Type 1 Cycling

Type 1 Cycling

Thursday, October 31, 2013

mHealth Grand Tour day 12 - Ax Les Thermes to Berga

I just wanted to write rule #5 repeatedly for this post. It was the longest, highest and furthest I have ever ridden on my bicycle. Not only that I rode most of it by myself.

The day started with breakfast, the physio strapping up my back (Still a bit sore from when someone went into the back of me in July), and a reasonable amount of faffing. I hold my hands up I was rubbish at getting out on time in the morning. But I knew it was going to be a tough day ahead and wanted to make sure I had what I needed.
Back taped up and ready to go
Final preparation before getting out in the morning
Tyres pumped, bottles filled and food stuffed into pockets. Clothing layered and zipped up. Off we went significantly later than planned. Today it was just me and Andy leaving together. Others were skipping the first mountain or at least getting a lift some of the way up. The 11 previous days of riding were really starting to take its toll. It was a cool morning and there was a dampness in the air.  It wasn't exactly raining but it was far from dry.  We started out down the hill from the hotel and then round the bend and off we went up the climb.  It was clearly marked on the side of the road, and we had a long way to go.  We set a nice energy conserving pace and settled into the climb.   A little way up one of the vans came past and stopped up ahead.  Simon and Veronica got out and decided to join us.  The four of us rode together stopping once for a clothing adjustment and a blood sugar test.  The climb is a long one, almost 19 Km and 1250 m of altitude, fortunately the gradient is reasonably constant.  There are flatter sections and steeper sections but at an average of 6.8% it wasn't going to be leg breaker, just really slow going.  There were markers along the way telling you what the average gradient of the next few kilometers was going to be.  This was fine when it said 5 or 6% but when it went up to 9% that's when I knew it was going to start getting hard.
Katie starting the climb of the Col du Pailheres
After about an hour Andy started getting tired.  We stopped so he could walk it off and release some of the lactic acid build up.  Simon and Veronica headed on without us.  I was getting antsy and wanting to push on, but it was useless if Andy couldn't keep up.  We pushed on trying to keep an even pace without tiring ourselves out too much.  Hugh, one of the GSMA riders, came past us and Andy had to shout at me to not go chasing after him.  Its very easy to unintentionally increase ones pace when you are overtaken by someone. A little later I stop to take a quick picture, this was totally pointless, as I found out later Howard had taken a much better shot from the exact same place.  The mountain top was covered in cloud and looked very far away.  Andy encouraged me onward and once again we were on a steeper section a few switch backs before it flattened out temporarily.  Approaching an hour and 20 minutes into the climb and it was starting to ramp up, the signs at the side of the road telling us discouraging things like 8% or even 9%, there was still a long way to go.  I look behind and Andy was further back than he should have been.  Starting to struggle a little with the gradient.  We stop and rest again, and then again a few minutes later.  I was getting cold standing around and slightly worried that at this pace we weren't going to finish the day.  At this point Richie one of the guides, responsible for making sure the riders at the back were OK, had caught up to us.  He looked after Andy for the rest of the climb and I went on ahead by myself.  It turned out that Andy had been unable to get into bottom gear, something Richie was able to fix and helped him manage to make it to the top of the climb.
Some of the views on the way up with the peaks surrounded by clouds

