quite demanding with three shortish but steep climbs and my hybrid makes quite hard work of the rough bridle paths compared with my mountain bike. I’ve put on half a stone since my operation at the end of August so I need more time on the bike and less at the bar!
So, that’s my post-op cycling so far. The last ride particularly was quite comfortable, probably a combination of the new saddle and continued healing.
Went to Lavaysierre in France again this year with my bike and did quite a lot of cycling, some every day. I rode with Matt to the Bastille Day brunch at the Domaine De Coutancie brunch, about a 14 mile round trip. I rode to Bergerac and back for the first time, about 18 miles in all. And about 6 laps of the Lavaysierre circuit that Matt, Judy and I compete over. The following is my last ride round the circuit when I set a PB for it and also for the Strava climb segment. This is the first time under 20 minutes with and average speed of 14.2 mph and the 8 mins 15 seconds for the 1.2 mile climb represents 9.4 mph.
I did one of my regular short fitness ride this morning before breakfast on my carbon Giant Defy. The difference is amazing, compared with my trusty hybrid. I did the ride in 31 minutes rather than the 40 or so I normally take. The tyres are rather narrow (23mm) for some of the road surfaces round here and I’m wondering if I could do with a more utility road bike in my stable. The Ridgeback hybrid is very heavy but I wouldn’t dream of parting with it. It makes a great commuting bike and of course, being heavy, it gives me plenty of exercise too!
Just finished dreading Emily Chappell‘s What Goes Around, the memoir of a London bicycle courier. I thought it was an excellent read and would recommend it to anyone. It’s not just about urban cycling and really more about psycho-geography and how multiple universes coexist (the economic, the political, the intellectual and the emotional) in the same geographical space as well as interlocking and overlapping human networks of relationships. The fact that she is a lesbian in the predominantly male world of bike messengers adds an additional invaluable level of insight. In the early 60s I used to commute into the centre of London everyday by bicycle from the leafy suburbs. In the late 60s I was a company rep working in the same areas Emily would mainly work in as a courier. In the early 70s I was a minicab driver in London for a while and, in the mid 70s in Leeds a motorbike courier so I recognised a lot of the culture and life of the free-wheeling wheeled piece workers and the raggle-taggle community they make up. I must admit to getting quite nostalgic reading the book. But then was then and now is now. She will be visiting the Pedallers’ Arms on March 8th to give a talk.
Last Spring, 2015, I was due to embark on my programme of Sportives and with that in mind I entered the Lincoln Arrow, a suitable short and relatively flat event to get me going. As I reported in May however(Not according to plan) I had to pull out after my mountain bike accident. This year I’ll have another go. I’ve entered the Tadcaster sportive on the 10th April. I’ll be doing the short version, 60 km, and it should be pretty flat. All being well I will also enter the Lincoln Arrow again on May 22nd, probably also the shorter route of 48 miles. This has a few modest hills but is none-the-less pretty flat. Another trip I had to cancel last year was to Islay with my friend Mike to do a bit of cycling and go to the beach rugby at Port Helen. I wrote about this in June 2014 – Cycling on Islay.
I’ve decided to put any posts related to my condition on my other rather wider ranging blog rather than here on my cycling blog which from now on I will restrict to more directly cycling related issues. This other blog – the mood i’m in – is much more eclectic and covers a much bigger range of topics including stuff on health and lifestyle. Where it seems to be appropriate I will cross-post between the two blogs or at least refer to and summarise posts on the other blog. The text below is cross-posted from the other blog. From now on if you wish to follow the prostate saga you can do so on my other blog.
One thing I forgot to mention in the last post is that, on making a firm decision to opt for the active surveillance programme I was informed by Dr. Owen that this had been the interdisciplinary group’s recommendation. This is the first time I had heard this and I must say it gave me some confidence in my decision. I guess that was the point f not letting me know earlier – let the patient make their own mind up since there was no sure-fire way of making the right one anyway.
Having opted for the AS regime this involves a 3 monthly PSA blood test, and initial MRI scan 3 months after going on the programme and, if necessary, further biopsies if changes in the prostate and tumours warrant them. I had a blood test early December 2015 which gave a result of 8 – a little higher than the last one, 7.9, but quite a lot lower than the highest taken while I was in hospital with the ruptured kidney of round 9. So the latest test may mean something or nothing – the usual problem with PSA tests. The initial MRI scan due at the same time (part of the AS protocol I was told) never happened but after chasing this up I have it booked for 28th January. I understand from others on this programme that test time is a particularly stressful period as you dread being told the tumour is on the move and surgery, etc. is now necessary. I can feel the tension mounting already even though the scan is 3 weeks away, in fact the day before my 70th birthday.
Went to see the radiotherapy consultant last Thursday and came away feeling rather more optimistic. I haven’t yet mad a final decision yet but I’ve swung back in favour of active surveillance. Dr Owen told me that my cancer is 6 on a scale from 1 to 10 where 6 is the lowest grade of cancer tumours and therefore the least aggressive and lowest risk. This grading system appeared to be different form the one the surgeon consultant was using a couple of weeks ago as reported in my last post when I was told I was 6 on a scale of 10. However, the printed report I was given says that my grade is 3+3 which (using information on the web Gleason grade and Gleason score) is the lowest grade where 1 and 2 are variants of normal prostate cells. A Gleason score of 3+3 indicates all of the cancer cells found in the biopsy look likely to grow slowly. Not however the term ‘likely’. Dr Owen assured me the previous consultant and she are only talking about the active surveillance option because the cancer is in all probability low grade, slow developing and local to the prostate. If I go on the active surveillance programme I will have my blood checked for the PSA level every 3 months along with physical examinations but will also have an MRI scan to see if there are any visible signs of tumours pushing against or through the prostate wall. If the scan is OK then blood test will continue at intervals to check to see if the PSA level is stable and, all being well, another targeted biopsy will be taken after a year. If there are signs in the future that the cancer is more aggressive than thought the options of surgery and/or radiation therapy are still open. If this is caught early enough there is still the possibility of cure rather than simply managing the condition. The downside or active surveillance is that a proportion of men on it end up having surgery or other treatment anyway and, as they are older by then, the side effects can be more problematic and recovery take longer. In some cases it is found a more aggressive cancer was present all the time in which case it would have been better to have had surgery or radiation treatment straight away in the first place. Every decision comes with risk. The virtue of active surveillance is that for many men it means they do not undergo unnecessary and invasive treatment that could have serious life changing bad consequences for them.
Part of my rationale for seriously considering active surveillance is that I am a relatively fit and otherwise healthy 69 year old and have the prospect of getting quite a lot fitter over the next 6 months or so. Generally speaking younger men recover from the treatments much faster than older me simply because they are fitter and have better muscle tone in the relevant areas. One example is that men in their 50s are much more likely to have side effects like incontinence and erectile dysfunction clear up significantly faster than older men, say in their 70 or 80s. This is not because the procedures are any different for younger men but because they have a higher level of general fitness. As far as incontinence is concerned this is to do with the condition of pelvic floor muscles which is why we are encouraged to do specific exercises to strengthen them before treatments are carried out. My plan would be to develop the pelvic floor muscles of a young man pre-emptively so that if/when I have surgery or radiation in the future I will be in the best possible condition to deal with it and recover.
As a matter of interest I had two different radiation options detailed – the insertion of radioactive seed into my prostate (Brachytherapy) and full external radiotherapy where a programme of treatments takes place in 5 day blocks weekly of about 7 weeks. More details can be found on the MacMillan web site Radiotherapy for cancer of the prostate.