Yay for that. New year 2018 and 2019 both saw me having the largest relapses that I've had (respectively) so I was slightly nervous around Christmas this year, but all good! I thought that I'd write some words as I've just received a letter from my neuro following up from an appointment last week.
My last post was in October and there has been a slight life adjustment since then - namely that I took Nov. 1 - Feb. 1 off work in order to do not much more than ride my bike until either it broke or I broke. Much to my surprise I won that battle and it broke first, we'll come to that in a bit.
I've been asked a few times why do that? I've struggled to articulate an answer but it more or less comes down to fear. A combination of knowing that I've had bad relapses around new year time (and it's possible/likely I won't recover one of these times) and after fracturing my arm & hand in August which meant no bikes for ~5 weeks I really wanted to get out there and ride whilst I could. I'm also somewhat dubious that I'm going to get to retire on my own terms so taking a few months off every few years seems like a good idea. Work were also supportive which was super helpful in being able to enjoy the time without worrying about not having a job to return to.
The other question that I've been asked more is why in Winter? Well, for the urgency see above. Also things that I hadn't necessarily planned but have come to realise: 1) I don't function well in the heat so actually the colder weather so been a good time to ride, 2) Summer days are long, there's time to ride in the light after work - that's not true of Winter and night riding sometimes does something weird to my eyesight.
For my final note on this break from work I'll touch on the bike breaking thing. Just before Christmas the battery on my ebike packed in. I was not best pleased about that as I had riding planned over the Christmas period and the bloody electronics have gone wrong too many times. I wrote a fairly strongly worded letter to Specialized rider care who came through for me and had a replacement (not brand new) battery in my hands within a couple of days. All good right? Well, no. That was all good until mid January when Ben n Steph were visiting. We went to Hebden Bridge (known for being pretty steep up and down) and halfway up the first climb the battery stopped working, exhibiting identical behaviour to the old one that went wrong. Well, we carried on and did a few descents. I wasn't fast but I got there on the climbs. As we were already in Hebden, and those guys used to work in the shop there and wanted to say hi, we popped into the shop and I left the bike with them. Unfortunately, it wasn't booked to get looked at for another 2-3 weeks.
What I do with 3 weeks off work and no bike? I buy another bike of course. However, and this is a big however. I didn't buy an ebike. After managing the ride in Hebden I felt that I needed to explore a bit into a non-assisted bike. I still have my old commute bike (roadrat) so a couple of days later I rode off seeking to do hill reps and try get a feel for just what my legs are up to. Well that went pretty well so I decided to take a gamble and buy a second hand hardtail that I could sell on if it didn't work out. A couple of days later I'd picked up a Whyte 901 with a couple of nice upgrades. All things being said, I'm not selling it. It's bloody brilliant, I've been shocked by how well I can climb. My legs still tire more quickly than they should and hurt coooonstantly. I've also wound up collapsing in a heap midway up long steep technical climbs, being unable to get back up. When my legs do go like that I just have to rest (usually use it as a chance to eat) for about 5 minutes and we're good to go again. I've discovered that riding with a decent sized group is generally fine as I'm actually not slow so get recovery time at the top of climbs. I've also made it up stuff that I don't always make it up on the ebike! I've done my hilliest ride since moving here on it. I do now have the ebike back (been riding the hardtail instead though) and Specialized have come through again and supplied a brand new battery free of charge to me. The temptation to sell the ebike is there but I think I'll need it as the weather warms up, and it's always useful to have there.
Looping back to that neurology appointment. I was only in the hospital for around an hour. I had the usual 9 hole peg + 25m walk tests, and a chat with my neuro. The 9 hole peg test freaked me out, I thought that my dexderity has declined a lot whilst I was doing it. I was shakey and even dropped a peg. Straight after I looked up my times from last year, +1s for left hand and +4s for right hand (that's well over 10% increase on the right hand). My neurologist was not at all concerned and said until they see a pattern of that happening it's a non-issue. He was very happy when I mentioned I'd done a non-assisted mtb ride of 40km + 1100m of elevation that week though. The letter actually states my 9 hole peg and 25m walk tests are all similar to last year so nothing to worry about I think.
Photos from my 3 months off live at https://photos.app.goo.gl/4mmQE1w29ss3P2MJ8. That's about it. I'm off to ride my bike.