It’s a strange time of the year this year. The U.K. and the entire world still in the grips of the pandemic. For many that’s going to create an odd and lonely Christmas.
I consider myself fortune in so far as I am living with my partner and therefore, whilst I miss seeing friends, I don’t actually feel that I ‘need’ anyone else. Working in the social care sector means that work and life have gone on as much as is possible; activities have changed, hygiene has taken on a level best described as paranoid and paramount.
My anxiety and stress has fluctuated a lot, which resulted in burn out and hence the reason I haven’t felt like writing much on here. Burning out leaves me expended of all non-vital energy and I need to make choices as to what requires my mental strength and the things which are less crucial at that point in time.
I remain optimistic for next year, races as planned, coaching sessions as well and my fitness is good for the off season. Motivation is currently good and I just need to avoid distractions in the form of a glass of wine instead of training. (ASD means that negative behaviour and compulsions are as likely as any other obsession, we are addictive personalities).
Anyway, I wish you all a happy Christmas and here’s hoping that 2021 will be a lot better.
As I’ve stated previously, amongst the traits which people on the autistic spectrum have, reliance on a routine or plan is one of them. Myself included; that said, I have full comprehension of the fact that the current situation vis a vis Covid-19 has meant that things are rather different to a pre-civid world. I’m conscious of the need to maintain social distancing and limit travel, not really see friends or family etc. All fine, I can cope with this, whilst I like some people, I don’t want or need to be around the vast majority of them, I would much rather be in a small group than a large one, probably why house parties are my personal idea of hell, whilst a dinner party seems like a jolly good idea (plus, I like food!)
Now, I’m really good with plans, I build one for most things, I can build one very quickly. Without it, I admit that things either don’t get done, I get a lot less pleasure from them or they cause me huge amounts of anxiety. I am also reasonably good at what my employers refer to as a ‘dynamic risk assessment’, which means that I am able to assess risk as it might occur and plan around it to limit or reduce harm or incident: this is a vital skill when supporting people on the spectrum. It has on occasion meant that ‘I have seen the ‘stupid’ before I did it’ (not always, but hey, everyone one of us is a work in progress!) .
Anyway, Cv-19 has changed the world, at least for the moment; for how long, we have yet to determine and on this forum, I will refrain from comment on the political handling, or mishandling of a crisis. For me, I personally find queuing incredibly stressful, and now, we have to queue for everything. Apparently all shops are due to open in the coming fortnight and the public are being encouraged, or rather pressured to spend money in order to “kickstart the economy”. My thoughts on this are, ‘Great, more queues to buy shit I can get online without the queues.’ Ergo, I will simply shop online; we won’t be able to browse in the way we could before lockdown; nor for those of us who are sensory, will we be able to touch fabrics. We won’t be able try on items of clothing in store and I can’t be appeased with the promise of a pint or lunch somewhere for enduring the queues and crowds of people all waiting two hours to buy something awful from Primark.
The mountain biking bit: –
So, moving onto my own plans and training. As I have previously stated, I had Covid and frankly it kicked the crap out of me. I’m not fully recovered; I have occasional inexplicable breathless bouts on occasion. I am, however, doing well. My Vo2Max is pretty much back to where it was, my heart rate is good and I’m training and working hard. I had planned three races for this season: all endurance races, Hammers8, Exposure Twenty-four:12, and Torqinyoursleep. All of these were planned on the basis that I had fairly decent endurance and stamina and that I think that I can do at least reasonably well in these multi-hour races.
My training has largely been using a turbo trainer at home, my race bike has been having some repairs done (coinciding with me being sick) and is not being serviced and rebuilt. The turbo trainer seems to be producing decent results, although it’s generally hot and uncomfortable. It does mean, that living in a one bedroom flat without a tumble dryer, there seems to a constant cycle of bib shorts either in the wash or drying.
I had managed to arrange shifts to allow for me to do the Hammers8, an 8 hour race up in Hamsterly Forest, in County Durham. However, the event was postponed until the end of October and I’m not quite sure if I want to camp in the North East of England in practically November, it’s also a little too far for me to drive there and back in a day with racing for 8 hours, pre-rides, warm ups and all of the usual preparation and what is commonly referred to as ‘fannying about’.
I have arranged annual leave for a week at the end of July for the Twenty-four:12. This was going to be my first 12 hour race. Yes, 12 hours (ish) of racing a mountain bike. It was also a chance to see family who live in Devon and Cornwall and for my partner and I we were very much treating it as our main holiday this year; we’d brought a new tent, various camping equipment was being replaced etc., I have also invested in a new and very shiny new bar light (I may do a review in a few weeks, once I’ve had chance to try it out).
