It’s this period, most of the cycling training manuals will tell you, that racing cyclists should be taking off. Do as little training as possible. Rest.
As favourite training resource encourages: “Have a beer, eat cake, don’t even think about cycling for a month.”
Though I’ll happily spend four weeks chomping on chocolate brownies, I’ve found staying off the bike more difficult.
Don’t tell anyone, but I have been out for the odd ride or two. I’ve suffered a strange guilt that if I do nothing in this down period, that I’ll lose my fitness. Won’t I wind back all the gains I’ve made during the summer? Won’t I end up heavier, slower, weaker?
These are classic mistakes, as any experienced fitness instructor will tell you. Rest really should mean rest. Even if you miss the rush of exercise, the benefits of resting now will be seen through next year as you get fitter and faster than last season.
As I have begun to climb back on my bike in earnest over the last couple of weeks, it felt at first as if my fears were being realised: on my first long ride out with the club, I suffered.
I went out with the early group on a Saturday and had my legs torn off for an hour even before we met with 9am group. By the end of the ride, I was knackered and crawling home desperate for food and rest.
“See!” I said to myself. “See what happens when you take time off.”
Of course, it didn’t last long. A few weeks in and I’m back up to fitness. I know come the spring, I’ll be stronger than ever. Perhaps (in my dreams) some of those cyclists (who weren’t taking any downtime) who punished me that day will be imploring me to go a little easier come March or April.
There’s an analogy here, as you knew there would be.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been enjoying relatively good health and just a few low-intensity seizures. Though I’ve still been having seizures regularly, I did manage a full six days without one during October. That, I think, is a 2013 record.
In this seizure down time I’ve dared to forget I have a brain tumour at all. I’ve enjoyed the relative peace. The forgetting. The living life as normal. No news is good news. The absence of posts on these pages is testament to just how normal life has been.
But now, perhaps – just like that first knackered club run when I got back on my bike – I’m paying the price for forgetting.
The last week has seen a rapid upsurge in seizures and a deterioration in my health. It started with a seizure every couple of days, then increased to one-a-day, and in recent days more than one.
I’ve felt headachy and irritable; an uncontrollable tiredness has returned this week. For the last three days, I’ve had to sleep in the afternoon.
We now know this pattern well. It is just the ebb and flow of my condition. A period of relatively good health, followed by similar period of not so good. Right now I’ve gone over the good health peak and am nearing the bottom of the other side.
Last night, as I retreated to bed at 7pm, I wondered whether the recent months of relatively good health had made me blasé about my condition,
Had I just been getting on with life as normal? Had I been keeping my promise to make the most out of every day?
Had I been spending enough time with my wife and children, valuing them enough? Gorging on every moment with them while I still can? Had I been too busy with work and writing and the school run and that broken gutter and renewing the house insurance and… when I should have been, well, living each day as if it was my last?
I know there are peaks and troughs in my health. But I also know that one day – probably without seeing it coming – I’ll hit a trough that is far deeper than usual. It’ll be one I’ll find it harder to climb out of.
Will I then look back on the preceding months of good health and regret not making more of them than I could have?
I can’t live my life in technicolour every minute of every day, just in case tomorrow isn’t so bright. The compost bin still needs to be emptied. Just try doing that with a smile on your face.
But my poorer health this past week has also reminded me that the quiet comfortable (complacent?) forgetting of my condition isn’t where I want to be either, however blissful it might feel at the time.
Where’s the line between making the most of every second of your life, but then getting on as normal as possible, allowing yourself to forget about the bad stuff?
There’s a balance somewhere, but even now – a year and a half from diagnosis – I haven’t quite found how to strike it.