Today I came full circle. Or more specifically, completed four laps.
Christmas evening 2011, before any of this: no diagnosis, no seizures, no brain tumour. After a full on festive lunch, I tentatively said to my wife – but really I was trying it on for size myself– that maybe I would try to race my bike again this coming year.
I’d ridden a few open road races six years ago when I lived in Belfast; very local things, just my club and a few others really. If I could hang on for the last lap, that was a good day.
But then, as they do, kids came along and away went my cycling time. I hung up my racing bike before I’d really had time to put it into the right gear.
But with the kids a bit older, 2012 was stretching ahead of me. Could I try racing again?
I was feeling good on the bike. OK, I’d had some dizzy spells, but that was because I had overdone it a few times. Maybe I’d enter a few races and see how it went.
I’d earmarked three road races for 2012. A couple in the late spring and one in October. Those were my targets, chosen because they were short, local and there would be riders I knew, who’s wheels I could follow. They would be tasters, just to see if I could still do it.
It turns out I couldn’t.
The first I missed after a bike crash had sent me sprawling across the road and into A&E to have my elbow sewn back together.
The second? Well, that was after those dizzy spells had sent me to the doctors. Then to an MRI scanner. Then, well, you know the rest.
The third was the Maldon Road Race, one year ago today. By that time I was having seizures so frequently I’d already written off riding with a club again. That I’d enter a race was out of the question.
This year has been different. Its had its ups and downs, sure. I’m still living on a boat load of medication. I still have seizures both on and off the bike. But at the same time, my confidence has come back. I’ve slowly become fitter and stronger.
The day after I returned from climbing Mount Ventoux in late August – three times without a seizure – I made a decision. I would enter this year’s Maldon Road Race and try to complete some unfinished business.
I’ve been far from seizure-free over the last month. Simply being sufficiently fit to show up was enough, I’d decided. If I did have a seizure, then I’d pull over safely and let the race go off and into the distance.
And if I didn’t? Well, to still be with the race after three laps would leave me delighted.
There were 60 cyclists in my race. For most, I imagine, it was just another fast Sunday on the bike. But when the race sprinted for the line after its final lap this morning, I was still with the main group. For the rider with number 54 on his back, something special had taken place.
There have been some incredibly generous people on two wheels for me during 2013. In long distance cycling, challenge rides, time-trailing and road cycling. They’re the ones who’ve supported me and encouraged me, looked out for me in the pack and hung back when a seizure has come on. They know who they are, though they probably don’t know how grateful I am. So thank you.
It’s been an amazing year. I’ve surprised myself at every turn.
The Tuesday night chain-gang where I’ve easily held my own. Wednesday night time-trialling, back to my pre-children times. Riding 200 miles over two days at over 20mph average as my friends cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats to support brain tumour research. Hammering up legendary climbs in the The Peaks. That Ventoux trip. Long distance sportives at impressive speeds. And today, still in the bunch as we headed for the final sprint.
I’m complete. That’s it me for now. Time to hang up my wheels and put away my cycling shoes.
For a week at least.