As such we were both very much looking forward to a few days and a change of scenery. For her, it would allow her a chance to escape from the working from home ritual, meet some of my family (who I don’t see often, if they still speak to me, but all of which live at least a hundred miles away) whilst for me, a change and chance to do what I enjoy, hang around with other mountain bikers, see some family members, go camping and race. Which is pretty much as good as it gets in my mind, at least whilst staying in the U.K.
As we both have the leave booked and the hire car and cat-sitter, new tent etc., we may still try and find a campsite and go and visit, but it’s uncertain whether any will be open or not and whilst I am happy riding on my own, it’s less fun when you don’t have a clue where you’re going or having to stop every five minutes in order to navigate.
*Yes, I realise that staying home and staying safe is crucial, but the reality is that my partner and I haven’t left the house other than as sanctioned by the government since lockdown started, which frankly is showing more respect for the rules than the Government and it’s own advisers have done.
The third race, The Torqinyoursleep, is in Hampshire, near Guildford, which is not an insurmountable distance away, but still warranting a hire car and a Saturday – Monday. It’s on a Sunday and whilst the initial plan had been to do the 6 hour race, if there’s nothing else on for the foreseeable, I might as well put my neck on the line and do the 12 hour.
However, here’s the but, the event clashes with someone else on my team being on annual leave. Therefore, I can’t get leave. I have requested that my shifts are based so as to allow me to still get the Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but rotas aren’t arranged this far in advance and I’ve yet to receive any word on whether it is possible. Therefore, I am unsure whether I can race or not. I think that I will simply have to explain this all to my line manager and see if something can be arranged; obviously things such a hire car, cat sitter and such all need to be factored into the equation.
Of course, all of this assumes that any event happens and there isn’t a second spike in the transmission and mortality rate.
I’ve been curious about these for a little while. I’ve ran tubeless for about 4 years now and I must confess that living and riding in Yorkshire can mean that ‘sometimes’ running a tubeless system alone just isn’t enough.
So, what is tubeless, in case people don’t know?
Basically, it’s removing the inner tube from inside of the tyre and using a latex sealant which seals most holes in the tyre as they occur. This isn’t quite as simple as that, but it’s the basic premise. You do need to make sure that the tyres are tubeless ready (i.e. non-porous) and that the spoke holes in the wheel are sealed. Plus, a tubeless specific valve as you’re still going to need air in the tyre.
If it’s a first time job and you want to avoid mess, be kind and give the job to your LBS: it supports them and it will only cost you a few pounds and it really does avoid a lot of mess: blowing a tyre off a rim will leave your workspace and everything in it looking like a Jackson Pollock!
So, why use inserts? Surely they add rotational weight?
From my experience on average when I change a tyre I can usually identify at least twenty small thorns and other detritus in the tyre; I’m just not aware of them before changing the tyre. Small punctures seal quickly and you’ll only occasionally notice the loss of tyre pressure.
In the world of mountain biking, the risk of splitting a tyre or tyre wall is far greater. Rocks can be sharp and also hitting rock ledges at speed and such can cause the tyre to break the airtight seal with the bead of the wheel, which means instant loss of pressure and sealant all of the place.
Put simply, tubeless is fantastic in reducing punctures, but it’s remiss, possibly even to the level of negligent to think that you’re never going to flat again. It has happened to me, usually when I’m in the arse end of no-where and with several miles to walk and no tube to put into the tyre.
So tubeless inserts are essentially a protective insert to keep the tyre from fully deforming away from the rim and seem to be a way to reduce this sudden loss of pressure which occurs with things like rock strikes.
The bike industry is well known for never standing still when it can make some money out of the punters. With this said, the tubeless insert market has been burgeoning within the last year or so.
Barbieri Anaconda Tubeless Protection System:
This is essentially my choice, they are cheap, lightweight and if they fail to do the job; I’ve actually lost very little. Purchased through Planet – X for the sum of £14.99
Essentially they are a foam noodle which sits inside the tyre and stops the tyre deforming on impact. The tubeless solution will swirl around in the tyre and seal smaller punctures. They will, at a push, get you home in an emergency but will be worthless at the end and I wouldn’t risk the wheel rims myself.
In the pack, two inserts and two carbon tubeless valves. Which I found to be completely useless, the valve core is not removable and even using a compressor, I struggled to get sufficient airflow to seat the rear tyre on the bead.
