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WHY I TOOK UP CYCLING: How Jamie’s battle against serious illness led him to cycling and triathlon

By Jamie Fox

Recently people have asked me “Why did you take up cycling?”
My simple answer would be “for my health”, but let me explain further.

In 2014 I was having a really bad year health wise, the worst I’ve ever had in fact. I’d been in hospital three times and been off sick for nearly a month at a time for every visit plus multiple days off because I simply couldn’t do anything.

I had caught MRSA of the lungs and another bug (the name escapes me at the moment) and just couldn’t shift it or get it under control. The Cystic Fibrosis (CF) that I was diagnosed with at six-months-old was winning.

Another big factor that year was that I was finishing Gene Therapy Trials which I now believe is the reason my lung function had held on for so long because the drugs were helping to my lungs and keep me healthy. In 2013 my lung function had been around 75-80% and gene therapy was doing a really good job, but not long after I had finished the trials I was starting to get sick a lot and my lung function was dropping like a stone and infections were feasting on my lungs like an all you can eat buffet.

By the end of 2014 I was back in hospital for the third time looking for help, looking for answers and getting frustrated with the whole situation. I needed to try to stop my health declining, in hospital I couldn’t breathe and had to be put onto oxygen.

How cycling played its part

I had never felt so ill, so scared and so down mentally let alone physically, this was all new to me. I knew everybody who has CF is different and everybody’s fight is different but this was my first time experiencing this and I was out of my depth thinking I could handle it. I didn’t cope at all, it’s most likely taken me until this year and it was committing to a cycling challenge that played an important part.

It was the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 Ride that got me started in 2015 and this year I want up my game even further to tackle an Olympic distance triathlon with the help of Ribble.

During that lowest point three years ago, I sat with the doctor and said, “Once this admission is done I’m going to go away and assess things. I’m going to prove you wrong that this isn’t going to carry on and that I can help my health and my diabetes, if there’s no more that you can do, I want a go at trying something different”. I appreciated that the doctors were trying to help but I think my mindset was that “I’m going to take things into my own hands and I feel this is something I need to do, if the drugs can’t help then let me find out if I can do something”.

But what would I try?!

I had been looking into big, physical challenges where I could maybe try and see if that helped my health. I’d thought about the London marathon but, I didn’t think I could cope with running that distance with my weak left leg. What about a shorter distance? What about walking up a mountain like Kilimanjaro? I had been wanting to go there for a while but I had to be realistic. With 50% lung function walking up a mountain with the lack of air becoming more and more apparent – I wasn’t sure. What could I do?

I could cycle? I could do that. I liked cycling and I could go as fast or as slow as I wanted and it wouldn’t put too much pressure on me (well so I thought, how wrong I was!)

SO cycling it was. It had to be something big, something I would remember forever and know that I had done it starting from nothing. It had to be something I could say to the doctors “See I did it. Two fingers to your complacency”. I was trawling the internet and came across something that caught my eye.

The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100

I came across this ride in simple terms its 100 miles on closed roads through beautiful London and surrey countryside taking in the sights of world famous London. I mean 100 miles is big enough for the challenge to be big, catch people’s attention and maybe few a few pennies for the CF Trust. But firstly I needed a bike.

I was fortunate enough that my partner at the time offered to buy me a bike for my birthday (thank you) in November 2014. It wasn’t expensive, it wasn’t a carbon fibre, ‘go fast’ bike, but it was mine. My bike that I hoped would pedal me to great things. I had no idea how far it would take me and what challenges I would achieve, but I loved this bike from the first day I picked it up.

Starting to ride and falling in love with cycling

I went for my first bike ride a few days later (the picture above is me after my first ride) and it shocked me. I managed a measly six miles, just six miles and I was beat exhausted and my lungs hated me, but I had the bug, I knew I wanted to do this. I fell in love with cycling straight away, Lycra isn’t a fashion statement but knowing your dressed in it sort of gives me a sense of pride because I know I want to achieve something whilst dressed in my cycling gear. Over time I put my training gear on and I know I’m doing it for a purpose, to stay fit, to show others what’s possible and to help the CF trust and hopefully the money raised with help of you lovely people has helped made a difference to others in some way no matter how small.