On of the many hairpins on the climb
Andy following me up the climb
I didn't mind climbing by myself, this is something I am well used to.  I was surprised at how good I was feeling considering I had a long day the previous day, it was a lot of consecutive kilometers.  I was a bit nervous that I didn't have enough gels on me.  I am always taking too much food on my rides, but for me its just too much of a risk to be stuck with out sugar.  I saw a van stopped ahead.  It was the support vehicle for the Etisalat team.  I stopped briefly to ask them if they had any spare energy bars or gels.  They happily handed me a few and I carried on.  The next section was a number of switchbacks.  Steep switchbacks.  It was well above 9%.  I was remembering what I had learned from the GCN videos, about cornering going uphill and focusing on just getting to the next bend.  I could feel myself rising quickly looking down below as the one or two riders behind me were following me up.  I was happy to see Andy and Richie making good progress.  Six bends later and I was on a straight.  It was exposed and getting cold.  I could see some others ahead pushing their way up the mountain.  Visibility was getting harder and harder.  I switched on my lights for a little extra safety.  The road bent round to the right ahead of me and the gradient showed no signs of slacking off.  I just hoped that after that bend ahead I was almost there.
It was THAT steep 
Looking back down the climb
The weather at the top - awful, the riders who made it - happy
Andy celebrating his first HC climb
A quick look down at my Garmin told me I couldn't be far away from the summit.  I tried to remember the relevant points from the previous night's briefing 20 Km stuck in my head and slowly but surely I was getting there.  I rounded that last bend and it was bleak.  The higher I climbed the more exposed it got, wind, rain, low visibility and just so cold.  Fortunately I was still working hard to get myself to the top and seeing others ahead gave me encouragement.  I saw Nikki over at the side of the road trying to get an extra layer on to protect her from the cold.  I pushed on determined to make my first ever Hors Categorie ascent.  The road narrowed down to a single lane and I started to make out cars and people ahead.  I was there.  I saw people stopping to chat to the support staff in the cars, I saw others putting their bikes on the cars unwilling to continue, and others taking pictures at the top of the climb to show their achievement.  Me, I was freezing I just wanted to get off this mountain.  As badly as I wanted a picture at the top, I wanted to finish the day more, I rolled over the summit and started my careful descent.
The start of the descent, with the names of the TdF riders

That cold plus windchill, brr.
The road was wet, the rain was coming side ways and it was icy cold.  I looked down at my Garmin, 2 degrees.  I just thought to myself, lets get out of here and I did.  The beginning of the descent was a little hairy, steep and sharp bends on narrow roads.  Not a lot of room for error and I was really cold too.  I had to fight the urge to speed up and get off this mountain and just keep the bike steady.  Crashing here would be really disappointing.  As I descended I could see the paint still visible from this years Tour de France, the riders had come up the opposite way from us.  I was glad we did it the way we did, it looked much harder from this direction.  After about 3 Km I couldn't feel my fingers, I stopped on a wide bend and shoved my hands in my armpits to try to get some feeling back.  It work at least for the moment.  Even with all my layers on I was not able to keep from getting really cold.  I am glad to say that it was not the coldest I have ever felt on a bike.  I continued knowing that the faster I descended the warmer it would get, the caveat to this was that the fast I descended the colder the moving air made me feel.  I was pretty sure that there was a stop at the bottom of the descent so I would have the opportunity to sort myself out then.  It did warm up and the sun teased me with a brief appearance before scurrying off back behind a cloud.  As the road straightened out I began to speed up and relax, still cold but buoyed by my progress.  I could here a car behind me but I was just going to stay safe and let them worry about getting past me.  As it turned out it was a Tour car and Simon and Veronica had opted for the easy way down.  As I arrived at the first stop I was greeted warmly with a blanket and the opportunity to sit in the van with the heating on.  Simon lent me some gloves and an additional undershirt.

The cold descent
Everyone was cold
After about half and hour I was back on the road again.  I was far behind and and out on my own.  Most of the TeamBG guys including Andy had got a ride further along the road to some flatter terrain.  I was back climbing again.  This time not nearly as hard as the previous one.  I was dressed appropriately as well though as it started to warm up I had to start stripping down some layers.  As I made my way up the second if two climbs the clouds disappeared and the the air warmed up. I stopped to strip off a layer and shove it in my pocket with the now superfluous gloves. I also tested my blood sugar as I didn't believe what my Dexcom was telling me. It was correct of course, I had to learn to trust it more. I kept climbing a little longer and the road flattened out to this incredible national park. A plateau high up in the Pyrenees, wide open green space, and lakes surrounded by the higher mountains.  The broken up forests indicated the the ski resorts.  The sun shinning in the beautiful blue sky made this one of the most memorable moments that I had on tour.  It was incredible.  I snapped a few pictures from my phone while moving.  But I knew I was far behind.  I kept my pace not pushing too hard, the gradient allowing me a little more speed than I had been going up until this point.  I allowed myself to enjoy the views while hoping Howard was taking some great shots that I could use for the blog later on.  The only other rider I saw on this stretch was Josefin, a TeamBG member from Sweden.  I passed her, worried about how late I was I just carried on hoping to get to lunch before it was too late.  I made it to the border town of Bourg-Madame carefully following the tour direction signs.  As I rode through the small town I somehow totally missed the sign indicating that I was crossing the border.
Riding through the National Park

The ski slops scar the mountainside

It was just stunning.

