The End of an Era

The End of an Era

I suppose somewhere down the line, it was always going to happen, but when you are finally presented with the facts then it’s sometimes quite hard to process them.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been in contact with my surgeon and had another meeting with him yesterday to review my knee and the operation that I had back in February. He was really pleased with the way the operation went and in terms of general mobility and day-to-day life then we are pretty much back to normal, albeit still with a little swelling and discomfort as the wounds heal up fully – all to be expected and I am very grateful for that.

This is how a healthy normal knee is structured:

Capture2

However, in terms of “sporting activities” it’s not such great news – actually that is not quite correct, I should say in terms of “competitive” sports the news isn’t great – I can still ride my bike and exercise but with caution.

With meniscus injuries they grade the damage one to four with four being the worst level of injury. Yesterday, the surgeon took me through the whole process showing my the x-rays done before the op and how it looked during the process.

Effectively I had lost all my cartilage at the front of my knee, simply gone – there was then a Grade 4 tear which needed a fair amount of work to trim it up – the remainder of the injury was assessed as Grade 2 – in his words “very traumatic”.

Although the damaged areas were repaired, there is still no cartilage at the front of my knee and that means we have a bone-on-bone scenario, which means the potential for pain and swelling is huge for any long periods of exercise, or for regular hard efforts – basically what I would have called “training” so the advice is to back it all off and just go out and “ride” my bike for the enjoyment of it, but limit the rides to around 90 mins to help protect the joint.

Running is completely out of the window and to be fair the surgeon said that from day one when he first got all the scans back, so I guess he kinda knew what the future was for me at that point.

I have to say the news hit me quite hard really – no more competition, no more long bike rides – well, I obviously still can do those kind of things, but it will lead to days of swelling and pain and future damage that could affect day to day life so what’s the point in that.

I sat in the car park as the news processed in my mind and I thought, well, that’s that then and I then started to think of all that achieved, and do you know what – I have done alright …

1988 – Toured Australia with Wigan Colleges playing 7 matches out there winning four and losing three

1989-1993 – played at the highest level in amateur rugby league, played for Wigan, Lancashire county and Great Britain, toured France and won there.

1993-1995 – played professional rugby league for Oldham RLFC at the same level as today’s “Super League”

1994 – Rode the length of Britain – John O’Groats to Lands End – covered over 1000 miles in just 9 days on a mountain bike raising over £8,000 for Wigan Hospice.

1995-1997 – transferred for £10,000 to Chorley RLFC playing a difficult couple of years as a major back injury took its toll (more later on this)

2006 – started to train for Ironman which is a triathlon with a 3.8km open water swim, a 180km bike ride and then a marathon at the end to finish

2007 – completed Ironman UK in Sherborne in Dorset in a time of 13hrs and 01mins

2008-2012 – completed 3 more Ironman UK events, this time close to home in Bolton, working with “Team True Spirit” (I was part of the original team that formed the organisation) – we raised over £50,000 for service charities and transformed one veteran into a Paralympian.

When I sit there and look at that list, I have to be happy don’t I – I have to be really proud and pleased with the levels I reached and the things I managed to do.

But then I can also draw up a list of injuries from the rugby days:

1988 – Major concussion, lost a full days memory and still cannot remember a thing

1990-1997 – the original injury was landing on a wooden square corner flag as I was twisting over to score – I couldn’t walk for 3 days and missed the whole of the next season – I struggled lots with it over the next few years, eventually retiring in 1997 – the x-ray showed the discs twisted 9mm one way and leaning over 5mm another way

1993 – hairline fracture of my jaw, very minor but the jaw clicks to this day

1994 – broken and dislocated middle finger (put back in place in the tunnel during the match) – basically top half of the finger was pointing back at me as I looked at it.

1994 – torn and frayed groin/pelvic muscles, requiring minor surgery to correct

1995 – big broken nose (I had suffered two minor breaks previously) – this one was a real smash in the face – again put back into place in the dressing room at half time – lots of blood and tears on that one

1995 – clash of heads and a gaping cut over my eye – eight stitches by the doctor in the medical room in the tunnel at Oldham, bandage on and back on to the field to finish the match off. (as they did back then).

1993-1995 – both left and right ankle ligaments torn, both requiring periods of about 6-8 weeks on the sideline.

When you look at the list of injuries, then really I have done well to do all the bike riding and triathlon stuff at all – it’s fair to say that my 48 year old body has been put through the rigours along its sporting career.

So, where does that leave me now? Well it leaves me to enjoy short local bike rides I guess, lots of lovely Lancashire lanes for me to trundle around and it will allow me more time to focus on the photography which at the moment is going really well and the business continues to grow.

