Following our amazing charity bike ride, London to Paris, in September 2016, the ladies and I wanted to continue our cycling adventures. Being out on the bike, cycling through picturesque villages bought a smile to my face and for once I felt I could actually do something good for my mind, body and soul (cheesy I know!). So of course, I wanted to help arrange another bike ride. Originally we looked at cycling in Holland, yet with it being a pain in the arse getting out of the UK with our bikes, France was the best option. Who wouldn’t want to cycle in France anyway, they have fantastic cycle routes and the best croissants!
Since the charity ride last year I haven’t really cycled much. The pressures of uni really got to me, and I had no time or energy for anything other than studying and writing my dissertation. Yet I needed to start getting out on the bike again, it’s not as simple as getting used to being back on the saddle I had more important things to learn AGAIN. In case you didn’t already know, my blog name gives it away, I had to remember how to manage those pesky blood sugars before, during and after cycling. Let the hard work commence!
In between studying, exams, dissertation writing, going to uni, going to work and trying to live I managed to fit in a few rides with some of the girls. To begin with I felt like a newbie on the saddle, yet after a few long distances rides I remembered how much fun it was to be back on the roads with lots of laughter. With time I soon built up my confidence and began to master managing my blood sugars just like I had before.
‘I can do this, right?’ I mean, I cycled over 200 miles to Paris last year, I can totally do this. But the anxiety began to creep in. The what if’s. What if I can’t cycle far? What if I hold everyone one up? What if I have a hypo, like a bad one and need help? What if I need the others to help me with my diabetes? I know I did not need to worry, I was with some amazingly supportive friends, but I don’t want to hold others back and ruin their experience.
Two weeks or so before our planned trip my blood sugars began to start dropping, quite suddenly. Many of which I had no warning. Maybe the change in weather caused this? I made multiple insulin adjustments yet these did not help at all. At times I reduced my basal by 60-80%, and reduce my bolus yet still have hypos. I couldn’t seem to stop the hypos, no matter what I tried they just kept attacking me. Those who have hypos will understand how frustrating and tiring low blood sugars can be, and quite frankly it can really get you down (literally!) The day before we were due to head to France I woke tired from multiple hypos and felt there was no way I could cycle right now. Not only was I exhausted, I knew cycling would make my blood sugars even lower. Given the amount of hypos I had already faced, I started to worry that cycling may actually contribute to me needing emergency treatment for a low blood glucose. This scared me so much. I didn’t want this to happen, especially not in another country, potentially in the middle of nowhere. I knew I would be with the best people, a group of very knowledgeable and experienced diabetes specialist who could look after me if required, but I really didn’t want them to have to do this. This is meant to be a relaxing cycle break for us all. It would be selfish of me to even consider going. I had made my mind up. It was safer for me to stay at home. Safe in my bubble. If I didn’t cycle I wouldn’t increase my chances of passing out. A quick message to the crew and a sigh of relief. Yet the response I got bought a tear to my eye:
“We started this together, we will finish together”
I got the impression that not going wasn’t really an option! I needed to ‘man up’ and take each moment of the ride as it comes.
Saturday 3rd June 2016
6.15am: After a fab night dancing away and 3 hours sleep Lauren messaged me to say she was on her way! I had only just got out of the shower…..I needed to be ready and outside within ten minutes. Challenge accepted!
Once parked, Lauren and I cycled 3 miles to Portsmouth Ferry, where the others were waiting for us. Although all were tired, we were excited and smiling as usual. Boarding the ferry bought back memories of the charity ride, I knew I made the right choice to come. I couldn’t let diabetes ruin the fun!
The ferry journey was fun, I wouldn’t expect it to be anything other than laughter throughout! Croissants, costume change, balloon models, quiz by Rusty Cutter, glitter tattoos and armed with our new mascot Pierre, we were ready to take to the roads! We also met some veterans, and some lovely chaps who knew friends of ours, and were heading out for the D-Day event in Bayeux.