Some mountains behind us, other still to come.
As I exited the town I came to a big double roundabout.  I couldn't see a single yellow sign.  I rode round the roundabouts looking for some indication of where to go next.  There were certainly signs indicating that I was now in Spain but nothing telling me where to go.  I rode back through Bourg-Madam until I found the previous sign that I had seen.  I made sure I headed off in the right direction.  I went back through the town the same way looking for a sign that I might have missed.  Nothing, and I still apparently missed the border sign.  I arrived back at the roundabout and called Adam, fortunately I had his number in my phone.  I told him about the missing signs and he directed me from there, reassuring me that I was near lunch.  Back on track I made it to lunch.  They had picked out another glorious spot and the good weather made it the perfect place to stop and take a rest.
Stopping to take a shot of the skies clearly before me
Enjoying the warmer weather

Nikki, Katie and Andy spotting the border 
When I arrived most of the riders were still there, though some preparing to leave and others eating or getting physio treatment.  I lay on the grass and rested for a bit.  I caught up with the other riders then started to organize some lunch.  While having lunch James the physio re-taped up my back.
Simon relaxing at lunchtime

Great spot for lunch, so peaceful
"Would you like me to rip this tape off quickly or slowly"

"Quickly of course, don't mess about." (see rule #5)

I took my time, not really faffing just trying to recover enough to finish the day.  I took some insulin, and at the time I was really unsure whether it was too much or too little.  I ate, and by the time I was done and on to my coffee most people had left.  I was told to get a move on.  I went to my day bag and changed into just a long sleeve jersey but making sure that I had my jacket in my back pocket.  Experience telling me how ever nice it was now, it was going to be cold coming down from the next huge climb.  The guides who were responsible for marking the back of the tour were insisting that I left.  I was literally the last one.  Josefin had already left.
Heading up the final big climb of the day

It was only 2% because of the 3Km downhill, the uphill bits were much harder. 
Pockets stuffed, water bottles filled and I was on my way again.  The road rose up a bit straight after lunch and then flattened off for about 4 Km.  The weather still warm  had my jersey unzipped and enjoyed the easy ride before the upcoming climb.  I checked my Dexcom and I was rising up towards 200 mg/dl, a bit higher than I had wanted, maybe I didn't take enough insulin for lunch.  I turned a big corner and the road started to head up, gradually increasing pace.  I saw Josefin ahead of me and made sure she was OK before continuing on.  I passed through a mostly deserted ski resort town.  I then got a warning from my Dexcom, two downward arrows and FALLING in big letters across the screen.  I was no where near low, but definitely coming down.  I checked again, even lower, OK time for a gel, and some energy drink.  Suddenly I am really not feeling good.  I stop my bike and check my blood glucose, 60 mg/dl, well that confirms that - way too much insulin at lunch, I hadn't even be going an hour.  I had another gel and waited a few minutes, I checked my blood sugar again.  Once I saw it was on the rise I had an energy bar.  This time it was Josefin who passed me and checked that I was OK.
The clouds coming in, make for an excellent picture

Take a pic at what I thought was the top of the climb
Feeling better I continued on up the climb, passing Josefin once more.  Shortly afterwards I looked behind and  saw Richie and one other guide approaching us.  Richie caught up to me and guided me through the rest of the climb.  The air getting slightly cooler as the climb got harder.  Richie was amazing, he helped me set a good pace, encouraging me on and telling me when to get out of the saddle for the steep bits.  He described what was coming up so that I could gauge my effort.  There were some brutally steep 10% ramps that he helped me through before he turned back to help Josefin. He left me after the steep sections giving me instructions for the rest of the climb.  The gradient returned to 5%-6% and I pushed on past the ski stations finally arriving at a large car park at the top of a hill.  I looked around, thinking OK I made it, now its downhill to Berga.  I snapped some pictures of the stunning views and put on my jacket, the weather was starting to turn.  The wind was picking up and it had a bite, and the clouds were starting to fill the sky.
Team Novo Nordisk making the top of the climb before the weather deteriorated