That day I signed up to the RideLondon-Surrey 100 with the CF Trust and the rest as they say is history.

Since January 2015 I have cycled about 7000 miles and I’ve completed:

  • RideLondon-Surrey 100 Bike Ride 2015
  • KM Bike Big Ride 50km 2016
  • London To Brighton 55 mile bike ride 2016

And I’ve managed to raise around £3,500.00 for the CF trust along the way.

Reaping the benefits

Since I started training at the end of 2014 my hospital fortunes and health have stabilised. I wouldn’t say its improved as such as my lung function hasn’t improved since 2015 but it has most certainly slowed down in its declined and stabilised at around 50 to 55% for the last two and a half years. I am the fittest I’ve ever been even with my lung function and I’m still smiling look ahead to the future and what other challenges I can take on. I won’t lie, it’s been bleeding hard there been days still when I’ve not been able to do anything and my CF has affected me even on good days, but I feel better mentally knowing I’d rather be in pain training than be in pain in hospital or coughing. All the miles, pain, tears and falls have all been worth it.

Since 2015 my hospital visits have decreased massively with two admissions in January 2015 and September 2015. And that is the last time I was admitted to hospital for IV Treatment it’s been 21 months since I had a stay in hospital. It’s not been easy I’ve pushed myself like mad, I’ve still been really sick at times and I’ve still had infections and other problems and bugs have taken their toll on me at time and I’ve swallowed a lot of tablets to fend off sickness but I haven’t had to stay in hospital.

Positive effects of training

All the training has also had a positive effect on my diabetes. I now have much lower levels which I’m still working on to improve and I’ve got it under control and by having a good diabetes control it helps my chest and reduce infections because infections feed off sugar and can turn in to a vicious cycle of problems.

And now you know why I took up cycling, that’s the long and short answer but without deciding to get on two wheels and put my feet on the pedals I have no doubt I would be in that terrible place I had feared two years ago getting more and more used to hospital beds and going insane because I just wouldn’t cope. Thanks to cycling and maybe my stubbornness to prove people wrong, I’m here talking walking and still breathing through my lungs without any further grief.

And what next in 2017?

It had to be another big challenge. I felt it had to be a triathlon, an Olympic distance to be exact. On the 24th September 2017 I’m taking part in the Hever Castle Olympic distance Triathlon to in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust:

1500m swim + 40km bike ride + 10km run

One after the other, all in one go.

Thank you Ribble

I have to give a huge shout out and thank you to Ribble Cycles, I wrote to them this year asking if they could help me at all in lending me a bike and they went above and beyond what I expected. They kindly offered to give me a new bike to help me complete this challenge and my future challenges that I want to take on. The day I visited their new shop in the Birmingham Mailbox was amazing. They are all so lovely, so supportive and couldn’t be any nicer. Their offer of support will never go unappreciated, they have inspired me to keep pushing and wanting to achieve more. Without their help I could never have got a bike like this. So thank you thank you thank you to everyone at Ribble. You are all amazing for helping me and supporting me on this journey and I will forever be in your debt.

Triathlon training commences

I started training in in about October last year nothing too serious, the odd ride, the odd run but I didn’t start swimming until January this year and that’s when I started really upping my training and thinking seriously about attempting a Triathlon. I knew this would be big. The biggest challenge I’ve ever attempted. Hardest thing I’ve ever wanted to finish and the pain and training hasn’t disappointed in challenging me and making me doubt myself that’s for sure.

Training for this has been a whole different world to just biking and it’s getting harder every day. I’m swimming twice a week running twice a week and cycling twice a week plus doing short exercise at home. And not small distances either. I’m now swimming two to three miles every week, cycling 50 miles per week and running about 10km a week at present, I know that may not sound like a lot but I’m still learning still improving and still increasing my distances.

First a Sprint Triathlon

And so far I have managed to complete a sprint Triathlon in April as a practice run but that is nothing compared to the big one and I learnt a lot from that, mostly how hard and painful it is and that was only 250m swim 10 mile bike ride and 3 mile run. That is nothing compared to what I want to attempt.