We arrived in Ouistreham at 3pm to discover a fabulous cycle route to our next destination. Apparently this route was here last year too. Instead we choose to cycle through campsites, onto the motorway and goodness knows where. Who would have known it really didn’t need to be so dramatic, if only we had found this route! The sun was beaming down, we were on our way and on schedule to arrive at our hotel by 7.30pm. At one point our route took us off road, it felt like miles through the trees and bumpy gravel. No problem, I had my new snake skin tyres, I was NOT going to get a puncture! With many photo stops, toilet breaks and hypos along the way we finally reached our destination an hour after we had planned. Did you actually just say you can’t find the key to our room! No worries, we don’t mind waiting a few minutes, a few minutes more…..like seriously how long!
Today’s ride was fuelled by 1 large bag of jelly babies, a handful of gluco-tabs, 2 sports gels & -80% basal insulin.
After a lovely/random meal, and toasting Sarah’s birthday, it was time to rest our tired body’s.
Due to all the low blood sugars, the ladies I shared a room with were a little worried and wanted me to go through my dexcom alarms, have fast acting glucose near me and maybe some reassurance? “It’s ok, I do this every day.” I put the dex alarm on vibrate, so it would only alarm if 3.1 or below, I didn’t want to wake everyone, and explained to Sarah (who I was sharing a rather large comfy bed with) that I keep quite still so no need to worry about me trying to snuggle up with her. At one point in the night I woke really cold, but didn’t want to get up to find the blanket. I am sure Amanda had the blanket, and I didn’t want to wake everyone. Little did I know I already had, and boy did they let me know in the morning! Turns out the dex vibrated to alert a high blood glucose and rising. It did NOT alarm Amanda! Therefore I slept through this. I was also grinding my teeth, talking in my sleep ‘pass the jam Sarah’, and also snuggled into Sarah. How freaking embarrassing! I felt awful, they had not slept well because of me. Well apart from Paula, who was oblivious to it all. Maybe if you passed me the jam Sarah, I would have been ok?!?
Sunday 4th June 2017
After breakfast, an outfit change and photo shoot, we were ready to set off to our next destination 40-50miles to Bayeux. I felt confident that my blood glucose would remain slightly higher today due to the overnight spike, and hoped to reduce or even avoid hypos.
Many photo stops, we had all day to relax and enjoy this picturesque, extremely uphill ride. Seriously how many hills! After luckily finding an open shop, we secured our baguettes onto the bikes and set off to find somewhere to stop for lunch. The hills had put us a little behind schedule, but not to worry we were halfway there and it was a lovely sunny day. Maybe we will aim to arrive in Bayeux between 4-5pm. Still giving us plenty of time to get to the beach and enjoy the D-Day fireworks and celebrations.
STOP! Did that sign actually just say 36km?? Amanda gave me a little smile and told me to ignore the signs, it was the route number. For the next hour Amanda continually told me to stop asking how many miles, ignore the signs and keep pedalling. I knew something wasn’t right, those signs definitely meant km, not the route number. Throughout we all managed to laugh about the distance we had to still cycle. A quick call to Valerie, our accommodation host, advising we will be there for 7pm. A stop to ask a local if we could fill our bottles with water and friendly tanks beeping as they passed us heading toward Bayeux, I felt positive we would soon arrive. Yet it soon became clear we would not get to Bayeux until 8pm. Why oh why did we have 17miles left to cycle, yet now have even further to go?!? I was starting to flake, like everyone, and began feeling really ‘cranky.’ I couldn’t see the funny side anymore and just wanted to give up. Literally who makes hills this steep which go on forever?!? I was so hot and could feel a sweat coming over me. Oh, hello hypo! I had tried so hard to avoid this all day by eating cereal bars and having jelly babies and gels before getting to a blood glucose of 5. How on earth did this just happen. I felt angry, my legs felt like lead but I didn’t want to stop, we were running late already. After eating at least 12 jelly babies my BG began to rise, slipping out of the 2’s and into the 3’s. I nearly even made it to 4. I still felt cranky and everything felt even more difficult, but I was determined to keep going. Just keep cycling, just keep cycling……