Others not so lucky

Andy at the top of the climb, note that he is not suitably dressed
I started my descent. Shortly into the descent I see that the road in the distance went up hill sharply.  I thought to myself that that can't be where I am going, I must be turning a corner and going down between the two peaks.  No! A few minutes later I had reached the start of the next climb.  I saw ahead of me a car with people by the side of the road.  Were they part of the tour? would I have people to ride with for the rest of the day?  This next climb averaged around 7% and although it was only about 3 Km long at this point in my day it was really hard work.  The weather was getting cooler and the wind was picking up too, it was quite exposed.  I reached the car and realized that they had nothing to do with the tour, disappoined I continued on up the climb.  Fifteen minutes later and praying that what looked like the top of the climb was indeed the top I saw the sign by the side of the road indicating that I had made it.  I looked over and saw one of the vans from Team Orange, but nobody in sight.  I thought that was weird.  I found out later that the driver of the van had wanted to do the descent and then crashed.  The van had been abandoned until much later that night when someone had to go and collect it.
The most amazing descent 
This time I knew I was on the real descent, we had been promised by Adam that it was the best descent of the tour.  And I was not disappointed.  Very few hairpins or sharp bends allowed me to keep a decent speed the whole way down.  I definitely had the right clothing on as it wasn't too warm especially in the earlier parts of the run down.  I was tired at this point so I wasn't pushing it, rarely peddling and just letting gravity do the work.  It was 20 Km of pure enjoyment.  Soon I was at the next refreshment station.  Greeted, as ever, very warmly by the awesome girls who looked after me so nicely.  I check my blood sugar, and refilled my bottles.  I made sure that I had enough food.  They told me not to hang around too long as I was running out of time and I still had 40 Km to go.  I asked what had happened to Andy.  He had left lunch with no warm clothes and had arrived at the stop freezing.  At this point he called it a day and got a ride with the Doctor's car back to the hotel.
Fantastic views the whole way down
Off I went in the late afternoon light.  The weather was fine but I was starting to get concerned about how much daylight I had left.  What was worse the next section was uphill and after 140 Km with some big hills these small hills felt hard.  There were some steep ramps that made it hard to get in a good rhythm and it was pretty slow going.  Thankfully they really weren't too long and I was through them and back going down hill, and most importantly enjoying myself.  Soon the light was fading and first I removed my sunglasses and then turned on my lights.  It was definitely later than I had wanted to be out.  I heard cars come up behind me and  I moved over and waved them through.  One pulled along side me and the window wound down.

"Are you ok?" it was the girls from the rest stop.

"Yes fine thanks"

"Do you want to carry on"


"Ok we'll drive behind you and light the way.
Chris and Katie roll across a bridge shortly before Berga, I came across here in the dark
Now with someone watching me I had the impetus to go a little faster.  I knew I wasn't too far from the hotel and it was largely flat with only a few small kickups before the finish. My own personal support team followed me all the way home.  I was glad to have them behind me, I did not feel nearly as safe in the dark.  A few kilometers from the end was a short 2 Km climb, it was only graded as a category 4 but at the end of the day I didn't have much uphill speed left.  The van pulled alongside me and asked if I am OK as I had dropped my speed from 30+kmph to around 10kmph.

"Yes this is just the speed I go up hills"

Finally I reached the top and was an easy run down through Berga to the hotel.  Yoann was sat on the steps of the hotel and welcomes me, and I get congratulated by my own personal support crew.  I thank them and run inside.  Andy was there and helped me get my bike organised.  I showered and came back down for dinner.  Not the best food ever but good to be done with the day.  I got some late night physio and then off to bed.  Sadly the next day was the last but it was going to be a great one.