The front tyre: Not so easy, quite simply, getting the tyre installed over the insert was a mission and a half, let alone getting the tyre seated on the bead. Cue much swearing, yelling and coffee consumed and a full autistic meltdown was had within the space of over an hour. In the end, I opted that my time sanity and I did the sensible thing; took it to my LBS, All Terrain Cycles in Saltaire who solved the problem but with a different class of swearing.
I’ve been running the system about 4 from and can say that in general I find it excellent. I have a tear in the rear tyre which I gained at a local race and frankly funds have dictated that I plugged the tyre rather than immediately replacing it. The plug is currently wearing slightly and I have a slow leak, but on a ride the other day I notice the drop in pressure and was able to re-inflate the tyre with a hand pump and continue with my ride. The tyre didn’t deform or lose all pressure. The insert has also encouraged me to have a little more confidence in riding sharper rock gardens. So this is all good.
Are they worth money? For this value, hell yes. Some of the other options on the market retail at £150.00 that’s getting to the point of becoming an economical factor for some people and I certainly wouldn’t got that high. There are other, cheaper options on the market, but I’ve not tried them at this point. Certainly for the time being and going into next year and race season, I will keep with this option.
This is something which I feel is worthy of discussion, because at some point, anyone around a person with autism is going to encounter ‘behaviour which challenges’; i.e. meltdowns.
Meltdowns can take many forms, frequently the can be aggressive or appear to be a ‘temper tantrum’. Quite simply the person simply cannot process something; now this might be a major thing or a minor thing. This might result in violent behaviour, such as banging their heads or punching themselves, throwing things or what would appear to be wilful acts of destruction.
The main difference between a meltdown and a tantrum is that a tantrum is wilful behaviour: ‘I’m not getting my way, so I will respond in a fashion which punishes or embarrasses, so as to get my own way in future, or to get my own way now, to avoid continuation of the behaviour’.
Meltdowns put quite simply aren’t something we have a great deal of control over. I’m personally high-functioning and I don’t tend to throw things, kick things and so for. I do, however inter alia scratch my skin, rub my head and generally get incredibly irritable.
Now a meltdown is physically and mentally exhausting.
Research identifies 6 stages in a meltdown: –
Everything is normally happening.
Something will trigger the start over a sensory overload. This can be a great many things, again, we’re all different.
The individual will show signs of distress, this may include ‘visually stimming’ and any self-soothing behaviour or repetitive movement (rocking, banging their head, flapping of hands etc.).
This takes various forms, but in all examples the individual will display signs of extreme agitation and distress.
Essentially ‘coming down’ and normalising your senses. Sometimes a dark space or generally a quiet and safe space will help with this process.
Normalising behaviour. This in some cases can be the point at which fatigue can hit.
At times of extreme stress, I go into ‘shut down’ at which point, I almost fail to do or say anything and any actions taken by me are generally controlled by my auto-pilot system. This will be done in silence.
So, how do we, or those around us avoid or solve these incidents?
This is an incredibly difficult question to answer as anyone living with a person on the spectrum needs to remember, the condition is very ‘person specific’; what helps me, may not help another person*.
If I am going into what I know to be a stressful environment, I find wearing compression clothing can help me; something tight pressing against my chest or legs has a comforting feeling for me.
Likewise, a heavy blanket can be a comforting thing to have at home. Personally, I’ve always favoured a heavy quilt as it helps me sleep, even though I will, if hot have appendages sticking out at random.
For those people who like sensory distraction, there are various things that can be created at home, from simple craft materials which may help the individual to feel less overwhelmed. I recommend Barbara Sher’s excellent book Everyday Games for Sensory Processing Disorder for ideas on this.
I also keep some kind of fidget toy in my pocket, or something else I can click. If this has more than one purpose, this suits me in even better. With the weather turning bad and street lighting becoming equally abysmal as part of some Government policy, presumably to kill off the poor, sick, disabled and anyone not funding the Conservative Party I have taken to carrying a small torch in my pocket. I can click this on and off in my pocket if I’m anxious and it also serves it’s primary purpose; plus, I’m a torch and penknife geek (it’s just almost impossible to legally justify carrying a penknife whilst, say, going to the supermarket, in the U.K., unlike in Switzerland, where everyone does and they manage to not go around stabbing each other!)
*I am not a clinician, doctor, nurse or other expert in the field of treating autism. I am simply, an expert on being me. I am a person with autism, who reads a lot and tries to offer advice and assistance where I can.