A little bit of me is sad and disappointed, but it is what it is and we need to move on and into the next exciting chapter probably with a Canon piece of kit in my hand rather than a pair of carbon wheels, but that is still pretty exciting for me.

As the gloom lifted, I grabbed my kit bag and headed out in the evening sunshine to bury myself deep in a hedge and photograph the local Southport 10 mile time trial and as the sun shone down, I allowed myself a little wry smile – you know what, life is good and whilst it is the end of an era, there is another one ahead, just as good.

Make it Happen!

Beyond Belief !

Beyond Belief !

At the moment, I am just so frustrated and disappointed, quite numb actually and really am at the end of my tether.

For the last 4 months I have worked so hard, trained consistently and made sure that I kept all my sports massage appointments – the body was strong and all was set for a wonderful day in the Pyrenees and then …..

20160701_183005

For the last week I have been struggling big time, hard to walk with the knee in lots of pain .. swelling and a total lack of stability around the joint. The most annoying part is that I cannot put it down to one single event, no trip over a kerbstone, no banging it into a table, no unfortunate twist .. nothing at all.

I finished my last hilly training session and from then on it has just deteriorated to the point that I have had to withdraw from the event. Closer examination has revealed more cartilage damage but now that the swelling has started to go down, at least we seem to be able to rule out ligament tears.

I have been told no bike riding now for an extended time and a regime of specific exercises and rehab, strengthening the joint. I need to be back on the anti-inflam’s and lots of ice … the physio suggested swimming would be a good option for me, so I guess its time for some more new goggles and more splashing around.

All that work, the best fitness on a bike for nearly 10 years and then this out of nowhere … really it gutting.

It has made me think hard about my “competitive” future, which I guess is now finally over … the 10 years of top level rugby league and then 10 years of ironman training has finally caught up with me – the list of injuries I have had is long and I have to face up to that.

In the short term, I need to recover from this setback and then take stock, but I have hung up the “events and races” boots and retired any idea of adventures or long distance extravaganzas. I think it’s time to really just enjoy the bike for what it is and not worry about trying to prove I can still hack it, cos clearly I can’t.

The Tour de France starts tomorrow, I should have been there, but sometimes life takes a different route and for me that dream is over. I am really looking forward to the race itself, although Stage 8 will be hard to watch.

It’s beer time tonight, I need it.

Three weeks to go …

Three weeks to go …

As the title will tell you, it’s just over three weeks until I step on the plane bound for Toulouse and the Pyrenees and what promises to be an epic if somewhat challenging day out.

I am riding Stage 8 of the Tour de France, but riding from Lourdes not Pau, so our route will be slightly shorter at 148km in total. We are riding as a group of 42 to try and raise £25,000 for various charities.

My charity is The Christie – who provide such a wonderful service to the cancer sufferers of the north west and beyond. I have friends and family who have been affected by this horrible disease and over my sporting life I have always tried to support the work they and others in this field too.

With the ride just three weeks away, please visit my page and stick a donation on, even if it is just £5 – every donation helps to make such a difference to people and maybe even for you and your family at some point in the future – my page is here:

MARTIN HOLDEN riding STAGE 8 of THE TOUR DE FRANCE

We are riding the stage the day before the race does, the day before the professionals complete the stage, so it will be a tremendous thing to experience.

Stage 8 of the Tour de France covers four mountains:

route

  1. Col du Tourmalet (HC)
  2. Hourquette d’Ancizan (2)
  3. Col de Val Louron-Azet (1)
  4. Col de Peyresourde (1)

It will be the biggest challenge I have faced on a bike, bigger than Ironman, and I have done 5 of those rides, but this is the Tour and this is the Pyrenees – I am scared and excited in equal measure at this point in time.

The positive things I can take out of the build up to the event is that I have trained, and I have trained consistently. Looking at my current stats for 2016, Strava tells me:

Total Rides (including commutes): 94

Total Distance (including commutes): 1,959km

Total Ascent (including commutes): 14,377m

Could I have trained more, yes of course I could, but running a business, running other smaller concerns, raising a family with three sports mad boys who play football and compete in athletics means that your time is restricted and sometimes plans just fall to pieces. But one this that Ironman has taught me, is that you can do what you can do, and what you don’t do is beat yourself up about “what if’s” – plus when it comes down to the day, then experience and attitude count for a whole lot.

The distance doesn’t scare me, the mountains don’t really scare me massively, they will hurt but I can cope with that … the only unknown factor in all this is the weather. It can be scorching hot and humid at that time of year but as you climb it can be cold and even raining too … planning the kit list for this event is very tricky indeed, but I have chosen and I have hopefully covered all bases.

Yesterday, I rode my 27th specific training ride for the event and I tried something different this time. Both a mental challenge and also a climbing specific one. So what was it all about?