I now have approximately a dozen weeks to keep training improving and hopefully dodging hospital until the big day. It’s already tough but I’ll write again soon about training progress.

What’s pushing me through this training is my health, my stubbornness and wanting to raise awareness and funds for the CF Trust. This is what inspires me to keep pushing.

Support Jamie

You can support Jamie in his fund raising for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust by visiting his Just Giving page JamieFoxCFChallenges and keep updated via his Facebook page Jamie’s CF Challenges for Charity.


These guys deserve a huge thank you for everything they have done for me and I hope to be able to return their generosity one day.

Guide: Going for Gold at the ‘Big Event’ – our guide to the cycling events

We hope you’re as excited as we are as a feast of cycling at the Rio Olympics approaches. Eighteen cycling gold medals will be keenly fought for and it all starts this weekend. Four years ago, at the London Olympics, Great Britain headed the medals table with a fantastic haul of eight gold, two silver and two bronze. Who will you be rooting for in Rio?

The opening ceremony takes place late (23.15) on Friday evening and cycling is one of the major sports that will dominate the first week of Games action with the men’s road race kicking things off on Saturday (6th August).

MG - BOCAIUVA - 10/05/2016 - REVEZAMENTO DA TOCHA RIO 2016 - Revezamento da Tocha Olimpica para os Jogos Rio 2016. Foto: Rio2016/Fernando Soutello
Photo: Rio2016/Fernando Soutello
No late nights?

Cycling fans are lucky that practically all the racing will take place at convenient times for UK viewers (all times stated here are British Summer Time). The road races, time trials, triathlon and mountain biking will all take place during the afternoon and the six days of track cycling sessions will run largely from 14.00 to 22.30.

The time difference between the UK and Brazil will mean that some of the biggest (evening) events from other sports will happen in the very early hours of the morning and the BBC’s Breakfast Show will become an Olympics highlights show so we can catch up with events.

Road Races

The Olympic road races will be contested by national teams of up to five riders each over a tough and lumpy circuit that should favour hilly Classics riders. Spain’s Alejandro Valverde and Italian Vincenzo Nibali are being mentioned as favourites, but the road race can throw up a surprise winner.

Britain take a strong five-man road team to the Olympics but no recognised sprinter. The final climb is thought to be too far from the finish line to favour Chris Froome or Adam Yates so Team GB will perhaps be hoping to get Steve Cummings, Ian Stannard or Geraint Thomas into a small breakaway group that could contest the medals.

In the women’s race World champion Lizzie Armitstead will be up against a strong Dutch team again as she hopes to upgrade the silver medal she won in London four years ago behind Marianne Vos.

Television commentator Anthony McCrossan was driven around the road race course this week and said, “It’s going to be an incredible race. The course is very hard with stunning scenery.”

UCI President Brian Cookson is also excited about Rio and told the press, “The road race mixes some of Rio’s most iconic backdrops such as Copacabana and Ipanema with some really testing sections such as the Grumari Circuit. The steep climb up Grumari Road is sure to provide a unique test for time trial riders.”

The men’s road race, over 237.5km, starts at 13.30 (finishing approx. 19.51) on Saturday (6th August) followed by the 136.9km women’s road race at 16.15 (finishing approx. 20.23) on Sunday.

GB Men’s team: Chris Froome; Steve Cummings; Ian Stannard; Geraint Thomas; and Adam Yates. GB Women’s team: Lizzie Armitstead; Nikki Harris; and Emma Pooley.

Check out Ribble Road bikes here
Best Of British - South Pennines-8

Time Trial

Team Great Britain is likely to select Chris Froome to compete in the time trial where he stands an excellent chance of following in the wheel tracks of Sir Bradley Wiggins and winning the gold medal. The GB selections for the time trial  will be made after the road race events. Update: Team GB time trial selections are: Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Emma Pooley.

Both time trials place on Wednesday 10th August with the women riders starting first from 12.30 (racing over 29.86km) and the men riders heading out from 14.00. The men’s 54.56km two-lap course includes four significant climbs which will suit Tour de France winner Froome.

