Guest Blogger Chris McGuire

  • Sweet Success

    It’s funny how some moments in life change things forever.

    Totally.

    You can be going along quite contentedly, then suddenly something happens and you realise life will never be the same afterwards.

    One of these moments occurred for me when I was diagnosed as a diabetic.

    Up until that point, I’d never really thought about diabetes, it was just another disease, after all. As we know, diseases are things that ‘other people’ get. I think we all live in that state of denial about matters of health, it makes things easier, until it happens to us. I walked into the hospital a ‘healthy’ person with some bad test results and a permanently dry mouth. I walked out with a medical condition, some syringes of insulin, a blood glucose monitor and a seriously diminished sense of self-confidence.

    Chris 4In the time leading up to my diagnosis my cycling was at the best it had ever been. I was an increasingly lean (I’d lost around fives stones) riding machine. I’d found that my legs were giving me power that I’d never experienced before. I had reserves that seemed to belong to someone else. For about a month before I got the results, I felt a real sense of unity with me and my bike, I was in ‘the zone’.

    You can imagine my disappointment when I was told that I should avoid cycling until I’d become used to the new medication I was prescribed. As an insulin dependent diabetic, I run the risk of becoming hypoglycaemic – essentially when the glucose in my blood drops to a level that is problematic. When this happens I can become unsteady, disorientated, slurring in my speech and can even pass out. So you can see why my doctors advised I didn’t cycle in the short term. ‘Hypo’s, as they’re known, are treated with the consumption of sugar – I’m never without a bag of jelly babies these days. ‘The Bonk’, that cyclists experience after over-exerting themselves, is also hypoglycaemia – the difference being that for a diabetic cyclist (using insulin) the effects could happen at any moment.

    After some time, I got into a rhythm with my medication and became able to read the signs of an impending ‘hypo’. It did, however, take a long time to get back on my bike. I won’t hide it from you, I was scared.

    Cycling had been a liberation for me. It allowed me to go off where I wanted, when I wanted and just be at one with the road. Suddenly, with my diagnosis, I was in a position where I could become quite seriously ill on a ride, if I didn’t read the signs carefully. This really knocked my confidence. The last thing I wanted was to need the assistance of a passer-by, or worst still become disorientated and fall into the road.

    I was scared to get back on my bike, but I also knew that if I was to manage my diabetes effectively, cycling was going to be crucial. Diabetics are urged to exercise in order to maintain their health and manage their blood glucose levels. So that’s what I did. I got back on my bike and took a ride.

    How was it?

    I’ll not lie, it was frustrating. It took getting back on my bike to realise how much fitness I’d lost during my period of inactivity. My legs just weren’t providing me with the power they once did. I also had a few ‘wobbly’ moments, where I needed to top up my sugar intake. It all felt a bit weird.

    But then, feeling a bit weird is all part of being a cyclist, isn’t it?

    I’ve been back on my bike for some time now. It feels less weird every time I head out. My confidence is back, I know if I’m sensible and take precautions I should have a great ride, diabetes or no diabetes.

    Am I back to my previous self, in ‘the zone’? Not yet.

    Will I get there?

    Of course I will!Chris M 2

     Chris

    Chris McGuire is a Westcountry-based writer, follow him on Twitter @McGuireski

    For information about diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.uk

     

  • Getting past Chris Froome

    Getting past Chris Froome was so important to me.

    Crucial, you might say.

    I can hear you now, as you read this. “What is he talking about?”, “He’d never be able to get past Chris Froome – there’s no way!”

    Well I have! And here’s how…

    Of course, I’d never be able to cycle past, or go faster than the esteemed Mr. Froome (I do love his name, by the way, all sports stars should have onomatopoeic monikers). By ‘getting past’ him, I don’t mean in a race. I’m sure Chris would still beat me, on my bike, if he was on foot (again). What I’m talking about is getting past the image, in my head, that to be a ‘proper’ cyclist I needed to look like Chris Froome.

    Let me explain. I’m a big fella, always have been. At primary school I was 6 foot plus and dwarfed the headmaster. I can still remember getting stuck when trying to climb under a school bench as part of a Sports’ Day obstacle race. It took a team of teachers and a lot of butter to release me. These days I’m 6 foot 5 and around 18 stone. My weight has been a lot heavier than its current level – through cycling I’ve lost around 5 stones.

    The thing was, despite this impressive increase in fitness, I wasn’t happy.

    Why?

    Bloody Chris Froome.

