An epileptic older cyclist tackles a cycling challenge, and wins. Even though he finishes in the last 30 cyclists
Lots of older cyclists pursue their love of cycling despite a range of challenges, both health challenges and others. In fact for many cycling is a great way to overcome various personal challenges.
I’ve published articles previously about pursuing a love of cycling despite suffering from epilepsy. The first article I published on the site written by an older cyclist with epilepsy was an article written by Ron Molling about cycling with epilepsy, an older cyclist and epilepsy sufferer.
More recently I’ve been contacted by Robert Posl. Robert also suffers from epilepsy and cycles, and loves his cycling. He contacted me about a particular cycling challenge he has faced and overcome recently. Robert lives in Slovenia and is 40.
And he tells me, and you, that even though he finished in the last 30 he feels that he finished the event a winner. After reading his story I agree with him.
So he’s written an article for us about his challenges undertaking a seriously difficult cycling event in Slovenia, with epilepsy, and winning.
Here’s Robert Posl’s article, tackling a cycling challenge in Slovenia, with epilepsy
I’m 40 and only now have I experienced the thrill, the energy of competing in a large cycling event.
The ‘road’ to getting here was a long one. It was a great deal more than just physically preparing myself to take part in the most challenging cycling event of the year, here in Slovenia.
I suffer from epilepsy. But even the epilepsy didn’t stop me from living a physically active life. Even with the ‘introduction’ of epilepsy into my life, I still continued with my amateur and reasonably regular cycling. Then another event in 2009, firstly, almost cost me my life and, secondly brought on new and greater challenges of my psychological wellbeing. It was because of these challenges, that I decided that I wanted to live a more fulfilling life. I want to live a full and active life, alongside the challenges of having epilepsy. One great part of living a more fulfilling life, is my cycling. I started cycling more and more, and I gradually also started taking it more seriously.
After chatting with one of the leading neurologists in Slovenia, I got in contact with a local organisation in the epilepsy community. It was from my character and the suggestions of one of the leading neurologist in the organisation, who recommended that I get involved in the field of “recreation and sports, for people with epilepsy”.
So I focussed more on this and started spending more and more of my free time studying the various sides and recommendations of being able to be active in sports, while at the same time facing the challenges of having epilepsy. It is from this, that I constantly find valuable information, which I also implement into my own lifestyle.
I got to know the value and importance of nutrition for people suffering from epilepsy. Especially for those who live a more active life. If one would go out and do a little research about the recommendations of nutrition for people with epilepsy, they would for certainly find mention of the ‘Ketogenic diet’. Surprisingly the ‘Ketogenic diet’ is also used by active and healthy competitive sportsmen who compete in endurance sports.
Because of these characteristics and effects of the ‘Ketogenic diet’, I became interested in it and implemented some of the major features of the diet into my own lifestyle. I for certainly feel the effects of this, especially in my cycling.
In 2014, I made great progress in my cycling. I was taking my cycling more seriously, I was enjoying it more and as a result, I started to step it up too. I know quite a number of serious competitive athletes. Some of them even recommended me competing in some local competitions. Even though I was doing a great deal of cycling, I didn’t feel ready or capable of being able to take part in any competition. But in 2015, that was all about to change.
In 2015 I got out, on the roads as soon as I could, as soon as the weather and the springtime was going to make it possible. I quickly became active in the cycling season, gathering the km’s. And with it came the recommendations and challenges of the people I knew, to compete in one of the most well known competitions in Slovenia. As time went on and as the event was getting closer, the thought and idea of taking part grew and grew. Until I finally decided, “OK! lets go for it”.
I knew I was physically capable of taking part in the competition. But what was holding me back were other challenges involved in taking part in a competitive event and how it may influence me and the epilepsy.
It is quite common, and one can easily find cases, of when active and perfectly capable sportsmen with epilepsy, only have seizures when they take part in a competition. It is the psychological effects of taking part in competitions, which is known to trigger seizures. This was one aspect which bothered me, because this was something one cannot train for, or gain experience in, without actually taking part in a competition. At least not for an amateur cyclist, as I am. I decided I would prepare myself as much as I possibly could.
