Last week the Tour De France came to my home town. I have been an avid Tour fan for many years and I really wanted to see the event live and join in with the festivities. I needed a plan that would enable me to enjoy the day despite my limitations.
Things I considered when planning my outing:
- Transport – how to get close enough to where I wanted to go so that I remained within my walking limits.
- Food and Drink- I eat gluten free and try to get vegetables with every meal. It’s hard to find healthy food at an event like this.
- Clothing – I’ve always been sensitive to changes in temperature, but my ME makes me less able to tolerate being too cold or too hot.
- Sensitivity to Noise and crowds
- Company – who should I go with. Who will help me if I start to get symptoms?
- Location to watch the race
- How to limit standing time
- How to reduce other daily activities
Successful planning means planning around the limitations of my illness so I can participate in the activities I want to.
Transport to watch the Tour de France is a challenge for anyone, but even more for someone who has limited walking ability.
Driving – Most of the roads and car parks in the centre of town were closed, either from the night before, or from 7am on the day of the race. This meant driving and using my blue badge to park nearby was not an option.
2. Bus – There is a park and ride bus service, but I was concerned that there would be long queues for this and I would struggle to stand in the queue, especially on the way home.
3. Train – the train station was not close to the start of the race. This would have been too much walking for me.
4. Electric Bike – I’m really lucky to have an electric bike. Cycling was the obvious way to get close to the race, and the option that my race going friends were all using. Unfortunately we live 6 miles (12 miles round trip) from the start of the race and my bike has a range of 10 miles without pedaling. I’ve never tested my bike to the limit, but now did not seem like a good time to start!
Solution: Drive a couple of miles down the road with my fold up electric bike in the back of the car, then cycle the rest of the way, secure in the knowledge that I could make it back to the car without running out of charge.
Food and Drink
I took a packed lunch and plenty of water. This meant I didn’t have to waste energy walking round the numerous food stalls trying to find a suitable gluten free option, and then joining the long queues to buy food, leaving more energy to enjoy the festivities.
Clothing wasn’t really an issue on this occasion. The weather forecast was warm and sunny , so comfy clothes and a cardigan in case it got chilly were all I needed. I made sure I had comfortable shoes to maximise my standing/walking ability.
Sensitivity to Noise and Crowds
Now that my health is improving I did not think this would be an issue for me at all. In retrospect, this was one aspect I should have thought more about and I did wish I had packed some ear plugs. I was right in thinking the crowds (and the noise from them) would not be an issue, but I had not factored in the four helicopters circling overhead. The noise from them did affect me, but I used mindfulness, deep breathing and reassuring self talk to minimise this.
We had planned to go as a family, taking all 3 kids with us to see the start, even though it was a school day. However, my husband had work commitments which meant he couldn’t go with me. I know that if I’m struggling he will find a way to help me. I was a lot less confident about going on my own, but I still wanted to go. I decided to only take my oldest son, to make the day easier for me and arranged to have a friend on call in case of emergencies.
Friends invited me to go with them, but we couldn’t cycle with them, due to needing to drive part of the way. We did meet up with them, but my son and I did not stay with them as with a big group there is lots of hanging around, waiting for people and making decisions about where to go. I decided it would be better if just me and my son found ourselves a suitable vantage point.
We saw lots of people we knew, which helped make my day more enjoyable, even though I didn’t chat to anyone for long, because I was focused on finding my next sitting point.
Limiting Standing Time
My standing ability is much improved from where it used to be, but it’s still not “normal”. I knew I would need to rest whenever I could, but also that there would be points of unavoidable standing and walking. My choices of transport, food and drink and company were all related to limiting standing and walking, but I also took a fold up stool, so that I could wait sitting down. Actually I didn’t need this; we perched on some railings waiting for the start, and then by standing on them managed to get a good view of the start line, and then made our way to the big screen where we sat and ate our lunch whilst watching the race.
Location to Watch The Race
Many people I know watched along the streets, once the riders were going. We chose the start because I knew there would be a big screen, so if it was too difficult to get a view of the race we could still soak up the atmosphere and watch on the big screen (sitting down). I think I made the right choice.
Limit other activities
I arranged for my husband to take my other two children to school, and I arranged for my son to cook dinner. This meant I freed up more energy for my day out, and had time to rest when I got home.
For me, watching The Tour was everything I wanted it to be. I saw the start and then watched part of the race live on the big screen. I got a great view of the start of the race, and really enjoyed the pre-race build up and the atmosphere and I didn’t suffer from Post Exertional Malaise afterwards, so all my planning paid off.
I love it when a plan comes together.
Hannibal – The A Team