L’Étape, Oh Crap! – Part 4: Keep your hands off your flapjack

Hello everybody, Gareth here… time for another sporadic Étape du Tour update! We're now into Week 14 of the Etape training. Here's some stats to keep Shauna happy:

  • 1097 road miles covered over 74 hours, an average speed of about 15mph
  • 39,000 calories burned (no wonder I'm always hungry)
  • 22,000 vertical metres climbed (the Etape is over 4000 vertical metres in one day!!!)
  • average heart rate 132bpm, maxing out at around 175bpm.

I'll be honest and admit I'm starting to get a bit scared now! I feel fairly fit and have really noticed a difference in my endurance but I reckon this is going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. I think I'm going to need to dig pretty deep, both physically and mentally, to get to the end.

So, why am I doing this?

I mentioned previously that I was sick last year. In April I developed peripheral neuropathy which started out as three numb toes on my left foot and within a few weeks progressed to pain, burning sensations and pins and needles in my face, hands and feet. The symptoms were quite frightening and the pain and loss of sensation made it difficult to do simple stuff like write or grip. Walking was hard due to the pain and sensitivity / numbness in my feet.

After a few trips to the doctor I was referred to a neurologist who was fairly blunt when giving me a list of possible causes. The neuropathy can point towards a number of problems with one of the contenders being Multiple Sclerosis. I had two MRIs of my brain and spinal cord to check for lesions which can be caused by MS.

The symptoms didn't really let up until the end of 2011 and throughout those seven months I was feeling pretty crap and consequently didn't ride my bike very much. On the plus side I started playing golf with my brother which has given me the joy of playing a sport at which I truly suck! My golf swing was not helped by not having much grip strength in my left hand!

Shauna and I learned a bit more about MS throughout this time and she rode the Cycletta last year in aid of the MS Society. I sponsored her and at the turn of the new year an email dropped into my inbox – the MS Society was looking for cyclists to ride in their Etape du Tour team. There's nothing like a period of ill health to focus the mind so I decided to sign up.

In February of this year I received the good news that the MRIs hadn't shown up any brain lesions. I'd been starting to feel better physically but getting this positive news took a lot of pressure off of both of us. I still don't know what caused the neuropathy.

However, not everyone is lucky enough to get a positive result. Therefore, I'm doing this ride as part of the MS Society Etape team to help support the great work that they do. We have a number of friends with MS and there is also is a high incidence of MS in Scotland, so it's a cause that I really care about.

I have a sponsorship page and if anyone would like to sponsor me I'd be really grateful. I've got a bit to go to reach my target and intend to sponsor myself as a wee payback for the information and encouragement I got last year! Here's the link if you're interested:


On a lighter note… DICKHEAD REPORT!

Two weeks ago I was out training and had an unfortunate trip over the handlebars! I haven't fallen off a road bike for awhile and it was interesting to rediscover that roads are made of hard, scrapey stuff. I ended up with a nicely skinned elbow, a bruised hip, a bruised thigh and pulled muscles in my back and chest. I also knackered my bike and had to phone Shauna to come and get me as I was thirty miles from home.

So what caused this unfortunate incident? A pothole in the road? An accident with a car? A collision with an escaped sheep?

No, I was trying to get a flapjack out the back pocket of my jacket whilst riding hands-free. I took a trip over the handlebars for my trouble! I don't think anybody saw me.

The moral of the story is to stop and enjoy your food, instead of eating it on the move like you're Lance Armstrong. It's a good advertisment for the slow food movement.

Anyway, the next time I write it'll nearly be time. There's only five weeks to go! Wish me luck.

16 thoughts on “L’Étape, Oh Crap! – Part 4: Keep your hands off your flapjack

  1. My husband’s mother had MS and recently died after a long slow decline, so thanks for raising money for the cause. And I am very glad for you & Shauna that you don’t have it.

    My husband broke his scapula (shoulder blade)coming off his bike on a rainy morning. Apparently it is quite a difficult bone to break. I picked him up to take him to hospital and I had to take apart his bike to fit it in the boot (both wheels off) but had no idea how to do it — I think I semi-destroyed the bike and left a few small pieces behind.

    He also admits to coming off his bike while trying to impress some girls … how embarressment!

  2. I know I shouldn’t laugh at your pain, Gareth, but I am actually LOLing at the flapjack! Couldn’t you eat power bars like everyone else? 😀

  3. Natalie I’m so sorry to hear about your mother-in-law xxox

    I wonder if the girls were impressed by your husband’s spectacular fall!? Scapula sounds so painful!

  4. Ach, my prof used to race in his younger days and said you had to reckon with coming off the bike and hurting yourself once a season – it’s par for the course. It means you are proper hardcore, Gareth! Glad the MS test negative – but scary times for you both. Enjoy the training!

  5. Wow, its so soon – Go DrG!! (Do us Up&Runners need a different colour pompom to wave for you, or are you okay with pink?)

  6. I just saw a program about Lyme disease last night, Gareth, and immediately thought of you. Apparently it’s incredibly under/misdiagnosed and has various neurological symptoms.

    Good luck in your training.

  7. Hello everybody, thanks for all your kind words and donations!

    Gingerzingi – I work outdoors a fair bit and there are a lot of deer / sheep ticks around in the heather. I think I got checked out for Lyme’s disease last year but I’m not 100% sure. The docs did take some blood but all tests were clear.

    Jo – I’m ok with pink!

  8. Love the Dickhead Report, Dr G. Glad to hear the training is going well. I’m sorry to hear you had such a worrying health scare, too, that must’ve been awful for you and Shauna. Fantastic cause you are raising for, and all the best!!

  9. Oh, poor you (and Shauna) – my husband had an MS scare a few years back, and it was really frightening (again, his symptoms remain a mystery). Ended well for us, but not so for a friend, who was diagnosed about the time his first child was born. I did a race this weekend just gone (my “graduation” run for the U&R 10K course) which was a fundraiser for MS – over $1m (AUD) raised… all to a great cause.

    Good luck with the training (maybe a muesli bar next time)?

  10. Hey Gareth, thanks for sharing that story. In some wierd (hopefully not too selfish) way, I’m really glad to hear that you had this problem. I’m currently 3 months into some mysterious, doctors-have-no-idea-what-it-could-be nerve and muscle “hypersensitivity.” I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to hear that even after 7 months you recovered and are now able to ride your bike like a crazy man. That’s where I want to be a year from now. Good luck on your ride.

  11. Hey G Man!
    Fantastic to hear what you have overcome!
    It’s natural to be frightened. The thing you are doing is as much about mental strength as physical strength.
    You probably will have times in the event where you will struggle, but you will get through them. Trust me. I’m a doctor.
    So says Cilla (who ran a marathon).

  12. Sorry to hear about the MS scare – that must have been really tough. Great posts about your training – keep ’em coming! 🙂

    Hope the road rash and bruises heal (healed?) up quickly… You could try getting a bento box (triathletes use them, so maybe not cool for roadies, lol) that attaches to your top tube up near the stem – might be a bit easier to get yer oats! 🙂

  13. That’s hilarious about the flapjack! I laughed out loud.

    The neuropathy sounds awful. What a relief to get a clear MRI.

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