It was interesting and maybe a little crazy, because I was about to sign up for my first ever cycling marathon, a marathon, which is well known as the toughest marathon of the season. A marathon which many fear. It is 130km (a good 80 miles) with a little over 2000m (6600 ft) of hill climbing over the Slovene Alps into Austria and around, back into Slovenia.
I had completed the route before and I was confident I would be able to complete it. I just wasn’t sure of the psychological influences and how that may affect me, while riding with other competitors. It was this which was holding me back from taking part in competitions in the past.
I decided I would start from as far back as I possibly could. Then I could adapt myself into the group, as I wanted to and according to my capabilities. I also can’t imagine what it must be like to ride in a big group, with cyclists all around me. This is why I thought this would be the best tactic, to start off in the back. As I got into the last week before the marathon, I firstly had that feeling, “OH man, what am I getting myself into”. But as time went on, and as the days got even closer and closer to the event, I became more and more excited and confident.
The day of the marathon finally arrived. And what also arrived was a heat-wave, which was going to make the marathon so much more challenging. The marathon started and finished in my home town, Kamnik. So I was out early walking through town as the final preparations were being made. The ambience and intensity of the event was so evident, as people and competitors started assembling in town.
There were a little over 630 competitors. I started in the back, as I planned to do. As the marathon started off, I watched as the immense number of cyclist in front of me slowly started to move off. It was only after viewing photos that I realized that I was the last one to cross the start-line.
The adrenalin and energy was so strong, that all concerns of what lay ahead of me were replaced by excitement and confidence. I suppose this could be that effect, which may be the cause of the problems with so many people with epilepsy, who experience a seizure during a competitive event. But I was very much aware of what could happen and I put a lot of emphasis on holding my pace. I knew this was also important if I wanted to complete the extensive marathon.
The first 40km was in pretty much flat, typical European countryside kind of terrain. Here I noticed that I was travelling at quite a higher average speed than I normally would. Then started the climb towards the first summit, which is at 1240m a.s.l. It was a gradual uphill and I noticed that I was doing pretty well, since I was slowly catching up to the main group of cyclists.
I was quite relieved to reach the first summit and I took it easy down into the next valley. Maybe a bit too easy, I could have gone a bit faster. This was where many other competitors then took off as I took it a lot easier. Well, on the other hand, I knew what lay ahead of me, so I wanted to be prepared for that, as much as I possibly could. It was the second, main climb of 536m to 1440m.
The climb was much more difficult compared to what we had faced so far and I was very glad to reach the main summit. As we went over the top we crossed the border again, from Austria back into Slovenia. We descended into a great and well known Slovene valley. Normally it is a little cooler in the valley, since you have hills and mountains around you. But not today.
As I came down the mountain road into the valley I realized it was as hot as everywhere else, according to the temperature reading on my cycling computer, a blistering 32°C. I still had quite a distance to go and one more mountain pass. The ride through the valley was quite a long one, so I could recover a bit before I hit that final climb.
At first, the road leading up towards the final mountain pass was quite gradual. But since we had over 100km behind us, it was still very tiring to do. As I got closer to the top, I was at least comforted by the fact that I had almost completed all the climbs. But the short final stretch, to reach the top of that final pass is about the steepest of all. As I reached the top, the satisfaction really settled in, because I knew that from here on its all most all downhill to reach the destination.
I finished in the last 30 who completed the marathon. But that did not bother me at all. After all, I did not enter the marathon as a race. I was so satisfied and proud that I completed the most difficult and challenging cycling marathon in Slovenia. And most of all, that I managed to do it without absolutely any health problems. I considered myself a winner.
It was a great achievement and I could now show people that even if you have epilepsy, it doesn’t mean that you cannot live a physically active life. There may be more preparations involved, preparations which are very important and may be vital to successfully take part and complete such heights. To be able to do what many otherwise perfectly healthy cyclists fear to enter, the most difficult and most challenging cycling event in Slovenia.
By Robert Posl, an epileptic cyclist and cycling winner.
Thanks for the article Robert.