Strava ride info here

Full gallery here mostly provided by HowardSayer.com

My Dexcom output for the day

What I noticed with my blood sugar was that it didn't matter what I ate when going up hill it was when I was going down hill that my glucose started to rise. This is because I am working hard, so burning off anything that is being absorbed, additionally less sugar is being absorbed into the blood because digestion is slower when my muscles need blood and oxygen.  Of course when I am cruising downhill for an hour my liver and muscles continues to break down the glycogen stores and my bowels digest and food, raising my blood sugar.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

mHealth Grand Tour Day 11 - Castres to Ax Les Thermes

It was a big shlep to get there.  Castres is not the most convenient place to get to.  I had to fly from Tel Aviv very early in the morning to Madrid.  I waited for about 6 hours in Madrid for a flight to Toulouse, once in Toulouse I waited for a pickup and it was still more than an hour before I got to the hotel.  I was tired, hungry and I had a lot to do, not the perfect start to my tour.
Breaking the bike down and packing it

All packed at the airport waiting for check in

I dumped my bags in my room, my bike box in the bike room and met up with my brother who had arrived from London hours earlier.  I was directed to the dining room as the hotel staff were waiting for me to eat before they could clean up.  While having dinner I met Adam Denton (Mr mHealth Grand Tour).  He went through, the rules and instructions and the brief for the following days stage.  I met Paul Buchanan our fearless leader and founder of Team Blood Glucose, who helped make it possible for us to be on the tour.  After building my bike Paul came to our room and gave us our goody bags.  We had a fully branded kit for Team Blood Glucose with our sponsor Accu-Check emblazoned on the sleeves.  We also got a kit from Daily Dose and a Frio wallet to help us look after our insulin on hot days.  We got our mHealth tour shirts too and most importantly our Dexcoms.
The Dexcom G4 receiver on the first morning (a little high)

The Dexcom G4 sensor and transmitter

The Dexcom G4 is something I have had my eye on for a while.  Sadly it is not covered by most health care providers and as the recommendation is to change the sensors once a week it can get very expensive.  Paul had arranged for every Diabetic participating in the tour to receive a Dexcom G4 starter kit so that they could do the tour safely.  When you are on your bike for 10 hours a day having something like this is more than just helpful its a life saver.  He gave us a lesson in how to attach them and how to look after them.  Annoyingly when you first use them you have to wait two hours and then give it a blood glucose reading.  It was already late and that meant we were going to bed and going to get woken up at 2am by our new toys.  Pretty bad since we were waking up at 630 to ride 175Km the following day.
TeamBG and Adam (r-l Rob, Andy, Adam, Paul, Veronica, Simon)

I was actually woken up again in the middle of the night with a huge pain in my calve muscle.  No idea what it was, but thankfully the physios were on hand to sort it out in the morning.  No idea what it was and it didn't give me any more trouble after that, but not the best way to start the tour.
Andy and Joel on the climb

The following morning we met everyone from TeamBG at breakfast and got ready for the day.  Everything was labeled: bike, helmet, bags, bike box, and day bag.  Water bottles filled, tyres pump, everything adjusted, people weighed.  Bags dumped in the right pile and out the door.  Each day we packed up and our main bags were put in a pile to go to the next hotel, then we had day bags that followed us around all day.  At each stop there all the bags were there. If we needed anything they were there, when we were done at the stop they were dumped in the out bag, and taken to the next stop.
Andy leading the group with Nikki, I am 3 back on the left

The time had come, a quick TeamBG group photo and off we went to start the day.  We started riding as a decent sized group.  The TeamBG guys: Myself, Andy, Paul, Simon, and Veronica were joined by some of the Etisalat guys, Nikki from Novo Nordisk (the company) and Joel the mechanic and guide.  It was a good size group and we started off in slightly chilly weather at a slow pace.  There was a slight kick up out of Castres to warm the legs before about 10Km on the flat.  I was happy conserving energy at the back of the pack ahead of the first big climb.  This climb was about 13Km long but not very steep, only rated at a Cat 2.  As the climb went up I stayed back with Paul who was suffering with a fractured wrist from a fall earlier in the tour.  We climbed slowly and I was happy to see that my training was really paying off, as I climbed without putting in too much of an effort.
Paul and I taking our time.

Eventually we caught Andy and stopped for a clothing adjustment.  Andy went ahead and eventually caught up with some of the others on the descent.  Paul and I continued slowly stopping along the way for a some pictures and a dropped chain.  Finally we were on the downhill and starting to have some real fun.  Paul, previously a motorbike racer, is an excellent descender taking the corners beautifully at speed, I was having to work hard to keep up, though I had an advantage on the straighter and flatter roads.  We rode down to Carcasonne together in time to catch Howard, the photographer, posing some shots with Andy, Veronica and Simon in front of the castle.