Close to home there is a loop that I slightly extended (to take in another hill) that covers 6.5km and contained within that loop is a climb of 250m (with gradients of 7-8% rising to 9-12% at the top) – further on in the loop is the bigger climb which goes on for 1.4km in total with again gradients of 7-9% at the bottom, going into the main bit where gradients rise to 11-13% in parts before gradually easing off.

The fact that the loop went past my front door would be the mental challenge really – would I ditch early. I set off wanting to complete at least 10 loops and also wanting to make sure I rode at least 100km for the day.

ride summary

I have to admit that 10 loops did start to get a bit boring and also became a little more difficult to achieve consistency as the traffic built up, but the encouraging thing was that I tackled the hills with great strength and calmness.

I assessed my diet during the course of my training and noticed a lack of iron intake, so over the last few weeks, I have started taking some ZipVit multi-vitamins with iron and whether that has helped or not I don’t know but I really felt in control during this ride – I also practised more on my nutrition eliminating a couple of products and choosing others.

After 10 loops I headed off for 35km of rolling terrain and this was a nice little change … it did mean that I would have some climbing to do to get back home and that was the really defining moment for me. The hills home aren’t big or long, but they have ramps of 7-9% in them and usually at the back end of a ride I will be spinning away in the little ring … yesterday I held the big ring up them all and with some comfort too – that really did give me enormous encouragement.

One thing I will take to the Tour with me, is the final element of my tattoo which was completed last week. You have all seen the cycling themed ones on my chest, back and shoulder, but the latest one is again something very special to me and something I have wanted for a while now.

Stars on Arm

Each star represents one of my boys, the largest for Jonny, the medium one for Matthew and the smallest for Dan – I wanted them on my arm, on show for me and the world to see.

As I sweat and toil up those mountains next month, I will glance at my arm and smile at the three superstars at home and I won’t back down, not one inch.

I recently listened to some old tunes and this lyric from a James track has stuck in my head:

“The price of loving life is not so steep, Climb out of your well it’s not that deep, no such place as hell ….”

I’m taking that to the Tourmalet with me …..

Ramping It Up …

It’s only around 7 weeks until I depart for the shores of France and the mountains of the Pyrenees to take on Stage 8 of this year’s Tour de France.

My training has been consistent and steady, nothing immense but more importantly very few weeks at all with little or no riding (this week excepted). I am confident in terms of distance now – 100km is right back on my radar as something that is really easy to complete and I am feeling strong.

My injuries all seem to be under control and the strength and speed on the bike is improving week upon week.

Last weekend saw me complete three very good rides, especially the longer one which was done at a record speed for me (in excess of 28 kmh) without any flare-ups or problems afterward.

data

Obviously, the next 7 weeks will be spent working more and more on my core and hill work – I have the endurance for the ride, I now need to train specifically for the hills and the long, long time in the saddle.

Yesterday saw the completion of my cycling themed tattoo – it has taken 5 sittings of two hours each with a fantastic artist and the end product is something I am really pleased with.

full tattoo

I don’t think I am finished with tattoo’s just yet, I still have two specific things that I want to have on me at some point, but I think for now this looks amazing and really does make me smile with happiness.

Due to work and other issues, I have only managed two short commute rides, but a bit of rest after last weeks loading will do my battered body no harm at all in the long run.

 

The Arm Coolers …

In 2013 I was very fortunate to be on the slopes of Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day during the Tour de France … it was an epic stage in searing heat up one of the most ferocious mountains out there … Chris Froome won the stage and I walked around 9km up the mountain that day and perched myself on one of the hairpin bends, camera in hand waiting for the race to explode.

Amongst the hundreds of images I captured that day was one of Jens Voight, riding up on his TREK and subsequently I tweeted Jens, who is very social and he replied to confirm that the strange black arm bands in the image were in fact special team issue arm coolers, produced specifically for that stage. Very interesting.

Fast forward now three years and through a friend I had the opportunity to get a print of the image signed by the man himself.

This week that print arrived in my office.

Jens Voight

A really personal message from Jens …. “To Martin, all the best and we both know that I am rocking the arm coolers” – that is something really special.

I plan to get the image framed and start to add to the collection !

In other news, it was stage 3 of the cycling themed tattoo this week and the outline and shading of the back piece is complete …. more to come on this one, but side by side with the chest piece it is starting to look amazing !

Chest and Back

Hopefully I will be getting out tomorrow for another good training ride around the Lancashire hills, building well towards the Tourmalet !

The First Century …

Yes a hundred, a century and it was on my training ride yesterday.

ok, not a true century as that would be in miles, and I work in km’s but a century of km’s is a big milestone for me, the longest ride I have done for 12 months, but this ride means much much more.