    I’d got it into my head that in order to be a cyclist of any proficiency (by which I mean someone who enjoys to ride in their spare time) I needed to look like Chris Froome. This was never, ever, ever going to happen. Chris has a completely different body type to me. He’s built like a whippet, 4 inches shorter and almost 8 stones lighter. If I lost 8 stones I doubt I’d be able to get onto a bike, never mind ride it. Do you see my point?

    For too long I’d been beating myself with a (metaphorical) stick – beating myself with a literal stick sounded far too painful. I would look at myself in my cycling kit and shake my head. Why? Because, I’ll never be a lean-mean cycling-machine. At best I’ll be a bulky-hulky… well, you get the idea. When I put on bib tights I don’t bring Miguel Indurain to mind, I look more like Giant Haystacks (the wrestler). I’m always going to look slightly too big for my bike – and I ride a big bike. I’m never going to be a sprinter. My body doesn’t do that. Speedsuits don’t come in my size, mainly because people my size don’t travel fast!

    So, recently, I’ve put Chris Froome to rest – I’ve got past him. I now look at myself in the mirror after a ride and still see a sweaty, slightly chubby, man in Lycra. I also see someone a lot fitter than I was, and that’s as a result of the cycling. I’m fine with that now. It’s a great place to be. To be fair to me, Chris Froome could never achieve my body shape either. Should someone want to shift a piano or need a fella to work a nightclub door, I’d be the first choice over Froome, every time.  Sorry Chris.

    I hope you get past your own personal ‘Chris Froome’. There’s little point spending time worrying about what you’re not, when you could be focusing on what you are. As the much shared statement says: “I may be going slowly, but I’m still lapping everyone on the couch.”

    Enjoy your riding…

    Chris.

    PS: I will get my own speedsuit one day – and be the world’s slowest TT racer – as soon as they figure out how to make stitching strong enough!

    Chris McGuire is a Westcountry-based writer.

    Follow him on Twitter @McGuireski He’s the guy who looks nothing, and we do mean nothing, like Chris Froome.

    Chris 2

  • Getting back in the saddle

    Chris 1So how’s it going?

    Have you got back on your bike since the holidays? Not easy is it? If you’re one of those impressive people who didn’t over indulge over Christmas, you might as well stop reading here.

    Good.

    They’ve gone.

    I didn’t think I’d had that ‘heavy’ a Christmas. With a teething baby, there was very little all night partying going on in my household – lots of late night nappy changes, but that’s not (quite) the same thing. With this in mind, I didn’t think my fitness would have dropped after a few weeks off the bike. Boy was I wrong.

    I found myself especially grateful for the amount of ‘give’ in my bib tights as I readied myself for a post-festivities ride. It seems, despite the early nights, I’d put on a few extra pounds – perhaps this was something to do with my including Terry’s Chocolate Oranges as part of my 5-a-day. Don’t worry I didn’t have 5 in one twenty-four hour period – but I came close.

    Chris 2I was far from my ‘fighting weight’ as I clipped in for that first ride of 2017. I set off on my usual route along the Exe Estuary in Devon. It’s a beautiful undulating ride on National Cycle Route 2, with amazing views across the River Exe. Familiar as I am with this route, I couldn’t help feeling that something was different. Had somebody been in over the New Year and made these hills significantly steeper? I checked with the council – apparently not.

    The miles crept by at a snail’s pace as my legs screamed with the effort. At one point I needed to stop and sit on a bench, where a kindly old lady offered me some of her flask of tea. I politely declined. The further I cycled, the way I viewed myself changed. I started the ride as a ‘Chris Froome’ type, who’d (perhaps) eaten a slice too many of cake over Christmas. By the time the journey was over I felt like a goldfish gasping on the living room carpet. Not a pretty sight.

    Fear not because, in the words of ‘D:Ream’ (just before they faded into obscurity), ‘Things can only get better!’ My second ride after Christmas was also tough, but not quite as bad as the first. My third was also a bit of a shocker. And my fourth? Well, I’ll tell you when I’ve done it.

    Do you have big plans for your cycling in 2017? Are you going to take part in a Sportive? Perhaps you just plan to increase the mileage of your rides? Maybe you’re hoping to keep on, keeping on? Personally my goal is to leave memories of these post-Christmas rides far behind. I can’t wait until summer when I can get out in my favourite Bobby Dazzler shirt and embrace the joy of early morning rides that don’t feel like I’ve just cycled into a freezer.

