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Friday, 22 July 2016


I'm in pain. Proper pain. Two Sundays ago I did a great ride with Ben Larzelere for thirty miles. We sailed through it and I would have gone further had I not been teaching later that morning. The following Sunday, I had set myself thirty-five or forty miles as the target for that week's big ride. After ten miles I was going well but at about fifteen miles both knees started hurting. I mean, really hurting. I thought I might have to stop. I nonetheless decided to cycle on and after another few miles the pain went away. I finished the first twenty-mile lap in very good time and decided to do five mile loops just to add onto the total gradually. During the 20-25 loop, I realized that I was slowing down and that my knees were starting to hurt. During the following five, I realized that I was almost at a crawl and my knees were hurting more. Cyclists were racing past me. I had to stop. True, I did cycle thirty miles and that's a good distance but the fact that I couldn't cycle further was concerning.

The next ride was meant to be on Tuesday but I was really unwell and needed to stay in bed for a little longer. Wednesday was also meant to be fifteen miles but once again I needed to stay in bed. My thinking was that at least if I got a few days rest, not only would I feel better but my knees would be able to recuperate. Maybe I was overdoing it.

Today (Friday), I was meant to go out for 15 miles but decided to do a casual 10. The first five were done in good time again - 22:54, which is only about a minute off my personal best. As I set off on the second five, though, I started to feel twinges in my knees. By the end of the ten miles, I was in pain again.

Usually when I ride, I feel great afterwards. Today, I'm in pain. Both knees are properly hurting, and that was only after ten miles. I'm starting to feel like I may have bitten off more than I can chew with a century ride. The pain last Sunday was crippling and I really don't want to have to chug down painkillers just to finish this race.

Suddenly, I'm starting to feel middle-aged. I was 37 years old when I did my last long ride but now, four years on, I feel older. I'm also heavier than I was then, although since training I've lost 5-6lbs, which is definitely progress. The hope was that the less I weighed, the easier this ride would be, especially on my knees, but that seems not to be the case. It's possible that someone might be able to lend me a road bike before the race and that will mean less energy will need to be exerted per mile simply because of the design of the bike. That should also help my knees.

I won't deny, though, that today I'm worried. I'm meant to be cycling 40 miles on Sunday and right now that idea scares me a little simply because of the pain in my knees. I'm going to plod on for now but I can't help but think that I might have to go and see a doctor - and those who know me know that I very rarely go and see doctors unless I think there's something really wrong.

I've even started looking online at how to address knee pain from cycling, although I end up finding pictures like the one above with the cyclist with the painful knee and the disturbingly large head and hands. I'm not sure if that's a site for people or for Roswell-based cycling aliens.

All joking aside, though, this is a worrying time. I've totaled 260 miles in training so far but I now feel like I'm going backwards.
If you haven't yet done so, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/655G575 to sponsor me. I'm going to need all the support I can get.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Why Am I So Tired?

The obvious answer to this question is because I don't sleep enough. In fact, I go to bed late after working on my book and I get up early with the kids and sometimes I spend time in between awake and chasing coyotes. So, I know that I don't sleep enough.

 But I finished a 15-mile bike ride the other day and I was exhausted, as you can see in this picture. By now in my training, 15 miles should be a perfectly acceptable ride. So, what's going on?

When I started this training, Neil Lyon, a member of the community who apart from being a mensch also has a wonderful first name, asked if I had a road bike. I said that I did. Six or so weeks later, I mentioned to him that my suspension had stared squeaking. "You don't have suspension," he said. "I do," I replied. "No, you don't," he retorted. I didn't know what to say, so I took a photo of the suspension on my bicycle. His reply was clear, "You don't have a road bike."

Ah. Sometimes we're divided by a common language. What he calls a road bike, I call a racing bike. What I call a road bike, he called a cyclo-cross bike. When he realized what I had been riding, in typical dramatic fashion he said that he needed to go and lie down because he was so exhausted thinking about how much effort I must put in moving this bike along the road.

I've always ridden mountain bikes and cross-bikes. I have a bad left knee that hurts and suspension ensures that it doesn't. It can be so painful that I had to give up my lovely Nissan Almera because the clutch was too heavy on my left knee. Without suspension, I genuinely worry that I'll hurt that knee. So, Neil has offered to try to find me a suitable sized "road bike." I'm not sure, though - I'm used to a bulkier bike for balance. I worry that with a road bike I'll come off and hurt myself

Moreover, I can't help noticing that even on the same bike, my times are getting slower. Time doesn't really matter per se - if you cycle 100 miles then you cycle 100 miles. But, if the times are dropping then that's evidence that I'm getting fitter. But they're not - over the last two weeks they've been getting steadily longer for the same ride. So, it's not necessarily about the bike.

I started to get concerned. Maybe I'm really not going to finish this race. Have I bitten off more than I could chew? Then I remembered something very important from my last (shorter) bike ride - how much easier it was with company.

