On Sunday two friends and I did the Herts 100 sportive. We cycled 100 miles in a total of eight hours. Seven hours cycling time, eight hours elapsed time as my friend carefully pointed out. (Seven hours riding had been our target time.) This blog offers some reflections on that experience.
The first thing is the difference between 100 miles on paper and 100 miles on the road. Sitting down on a sunny afternoon with the application form reading 100 miles through the Herts countryside, one thinks “That’s fine. It’s only a long training ride plus a bit more. I can do that.” What this mind-set misses out is that we got up at 5:30 a.m.in order to be at Knebworth house for an 8:00 a.m. departure. Plus I had booked tickets for the ballet on the Saturday night and had spent Friday and Saturday at a conference in London. This meant that all my careful plans for a quiet preparation were impossible. I had hoped to have Saturday at home. Servicing the bike. Eating a large pasta meal and getting an early night. In the end I rushed back from the conference. Dashed off to the ballet. Parked the car and found the nearest quick service restaurant to eat before the performance.Shovelled down some rice and sat down to the performance. (The ballet was Matthew Bourne’s amazing product of Swan Lake.I was in tears at several places.)
So, preparation is all, it is said. (I felt more like Alf Tupper than Lance Armstrong.) But we made it to the start. Found each other and set off, slightly later than planned.The first 30 miles were reasonably comfortable although the pace was faster than I would have liked. I also rediscovered what a selfish sport riding can be. I stopped to see if I could help another rider who had a mechanical problem. I called to my friends but they were already gone. So I got back and carried on riding, hoping to catch them. (I did but it meant riding much harder and faster than I wanted.)
At this point I want to become slightly allegorical- as I shall be at various points through this blog.I was annoyed at my friends for ignoring me and a fellow rider. In his place I would have hoped for some support. As clinicians there is always a danger that we become so target driven that we forget the reason we are here. Our own needs take precedence over those around us who might need a helping hand. Does it really matter if I do this ride in seven hours or seven and a quarter? (Ask my wife about the joys of riding together!) In the realm of Mental Health we seem to be working to a minimum standard. How few sessions will this person need to get back on their feet? Can we give them a CD and call it Self Help? We seem to have created a system where the patient has to fit the service rather than the other way round.
Back to the ride. Signage is important. Mostly the organisers had good signage. Arrows showed clearly left turns, right turns etc. Often there was a marshal as well. But there were several long stretches with no signs for about five miles. I followed what I hoped was a directional arrow, assuming that I would see some signs confirming my route. Eventually there was one pointing to the next turn. But I had already cycled 50 miles and was feeling tired. The thought of having to cycle an additional five miles brought me near to tears.
This is my second allegorical point. Signage matters. I had no way of knowing with certainty that I was on the right road. It is very easy to misread a sign after 50 miles. No doubt the organisers thought it was obvious. On the road it felt very different. As clinicians we know the road. !0-12 sessions of therapy. A support group. A visit from a nurse. It sounds fine.But that still elves an awful lot of unsigned time. “Who do I contact at three in the morning if there’s a crisis?” “What happens when DSS mess up my benefits?” “Who can I talk to about my husband / wife /child?” As a health professional I work in a select area. It might be a Day hospital. An Admission ward. In the Community. I know the rules for my patch. I don’t usually cross over to another area. I assume that others will do this. But our patients may nor know this. They want clear signage. “This is the right way.You’re doing fine. This is normal at this stage.” Do not assume that because somebody somewhere knows the route, it will be obvious to me!
There are some more ride musings to come. But Ib have written 800 hundred words. That’s enough.