I knew I was struggling as the distance between the group and I began to widen. I felt really hot and had the awful hypo sweat come over me. No, please not again. I was back in the low 3’s with the arrow heading down. I got the impression that everyone started to realise something was wrong, and I found that someone would hang back with me. I reassured when I could, saying I was ok and that my BG will soon rise, but I didn’t want to talk anymore. The bike felt heavy, I felt like my arms were struggling to hold me up. ‘I’m ok, just five more minutes. I do feel woozy though, I feel odd.’ I started to struggle to get the words out, it was easier to stay quiet. Keep your head down and keep pedalling, we are nearly there! Amanda was talking to me, I haven’t a clue what she said, but with a dex reading of 2.2 and a downward arrow I heard her shout STOP to everyone. It was time to take a quick break, treat the low and get moving. Yet I couldn’t get off my bike. If I just stand here for a while I will be ok. I need this gel but I cant seem to swallow. I know what I need to do, but I cant seem to do it. I need to sit on the floor. No one look at me, I think I’m going to fall. I can’t tell you this though as I can’t seem to say what I want to say. Just keep your head down, sit down Kels, it will pass. No thank you, I don’t want bread. I wouldn’t be able to chew it. Everything looks a bit blurry, I feel awful. Please don’t pass out. For someone who has never fainted I was petrified of this happening, and even more so of embarrassing myself. I remember trying to think where the glucagon injection was, but literally couldn’t think. I wanted to tell the others to get it, but I couldn’t find the words, so I just sat quietly politely saying ‘no thank you’ when food was offered. What felt like forever trying to suck out the last of the sports gel, with the sound of me swallowing exaggerated in my head along with my heartbeat, I eventually started to feel more awake. I could speak, I’m ready, lets go!
That has to be the worst hypo I have experienced. Although I felt scared, I felt safe knowing that my friends would look after me, if only I had told them where the glucagon was though (lesson learned!).
We eventually arrived at our accommodation at 8.45pm. What a lovely place too.
Quick shower and outfit change, we headed for a nice meal and a few beers. What a looooonnnggggg day!!
Monday 5th June 2017
With no dex alarms, everyone slept really well. As soon as Amanda stepped out of bed the laughter started! Check out the tan lines!
After a quick trip to Bayeux tapestry, photo stops and croissants, it was time to get back on the bike and head to the ferry.
Cycling through some lovely Poppy fields, we bumped into a group of men (some very fine looking men). Some on a tandem bike, pink tassles, pink baskets and heading for the same ferry. I’m going with them! But oh no, some people, mention no names, wanted to be sensible and go the bike route. Amanda and I tried hard to persuade them, but they went into parent mode and there was no way we were going to win this one. OK, it was Sarah & Paula! Sorry, but this is something I will always remind them of, you will find out why later!
We found somewhere on the beach to have lunch and I was determined to make use of the bikini I bought along. After some persuasion, Amanda, Maggie & Sarah also agreed to make a quick dash into the sea (although Sarah decided to stay in her cycle gear….next time ay!) For the first time since I have had Penny the pump, I felt ready to take her in the water. Yet all the DSN’s with me suggested not to. I was starting to see a change in them, little worries of how I used to be. Maybe being with me and pretty much living diabetes with me, they had started to take on the worries I had/have? I decided against taking Penny for a dip, just in case!
With 45mins to get to the ferry, we had plenty of time to cycle at a nice pace. Hang on a minute, this ride reminds me of somewhere we have been before. London! Yep, stop at every traffic light. It was getting really cloudy and dark and we were running out of time. Does anyone else feel that we thrive on pressure?!? As we cycled onto the ferry the rain started. Luck had been on our side throughout this weekend. All we needed to do now was find a nice spot to sit and relax on our way home.
So we bumped into the group of guys again, who showed us where we could sit and relax on recliners. We never saw these before, because we danced the night away! After a game of hide and seek, putting on face cards and staring at other passengers – Lauren was very good at this, we giggled all the way home. We also established that the guys were footballers, 2 of which played for saints – one being the goalie. Note to Sarah & Paula – trust me next time when I say we are joining a group of men
We arrived to gale force winds, rain and experienced nearly being blown off of the boat. I always wanted to rein act ET, I should have just let the wind take me up, up and up!
I can safely say we are already planning our next cycle trip away. I have a feeling this will be an ongoing journey. Literally love each and everyone of my cycling friends and can’t wait for our next adventure!