If you don't know Ben Larzelere, then you're missing out. Ben is a retired Lutheran minister who is loved by very many members of Temple Beth Shalom. He comes to services often, and has been called Rabbi Ben by people for many years, which was slightly confusing for me when I started because the community already had Rabbi Ben Morrow, who is an actual Rabbi. Early in my training, I got in touch with Ben and asked him if he wanted to spend an entire day in interfaith dialogue with me, discussing spirituality, comparative religion, etc. There were provisos, though. It had to be on September 18th in Acoma on bicycles for 100 miles. Having cycled all across the country, Ben agreed.

Last weekend, I cycled 20 miles by myself and came home in 1 hour and 46 minutes, and I was rather pleased with that. That was the longest I had done so far in this training. This morning, though, I asked Ben is he would like to join me for 25 miles. We met at 6am because I had a 9am adult banot mitzvah class. As we cycled away, it became clear that Ben is an accomplished cyclist and that we are extremely well matched in terms of speed - he could go faster but doesn't need to. And I couldn't help but notice how quickly we were going. We followed exactly the same course as last week and completed it exactly ten minutes quicker - in 1 hour and 36 minutes! We added five more miles, which took us an extra 24 minutes, meaning two hours in the saddle. And with an hour to go before the class, I asked if we could add another five. Including the stop for when Ben's chain came off, we came home in exactly 2 hours and 25 minutes. And, most importantly, I wasn't exhausted. If I didn't have a class, I could possibly have gone much further.

Now, I'm starting to believe that I really might finish this race. Thirty miles without real stop in 2h25m and without being exhausted is really good progress. And it goes to show that if you want to face a big challenge, it's better to do it with others. So, how do I stop being so tired? Firstly, go to bed earlier. I get that. But also I need to train more with other people. Lesson well learned.

Next week as well as the usual mid-week rides, I'll be aiming for 35 or 40 miles on Sunday, although I do have an X-Wing tournament later so I shouldn't push it too much. Priorities, after all!

So far, four people have pledged sponsorship, totally $1700 if I complete this challenge. Please consider pledging to help spur me on, by going to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/655G575 and making your pledge. Thank you.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

I Need Your Help

I cycled ten miles this morning and my left knee hurts. I am clearly much more unfit than I realised. So if I’m going to complete this century – the longest bike ride I have ever undertaken – I am going to need your help. If I know that each mile raises more money, then I’ll push myself a little bit further and I’ll be more likely to complete the ride.

Why am I doing this? I’m doing it because I truly believe in Temple Beth Shalom as a world-changing community. I know that some people criticise religion and say it isn’t relevant or necessary in today’s society, but such people obviously haven’t seen Temple Beth Shalom at work. This community helped found the Interfaith Shelter for the homeless who were being turned away from other shelters. These people were dying on the streets but once the Shelter was set up, the deaths from hypothermia at winter stopped. We continue to support the shelter and save lives – last month we worked with other communities and together raised $54,000 to keep the Shelter open over the summer.  Temple Beth Shalom is a community that ensures that anyone of any faith and from any family, even those with little finances, can get a 5-star accredited Preschool education, even if that costs us money. We fight in the local legislature for equal rights, we fight against discrimination and we fight for social justice. We are a key voice for positive social change in Santa Fe. We work with local schools and with local schoolchildren who are struggling at school. We support the bereaved, we befriend the lonely, we bring people together. That’s the most relevant work possible but if that work is to continue as it does now, we need your support.

I believe in this community. I believe in the work that we’re doing. I know that it is good work, that we help change lives…. that we literally save lives. You can help save lives by making a pledge.

This 100-mile bike ride is going to be my biggest physical challenge yet. I did a 70-mile bike ride four years ago but much has changed since then. I weigh much more – about 15lbs more. I’m cycling at altitude, which means the air is thinner and that doesn’t help my asthma. And talking of asthma and health – at the same time as training I’m having allergy injections three times a week which are exhausting me – yesterday I slept from 4pm to 10pm – and all of that fatigue affects my training. And the challenges aren’t just about me not being overweight, unable to get enough oxygen or being totally fatigued. It’s also hot. Really, really hot. The bike ride four years ago was on a typical grey English day and there was even rain to help cool me down. Not so here – we’re expecting it to be around 75°. I’m going to have to train not just for distance but also for heat exhaustion.  Moreover, it’s  further than I’ve ever cycled before.  And then look at this profile of the race – the race starts going downhill and then starts climbing for a long time before….see that around 25 miles? That’s a steep grade 4 climb. And then there’s a descent before a long, long climb for a very significant part of the race before an extended grade 3 climb, shortly followed by another grade 4 climb. And even when heading downhill afterwards, there are more climbs. That’s some serious cycling.

But don’t just take my word for it – here’s what a friend who has completed The Tour of Acoma says…

As someone who rides at altitude in Taos and had completed a 98 mile ride from Philadelphia to Brooklyn only 3 weeks earlier, I found the Tour De Acoma to be among the most challenging I've attempted.  The combination of heat, gradient of the climbs (plural) and the road surface make this a hard but beautiful and rewarding day's work.”

Appreciating the enormity of this challenge, then, and the importance of this work, please click on the link below and pledge generously. I need your help … the people whom Temple Beth Shalom supports need your help.

Thank you.