Group shot at the castle at Carcassone
The first rest stop

This was the location of the first rest stop.  The support staff were awesome the whole time.  They made sure we were OK, the physios were there too.  We filled our bottles stuffed our pockets with energy bars and gels, and ate from the snack table.  After this short break the five of us from TeamBG headed out for the next segment.  The weather was warming up and the road was predominantly flat.  We were riding through some beautiful countryside, from straight tree lined roads to over grown railway tracks and vineyards galore.  After 40Km the road started to kick up with two short climbs one right after the other.  By the top of the first Veronica, Simon and I had left the others way behind.  We stopped at the top to discuss what to do, I was told that usually Paul catches up on the descents so we should just continue.  At this point Team Novo Nordisk came flying past, which meant we were running really late.  I raced off down the hill after them.  I wasn't prepared to push myself too hard and wished I had been more prepared when they caught us as I would have loved to have ridden with them for a little bit.  Sadly by the time I hit the next climb they were gone and I was all alone.
Riding through wine country

The photographers always set up the best shots

straight tree lines roads

Finally able to ride at my own pace, in perfect weather and fantastic location.  Not only that after 120Km, the longest I had every ridden in one day, I was feeling great. Largely because of my training and also because I had made sure to measure my effort.  I regularly reached into my back pocket to check my Dexcom readings, taking care to eat and drink when needed too.  The second of the short climbs peaked and I descended down to an intermediate plateau.  At this point I caught some riders, Stefan and John, who were also part of TeamBG.  I rode with them for a bit John was struggling and Stefan said I should go on ahead while he waited for John.  Shortly afterwards I began the big climb to lunch.  Again out on my own with no one in sight in front or behind, I got into a rhythm and spun my pedals up the hill.  It was about 9Km of climbing and a pretty smooth gradient.  This is what I had been training for and now I was finally doing it.  I couldn't have been happier.
Team Novo Nordisk catching us

...and their gone

The weather was sunny but not punishingly hot and the views were fantastic.  Much of the climb was tree lined keeping me in the shade.  I looked down at my Garmin, heart rate a little higher than I would have liked into the 150s, but as I was nearing the end of a long day and had a short rest ahead while I had lunch I felt happy to push a little.  I was seeing the results in my pace, climbing at around 16-18kmph up a pretty consistent 4% gradient.  Finally after about 25 mins of climbing I could hear the noise of people talking and plates and cutlery clattering through the trees and turning a corner I saw everyone having their lunch in a clearing by the side of the road.  A short while later the others made it up the hill in ones and twos.  I was pleased to see Andy was in good spirits when he arrived at lunch.
Claud the Bulter menu

Filling my plate with carbs

Their awesome van

This was my first experience of Claud the Butler, a food truck dedicated to providing good food a cycling events.  The guys from Claud the Bulter had been following the tour around every day in their retro Citreon van, providing good food and great coffee, an essential part of any cyclist's diet.  This was a great time to sit down chat to the other riders and, for some, to get some much needed relief from the physios.  I took a small amount of insulin and a large amount of food, there was still 45Km to go and plenty of climbing.  Here I met up with Andrew Green my cousin Mark's brother in law who works for Orange.  It was nice to catch up with him.
Andrew Green gets some physio

So does Andy

Due to a reasonable amount of faffing I had sent Andy, Paul and Nikki ahead while I was still refilling water bottles and stuffing my pockets with energy gels.  I continued on up the hill stopping to take a picture as Howard came past in the van trying to snap some action shots of me.  They waited while I got going again and took some great shots. Re-energized by lunch I was setting a good pace and soon I caught up with the others on the false flat at the top of the climb. They were tired and I decided to push on ahead.  This is where things started to get hard, having ridden 145Km so far and on a shallow climb and riding into a head wind.  No one around me to take a share of the work,  though I did ride with Andrew Green for a bit he was struggling with a sore knee and couldn't hold the pace.  The climb started to head upwards and my Garmin no longer showing the distance in 100m increments was moving up very slowly kilometer at a time.  Every time I looked down it was disheartening to see I was still on the same kilometer despite feeling like I was moving relatively fast, for an uphill at least.
Stopping to snap a picture