    I’ll be keeping those heady cycling days of summer in mind every time I clip in and push off. I’ll be back to my fighting weight by then, of that I have no doubt. Right now, my biggest fight is summoning up the energy to get on my bike and ride.

    Have fun.

    Chris

    Chris McGuire is a Westcountry-based writer.

    Follow him on Twitter @McGuireski If he’s on his bike, don’t follow him, overtake (he’s pretty slow at the moment).

    Chris 3

  • Just like riding a bike

    I’ve been walking like John Wayne this week.Chris 4

    Really.

    People have commented on my distinctive gait – not to be confused with my distinctive gate. Why am I strolling like a cowboy who’s misplaced his chaps? The answer’s simple: I’ve been trying to regain my fitness level.

    It’s amazing how quickly your fitness can go. Have a few weeks out of the saddle and Hey Presto! you’ve no stamina left. To be fair, I’ve a good excuse for not cycling in a while – the birth of my son, Sam. As anyone who has children will know, a new-born baby can take over your life – little things like an exercising regime can go out the window. So it was with cycling. As a result of our new arrival, this Fat Lad is now considerably fatter than he was a few weeks ago. Late nights, no sleep and too much takeaway food have made sure of that.

    Finally this week, as my waistline began to visibly bulge, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle. I’ll be honest with you, it wasn’t easy – hence the John Wayne impression. Hills that I’d whizzed up with ease a few weeks before now seemed to be mini Everests! Even the flat took it out of me. I’m embarrassed to say that my first post-baby ride consisted of more breaks than actual pedalling. There I was in my full Fat Lad kit – including my favourite Bobby Dazzler shirt – being overtaken by kids on bikes with stabilisers. Not a good look.

    The next day I threw myself into the ride again. A longer route this time. Despite my padded shorts I developed the fore-mentioned cowboy’s distinctive stance. Several hours later, when I entered the house, my other half announced that I was walking like I had just filled my nappy. An image far too close to home at the moment to be funny.

    A few days passed without a cycle. My partner enquired why I hadn’t been out on my bike.

    “Feeling a bit tired,” I moaned. “I think I’ll leave it for a bit.”

    She wasn’t impressed.

    “Is that the attitude we’re going to teach our son, eh? If it’s hard, give up?”

    That was all I needed – I was Lycra’d within minutes. It wasn’t long before I was out struggling on the same hills as earlier in the week. They were still hard, but slightly easier than the last time I tried. Fitness is like that. I got back from my ride still walking like John Wayne, but I didn’t care. This was the walk of a man who didn’t give up and that’s important.

    In the years to come I want my son to understand that perseverance is crucial. I want him to come to cycling events and see me, struggling at the back, but not giving up. Who knows, perhaps he’ll be a mini cyclist himself?

                “Hurry up Dad!” he’ll shout, speeding past me. “You look like you’ve filled your nappy.”

                “No, I don’t!” I’ll insist. “I look like John Wayne!”

                “Who’s John Wayne?” Sam will cry.

    And there, in that moment, we see the Fat Lad circle of life.

    Chris McGuire is a writer and FLAB MAMIL. He’s grateful that Lycra can stretch to fit his new (slightly fatter) waistline.  

  • #2: THE WEATHER CYCLE

    By Chris McGuire

    Chris close up

    We’re a funny lot, us larger cyclists. We really are: 

    “You pay more attention to that bike than you do to me,” said my partner, I forget her name.

    “That’s not true!”

    Some days it probably is, but I wouldn’t say that to “What’s-her-name”.

    I’ve had some really good reactions to the 1st of the blogs I put up here for Fat Lad At The Back. People seem really interested in my diabetes and how cycling has helped with my fitness, which is something I’ll go into more detail about at a later date.

    Others have said that I don’t look like a ‘ballet dancing hippo’ – much. I’m sure there’s a compliment in there somewhere. I’m currently struggling to find it. You’ll be disappointed to hear that Fat Lad currently have no plans to create tutus in my size, so those who’ve asked for photos will just have to wait.

    I’ve had some great rides this week, despite the weather. There was a short period where I thought I should get myself a job at the Met Office – which is only just down the road from where I live in Devon. Every time I left the house in my FLAB gear the heavens opened. My Bobby Dazzler jersey, I’m happy to announce, does not go transparent when drenched. Good for me, bad for any planned Fat Lad wet T-shirt competitions.

    Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been wetter than I have on the last couple of rides. It makes me think FLAB should market their clothes as swimwear too.

