11 July 2010

Those of you with a better memory than I have will recollect that I wrote about some lower back pain I experienced whilst we were in Switzerland which prevented our hiring some bikes and cycling around the area. In fact, this pain had materialised a few days before we departed and I had visited our local quack for a quick assessment – this was somewhat different than the lower back pain I’d enjoyed on a few occasions previously but, after watching me struggle to bend over, he recommended a local osteopath, Clare Nicholls, who he said was excellent.

On our return from Switzerland I made an appointment and went along to see her. The first “surprise” was to discover that this was the Clare Nicholls who used to work as one of Penny’s couriers. When she had been working for Interlink and collecting deliveries from SeamStress’s front door we knew that she was studying to become an osteopath; indeed she left the courier company to go to university full time so that she could complete her training and start up in business. Since that time (about four or five years ago) she has started a very successful osteopath practice and produced her first child so she’s been busy.

She had me strip to my underpants (you will all be relieved to know that I had anticipated that this might happen so fortunately, I was wearing clean underwear) and then asked me to bend over and touch my toes as the doctor had done. I think they do this so that they can snigger behind their hands as they watch you struggle to bend over, let alone reach anywhere near one’s toes. After a handful of questions and a bit of prodding and poking here and there, she explained that my sciatic nerve was under stress or inflamed and this was causing the sharp pain in my right butt cheek. Her prescription was to pull me about and stretch me into impossible positions from which it was almost impossible to extricate myself and to give me a handful of stretching exercises which I could complete in the comfort and security of my own homes with, if I wanted, another consenting adult. The great thing about all this is that not only am I still a “pain in the neck” but I have also now been promoted to a “pain in the butt” as well. As Pen says, it fits perfectly.

I have to say, she is good and the manipulation she subjects me to as well as the daily exercises have improved matters considerably. In addition to my visits to Clare, Ms Playchute insisted that I attend a session of Yoga at the Gym.

So, off we went on Wednesday morning to give it a go. The instructor of this particular session was Debbie who is a perfectly pleasant young woman who is perhaps not the least bit as one might expect a yoga instructor to be. She is covered from head to toe with tattoos and sports bulging muscles that clearly have been chiselled from granite. Still, she was very patient with me as a beginner and I have to say it was very good – lots of good stretching exercises which undoubtedly will do my butt no end of good. Once I got past the “mumbo-jumbo” of communing with my soul and being at one with the universe, I discovered that I am, in fact, a natural at yoga and, in particular, at one of the very important exercises which one does several times during a session. I am really, really, very good at lying on my back with my eyes closed, thinking good things and relaxing. If they had been awarding them, I would have garnered a gold star or several.

As you know, le Tour started last weekend and I’ve been watching the highlights avidly every night. I even persuaded Ms Playchute to join me one evening this week and, although she was not particularly well-pleased, we both agreed that the achievements of these guys are simply unbelievable. Never mind that it’s more than 3000 km over three weeks of cycling; never mind the frequent spills and crashes resulting in acres of road rash all over their hands, arms, legs, backsides and, in a couple of instances so far, all over their face. (I think it’s four broken collar bones so far).

The stage we were watching resulted in a sprint finish after the days’ breakaway had been hauled in with about 10 km to go. As they approached the finish of the stage, not surprisingly, the riders got faster and faster as the sprinters and their teams lined them up for a dash to the line. The commentator then commented on how fast they were going (40 to 50 mph at the end of a sprint stage) and mentioned that this was after riding for nearly five hours over more than 200 km at an average speed of about 25 mph. Me? I average about 10 mph over a distance of about 20 to 30 miles and while I can certainly reach a top speed of 40 mph, that’s only when pedalling furiously down a very steep hill with a significant following wind. Give me a break!

Those of you on the Stragapalooza mailing list should have received a posting yesterday requesting information about your dietary needs and preferences and, for those responsible for cooking, some provisional menu details. Please complete the online forms and if, for any reason, the links in the PDF give you any problems, let me know. Only four weeks to go so get your skates on!

Love to you all,

Greg