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!

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 …..

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 !!!

A return to the hills …

When I was training for Ironman, I spent many many hours riding the desolate roads of the West Lancashire Moors, up and over Rivington and Belmont and it was training days like these that helped me cope with the race when it came around each year.

It seemed only natural therefore to turn to the same hills to help me prepare for the Tourmalet Challenge. Right, lets get one thing straight, there in nothing in the UK that can prepare me for the Pyrenees, nothing at all, but there are some hills that will help.

Anyone who rides locally will recognise this sight, the last drag up towards the top of Winter Hill before the drop down to Belmont village.

RIVI 013

However, in reality when you look at the data afterwards, you will see that you can actually replicate a 10km climb from the “dip” in Worthington to the top of the climb:

10km climb

The average gradient on this 10km climb is around 3%, but there are stretches that are 10-13% and even a small bit on the hairpin bend that is over 20%, so its a good challenge on any day when you ride it.

I chose Friday as the best day to ride over the holidays, and it was a wise choice given what we have had since, it was also the first longer ride on the new bike, so I decided to be sensible and set the goal distance of “over 50km” and the time goal of being “over 2hrs 30mins” – both of which would be a good foundation for the weeks to come.

In the end I rode 60.60km and 2hrs 40mins and really enjoyed myself. I hadn’t ridden the big hill for over a year, so I was never going to be blasting my way up it, but I was comfortable and relaxed and the bike responded well to the challenge.

It was also time to try out my new nutrition, and I have chosen ZipVit to try out first to see if can stomach their energy bars and gels – I really enjoyed the bar, much better than others I have had, but the Rhubarb and Custard gel wasn’t the best, it did the trick, but not the greatest of things to eat really. There are other flavours so now is the time the test them all out and see which one I like the best.

All in all, it was a pretty successful return to the hills, lots more needed of course, but we are only in March and I am fit and raring to go and have three full months to train and work hard for the challenge.

 

Forming a plan …

With the arrival of the new bike, I can now start to plan the training as I step up from the preparatory phase into the increased volume stage.

I have spent the last few weeks, building up the frequency of rides, commuting and riding at lunch, starting to lay a foundation on top of my winter 29er riding, getting the body ready for the long miles ahead of me.

I have to say that I am feeling great at the moment physically (probably the kiss of death) but I have no fatigue after rides, no aching lower limbs, no gluteal cramps and I like it. I just feel like I am getting stronger and stronger each time I go out there and ride.

The new bike got its first ride this weekend:

TREK Domane 4.3 .

I have read lots and lots about how the Domane was developed, a joint enterprise between TREK and Fabian Cancellara and I have read all about the technology that was used in its design and I was hoping for a jaw-dropping laugh out loud experience and guess what I GOT EXACTLY THAT !

It was just so comfortable, so responsive, so smooth and a joy to ride – over rolling terrain, I rode for 75mins as I didn’t want to do much more than that due to the tattoo still healing (more in a minute on that) – I even rode over some cobbles just to see what it felt like …. and that in itself was amazing … smooth and very different to the experience on the FELT.

I chose one small hill, a 500m effort of 4% average, so nothing that difficult, but I pushed on and crested feeling like I had ridden it quite well … later on, I found I had achieved a PB by 3 seconds and the fastest I had ridden it for 3 years !!!

I mentioned the tattoo earlier, it is scabbing up nicely now and looking just amazing:

First Piece

And all that leads me nicely on to the plan that is forming for the next 3 months of training as we head towards the Tourmalet.

The commuting has up to now been on the 29er, but all that stops now and the Domane takes over – when the weather is suitable, I will ride into the office and home but also at lunchtime .. I did it a couple of times last week and added about 70km to the weekly output – so it all adds up nicely. I can only manage it a couple of times as meetings and other stuff get in the way, but that seems an easy winner to me.

The weekend will revert back to my Ironman days, with rides starting at around 2-3hours and gradually building each week – so about 50km building to 80km over the next month and then we will start to introduce the hill work.

I will take a few days off work in the coming months, to have really long days in the saddle, 8 hours or so, just to get used to the big days ahead, so if anyone fancies a day out in the week, drop me a line … slow people only need apply !