    Thankfully, my preferred cycle route passes a great cycling café. Along with being purveyors of great coffee and cake the good people in this establishment don’t seem to mind drenched Fat Lads in Lycra massive leaving giant pools of rainwater all over the establishment. For this I shall be forever grateful.

    Seriously, there was a period during my last ride, as I waited in the café for the rain to stop, that I considered ditching my pride and joy bike. Instead I Googled ‘How do you build an Ark?’ Thankfully, the rain had stopped before any animals arrived, two by two or otherwise.

    As I killed time in the café, it struck me that many cyclists preferred this environment to being out on a bike. I’ll be honest, that’s certainly been true for me at times. I’d love to know the statistics around MAMIL café use. Do cyclists spend more time in Lycra riding bikes or drinking lattes? If the former is more popular, perhaps an extra bib could be added to bib shorts – to deal with splashes for foam from vigiourous coffee drinking. Just a thought – I don’t think it’ll be the way I earn a fortune. Let me know though, if you do spend inordinate amounts of time drinking coffee in your cycling gear – or it this just a myth? One thing I can say for certain is I’ve never sat in a café dressed like a ballet dancing hippo, drinking a cappuccino. Personally, I don’t really see hippos as big coffee drinkers - unlike cyclists.

    Hope you all have good rides in the coming days, despite the weather. If you do end up soaked to the skin, here’s my tip dry your bike before you dry yourself. There’s very little chance that you, unlike the cycle, will go rusty.

    PS: Dry yourself too, you don’t want to catch a cold!

    Chris McGuire is a writer and FLAB MAMIL. He has the World’s most patient girlfriend and a very clean bike.  

  • #1 ‘A MAMIL For All Seasons’

    By Chris McGuire Guest Blogger

    Chris 1-1

    I’ve just had a cleat failure. Know what I mean?

    If you’ve never had it, you will if you start riding ‘clipless’. For the uninitiated, being ‘clipped in’ is great for building speed and using your energy economically, but it’s less good if you want to maintain balance when moving slowly. Keeping upright in these situations is a skill I haven’t fully mastered; as all the dents in the pavement outside my house show.

     

    As I lay on my side once again, a question popped into my head.
    “Why on Earth do I do this?”
    And just as quickly an answer
    “I do it because it makes me feel alive!”

    I’m a big fella, 6’5” and around 18 stone. But before I started cycling I was even heavier – about 22 stone. Back then I felt sport was like stamp collecting: great for those who were interested in it, but I really couldn’t see the attraction. I didn’t see my weight as a problem; it was all part of my charm. Then, in my mid-30’s, I went on holiday to Spain and things changed. This trip became legendary in my social circles because of what my friends called: ‘Patio-furniture-gate’.
    On this single holiday I managed to break 7 items of patio furniture just by sitting on them. 7 broken chairs and loungers is, I’m sure you’ll agree, quite a lot.

    For a short period I was in denial, reasoning there had been a sudden downturn in the quality of continental plastic furniture. Yet eventually – as I lay on my back on top of another crushed chair – I came to the realisation that it was me, not the furniture, that was the problem.

    I was told I needed a low impact sport to help me lose weight and get fit and after an extensive research (a quick Google) I came up with cycling. Initially it wasn’t a natural fit - a 22 stone man and Lycra weren't the World’s greatest combination and as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, the ballet-dancing hippos in Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ sprang to mind.

    On my maiden voyage I learned some lessons. Before I’d got to the end of my street I’d discovered it was the right decision to wear padded shorts, without them I’d be permanently walking like John Wayne. I learned another lesson when I stopped at traffic lights and received a chorus of wolf whistles. For some reason, becoming a cyclist makes you massively attractive to builders. I waved to my fans and carried on. Finally I learned that cycling can be exhausting.

    I didn’t go far on that 1st ride and on my return, collapsed onto the sofa, but even as I lay exhausted, I was determined to go out again the next day. My fans in the building trade deserved that much! So that’s what I did and the rest is, as they say, history.

    I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had some ups and downs along the way - weight has come off and gone back on again and I’ve recently been diagnosed with Diabetes, which threw me off course for a while, but I’m back on my bike and I don’t regret for one moment my decision to be a cyclist.

    Over the coming months I’ll be sharing my cycling adventures with you but for now, I'm off to slip into my Lycra.

    Fat Lad At The Back Chris McGuire

    Chris McGuire is a writer who lives in the Westcountry. He loves riding his bike and in no way resembles a dancing hippo. @McGuireski

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