I have been working on my fitness and injury maintenance for about 2  years now, with a regime of stretching and regular visits for sports massage to keep the back issues well and truly hidden away.

When I was training for IM I would complete a long ride (so over 80km up to 130km) and really have what I can describe now as a “locked up” back – immediately afterwards and in the following days too – the result of injury and poor bike position. A more forgiving bike (endurance fit Domane), a proper bike fit and the aforementioned sports massage has sorted all that now and what a difference.

So yesterday: well it was a ride of two halves, to use the footballing term. The plan was for me to ride over to Horwich to meet a friend (Will Rose) who is a complete novice cyclist, has just got a bike and was trying cleats out for the first time. I rode the 14km over to Horwich and after some static work, practising clipping in and out, we headed off for a planned 30km flat loop which was excellent – Will rode very well and he seemed to like the feeling of being on a bike, which for me was great to see.

We did ride over the reservoirs in Rivington along the way:

Bridge

After saying goodbye to Will, I looked at my Garmin and I had around 48km on the clock and the sun was shining and I felt really fresh and energised. My previous longest ride this year was about 60km, so I was enthused to push this out to maybe 75km on a nice day like yesterday. Reaching into my back pocket I grabbed a gel and sucked it down with a splodge of water and started riding.

I had been riding easily with Will as he got used to the bike and the cleats, so the average pace was low up to then, so I cranked up the pace a little to work hard on the last part of my ride.

The bike is so comfortable, it was a pleasure to ride and I set off towards Westhoughton and Leigh, looping around and over towards Lowton and Golborne and then heading off towards Ashton … I was still strong and riding well as I headed up Billinge hill and over towards Orrell and it began to dawn on me that I had the 100km in my sight and with the way I was feeling I could actually do this.

Further down the hill from Orrell, I knew I had to throw a couple of loops in around estates I knew well, and this would take me to the bottom of Beech Hill with around 5km to go and if I could do that, then I would have cracked it.

The plan worked superbly and as I rolled down the street towards our house the Garmin ticked over the 100km barrier, and more importantly I was still feeling great.

I did the whole ride on that one gel and around 450ml of water (with electrolytes) which just highlights what getting rid of sugar from your general diet does for you on the bike – no need for loads of sugary gels. Ok, I need to revise my plan for the tourmalet as that approach will see me in a ditch somewhere, but at this stage I am happy to keep the fat burning going a bit longer.

Yesterdays route:

Ride1

and yesterdays stats:

Ride2

When I left Will the average speed was around 21.7km, so you can see how much faster I rode that second half of the ride to increase it up to the 24.4km that the final figures show.

BUT, and here is the big winner for me, the way I felt afterwards was like never before … I had full movement of my back, shoulders and hips, no tightness, no fatigue and I felt like I could ride again … unheard of during my time on the bike and so encouraging .. makes all those gym sessions and physio visits worth it.

It gives me great confidence for the months ahead and gives me encouraging vibes for some “adventure” days out when the hot sunshine comes (which I am hoping will happen this year).

Onwards to the Tourmalet !!!

Getting some consistency

When I first knew about the Tourmalet Challenge and decided to accept the offer, I knew I had lots to do in terms of getting myself ready and fit for the event.

One of the keys to that is consistency. Not just making sure I ride the hills, not making sure I ride the right bike, but making sure that each week that goes by has me riding, more and more and increasing.

I always record all my rides on Strava, it’s a great reference tool and I also use VeloViewer which is linked to it – it gives you some amazing data and stats that you can refer and relate to.

The last 4 weeks for me have been decent:

Capture

As we enter April I have some consistency in my legs, nothing major yet, the longest ride so far is around 60km, but good frequency and that is important too.

I have been having fortnightly sports massage to keep on top of any niggles and to help maintain the existing issues I have. I always make at least one visit to the gym to get the core work and stretching done and I am starting to have a “love/hate” relationship with the foam roller at home.

As a family we have been on a crusade for about 18 months now, to eat fresh food as much as we can and to cut back on the processed rubbish. During this time I have cut out sugar completely in my hot drinks and I have cut out 99% of my white bread addiction – now having a very small amount of wholemeal once or twice a week. I have lost over a stone by cutting these things out, we still eat well and there is no restriction on volume, so no hunger pangs along the way … sure it takes time, but this is a much healthier way of re-shaping your body.

Over the coming weeks, I need to start to build the “long ride” up towards and over 100km which is very achievable indeed – combine that with the regular work in the week (a bit of commuting and grabbing an hour or so when I can) and we are making great progress.

I have three solid months now to continue the training and work for the challenge and if you would like to support me in my efforts to raise £1,000 for The Christie then please click the link HERE and donate to the cause.