Two weeks focused on one thing …. the road ahead. Its sounds slightly mundane staring at a road but your mind has to stay sharp the whole time; pot holes, debris blowing in the wind and huge lorries skimming the hard shoulder. Over the 12 days we spent riding we were on main roads, dirt tracks, climbing mountain passes and ducking in and out of dark tunnels always with one main goal – keep going, don’t stop for too long and get to Istanbul.
Having never done an ultra distance event before, Ben and I didn’t know what to expect, what were we getting ourselves into? How do you train for something like this, how would the race go and what are the after effects ?
We are now currently in the post race stage on this epic event and again it’s another completely new experience and nothing like how we had anticipated feeling.
Arriving at the finish like in Istanbul was a huge relief – stopping, sitting and for the first time in almost two weeks not rushing. Beer – we had been so excited about having some beers, but two each and then it was like we were hit by a massive wave of exhaustion. Struggling to keep our eyes open we caught a cab to our hotel and headed straight to bed. This was at midnight, we set no alarms and expected to be out for about 15 hours. 6am came round and we were wide awake and starving. We headed up to breakfast which thankfully for us was a buffet, 6 plates later and back to bed for another couple of hours sleep then same again, round two at the buffet and 6 more plates.
During Transcon we had slipped into a weird time zone, living without day, night or routine. We cycled until we couldn’t do anymore would stop where ever, when ever then sleep normally for about 2 hours. We would eat continuously with disregard for meal times. Washing and anything else became a luxury instead of normally. So how do you go from this alien adrenaline style of living back to ordinary life. Its more difficult than it sounds its not like jet lag where you might have to set an extra alarm and have a couple of meals at odd times, your whole body is in a state of confusion both mentally and physically. Over the 12 days our bodies felt strong, we felt mentally sharp but we were being fuelled and stimulated but adrenaline, as soon as we relaxed and there adrenaline levels reduced weakness set in.
Numb, weak hands, seized up muscles, tiredness but maybe the strangest of all our brains felt exhausted to the extent that even the thought of having to make a decision was enough to make you want to have a nap.
We spent a week in Istanbul trying to relax, rest and recover as much as possible. Trying to cope with all the symptoms as best as possible and coax ourselves back to our former selves. Its now been a week of post Transcon rehab and we are back home in the UK. Still not quite there mentally, but feeling more human.
Today I went for a sports massage at a rehabilitaion clinic, after starting to get pain in my neck and headaches. Just for the reassurance it was worth it. The physio worked on my neck trying to release some of the built up stress and tension highlighting that it was actually my sternocleido – mastoid muscles in my neck giving me problems. She also explained to me why I was having so much difficult using my hands its not just the peripheral nervous system which is fatigued and effected its also the central system – your brain. Big tasks for example picking up a football are fine and manageable its all the smaller more intricate task which cause difficulty. Arm, hand and finger movement need to be fast, strong and precise and for these you brain is the control center. Picking up a pen, writing, doing up a zip, unlocking a door all of these things seem near to impossible with a fatigued central nervous system. With rest and nutrition the nervous system should repair its self and bring the body back from being in an over trained state.
So at the moment its going to a bit more rest before slowly introducing exercise back into our routines. Its been recommended to start with some swimming or jogging to avoid putting your body straight back into the cycling position. But if you cant stay off the bike to try and ride a different one from the one used for transcon again to put you in a slightly different position.