That kind of plan, combined with a bit of gym work, physio every couple of weeks should see me in good form for the challenge.

Remember, I am raising money for THE CHRISTIE and you can sponsor and donate to the cause HERE 

TheChristie

 

 

 

Time To Think …

I’m pretty much coming to the conclusion that my running dream won’t actually come to anything ….. running isn’t good for my joints these days ….. sore knees and sore ankles make it hard to get out there consistently …. but none of these afflictions affect my cycling.

Maybe that is my body telling me that I am a cyclist, always have been a cyclist and I should remain a cyclist …. I love cycling and I don’t have that passion for running … I am never happier than when out riding.

20150930_170620

This weekend has really been quite pivotal in terms of what I will do in 2016 …. no junior football due to my lad being full of a cold meant two clear days when I could ride and out I went …

Saturday saw a ride south out to Culcheth in Warrington with a loop back around Leigh, Tyldesley and Atherton and it was my longest ride for quite some time and with the last 10km all uphill it was a tough way to finish …. I rode quite well but the route was interspersed with traffic, so my overall speed was dented.

Ride

In previous years after a ride like this I would be really uncomfortable at night, my back injury would send pain all down my legs into my calves and it would be a night of twitching around to get settled …. pleased to say none of that was there this time …. just tired legs really. After a few beers and the rugby league Grand Final I was ready for my bed that’s for sure.

I woke this morning feeling fresh and the legs felt good too … it was dry outside, so it was on with the new kit and out the door again, this time heading north to the lanes around Leyland and its surrounding villages.

Ride 1

Today I rode well, there was a fair bit of wind knocking round in parts and the open fields exposed that, so some lanes were brilliant with a tail wind and others were just difficult as you battled the headwind.

Two very different and brilliant rides in their own right and over 100km completed for the weekend which is a first for me and it really has made me sit down and think about what I could do in 2016.

I have a time trial bike and two very nice aero wheels sat there looking at me right now and I am thinking that maybe I should devote some training time to that part of cycling – my 10TT best time is 24.32 which was set about 7 years ago when I was Ironman training and I would love to be able to beat that.

I need to do some research into what sort of training I need to do over winter and then see if I can schedule the time to commit to it, but I think that it should be possible.

Other than that, I will look to see what sportives look interesting … I don’t mind a bit of climbing … long gradual climbs are fine with me, rolling terrain is fine with me, but short 25% stuff isn’t for me … no fun at all so those kinds of rides are not really the ones that I look to get involved with.

I also quite like the idea of one of the organised 24hr things … maybe as part of a team, they look like a challenge that I might really enjoy ….

mmmmm lots to ponder.

The Bike Life …

Well since the twinge issues with the knee when running, it’s been great to get back on to the bike again and to enjoy the lovely autumn sunny days.

I guess it kinda ties up with last weeks visit to the Cycle Show as well, which really was a good day out and it reinforced the fact that cycling will always be my number one choice.

This week has been a good week for training for me … three different reasons why I was able to finish at the office a little earlier than usual and three different bike rides came from that:

Rides

I’m a long way from being “bike fit” but each ride has seen some progression and each ride was thoroughly enjoyable.

Our house is at the bottom of a 200m steep hill, so every ride starts with that climb – only a short distance but maxing out at 16% or thereabouts is a pretty brutal way to start your ride isn’t it !!! Well it certainly gets the lungs working and the blood flowing even if I just stick it in the 39-25 and trundle.

I rode the lanes to the north and west of our little bit of Lancashire and they are such a great playground for cyclists, with a bit of everything … nice quiet secluded lanes, then short Ardennes style climbs, twisting and poorly surfaced and then some open fields and little villages … just great.

Coopers Lane – Sandersons Lane is one such little short sharp hill … only 800m in length, narrow and tree lined … average of 6% but maxing out at 17.5% and last night I rode it confidently and I rode it well ….. I didn’t push hard at all but was only 4 seconds slower than my PB on it when I looked afterwards …. it’s those little things that show the progress I am making with my fitness.

I have a spare couple of hours this morning now, and although its a bit chilly with some patchy mist, you know what, I might just get wrapped up and go riding again ! #RideMore