It's been a couple of months of stress, ups and downs (in lots of cases literally), disappointment and achievement, but above all reinforced something which I've believed in the whole time...
People with epilepsy are more than capable of being cyclists too.
A friend of mine who has epilepsy too, was actively told by her doctor very recently, that she shouldn't be cycling at all. Fact is she cycled more than 300 miles for charity and was fine, with proud parents waiting at the end of her ride to congratulate her.
Even myself, I feel liked people have wrapped me in cotton wool in their heads, not quite approving of the riding I was doing and amusingly, being rather surprised when the biggest obstacle I had to overcome wasn't my epilepsy, but a torn back muscle (and a high speed crash) to finish a ride for the incredible Epilepsy Action... more about that later.
But the fact is, that over the last 2 months, I've clocked more than 1750 miles, over half of the Race Across America in training and 2 races alone and been totally epilepsy free.
The first, was heartbreaking, not to mention almost backbreaking. On the 20th and 21st of July, I spent a large amount of time riding with shooting pains down the right hand side of my back and down my leg, half a day to be precise, as part of the British 24HR TT championships. I'm a rookie and to be honest, it was such an incredible learning experience that I'd never take back my experience doing it, even if it did tear my Iliocostalis and cause me constant pain. But it was important for another reason too... I was doing it in aid of Epilepsy Action. I was gutted not to complete the ride, but it turned out to be a lucky move to DNF, as if I hadn't I'd likely have done such bad damage to my back, I'd have needed surgery.
The second I was seriously worried about, two weeks after the 24HR ride, wearing my Epilepsy Action colours front and centre, there was no way I was going to let myself not finish a ride wearing the charity's logo, colours and name. But it was a touch and go ride, I had fairly intensive sports massage to get me into a state where I could ride the Prudential Ride London 100 miles. I had targeted 7 hours with the injury, but after crashing about 70 miles into the race, ploughing into the barriers of a corner on a down slope cut back after being cut up, I just wanted to finish.
For the last 30 miles or so, my left foot pad was numb, right quad bruised on the inside and left tricep and deltoid shot from landing shock to the muscles most likely. I limped home, but more importantly I finished. Being a beneficiary of the organisation from the Epilepsy Action Events and Fundraising team a distinct advantage, as I knew I was coming home to a massage, or rub down at least and for most if not all of the last 25-30 miles, that carrot helped me home.
I'm not quire sure how, but the hills I was so worried about I didn't even get off my bike for, the stretches at the start I was able to pace perfectly so I had the energy in my legs as the race dragged on, and in the end I finished comfortably inside my revised target of 7 hours, in 6 hours, 46 minutes.
My mission now to hit my target of raising £1000.00 for Epilepsy Action, through: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/KatharineFord
I guess some could argue that I did myself damage because of the rides, I did, I can't deny that... I needed intensive sports massage and physio for goodness sake! But did it affect my epilepsy adversely?
The short answer to that question is no. The slightly longer answer is actually it did the polar opposite, I've never had better general health in my life.
Every now and again I need to have a check-up with my GP to make sure everything is fine with my Anti-Epileptic medications. I have some regular things taken like blood pressure and pulse rate etc. It turns out after the training, riding and racing, my pulse rate was 56bpm. Not bad for someone with the stress of deadlines for moving house, packing and daily work to focus on.
Not only do I think this epileptic is capable of being a cyclist, I think it's made me a lot healthier and probably kept my seizure threshold raised, during the stress that's happened over the last months or so...
...even if cycling can be a pain in the neck, or rather back, (possibly both) sometimes!