My symptoms were still there. Every morning I still wake up thinking that they’ll have gone. 3 weeks since diagnosis and my legs still feel like two foreign attachments appended to my body. They’re both numb and tingling at the same time – some points have no feeling at all, others smart with hypersensitivity. My feet feel swollen with pins and needles. And I feel tired.
The LVIS 200km
6.30am. The alarm has gone off and I need to decide what to do. I sit up and feel achy. The wind is howling outside and I can hear the rain lashing against my bedroom window. My wife is asleep.
An hour and a half later I roll across the Start Line of the LVIS Bristol 200km Audax. The rain has abated slightly but it is still terrifically windy. I figure that if I get started and my legs warm up, the hollow feeling in my feet will disappear. A couple of guys from my cycle club start with me – which is hugely cheering – and soon we’re cycling up through Ashton Court Park with its view of Bristol and it dawns on me that everything is going to be ok.
At that stage I’d no idea no far I’d get, or how my body would hold up, but I could pedal. The first hill made me feel a bit giddy as my heart rate picked up, but I could still cycle.
A huge tailwind billowed us North to the first checkpoint. I’d checked the route’s loop to see when and where I could abandon if I had to: an hour later we’d be cycling within a couple of miles of my house. I’d see then how I was feeling.
The conditions were hard for everyone: fierce winds and wet roads. I confess that I hid within our little group, sheltering behind other riders, head buried in my waterproof; but no one was complaining. Despite the weather, cycling is, afterall, what cyclists do.
I didn’t want to stop at the second checkpoint, because I knew my pins and needles would return as soon as I stepped off the bike, but we all needed food. Although I didn’t feel great when we stopped – legs buzzing and feeling alien – I decided to carry on at least a bit further, back in the direction of the start.
An hour or so later, the rain had calmed down and carrying on, up and over the Mendips, didn’t seem unreasonable. Eventually, I got to Glastonbury tired and weakening, but elated too. My early warnings signs were there: my vision was blurring and I was struggling with my body temperature, and I had to accept that it was going to be a tough last section of the ride. It was getting late too; I had to get home pretty swiftly because I didn’t want to be cycling in the dark with blurring headlights if my vision was going to be having issues.
The home leg
Heading back to Bristol my mood was good. I had some good company and enjoyed idle chats at an easy pace, but I was also nervous: the last thing I wanted was an emergency pick-up the first time I’d been back out on my bike. So, at the first opportunity, I cut the route and made a bee-line back to the start. By then, my vision was giving me all sorts of distortions: the sensation was as though I had sweat running into my eyes, but my brow was dry. I clipped a deep pothole that I thought I was missing.
My last 20km were painfully slow, running on empty; but I did it. I could still do it.
Afterwards I sat in my car looking at my pale face in the mirror. This diagnosis is going to change my life. I stared at my own eyes wondering what was going on behind there that I couldn’t see. That no one can see.
On the way home I ate a packet of cashew nuts and felt tired.