The picture I took

up and going again, couldn't resist getting out of my seat

At this point especially as I was alone I was in a battle with my mind.  There was no way to stop I had to push on, I had to keep a good pace, I was tired, I was moving slowly, it was very frustrating.  On top of this I was feeling a little sick from the energy drinks and gels.  I told my mind to shut up, I told my legs to shut up, I told myself remember rule #5, and I carried on.  I caught some others near the top and we rode the flat and slight down hill together to the next feed station.  We arrived at the final stop of the day I waited around to find out what was going on with the people behind me.  Paul and Nikki had been suffering so had jumped in the a car leaving Andy by himself, they assured me that he was fine and with other people (which he wasn't).  The clouds had made it seem like the light was fading, but it wasn't that close to night time.
Nikki, Paul, Andy and Simon ahead of me

The last col of the day

Andrew Green around the time I caught up with him

Just one more 5Km climb to the top of the col du Chioula then a nice 10Km run down into the town of Ax les Thermes where we were stopping for the night.  Checked my blood sugar, all fine, and I jumped back on my bike and headed on.  I was still riding essentially alone but there were others near by which made me feel less alone.  After 20 more minutes I was at the top.  We were greeted by tour support staff who were telling us to take it easy on the run down.  There was gravel and some people had already crashed.  Not what I wanted to hear, I was looking forward to this bit, 10Km of downhill at the end of a tiring day is very dangerous.  I zipped up my jersey and started the descent.  It was great but I was nervous and that's not a great combination.  I did hit the gravel at a reasonable speed, but not as fast as I could have been going.  I nearly lost it but I managed to keep the bike steady and not put myself out of the tour on the first day.  After that I could relax and enjoy a wonderful descent.  Finally heading down into the town I was almost there, just a small kick up, a little punchy leg breaker, to get to the hotel.  I was greeted by Simon and Veronica who had called it a day a little earlier and got a lift.  I had made it, my longest ever ride, my hardest every ride, and I was doing it all again the following day but longer and even harder!
The final descent

Really incredible scenery

While I waited for Andy to arrive I got us checked into our room and I located our bags.  I grabbed one of the torq recovery drinks and had a small amount of insulin with it.  Andy arrived, looking massively pleased with himself.  It was an epic day and we had made it through very well.  We went to the room, showered changed and then got bused back into town as we were having dinner at the casino.  More pasta!  Adam gave us a briefing, underselling everything.

"Its a punchy and the weather is OK"

Neither of these things were true.  It was steep and hilly and very hard and the weather was pretty bad, especially at the top.  But that's all for another post.

To be honest I was having mixed feelings at this point.  I was tired, but I felt great for having accomplished what I had done.  I had extremely high blood sugar, in excess of 400mg/dl, and I was still eating even though I was still feeling sick.  I took a small amount of insulin, reduced my long term insulin too and just tried to get down what I could.  I need to store the energy away, it was going to be a really long day the following day and I couldn't not eat.

One of the things I found out from this experience is that eating and exercising does funny things.  So while I was putting in all the effort on the climbs I wasn't digesting very much and I was burning off anything that was being absorbed.  Additionally my body breaks down fats and glycogen to produce more glucose, to keep up with the demand.  When I am on a nice long downhill or standing around at a feed station, or as in this case at the end of the day, my body can digest, but it is still continuing to break down my energy stores.  The result is a delayed glut of blood glucose and it feels pretty terrible.  The big problem after a day like I had is that I cannot take too much insulin otherwise I would have a hypo.  Insulin sensitivity is increased in this case so it puts me in a strange situation.  I toughed it out and got the first lift back to the hotel available.

Straight to bed after plugging in all of our gadgets to charge.  I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.  Not for long, at some point in the middle of the night my sensor woke me up telling me I was about to go low.  Fortunately I had left my gummy bears by my bed for emergency midnight hypos.  I guzzled them down and went back to sleep.

My ride details on strava

More pictures from the day mostly courtesy of HowardSayer.com