Check out Ribble Time Trial Bikes

Track Cycling

The large track programme starts on Thursday 11th August and the Men’s Team Sprint will be the first final. The Men’s Team Pursuit featuring Sir Bradley Wiggins will also begin on the opening day at 17.23 and the British quartet of Wiggins, Steven Burke, Ed Clancy and Owain Doull will be hoping to qualify for the final taking place at 18.20 on Friday 12th August. The track events continue until Tuesday 16th August.

Get into Track Cycling with the Ribble Pista

Triathlon

The men’s triathlon is contested on Thursday 18th August with the women’s race on Saturday 20th August both starting at 11.00. Alistair Brownlee defends his Olympic title and heads a six-strong Team GB triathlon squad.

GB Men’s triathlon: Alistair Brownlee, Jonny Brownlee and Gordon Benson. GB Women’s triathlon: Non Stanford, Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Check out the range of Ribble Triathlon Bikes

Ribble Aero TT: our time trial and triathlon missile.
Mountain Biking

The cycling events at the Rio Olympics will conclude with the two mountain bike races, around a five kilometre lap, on the final weekend of competition. World road race champion Peter Sagan returns to off-road racing, but it would be a big surprise if he can beat the MTB specialists.

The women will race on Saturday 20th August and the men 24 hours later. Both races start at 16.30 and Grant Ferguson is the only British rider selected.  

Check out Ribble Mountain Bikes here

Olympic Cycling Timetable

Sat 6 Aug: Men’s Road Race.
Sun 7 Aug: Women’s Road Race.
Wed 10 Aug: Road Time Trials.
Thu 11 to Tue 16 Aug: Track events.
Thu 18 & Sat 20 Aug: Triathlon
Sat 20 & Sun 21 Aug: Mountain Biking.

The Paralympic Games follow on in Rio and run from 7-18th September.

ES - LINHARES - 18/05/2016 - REVEZAMENTO DA TOCHA RIO 2016 - Revezamento da Tocha Olimpica para os Jogos Rio 2016. Foto: Rio2016/Andre Luiz Mello
Photo: Rio2016/Andre Luiz Mello

 

 

 

Mini-Guide: What a summer! Wet Weather Wear required…

Remember that heatwave? That handful of hot days at the beginning of July are a distant memory now as the weather here in Ribble Country seems to have descended into showers interspersed with bouts of heavy rain. Clothing choice is a headache!

There’s a saying in the part of Lancashire where I grew up, that “If you can see Pendle Hill it’s about to rain, if you can’t see it, then the rain’s already started.”

In this kind of weather it’s wise to choose versatile items of cycle clothing that will keep parts of you dry and warm and yet not overheating.

Here’s our mini-guide to ‘Wet Weather Summer Riding Clothing’ and if you’ve been caught out this week without the right kit you might want to read it!

Clothing: Waterproof Jacket

On one morning commute last week the early ‘heavy mizzle’ quickly became moderately heavy rain and I was glad to be wearing a ‘heavier weight’ waterproof jacket and other un-summer like clothing to keep it all out.

It might be the English summer but a good waterproof jacket can serve you well all year round! Heavy rain means surface water and spray so a bright colour or at least some reflectivity is highly recommended.

We’ve a big selection of waterproof jackets from leading brands including Castelli, Assos, Santini, Endura, Altura and BBB.
See them here

Best Of British - Ribble Valley-9

Waterproof Overshoes

Road spray can soak your shoes and feet within minutes so a good pair of waterproof overshoes are an essential investment. I’m currently using BBB’s excellent SpeedFlex overshoes which are the right kind of weight for summer (and spring and autumn).
Shop now

Gloves

On longer rides or commutes in poor weather it might be wise to switch back to long fingered gloves. We’ve a huge range here.

Arm and Leg Warmers

This unpredictable showery summer weather has meant digging out the arm and leg warmers. The leg warmers provide some warmth whilst the arm warmers coupled with a short sleeve jersey provide the flexibility you need when the weather is so changeable.
Shop now

Workshop: Chain Cleaner and Lubricant

It’s summer but when you bike gets wet it will love you more it you clean and lubricate it! Shop now

Read our Bike Cleaner & Lubricant Guide here

So remember, by selecting the right kit there’s no reason why rain should stop you enjoying your summer of riding!